Cadence in Music A cadence is any place in a piece of music that has the feel of an ending point. This can be either a strong, definite stopping point - the end of the piece, for example, or the end of a movement or a verse - but it also refers to the "temporary-resting-place" pauses that round off the ends of musical ideas within each larger section. A musical phrase, like a sentence, usually contains an understandable idea, and then pauses before the next idea starts. Some of these musical pauses are simply take-a-breath-type pauses, and don't really give an "ending" feeling. In fact, like questions that need answers, many phrases leave the listener with a strong expectation of hearing the next, "answering", phrase. Other phrases, though, end with a more definite "we've arrived where we were going" feeling. The composer's expert control over such feelings of expectation and arrival are one of the main sources of the listener's enjoyment of the music. Like a story, a piece of music can come to an end by simply stopping, but most listeners will react to such abruptness with dissatisfaction: the story or music simply "stopped" instead of "ending" properly. A more satisfying ending, in both stories and music, is usually provided by giving clues that an end is coming, and then ending in a commonly-accepted way. Stories are also divided into paragraphs, chapters, stanzas, scenes, or episodes, each with their own endings, to help us keep track of things and understand what is going on. Music also groups phrases and motifs into verses, choruses, sections, and movements, marked off by strong cadences to help us keep track of them. In good stories, there are clues in the plot and the pacing - in the Western tradition, the chase gets more exciting, characters good and bad get what they deserve, the inevitable tragedy occurs, or misunderstandings get resolved - that signal that the end of the story is nearing. Similarly, in music there are clues that signal to the listener that the end is coming up. These clues may be in the form (overall structure); in the development of the musical ideas; in the music's tempo (speed), texture (how much is going on in the music), or rhythmic complexity; in the chord progression; even in the number and length of the phrases (Western listeners are fond of powers of two). Like the ending of a story, an ending in music is more satisfying if it follows certain customs that the listener expects to hear. If you have grown up listening to a particular musical tradition, you will automatically have these expectations for a piece of music, even if you are not aware of having them. And like the customs for storytelling, these expectations can be different in different musical traditions. Producing a Feeling of Cadence Some things that produce a feeling of cadence: * Harmony - In most Western and Western-influenced music (including jazz and "world" musics), harmony is by far the most important signal of cadence. One of the most fundamental "rules" of the major-minor harmony system is that music ends on the tonic. A tonal piece of music will almost certainly end on the tonic chord, although individual phrases or sections may end on a different chord (the dominant is a popular choice). But a composer cannot just throw in a tonic chord and expect it to sound like an ending; the harmony must "lead up to" the ending and make it feel inevitable (just as a good story makes the ending feel inevitable, even if it's a surprise). So the term cadence, in tonal music, usually refers to the "ending" chord plus the short chord progression that led up to it. There are many different terms in use for the most common tonal cadences; you will find the most common terms below. Some (but not all) modal musics also use harmony to indicate cadence, but the cadences used can be quite different from those in tonal harmony. * Melody - In the major/minor tradition, the melody will normally end on some note of the tonic chord triad, and a melody ending on the tonic will give a stronger (more final-sounding) cadence than one ending on the third or fifth of the chord. In some modal musics, the melody plays the most important role in the cadence. Like a scale, each mode also has a home note, where the melody is expected to end. A mode often also has a formula that the melody usually uses to arrive at the ending note. For example, it may be typical of one mode to go to the final note from the note one whole tone below it; whereas in another mode the penultimate note may be a minor third above the final note. (Or a mode may have more than one possible melodic cadence, or its typical cadence may be more complex.) * Rhythm - Changes in the rhythm, a break or pause in the rhythm, a change in the tempo, or a slowing of or pause in the harmonic rhythm are also commonly found at a cadence. * Texture - Changes in the texture of the music also often accompany a cadence. For example, the music may momentarily switch from harmony to unison or from counterpoint to a simpler block-chord homophony. * Form - Since cadences mark off phrases and sections, form and cadence are very closely connected, and the overall architecture of a piece of music will often indicate where the next cadence is going to be - every eight measures for a certain type of dance, for example. (When you listen to a piece of music, you actually expect and listen for these regularly-spaced cadences, at