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The Quick Guide To Authentic Cadence In Music

Authentic Cadence

Authentic Cadence is one of the types of cadences we have in music theory. And it is one of the strongest complete ending cadences we have in music.

We have already discussed authentic cadence briefly in types of cadence in music posts. Notwithstanding, we will discuss it more in detail with this article.

So let us quickly remind ourselves that authentic cadence is used to establish a sense of end at the end of a musical phrase.  

However, the end result of an authentic cadence is completely resolved.  This implies that authentic cadence will totally end the phrase without any sense of continuation.

This function is the same as the plagal cadence. Because plagal cadence will also end a musical phrase completely without any sense or feeling of continuation.

In our next post, we will discuss a plagal cadence. So, if you have not seen it yet, you may just want to check it out after going through authentic cadence.

Both plagal and authentic cadence sound similar because they always end on a tonic chord. However, the authentic cadence sounds stronger and firm compared to a softer plagal cadence.

In this authentic cadence article, we will look deeper into what is authentic cadence in music theory. 

Moreover, we will discuss the types of authentic cadence that we have. And the last two chords are used to create their final ending in musical content.  

Also, for a better understanding of these types of cadences, we will use different examples in our article.

What is the cadence in Music?

Cadence In Music

It is necessary we discuss what is cadence before we actually go into an authentic cadence in detail.

Truly, we have already discussed what we know as a cadence in music theory in our main post about cadence.  

So before we go properly into a plagal cadence, let us remind ourselves what is cadence in music.

A cadence can be defined as a resting point in a musical composition. Music is like a language with punctuation marks like full stops, commas, and so on.

These punctuations are determined by the way chords are selected and arranged in order to give a logical end to a musical phrase or sentence. Majorly, it used the last two chords that end musical phrases or sentences.

The way a musical phrase or sentence ends is called cadence. In other words, cadence can be defined as the phrase-ending of a musical composition. So, this phrase-ending is resting points as described earlier.

A musical phrase consists of a group of notes containing a few bars. A combination of musical phrases produces a musical sentence. 

The way musical phrases or sentences end give rise to the kinds of cadence we have.

Typically, we have four types that are commonly used in Western harmonic music. The four types of cadences we have are mentioned below.

What are the four types of cadences?

The four different types of cadences we have in Western harmonic music are:

1. The Authentic Cadence

2. The Plagal Cadence

3. The Half Cadence

4. The Deceptive Cadence

Notwithstanding, we will focus our discussion on authentic cadence and will leave other types of cadences for our next discussion. 

What Is Authentic Cadence in Music?

Authentic cadence is the type of cadence with the harmonic progression from the dominant chord to the tonic chord. A tonic chord is known as the chord of the key of the piece.

In other words, an authentic cadence is a cadence from chord V to chord I. That is from dominant to a tonic. The five could also be altered to make it a Five-Seven chord (V7).

Authentic cadence is generally classified as either perfect authentic cadence or imperfect authentic cadence. The two classes of the authentic cadence will be discussed in the following section.

Perfect authentic cadence (PAC) 

Guide To Authentic Cadence In Music

The perfect authentic cadence is established when the roots of the chords are in the bass and the tonic is in the highest voice. 

Note that the harmonic movement for this cadence should be from a dominant chord to a tonic chord.

The diagram above shows what is called a perfect authentic cadence on its own in C major.

Note that in key C, the first (I) scale degree is C, and the fifth (V) scale degree is G and in the example above we have (G)DGB – (C)EG(C’).

The cadence from the diagram is called perfect authentic cadence because the top note of the last chord is the first degree of the key (note C’ on key C). 

And secondly, both scale degrees of V and I of the chords in Key-C are in the root position.

Note that perfect authentic cadence is the most conclusive possible ending. Think of this one as a musical full stop or an exclamation point.

Imperfect Authentic Cadence (IAC)

Guide To Authentic Cadence In Music

The imperfect authentic cadence is basically movement from the chord V to chord I or the leading tone seven chords (Vii) to one (I).

It is the opposite of perfect authentic cadence in the sense that any note of the chord can be in the bass. 

Also, the highest note of the final chord can be 3rd or 5th degree. Not necessarily the 1st or root degree like we have it in PAC.

Again, the chords may not be in root position for imperfect cadence. Also, the top note of the one chord (I) may not also be scaled degree one.

Note that in key C, the first (I) scale degree is C, and the fifth (V) scale degree is G and in the example, above we have (G)BGD – (C)CG(E’).

Although we have both scale degrees of the chords V and I as root, the highest note of the root chord is not 1st scale degree. So this is an imperfect authentic cadence.

Provided that the chord is (C)CG(C’) instead of (C)CG(E’), the resulting cadence will definitely be a perfect authentic cadence. But with (C)CG(E’) as the tonic chord, the cadence is not perfect authentic.

Specifically, the IAC would not sound like PAC but very useful for the complete cadence that is not very strong. 

It is not suitable for a musical exclamation point. 

However, it can function well as a musical semicolon, colon, or a period in the middle of a multi-sentence paragraph.

Final Thought

Hopefully, this little write-up helped explain what authentic cadence is in music theory. 

And also give you a clue to identify imperfect authentic cadence (PAC) and imperfect authentic cadence (IAC).

However, if you have any questions, please share them in the comment session below.


At Phamox Music, we go all out for exactness and honesty. For this purpose, if by any means you found any possible glitch, be it factual, editorial or something that we need to update, kindly contact us.


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