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Harmony and tonality


A cadence is formed by two chords at the end of a passage of music.

  • Perfect cadences sound as though the music has come to an end. A perfect cadence is formed by the chords V - I.
  • Interrupted cadences are 'surprise' cadences. You think you're going to hear a perfect cadence, but you get a minor chord instead.
  • Imperfect cadences sound unfinished. They sound as though they want to carry on to complete the music properly. An imperfect cadence ends on chord V.
  • Plagal cadences sound finished. Plagal cadences are often used at the end of hymns and sung to A-men. A plagal cadence is formed by the chords IV - I.

Sometimes the final cadence of a piece in a minor key ends with a major chord instead of the expected minor. This effect is known as a Tierce de Picardie.

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