least subconsciously. An accomplished composer may "tease" you by seeming to lead to a cadence in the expected place, but then doing something unexpected instead.) Tonal Cadence Terms Harmonic analysis, form, and cadence in Western music are closely interwoven into a complex subject that can take up an entire course at the college-music-major level. Complicating matters is the fact that there are several competing systems for naming cadences. This introductory course cannot go very deeply into this subject, and so will only touch on the common terms used when referring to cadences. Unfortunately, the various naming systems may use the same terms to mean different things, so even a list of basic terms is a bit confusing. Some Tonal Cadence Terms * Authentic - A dominant chord followed by a tonic chord (V-I, or often V7-I). * Complete Cadence - same as authentic cadence. * Deceptive Cadence - This refers to any time that the music seems to lead up to a cadence, but then doesn't actually land on the expected tonic, and also often does not bring the expected pause in the music. * False Cadence - Same as deceptive cadence. * Full Close - Same as authentic cadence. * Half-cadence - May refer to a cadence that ends on the dominant chord (V). This type of cadence is more common at pause-type cadences than at full-stop ones. OR may have same meaning as plagal cadence. * Half close - Same as plagal cadence. * Imperfect Cadence - May refer to an authentic (V-I) cadence in which the chord is not in root position, or the melody does not end on the tonic. OR may mean a cadence that ends on the dominant chord (same as one meaning of half-cadence). * Interrupted Cadence - Same as deceptive cadence. * Perfect Cadence - Same as authentic cadence. As its name suggests, this is considered the strongest, most final-sounding cadence. Some do not consider a cadence to be completely perfect unless the melody ends on the tonic and both chords (V and I) are in root position. * Plagal Cadence - A subdominant chord followed by a tonic chord (IV-I). For many people, this cadence will be familiar as the "Amen" chords at the end of many traditional hymns. * Semi-cadence - Same possible meanings as half cadence. Examples and Exercise 12 The figure below also shows some very simple forms of some common cadences. The first step in becoming comfortable with cadences is to start identifying them in music that is very familiar to you. Find the pauses and stops in the music. Do a harmonic analysis of the last few chords before each stop, and identify what type of cadence it is. Then see if you can begin to recognize the type of cadence just by listening to the music. Perfect Cadence in C major Plagal Cadence in C major Deceptive Cadence in C major Exercise 12 Identify the type of cadence in each excerpt. (Hint: First identify the key and then do a harmonic analysis of the progression. Exercise 12 - Solution Consonance and Dissonance Notes that sound good together when played at the same time are called consonant. Chords built only of consonances sound pleasant and "stable"; you can listen to one for a long time without feeling that the music needs to change to a different chord. Notes that are dissonant can sound harsh or unpleasant when played at the same time. Or they may simply feel "unstable"; if you hear a chord with a dissonance in it, you may feel that the music is pulling you towards the chord that resolves the dissonance. Obviously, what seems pleasant or unpleasant is partly a matter of opinion. This discussion only covers consonance and dissonance in Western music. Of course, if there are problems with tuning, the notes will not sound good together, but this is not what consonance and dissonance are about. Consonance and dissonance refer to intervals and chords. An interval is measured between two notes. When there are more than two notes sounding at the same time, that's a chord. Of course, you can still talk about the interval between any two of the notes in a chord. Consonant Intervals The simple intervals that are considered to be consonant are the minor third, major third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, minor sixth, major sixth, and the octave. In modern Western Music, all of these intervals are considered to be pleasing to the ear. Chords that contain only these intervals are considered to be "stable", restful chords that don't need to be resolved. When we hear them, we don't feel a need for them to go to other chords. To hear them again, refresh the page. Dissonant Intervals The intervals that are considered to be dissonant are the minor second, the major second, the minor seventh, the major seventh, and particularly the tritone (the third sound you hear), which is the interval in between the perfect fourth and perfect fifth. These intervals are all considered to be somewhat unpleasant or tension-producing. In tonal music, chords containing dissonances are considered "unstable"; when we hear them, we expect them to move on to a more stable chord. To hear the intervals again, refresh the page. Resolving Dissonances Moving from a dissonance to the consonance that is expected to follow it is called resolution, or resolving the dissonance. The pattern of tension and release created by resolved dissonances is part of what makes a piece of music exciting and interesting. Music that contains no dissonances can tend to seem simplistic or