Cadences are closing formulas, in which the harmony, melody and rhythm, fall into their place at a natural breathing point. The word ?cadence? is taken from the Italian word ?cadere? which means ?to fall?. Up until now we looked at individual notes and their role in the melody and harmony (were they chord notes or non chord notes?). We analysed music at it?s atomic level, so to speak. In this lesson we will focus on the overall song structure. Normally a song has some logical resting points. Musical sounds, like language, are built into clauses, sentences and paragraphs; and a melody also is punctuated by commas, colons, full stops and rests. It can be divided into two or more phrases. A phrase can have any length between 1 and 8 bars (or even longer), but the four-bar phrase is by far the commonest, and therefore has even been called the normal phrase. Normally we find the same subdivision in the harmony. The chord progression is divided into two or more logical blocks which support the melodic phrases, and every harmonic block ends with a cadence.

There are three types of cadences:

  • The full stop.
  • The open ending.
  • The deception.

Lets look at all three of them in more detail.


The full stop

The full stop, also called closing cadence, has a strong sense of finality. It gives a distinctive ending to a piece of music or a section of the music. The listener is in no doubt about the fact that it is concluded.


The open ending

The open ending or half cadence is much weaker than the full stop. It?s is not the end, but rather a comma, after which the listener expects a continuation of the music.


The deception

A deceptive cadence is an authentic progression which does not end on I, but on another chord (most common is VI) which give the impression of surprise.