A cadence is a standard contrapuntal framework involving two structural voice-parts that approach a given pitch-goal in such a way as to create a sense of punctuation.

Authentic Cadence

In an Authentic Cadence the two structural voice-parts approach an octave or a unison in stepwise contrary motion through its closest vertical interval, that is, a major 6th or a minor 3rd. One of the voice-parts moves by ascending half-step to the pitch-goal. Usually, the penultimate step of a cadence (that is, the major 6th or minor 3rd) is delayed through a suspension that introduces an accented dissonance of a 7th or 2nd. See an Example here. If a third, lower voice-part intervenes, it will move by leap of an ascending 4th or a falling 5th to the unison or octave of the pitch-goal. See an Example here.

The voice-part that bears the dissonance, resolves to the 6th or 3rd, and ascends to the pitch-goal is said to perform the cantizans voice-role; the voice-part that reaches the pitch-goal by stepwise descending motion is said to perform the tenorizans voice-role; the lower voice-part that proceeds by leap to the pitch-goal is said to perform the bassizans voice-role. The bassizans, however, is not an integral part of a cadence.

The Authentic Cadence is characterised by having the structural voice-pair performing the cantizans and tenorizans roles complete, with the pitch-goal simultaneously approached by an ascending half-step and a descending whole-step.

Varieties of the Authentic Cadence include the one in which the structural pair reaches the pitch goal by contrary motion and a third, middle voice reaches the 5th above the pitch-goal by moving in parallel 4ths with the cantizans. This cadence usually involves a 7-6 and 4-3 double suspension. See an Example here.

Phrygian Cadence

The contrapuntal framework of the Phrygian Cadence is similar to that of the Authentic Cadence but with the half-step in the tenorizans descending to the pitch-goal and the cantizans ascending by a whole-step. It is indeed an Authentic Cadence "in mi". See an Example here.

Frequently, if a third, lower voice is present and is not part of the structural pair, it performs a motion of a falling 4th to the 5th below the pitch-goal, with a dissonance and its resolution sounding simultaneously in the cantizans and bassizans in the accented part of the cadential suspension. See an Example here.

Plagal Cadence

The Plagal Cadence is characterised by the parallel motion of 6ths or 3rds between two voice-parts with a lower voice-part more often falling a 4th or rising a 5th; the lowest final note, always supporting a full triad, is the pitch-goal. Plagal Cadences may involve a 4-3 suspension or even a 6-5 and 4-3 double suspension. See an Example here. Plagal Cadences often occur at the end of a piece, movement, or section of a piece, as an extension of the last Authentic or Phrygian Cadence.

Half Cadence

A Half Cadence occurs when a pair of voices – one of them being the lowest in the ensemble – progresses from a 5th to a major 3rd, frequently involving a 4-3 suspension, after which there is often a general rest or a caesura. The pitch-goal is implied as being a 5th below the last note of the lower voice-part because the cadence is not completed. See an Example here.

Overlapping Cadence

An Overlapping Cadence is a contrapuntal complex where two cadences occur in immediate succession and in different voice pairs, the second cadence being normally to a pitch-goal a 5th below the previous one.

In analysis, only the details of the second cadence are recorded, since the first cadence can be inferred from the second. See an Example here.


Besides elaboration of the basic contrapuntal framework mostly by means of passing notes, portamenti, auxiliary notes, pairs of fusas, cambiatas, or extra suspensions, a number of modifiers may apply to cadences. Thus, a cadence may be:

- Simple. There are no suspensions and, therefore, the cadence is homophonic. This modifier applies to Authentic, Phygian, Plagal, and Half Cadences. See an Example here.

- Consonant. The cadence has a regular cantizans formula including the sincopa, but no dissonance occurs; the penultimate vertical interval is often a "consonant fourth". This and the following modifiers apply to Authentic, Phrygian, and Overlapping Cadences only.

- Evaded. One of the voices in the ensemble moves in such a way that undercuts the cadential effect of the structural pair. This is typically the lowest voice when moving a 2nd up or any interval other than a 5th down or a 4th up.

- Incomplete. The most common case is that one of the voices in the structural pair has a rest in place of its last note. There are also cases where the tenorizans is partly or totally absent.

- Irregular. One of the voices in the structural pair moves in an irregular way, like when, for instance, the tenorizans moves a 2nd up, instead of a 2nd down, to the 3rd above the pitch-goal.

- Inverted. The cantizans is the lowest voice of the structural pair.

See Examples of Cadences with different modifiers here, herehere, and here.

There may also be a:

Dovetail voice. The voice in which a new soggetto or line of text begins before the current cadence comes to a conclusion.

In analysis, the dovetail voice is marked as appearing above, in-between, or below the cadential pair formed by the cantizans and tenorizans. See an Example here.

Abbreviated voice names are assigned to the voice role they perform in a cadence (cantizans, tenorizans, and bassizans).

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