boring. On the other hand, music that contains a lot of dissonances that are never resolved (for example, much of twentieth-century "classical" or "art" music) can be difficult for some people to listen to, because of the unreleased tension. Resolving Dissonances Figure: In most music a dissonance will resolve; it will be followed by a consonant chord that it naturally leads to, for example a G seventh chord resolves to a C major chord, and a D suspended fourth resolves to a D major chord. A series of unresolved dissonances, on the other hand, can produce a sense of unresolved tension. Why are some note combinations consonant and some dissonant? Preferences for certain sounds is partly cultural; that's one of the reasons why the traditional musics of various cultures can sound so different from each other. Even within the tradition of Western music, opinions about what is unpleasantly dissonant have changed a great deal over the centuries. But consonance and dissonance do also have a strong physical basis in nature. In simplest terms, the sound waves of consonant notes "fit" together much better than the sound waves of dissonant notes. For example, if two notes are an octave apart, there will be exactly two waves of one note for every one wave of the other note. If there are two and a tenth waves or eleven twelfths of a wave of one note for every wave of another note, they don't fit together as well. Beyond Triads: Naming Other Chords Once you know how to name triads, you need only a few more rules to be able to name all of the most common chords. This skill is necessary for those studying music theory. It's also very useful at a "practical" level for composers, arrangers, and performers (especially people playing chords, like pianists and guitarists), who need to be able to talk to each other about the chords that they are reading, writing, and playing. Chord manuals, fingering charts, chord diagrams, and notes written out on a staff are all very useful, especially if the composer wants a very particular sound on a chord. But all you really need to know are the name of the chord, your major scales and minor scales, and a few rules, and you can figure out the notes in any chord for yourself. What do you need to know to be able to name most chords? 1. You must know your major, minor, augmented and diminished triads. Either have them all memorized, or be able to figure them out following the rules for triads. 2. You must be able to find intervals from the root of the chord. One way to do this is by using the rules for intervals. Or if you know your scales and don't want to learn about intervals, you can use the method in #3 instead. 3. If you know all your scales (always a good thing to know, for so many reasons), you can find all the intervals from the root using scales. For example, the "4" in Csus4 is the 4th note in a C (major or minor) scale, and the "minor 7th" in Dm7 is the 7th note in a D (natural) minor scale. 4. You need to know the rules for the common seventh chords, for extending and altering chords, for adding notes, and for naming bass notes. The basic rules for these are all found below. Chord Symbols Some instrumentalists, such as guitarists and pianists, are sometimes expected to be able to play a named chord, or an accompaniment based on that chord, without seeing the notes written out in common notation. In such cases, a chord symbol above the staff tells the performer what chord should be used as accompaniment to the music until the next symbol appears. Figure: A chord symbol above the staff is sometimes the only indication of which notes should be used in the accompaniment. Chord symbols also may be used even when an accompaniment is written out, so that performers can read either the chord symbol or the notated music, as they prefer. There is widespread agreement on how to name chords, but there are several different systems for writing chord symbols. Unfortunately, this can be a little confusing, particularly when different systems use the same symbol to refer to different chords. If you're not certain what chord is wanted, you can get useful clues both from the notes in the music and from the other chord symbols used. (For example, if the "minus" chord symbol is used, check to see if you can spot any chords that are clearly labelled as either minor or diminished.) Examples of Chord Symbol Variety Figure: There is unfortunately a wide variation in the use of chord symbols. In particular, notice that some symbols, such as the "minus" sign and the triangle, can refer to different chords, depending on the assumptions of the person who wrote the symbol. Seventh Chords If you take a basic triad and add a note that is a seventh above the root, you have a seventh chord. There are several different types of seventh chords, distinguished by both the type of triad and the type of seventh used. Here are the most common. Seventh Chords * Seventh (or "dominant seventh") chord = major triad + minor seventh * Major Seventh chord = major triad + major seventh * Minor Seventh chord = minor triad + minor seventh * Diminished Seventh chord = diminished triad + diminished seventh (half step lower than a minor seventh) * Half-diminished Seventh chord = diminished triad + minor seventh An easy way to remember where each seventh is: * The major seventh is one half step below the octave. * The minor seventh is one half step below the