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Music Cadences - The Four Main Types

Certain chord movements in a song create a sense of resolution to a phrase or section of the song. These chord movements are called harmonic cadences. They can almost be thought of as musical punctuation marks. Some cadences are stronger than others.

There are 4 main types of cadences:

Perfect Cadence

This is the strongest cadence, it is the movement of the V (dominant) chord to the I (tonic) chord. Very often the V is changed to a V7 to make the sense of resolution even stronger! It occurs at defining moments in a song and achieves a sense of closure to the chord progression. It can be thought of as a musical full stop.

Plagal Cadence

Sometimes referred to as the ‘Amen Cadence’. This is the movement from the IV (sub-dominant) to the I (tonic). It sounds resolved but the resolution isn’t as strong as Perfect Cadence. It is more of a pause, like a comma.

Imperfect Cadence

This is normally the movement from the I (tonic) to the V (dominant), however it can start from any chord. This is quite a weak cadence and sounds incomplete and therefore requires continuation.

Interrupted Cadence

This is the movement from the V (dominant) to a chord other than the I (tonic). Normally it goes to the vi. Again this is a weak cadence; it has a sort of ‘hanging’ feel to it. It goes to an unexpected chord so can be used as ‘surprise’. Again this movement calls for continuation.


Have a play through the above chord progressions to hear the movements for yourselves. The last two really do leave you with a sense of being unfinished!!

Until next week….



-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist


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