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In Western musical theory a cadence (Latin cadentia, "a falling") is a particular series of intervals (a caesura) or chords that ends a phrase, section, or piece of music. Cadences give phrases a distinctive ending, that can, for example, indicate to the listener whether the piece is to be continued or concluded. An analogy can be made with punctuation, with some weaker cadences acting as commas, indicating a pause or momentary rest, while a stronger cadence will then act as the period, indicating the end of the phrase or musical sentence. Cadences are called "weak" or "strong" the more or less final the sensation they create, with the perfect authentic cadence being the strongest type.

In music of the common practice period, there are four main types of cadences: authentic, plagal, half, and deceptive. Authentic cadences may be perfect or imperfect. Each cadence can be described using the roman numeral system of naming triads (chord):

  • Authentic cadence: V to I. The phrase perfect cadence is sometimes used as a synonym for authentic cadence, but can also have a more precise meaning:
    • Perfect authentic cadences: V to I, the chords must be in root position, that is the root of the chords must be in the bass, and the root of I must be in the highest voice also
    • Imperfect authentic cadences: V to I, one or more of the chords are inverted or not in root position or the root of the I is not in the highest voice
  • Half (or imperfect) cadence: any cadence ending on V, whether preceded by ii, IV, or I, or any other chord
    • Phrygian cadence: a half cadence from IV⁶ to V in minor, so named because the half-step motion in the bass mimics that of the cadences in medieval music in Phrygian mode
  • Plagal cadence: IV to I, known as the "Amen cadence"
  • Deceptive (or interrupted) cadence: V to any chord except I (typically vi)

It should be noted that these chord sequences do not necessarily constitute a cadence  there must be a sense of closure, as at the end of a phrase. Harmonic rhythm plays an important part in determining where a cadence occurs. Edward Lowinsky considered the cadence the "cradle of tonality." (Judd, 1998) (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Click below for the best in free Cadences lessons available on the web.

Aeolian cadences, etc. (MoneyChords)
Cadences (Songtrellis)
Cadences (Theory On The Web)
Cadences (WholeNote)
Cadential Progressions (Tonal Center)
Minor Plagal Cadence (MoneyChords)

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