major seventh. * The diminished seventh is one half step below the minor seventh. Common Seventh Chords Listen to the differences between the C seventh, C major seventh, C minor seventh, C diminished seventh, and C half-diminished seventh. To hear the chords again, refresh the page. Added Notes and Extensions The seventh is not the only note you can add to a basic triad to get a new chord. You can continue to extend the chord by adding to the stack of thirds, or you can add any note you want. The most common additions and extensions add notes that are in the scale named by the chord. Extending and Adding Notes to Chords Figure: To find out what to call a note added to a chord, count the notes of the scale named by the chord. The first, third, and fifth (1, 3, and 5) notes of the scale are part of the basic triad. So are any other notes in other octaves that have the same name as 1, 3, or 5. In a C major chord, for example, that would be any C naturals, E naturals, and G naturals. If you want to add a note with a different name, just list its number (its scale degree) after the name of the chord. Adding to and Extending Chords Figure: To find out what to call a note added to a chord, count the notes of the scale named by the chord. The first, third, and fifth (1, 3, and 5) notes of the scale are part of the basic triad. So are any other notes in other octaves that have the same name as 1, 3, or 5. In a C major chord, for example, that would be any C naturals, E naturals, and G naturals. If you want to add a note with a different name, just list its number (its scale degree) after the name of the chord. Adding to and Extending Chords Figure: Take care to use the correct third and seventh - dominant, major, or minor - with extended chords. If the higher note is labelled "add", don't include the chord extensions that aren't named Suspensions and Extensions You may have noticed that, once you pass the octave (8), you are repeating the scale. In other words, C2 and C9 both add a D, and C4 and C11 both add an F. It may seem that C4 and C11 should therefore be the same chords, but in practice these chords usually do sound different; for example, performers given a C4 chord will put the added note near the bass note and often use it as a temporary replacement for the third (the "3") of the chord. On the other hand, they will put the added note of a C11 at the top of the chord, far away from the bass note and piled up on top of all the other notes of the chord (including the third), which may include the 7 and 9 as well as the 11. The result is that the C11 - an extension - has a more diffuse, jazzy, or impressionistic sound. The C4, on the other hand, has a more intense, needs-to-be-resolved, classic suspension sound. In fact, 2, 4, and 9 chords are often labelled suspended (sus), and follow the same rules for resolution in popular music as they do in classical. Figure: Low-number added notes and high-number added notes are treated differently. So even though they both add an F, a C4 suspension will sound quite different from a C11 extended chord. Bass Notes The bass line of a piece of music is very important, and the composer/arranger often will want to specify what note should be the lowest-sounding in the chord. At the end of the chord name will be a slash followed by a note name, for example C/E. The note following the slash should be the bass note. Naming the Bass Note Figure: The note following the slash is the bass note of the chord. It can be a note that is already in the chord - making the chord a first or second inversion - or it can be an added note, following the same basic rules as other added notes (including using it to replace other notes in the chord). The note named as the bass note can be a note normally found in the chord - for example, C/E or C/G - or it can be an added note - for example C/B or C/A. If the bass note is not named, it is best to use the tonic as the primary bass note. Exercise 13 Name the chords. (Hint: Look for suspensions, added notes, extensions, and basses that are not the root. Try to identify the main triad or root first.) Exercise 13 - Solution Altering Notes and Chords If a note in the chord is not in the major or minor scale of the root of the chord, it is an altered note and makes the chord an altered chord. The alteration - for example "flat five" or "sharp nine" - is listed in the chord symbol. Any number of alterations can be listed, making some chord symbols quite long. Alterations are not the same as accidentals. Remember, a chord symbol always names notes in the scale of the chord root, ignoring the key signature of the piece that the chord is in, so the alterations are from the scale of the chord, not from the key of the piece. Altered Chords Figure: There is some variation in the chord symbols for altered chords. Plus/minus or sharp/flat symbols may appear before or after the note number. When sharps and flats are used, remember that the alteration is always from the scale of the chord root, not from the key signature. Exercise 14 On a treble clef staff, write the chords named. 1) D (dominant) seventh with a flat nine 2) A minor seventh with a flat five 3) G minor with a sharp seven 4) B flat (dominant) seventh with a sharp nine 5) F nine sharp eleven Exercise 14 - Solution Notice that a half-diminished seventh can be (and sometimes is) written as it is here, as a minor seventh with flat five.