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Thread: What makes some cadences stronger than others?

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    Question What makes some cadences stronger than others?

    Any ideas about what makes one type of cadence stronger or weaker than another? I'm using cadences to connect verses to choruses, choruses to verses, verses to bridges and bridges to choruses. Thing is, each song section has a different key so finding good cadences is taking up a lot of my time. Since this question came up I've been stumped so I'd thought I'd ask y'all. Thanks in advance. --Shaun
    Last edited by shaunp; 01-07-2007 at 04:12 AM.

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    on what beat is the final chord of the cadence? if its on a down beat its stronger, if its no it may not be as strong depending on the song. You'll have to use your ears for that one. Plus is it a perfect authentic cadence? just an authentic cadence? a half-cadence? the list can go on for awhile there. but the idea is if it ends on tonic then it is much stronger. If it has the seventh in the soprano even stronger. I think the thing to remember more tonality, stronger cadence.

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    The chords forming my stronger cadences often start on the downbeats, but I'm adding rhythm changes so this may change (it's a work in progress). I guess, without changing the rhythm but by plugging in different cadences, I'm trying to understand in harmonic or tonal terms why one cadence (like V-I) is stronger than another (like IV-I). Also, why cadences that don't end on I are necessarily weaker than those that do. Hope that clears things up. My ear usually tells me what works most of the time, but I'm looking for some theory out there that explains this stuff in technical terms.

    I've found that there are some diatonic chord progressions that only appear in one key and give a strong sense of tonality (ii-V, V7-I, etc.). Is a cadence just a collection of two chords from a key that will never appear in any other key (like ii-iii)?
    Last edited by shaunp; 01-07-2007 at 05:57 AM.

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    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    I guess, without changing the rhythm but by plugging in different cadences, I'm trying to understand in harmonic or tonal terms why one cadence (like V-I) is stronger than another (like IV-I).
    This would be because the semitone move is from 7th to tonic in the V-I, but from 4th to 3rd in the IV-I. Those are the most prominent melodic moves we hear in those changes.
    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    Also, why cadences that don't end on I are necessarily weaker than those that do.
    Er, because they don't end on I? Ending on I is what defines "strength" in a cadence. (I think you may have an incorrect uderstanding of what "cadence" means.)
    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    I've found that there are some diatonic chord progressions that only appear in one key and give a strong sense of tonality (ii-V, V7-I, etc.). Is a cadence just a collection of two chords from a key that will never appear in any other key (like ii-iii)?
    No. There has to be a sense of at least partial closure, like punctuation in language.

    Check out these:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadence_(music)
    http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheory22.htm
    http://www.andymilne.dial.pipex.com/Cadentialprog.shtml

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    I think I see now how I've goofed up. If I'm understanding you correctly, then just because two chords (e.g. Emin and Bdim) appear only in one major key (e.g. C Major) then while they may strongly suggest a key they don't necessarily form a cadence, right? I've been spending a lot of time on finding chord progressions which strongly define a key and I think I realize now that of all the possibilities, only some of the progressions form cadences. Thanks very much for that realization.
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    This would be because the semitone move is from 7th to tonic in the V-I, but from 4th to 3rd in the IV-I. Those are the most prominent melodic moves we hear in those changes.
    So you can measure the strength of cadences by studying the melodic motion of the chords? Is it necessary to have semitone movement to form a cadence? Do you have any references that talk about how to compare cadences based on their melodic motion? Didn't see it mentioned in the links below. One more thing, I noticed that a iii-I progression has a 7th to tonic motion just like the V-I cadence, and it goes to the I, yet I've never seen iii-I listed as a cadence. Any ideas why this is?
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    Er, because they don't end on I? Ending on I is what defines "strength" in a cadence. (I think you may have an incorrect uderstanding of what "cadence" means.)
    Got it. I think the links below cleared it up.
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    No. There has to be a sense of at least partial closure, like punctuation in language.Check out these:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadence_(music)
    http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheory22.htm
    http://www.andymilne.dial.pipex.com/Cadentialprog.shtml
    Awesome links, thanks.
    Last edited by shaunp; 01-07-2007 at 03:56 PM.

