A4 | Cadences

What is a cadence

A cadence is two successive chords. Usually, they occur at the end of a phrase or a longer piece of music. A cadence gives a piece of music a sense of completion.

Perfect cadences: chord V-I

Imperfect cadences: chord I – V

G major key

B major

C major

G major key

B major

C major

  1. They are similar to punctuation in a written text.
  2. There are four cadences: PERFECT, IMPERFECT, INTERRUPTED and PLAGAL but only the first two are discussed here.
  3. Each one has a formula and every cadence uses the same pair of chords in turn. For example, chord V followed by chord I are the two chords that always make a PERFECT cadence.
  4. You can feel the mood or atmosphere to each one of them as well as attempting to analyse by naming the notes of the chords. A PERFECT cadence has much more of a sense of completion and finality.

Recognising cadences

A perfect cadence is like a FULL STOP and an imperfect cadence is like a COMMA (or a short stop). Click on the link below to hear the two cadences that are used. You will hear each one TWICE. Identify the cadence and the two chords that you hear at the end.



Listen to the mp3 examples below.

A4 Exercises

Composition task

Compose TWO different cadences suitable for the two examples. This can be done in many different ways – chords, Roman numerals or notes on a stave.

A4 Composition task