The Ultimate Guide To Cadences in Music Theory: The 4 types of Cadences With Examples (2024)

The Ultimate Guide To Cadences in Music Theory: The 4 types of Cadences With Examples (1)


Dec 29 - 8 min read

One of the most important concepts in music theory is the concept of Cadences:

Search up “Cadence” in the dictionary and you’ll find: “a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase”

But I look at it this way: Just like in a film, How does the director want to close off his movie? Does he want a perfect resolution, or does he want to end his film on a cliffhanger filled with questions?

That is how I see Cadences: They’re your final intentions, your final sentence in a musical passage, your closing, your swan song if you will.

Let’s begin our look on cadences with the most common of the bunch.

1. Authentic Cadence (V to I)

An Authentic cadence is one that goes from the V to I. Authentic cadences are the easiest way to establish a tonality. Authentic cadences are classified as perfect or imperfect. Here’s how perfect and imperfect cadences are different.

The Ultimate Guide To Cadences in Music Theory: The 4 types of Cadences With Examples (4)

Perfect Authentic Cadence

The most common cadence in all of music, the perfect (authentic) cadence sounds the most “final” of them all. This is the happy ending where your musical story is satisfied and resolved; no cliffhangers, and all questions answered.

This cadence is accomplished when you go from the dominant V chord back to the tonic I in a major key or tonic minor in a minor key. It’s also important to note that these two chords are usually in root position.

By utilizing the transition between these two chords during the end of your composition, or the end of a section within your composition, you can end your piece in a completely settled, completely at home, and at a completely satisfying stop.

Imperfect Authentic Cadence

At first glance, it’s hard to miss the slight difference between the perfect and imperfect cadences due to the fact that they both go from the dominant V chord to the respective Tonic I chord. The difference lies in the irregular stacking of the chords.

By this I mean that your usual V and I chord are inverted so that the tonic notes are in different registers. In this way, you’re actually ending on the highest voice of a chord instead of your usual tonic.

With the chords inverted, the imperfect cadence has a less settled resolution. Unlike the complete stop of a perfect cadence, there is room to continue after an imperfect cadence. This forward momentum can be fleshed out further and continue as long as the composer wants it, and this is why the imperfect cadence is hailed as a more “partial resolution”.

Examples of Authentic Cadence:

1. Adele - Someone Like You (first two chords of the chorus)

2. Bruno Mars - When I Was Your Man (intro)

2. Plagal Cadence (IV to I)

The Ultimate Guide To Cadences in Music Theory: The 4 types of Cadences With Examples (5)

Plagal Cadence is very similar to the perfect authentic cadence in its movement and resolution to the tonic. However, plagal cadence begins on a different chord.

The plagal cadence moves from the IV(subdominant) to the I (tonic) chord in major keys (iv-i in minor keys). Because of the start on the subdominant, plagal cadence sounds like a weaker version of the perfect cadence.

Plagal cadence can also include different inversions of these target chords, giving the composer room for experimentation.

Examples of Plagal Cadence:

1. Abba - Mamma Mia ("Just (IV) one (I)"...)

3. Half Cadence (I to V)

The Ultimate Guide To Cadences in Music Theory: The 4 types of Cadences With Examples (6)

The half cadence strays from the previous three cadences. While the former three end on the tonic chord of a key, the half cadence ends on the V. Because the V chord has the strongest pull to the I chord, ending a piece of music on the V chord will sound like a temporary pause.

Back to my allusion to film earlier, the half cadence is synonymous to a director ending his film with a very big cliffhanger.

Another cool thing about the half cadence is it’s versatility. What I mean is that you can go to the V chord from any other chord in the key as long as it ends on the dominant. (I- V, ii-V etc)

Ear Plugins is another super helpful app for producers. It lives right in your DAW. It helps you recognize specific frequency which comes in very handy while mixing.

Examples of Half Cadence:

1. 3 Doors Down - Be Like That (intro)

4. Deceptive Cadence (V to vi)

The Ultimate Guide To Cadences in Music Theory: The 4 types of Cadences With Examples (7)

Often called an interrupted cadence, a deceptive cadence is a cadence from V to vi. The deceptive cadence is considered weak due to the suspending feeling it evokes.

As the name suggests this cadence is “deceptive” since the V resolves nicely to the I as we learned. The deceptive cadence flips that on its head and leaves the listener hanging on a vi chord.

1. The Beatles - P.S. I Love You ("P. S. I love you, you, you, you." part)

Wrap Up

Cadences are a way to close off your final thoughts in a piece of music. How you want to finish your piece is up to you, and each ending produces a specific effect.

Do you want your audience to leave settled and resolved? Do you want your audience to leave slightly resolved? Do you want your audience to leave uplifted? Or do you want your audience to leave with ambiguous thoughts which will have them thinking about your piece from time to come?

Play around with these basic cadences and figure out the ones you like the most.