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    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    So you can measure the strength of cadences by studying the melodic motion of the chords?
    This is the basis of my understanding, melody is king. Harmony is melody in multiple voices / dimensions. Harmony is more complicated because of the interplay betwen the multiple voices but the rules are really just an extention of melodic / vocal theory.

    cheers,

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    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    So you can measure the strength of cadences by studying the melodic motion of the chords? Is it necessary to have semitone movement to form a cadence? Do you have any references that talk about how to compare cadences based on their melodic motion? Didn't see it mentioned in the links below.
    All motion in music is melodic. A chord is vertical entity (simultaneous notes). When one chord moves to another, then the voices in the chords take on melodic relationships. Any semitone moves present will stand out more than others (because whole steps can generally move either way).
    There may be some psychological reason why we hear small moves better than big ones (in this context), but semitones in scales are usually the focus of tension and dissonance. If you base a piece of music on a pentatonic scale, it's distinguished by having no dissonance, no "tendency" moves, even when you use harmony.

    This is maybe more of a metaphorical thing, but musical cadences are very like linguistic ones.
    Remember cadence comes from the word for "fall". Think about how, when you make a statement, your vocal inflection falls at the end of the sentence. That's the equivalent of an "authentic" cadence (V-I).
    When you ask a question, your voice rises at the end, signifying you are awaiting a response. This is the equivalent of the "half" cadence (ending on V).
    (It would be stretching the metaphor to make speech parallels with other cadences , but the general idea is sound. Music works through its relationship with the human voice and vocal expression. And the voice, of course, is a melody instrument, not a chordal one!)
    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    One more thing, I noticed that a iii-I progression has a 7th to tonic motion just like the V-I cadence, and it goes to the I, yet I've never seen iii-I listed as a cadence. Any ideas why this is?
    Good question. I guess it's because (for some reason) it doesn't really sound like a cadence. There is the 7th-tonic move; there is also the 5th shared by both chords (as in the V-I). Clearly it must be the shared 3rd that is causing the problem.
    The chords actually sound quite similar to one another, and in the three-function concept of diatonic chords, iii has the same functional role as I. It's a tonic substitute, IOW (as is vi). Therefore in this sense a move from iii to I is not really a move at all! (Not a totally satisfactory observation, admittedly... )

    The closest cadence to this change is the "Six-Four" mentioned on the dolmetsch page (you need to scroll down a way). So Em-C would be a 6-4 cadence in G major.

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    A lot of it has to do with personal taste and what kind of music you've grown up with and how that all comes together at your "ear". Here's a more bookish dictating answer: http://www.music.vt.edu/musicdiction...e/cadence.html
    They call them fingers, but I never see them fing.

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    The Riff Master zog's Avatar
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    Cadences are defined as either strong or weak based on two things the root movement of the chords and the melodic movements of the chord tones. The root movement of a 5th or it's inversion of a 4th are the strongest harmonic progression.

    To understand this there is a theory that all of the chords in a key can be divided into three categories which are Tonic, Subdominant and Dominant. The chords in the Tonic family include the IMaj7 iii-7 and vi-7 these chords are considered part of the tonic family because they do not have the 4th scale degree which is a tendency tone that wants to lead to the third also these chords share several common tones so they are considered restfull chords and don't really want to move.

    The subdominant type of chords are the ii-7 and IVMaj7 these chords contain the 4th degree of the scale which creates a sense of movement and wants to resolve to the 3rd.

    The dominant type of chords are the V7 and VII-7(b5) which contain both the 4th and 7th of the scale. The distance between these 2 degrees creates a tritone which is a very unstable interval and wants to go somewhere usually to the tonic.

    Depending on which chords you use and how much of a pull they have is where you get the strong or weak cadence. Also the chords in a weak cadence have several common tones and therefore are pretty stable and don't want to move while the chords in a strong cadence have not as many common tones and contain either the 4th scale degree or both the 4th and 7th scale degree which are tendency tones that wish to resolve the 4th to the 3rd and the 7th to the 1.
    Last edited by zog; 01-09-2007 at 06:02 AM.

