In traditional music theory, a cadence is a musical gesture that marks the end of a phrase. You might think of a cadence as musical punctuation; it helps you understand that the phrase is over.
A cadence is a ritualized sequence of chords. Music theory describes four basic types of cadences:
- [five] [one] — in C major, G C — a full cadence or authentic cadence
- [one] [five] — C G — a half cadence (and, really, it could be almost any chord leading to [five])
- [four] [one] — F C — a plagal cadence (they really didn't respect [four] chords in olden days — even tried to implicate them with the plague)
- [five] [six]m — G Am — a deceptive cadence
- Traditional music was based on melody, not chords. Great melodic inventiveness more than made up for simple, formulaic chord structures.
- 19th-century composers changed keys very freely as a way of getting some other chords into the music.
So if you're putting chords together and feel like you don't know what you're doing, you can always fall back on these four traditional cadences. If you end every phrase with one of them, or some close variation, you can be confident that your chords will make musical sense to the audience.
Tuesday is Beastly Fundamentals Day.