The Ultimate Guide To Cadences in Music Theory: The 4 types of Cadences With Examples (2024)


The Ultimate Guide To Cadences in Music Theory: The 4 types of Cadences With Examples? ›

A cadence is a 2 chord progression that is used at the end of a musical phrase. There are 4 cadences - Perfect (or Authentic), Plagal, Imperfect (or Half) and Interrupted (or Deceptive) which can sound "finished" or "unfinished".

What is an example of a perfect cadence? ›

The perfect cadence (also known as the authentic cadence) moves from chord V to chord I (this is written V-I). It is the cadence that sounds the “most finished”. Here is an example of a perfect cadence in C major. Notice how the chords at the end of the phrase go from V (G) – I (C) and it sounds finished.

What are cadences in music theory? ›

cadence, in music, the ending of a phrase, perceived as a rhythmic or melodic articulation or a harmonic change or all of these; in a larger sense, a cadence may be a demarcation of a half-phrase, of a section of music, or of an entire movement. cadence.

What are the 5 cadences? ›

Nomenclature across the world
US usageBritish usageFrench usage
authentic cadenceperfect cadencecadence parfaite
half cadenceimperfect cadencedemi-cadence
plagal cadenceplagal cadencecadence plagale
deceptive cadenceinterrupted cadencecadence rompue

What is a 4 cadence? ›

There are four types of cadences in music. These cadences include authentic, half, plagal, and deceptive. An authentic cadence is a musical phrase comprised of chords. An authentic cadence is built from the dominant or V, fifth chord and ending on the tonic or I.

How do I choose the right cadence? ›

Several unique factors, such as height, hip mobility, and level of overall fitness, will all play a role. Find your current cadence and then add 5 to 10%. For example, if you're current cadence is 160 spm, your goal would now be 168 spm.

What is a feminine perfect cadence? ›

In the example above, the end of the cadence lands on a weak part of the bar - the first beat being more of a suspended dominant, with the tonic as root note. Commonly called a feminine perfect cadence.

What is the most conclusive type of cadence? ›

In addition, the perfect authentic cadence (PAC) is more conclusive than the imperfect authentic cadence (IAC).

How to identify cadence type? ›

A cadence is a two-chord progression that occurs at the end of a phrase. If a phrase ends with any chord going to V, a half cadence (HC) occurs. If a phrase ends with any chord going to V, an imperfect cadence occurs.

What are the rules for cadence? ›

The Perfect Authentic Cadence must meet three requirements:
  • V – I.
  • Both chords in root position.
  • Tonic scale degree ( ) in the highest voice of the tonic chord.

What are the most common cadences? ›

This episode will cover the six most common types of cadences: perfect authentic, imperfect authentic, half, Phrygian half, deceptive and plagal. CHORD PROGRESSION- An succession of chords that seem to work towards a harmonic goal or resting point.

What cadence is 4 to 1? ›

Evaded cadence: V42 to I6. Imperfect cadence: any cadence ending on V, whether preceded by V of V, ii, IV, or I, or any other chord. Because it sounds incomplete or "suspended", the imperfect cadence is considered a weak cadence. Plagal cadence: IV to I, also known as the "Amen Cadence".

How do you work out cadences? ›

Cadence – also known as stride length – is the number of steps per minute (SPM) you take, whether you're running, jogging or walking. Finding your cadence is simple: grab a stopwatch, locate a straight, flat path or stretch of ground and count the number of steps you take upon it within a minute.

What does an interrupted cadence sound like? ›

Both an imperfect cadence and an interrupted cadence sound unfinished, as if more music should follow, but an interrupted cadence sounds like a musical surprise – just when you expect the music to end with a perfect cadence the last chord sounds unfinished.

What are the four principal cadences? ›

7.4 Cadences
  • Authentic Cadence (AC): a phrase ending with the chords V – I.
  • Plagal Cadence (PC): a phrase ending with the chords IV – I.
  • Deceptive Cadence (DC): a phrase ending with the chords V – vi.
  • Half Cadence (HC): a phrase ending on the V chord.

What is a phrygian cadence? ›

Phrygian cadence (plural Phrygian cadences) (music) A type of imperfect cadence frequently found in Baroque compositions. The gesture consists of a iv6–V final cadence in the minor mode at the end of a slow movement or slow introduction.

What is a 7 to 1 cadence? ›

In a Perfect Authentic Cadence (PAC) the harmonic progression is V or V7 to I with both chords in root position, and the tonic chord has the root or first scale degree as the melody (highest) note on the chord. Here's an example, notice that the tonic note (C) is in the highest voice of the C major (tonic) chord.

What are all the cadence rules? ›

All Cadences: • Cadences occur at the end of musical phrases, and therefore at the end of songs as well • All phrases should end in some type of cadence • Cadences can have non-chord tones in them o Non-chord tones are notes that don't fit in the current chord, but represent either the chord before, the chord after, or ...

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