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    Zoq pretty much summed it all up. I just wanted to add that the best way to learn about cadences and chord progressions is just learn more tunes and analyze why they work. You will rarely find a song that only has diatonic chords. You are far more likely to see a cadence based off of a bII or a bVI or bVII or IVm then you are one that involves a IIIm or a VIm (except of course your standard III-VI-II-V). Learn a whole bunch of tunes and eventually this stuff will start sinking in.

    Beatles tunes are great for cadences you may not be too familiar with.

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    Thanks Zog! This is exactly what I was looking for. Would it be safe to say that tonics can substitute for tonics, subdominants for subdominants, and dominants for dominants? Also, if I'm playing in a non-Major key, like Minor or Harmonic Minor, does the 4 still have a tendency to go to the 3 and the 7 to the 1? So in A Minor would the D has a tendency to the C and the G to the A?

    So after reading this all I really think I'm starting to get this now. The interval of root movement (4th or 5th), number of common tones, and the presence of a 4 and/or 7 moving to a 3 and/or 1 determine the strength or weakness of a cadence, right? So if both a 4 and a 7 were present in a chord (like V7) it would have a melodic tendency to go to a chord with a 3 and a 1 (like Imaj7). Similarly, a chord with a 4 only has a melodic tendency to go to a chord with a 3 in it and a chord with a 7 only wants to go to a chord with a 1. So while a chord progression like iii-I has a 7th tendency tone, I could consider it too weak to form a cadence because of the 2 shared tones and also because the bass movement is not a 4th or 5th.

    So, in the interests of experimenting and having fun, (n.b. here's where I try to generalize things and run into trouble ) I can just play a chord with a 4 and/or 7 tendency tone immediately followed by a chord with a 3 and/or 1 to create a chord progression that is 'in the direction of' a cadence, if not a full blown cadence, right? To strengthen it, I can choose a bass movement of a 5th or 4th (does direction up or down matter?) and I can also tailor the chords to have as few shared notes as possible. This is just applying strength notions about cadences and applying them to any chord progression (seems reasonable).

    I realize that this above perspective would allow a progression like IMaj7-I (7th to root), obviously not any cadence I've ever seen (too many shared notes, I gather), but from this perspective I could 'strengthen' it as I would a cadence by changing IMaj7 to it's second inversion to add bass movement of a 5th. It seems worthwhile for me to apply this idea outside seventh chords to include triads, 9th chords, 6th chords, inverted chords, etc. From that perspective, would you classify a chord like vimin6 as a tonic (because of the vi) or a subdominant (because of the 4th)? I wonder that in case tonics can substitute for tonics, subdominants for subdominants and dominants for dominants. Either way, if I'm understanding this right, then it would want to go to a chord with a 3 in it and no 4ths or 7ths (like Imaj). Does that fall in line with the tonic/subdominant/dominant theory?

