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Section 16.3 The Cadential Six-Four Chord

A common term in music theory—the “cadential six-four” (or cadential \(\left.\text{}^{6}_{4}\right.\))—is used to refer to the \(\left.\text{I}^{6}_{4}\right.\) that regularly proceeds the \(\left.\text{V}\right.\) chord in cadences.

Figure 16.3.1. Mozart, Piano Sonata K. 331, I
Figure 16.3.2. Francis Scott Key and John Stafford Smith, “The Star-Spangled Banner”

It is worth remembering that the cadential \(\left.\text{}^{6}_{4}\right.\) (or \(\left.\text{I}^{6}_{4}\right.\)) has dominant function, just like the \(\left.\text{V}\right.\) chord that usually follows it. Previously, we have called this chord “\(\left.\text{I}\middle/\text{5th}\right.\).”

We will use the term “cadential six-four” throughout the rest of this text, now that figured bass has been introduced.