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Section 7.4 Cadences

We’ve been studying harmony—triads and chords. A cadence is a harmonic arrival point, a harmonic moment of stasis. A cadence can be compared to a comma or period in written language—the ear gets a moment to process a short passage of music, then the music continues. We will differentiate between four basic cadences now, adding more specificity in a later chapter.

  1. Authentic Cadence (AC): a phrase ending with the chords \(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{I}\right.\)

  2. Plagal Cadence (PC): a phrase ending with the chords \(\left.\text{IV}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{I}\right.\)

  3. Deceptive Cadence (DC): a phrase ending with the chords \(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{vi}\right.\)

  4. Half Cadence (HC): a phrase ending on the \(\left.\text{V}\right.\) chord

Subsection 7.4.1 Examples of Authentic Cadences

Figure 7.4.1 Francis Scott Key and John Stafford Smith, “Star–Spangled Banner”

In the example above, the notes surrounded by parentheses are non–chord tones, which will be studied later. Also, there are seventh chords in this example, which we will study in the next chapter.

Here is another example ending with an authentic cadence.

Figure 7.4.2 Lennon–McCartney, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

Subsection 7.4.2 Examples of Plagal Cadences

Here are examples with plagal cadences.

Plagal cadence during "Amen" at end of "Amazing Grace"
Figure 7.4.3
Figure 7.4.4 Pink, Bhasker, and Ruess, “Just Give Me a Reason”
Figure 7.4.5 Hozer-Byrne, “Take Me to Church”

Subsection 7.4.3 Examples of Deceptive Cadences

Figure 7.4.6 Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro, “Voi che sapete”
Figure 7.4.7 Kelly and Steinberg, “True Colors”

The following example, from the prelude to Act I of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde, is arguably one of the most famous deceptive cadences in the history of music.

Deceptive cadence at bar 17 of prelude to Act One of Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner
Figure 7.4.8 Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Prelude to Act I

A deceptive cadence means \(\left.\text{V}\right.\) did not go to \(\left.\text{I}\right.\). This means that “\(\left.\text{V}\right.\) to not–\(\left.\text{I}\right.\)” is technically a more correct description for a deceptive cadence than \(\left.\text{V}\right.\)–\(\left.\text{vi}\right.\), which is the most common realization of “\(\left.\text{V}\right.\) to not–\(\left.\text{I}\right.\).”

In the example below, \(\left.\text{V}\right.\) goes to \(\left.\text{IV}\middle/\text{3rd}\right.\).

Deceptive cadence near end of "Ave verum corpus" by Mozart
Figure 7.4.9 Mozart, Ave Verum Corpus, K. 618

Subsection 7.4.4 Examples of Half Cadences

Half cadence at end of transition in first movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, by Mozart
Figure 7.4.10 Mozart, Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, I.
Half cadence at end of prechorus of "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran
Figure 7.4.11 Sheeran and Wadge, “Thinking Out Loud”

You may encounter chords with no thirds in rock and pop music. If you encounter a chord that has only a root and fifth, label it with a “5” after the root in lead sheet labeling (e.g., \(\left.\text{B}^{5}\right.\), as in the next example).

Additionally, you may encounter incomplete chords, which are chords containing only the root and third but no fifth.

Half cadence at end of prechorus of "Love Yourself" by Justin Bieber
Figure 7.4.12 Bieber, Blanco, and Sheeran, “Love Yourself”