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions thus far. I think I've gained a much better understanding of cadences and also have some ideas that I can experiment with in my chord progressions. The post about 4ths and 7ths was gold and has given me a lot to think about! Cheers, --Shaun
    Last edited by shaunp; 01-10-2007 at 12:44 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    To strengthen it, I can choose a bass movement of a 5th or 4th (does direction up or down matter?)
    A 5th down or 4th up is the move for a perfect or authentic cadence. Roots typically move in this way in the standard jazz chord sequence (normally using 7th chords).
    The opposite direction (5th up or 4th down) is a plagal move, and is more common in rock, with triads. Both types of change contain semitone falling moves, which is the appeal. With chords in 7ths, the 7th will fall to a major 3rd on the next chord. With triads, the root of one falls to the major 3rd of the next.
    You only need to listen to some typical sequences to hear these effects:
    E7-A7-D7-G7-C (jazz)
    C-G-D-A-E (rock)
    (In the jazz one you also get falling moves from the 3rd of one chord to the 7th of the next. Such dom7 cycles only occur in vintage jazz; in later styles, m7 chords are introduced before each one to make ii-V pairs: Bm7-E7-Em7-A7, etc.)
    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    I realize that this above perspective would allow a progression like IMaj7-I (7th to root), obviously not any cadence I've ever seen (too many shared notes, I gather)
    Yeah I think that's it. It's basically the same chord, even more than iii-I is. Not actually a "progression" at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    , but from this perspective I could 'strengthen' it as I would a cadence by changing IMaj7 to it's second inversion to add bass movement of a 5th.
    You could, but you still lack the 4th-3rd move. And don't forget that a Imaj7 also contains the tonic note as a root, even if the 5th is in the bass - although it seems you are moving towards a Vsus chord, which is quite common in pop and jazz cadences.
    It's also common, classically, to use a tonic chord with a dominant pedal preceding a root position tonic - tho normally with a penultimate V chord to give you the final 7>root move.
    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    It seems worthwhile for me to apply this idea outside seventh chords to include triads, 9th chords, 6th chords, inverted chords, etc. From that perspective, would you classify a chord like vimin6 as a tonic (because of the vi) or a subdominant (because of the 4th)?
    In standard chord symbol terminology, a "min6" chord always has a major 6th - which means diatonic 6ths are not usually added to vi chords. In key of C, "vimin6" = A-C-E-F = "Amb6", not "Am6" (Am6 = A-C-E-F# regardless of key).
    The chord A-C-E-F would probably be heard as an inversion of Fmaj7, therefore with a subdominant function - certainly not a tonic function (IMO). (This would be one reason a b6th is not normally added, because it upsets the chord's function.)

    I'll leave it to Zog to respond to the rest (or indeed to disagree with anything I've said! ) - he's the man.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    A 5th down or 4th up is the move for a perfect or authentic cadence. Roots typically move in this way in the standard jazz chord sequence (normally using 7th chords).
    The opposite direction (5th up or 4th down) is a plagal move, and is more common in rock, with triads.
    Got it, thanks for the rock vs. jazz style distinction too.
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    Both types of change contain semitone falling moves, which is the appeal. With chords in 7ths, the 7th will fall to a major 3rd on the next chord. With triads, the root of one falls to the major 3rd of the next.
    You only need to listen to some typical sequences to hear these effects:
    E7-A7-D7-G7-C (jazz)
    C-G-D-A-E (rock)
    (In the jazz one you also get falling moves from the 3rd of one chord to the 7th of the next. Such dom7 cycles only occur in vintage jazz; in later styles, m7 chords are introduced before each one to make ii-V pairs: Bm7-E7-Em7-A7, etc.)
    I just played these on my guitar. Really, keeping an eye on semitone movement makes a HUGE difference. At my first take at this, I wasn't using the right chord voicings for semitone movement but once I found 'em, wow. Thanks. I'll definitely be using this a lot. I've got a barbershop-style jam I play from time to time and it'd probably be a bit better with applying this semitone stuff. If you're curious - each measure is about 3-4 seconds and it's pretty upbeat |:A7x16|D7x16|G7x16|Cmajx8 E7x8:| Bass moves from root to 5th twice each measure except last A up to D down to G up to C down to E
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    Yeah I think that's it. It's basically the same chord, even more than iii-I is. Not actually a "progression" at all.You could, but you still lack the 4th-3rd move.
    Yeah, it's probably best to view this as a substitution, if anything. Seems I've got a pretty flexible definition of a progression, eh? Just one chord after another . One thing though, I've just finished playing all of the cadences on Andy Milne's "Cadential Progressions" page on my guitar and it really does look like the 4th usually has to be in there, but sometimes they start off with a chord with a 7th only (the iiimin7-iimin7-Imaj7 and iiimin7-IVmaj7-Imaj7 cadences threw me because of this the first time 'round).

    As an aside, I also noticed that the 4th doesn't seem to require immediate resolution (and from your classical Imaj7/5 V7 Imaj pedal example it seems to hold for 7ths too). Looks like I can follow it with another chord that has a 4th or 4th and 7th before going to a 'resolution' chord with a 3rd or 3rd and root. That was pretty neat. I can start to see how I can chain chords together to get extended cadences now. Unless I'm completely wrong about all this, that is .
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    In standard chord symbol terminology, a "min6" chord always has a major 6th - which means diatonic 6ths are not usually added to vi chords. In key of C, "vimin6" = A-C-E-F = "Amb6", not "Am6" (Am6 = A-C-E-F# regardless of key).
    The chord A-C-E-F would probably be heard as an inversion of Fmaj7, therefore with a subdominant function - certainly not a tonic function (IMO). (This would be one reason a b6th is not normally added, because it upsets the chord's function.)
    Great save. I completely goofed here. Thanks here for the comment about b6's not usually being added. I hadn't noticed the connection between diatonic b6's and inversions before now.
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    I'll leave it to Zog to respond to the rest (or indeed to disagree with anything I've said! ) - he's the man.
    You guys are all pretty cool in my book. It's like I'm in music theory heaven!
    --Shaun
    Last edited by shaunp; 01-10-2007 at 03:52 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by silent-storm
    Zoq pretty much summed it all up. I just wanted to add that the best way to learn about cadences and chord progressions is just learn more tunes and analyze why they work. You will rarely find a song that only has diatonic chords. You are far more likely to see a cadence based off of a bII or a bVI or bVII or IVm then you are one that involves a IIIm or a VIm (except of course your standard III-VI-II-V). Learn a whole bunch of tunes and eventually this stuff will start sinking in.

    Beatles tunes are great for cadences you may not be too familiar with.
    Silent-storm, great tips. I'm spending a lot of time going through the Beatles catalogue trying to recognize the cadences and key changes. Of course, playing the songs is a lot of fun too Cadences which connect one key to another key are my main area of interest right now, so I'll keep an eye out for the cadences you've mentioned. From the Cadential Progression's page it looks like a lot of them come from the Melodic, Harmonic, and Double Harmonic Major/Minor keys. Time to dig on into these. Cheers, --Shaun

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    The Riff Master zog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    Thanks Zog! This is exactly what I was looking for. Would it be safe to say that tonics can substitute for tonics, subdominants for subdominants, and dominants for dominants? Also, if I'm playing in a non-Major key, like Minor or Harmonic Minor, does the 4 still have a tendency to go to the 3 and the 7 to the 1? So in A Minor would the D has a tendency to the C and the G to the A?
    Yes you can subsitute tonic for tonics and subdominants for subdominants and so on. The only problem is that you should try to avoid unwanted intervals between the melody and harmony like a b9 which would destroy the sound of the subsitute chord.

    The tendency tones are different in minor scales. In the major scale you will notice a half step between the 3rd and 4th and the 7th and tonic. That is whats creates the pull and defines the major scale in a way.

    Quote Originally Posted by shaunp
    So after reading this all I really think I'm starting to get this now. The interval of root movement (4th or 5th), number of common tones, and the presence of a 4 and/or 7 moving to a 3 and/or 1 determine the strength or weakness of a cadence, right? So if both a 4 and a 7 were present in a chord (like V7) it would have a melodic tendency to go to a chord with a 3 and a 1 (like Imaj7). Similarly, a chord with a 4 only has a melodic tendency to go to a chord with a 3 in it and a chord with a 7 only wants to go to a chord with a 1. So while a chord progression like iii-I has a 7th tendency tone, I could consider it too weak to form a cadence because of the 2 shared tones and also because the bass movement is not a 4th or 5th.
    Right it is a combination of both that drives the progression the V7 has a strong pull to the tonic because of the tritone interval between the 4th and 7th. Also note that even though certain chords have a tendency to go somewhere does not mean you have to do that. For example you could take a V7 chord to any other chord besides the tonic and create a deceptive cadence. The iii-I movement is not strong at all because both chords are of the tonic familly and have several common tones. You could substitute the iii for th I chord if you wanted.

    Also just because a chord has the 4th in it does not mean it needs to go to a chord with a 3rd. You could go elsewhere and extend the tension so to speak.

    I think it is curious that JonR mentioned the progression of E7-A7-D7-G7-C this type of progression has a strong since of movement that I call extended dominants and could be used to drive you to a target chord as in C above. I am not a big jazz fan but I guess it is very common. you could also do the same with root movements of a m2 such as C7-B7-Bb7-A7-Ab7 and so on
    There are many things you can do with a cadence like extend it an so forth but the trick is to not over do it.

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