Is the cadence I to V the same regardless of its position relative to the tonic?

E.g In C major C4 E4 G4 --> G4 B4 D5 vs C4 E4 G4 --> G3 B3 D4

The thing that has made me question this is the fact that in the first example all notes ascend by a perfect 5th whereas in the second case they descend by a perfect fourth...

Does this have any impact on the harmonic function (not sure if this is the right term here) of the cadence?

Any input is much appreciated.


3 Answers 3


Harmonic function is specified without regard to the specific arrangements of notes within a chord or their positions relative to the previous/next chord.

All of the following are considered as I chords moving to V chords in the key of C.

X: 1
T: I → V progressions
M: none
K: C
L: 1/1
[CEG] [GBd] | [ceg] [GBd] | [CGe] [G,B,D | [Gce] [Gdb] | [E,cg'] [DBg'] ||

These progressions are distinguished in two ways:

  1. By the spacing of the notes in each individual chord;
  2. By the lowest pitch in each chord.

Chord spacing

When the notes in a chord are packed together such that no chord tone fits inbetween, this is termed close position. When the pitches are spaced apart, the chord is in open position.

There are a number of posts on this site relating to close and open position. A good starting place is Open/Close Position Chords: What I am missing?

Note order

  • Chords are identified according to the lowest pitch. When the root of a chord is lowest, the chord is in root position.
  • When the third is lowest, the chord is in first inversion, also identified as 6-3 position -- so named, because the other two notes in the chord will be a sixth and a third above the lowest note (corrected for octave displacement).
  • Having the fifth on the bottom is second inversion, or 6-4 position.
X: 1
T: I → V progressions
M: none
K: C
L: 1/1
"root position""_close position"[CEG] "root position""_close position"[GBd] | "root position""_close position"[ceg] "root position""_close position"[GBd] | "root position""_open position"[CGe] "root position""_close position"[G,B,d,] | 
"second inversion""_close position"[Gce] "root position""_open position"[Gdb] | "first inversion""_open position"[E,cg'] "second inversion""_open position"[DBg'] ||

Strictly speaking harmonic function is just a matter of root movements and even more essentially pre-dominant, dominant, and tonic identities. In this regard V I - just two Roman numerals, a progression of roots - is all harmonic function cares about. Melodic matters are irrelevant. It's just a dominant to tonic progression.

However, if we are actually discussing cadences, rhythmic and melodic matters are essential. Strictly speaking a cadence should be the end of something. That may or may not be a rhythmic stop. Also, the quality of the cadence is determined my melodic factors. A cadence involving V I is classified as authentic. Melodic factors determine the type further. Perfect authentic is when the bass moves dominant to tonic and the soprano ends on the tonic. If any of those melodic factors changes, but the chords are still V I, it will be imperfect authentic.

Those different classes of cadence are important especially as formal structural elements in "classical" music. Imperfect cadences have a sense of not full and complete ends and might be used to set up subsequent, continuing phrases. Perfect cadences would be used for conclusive, final endings.

Ascending and descending chord movement and its effect on harmonic function

That wasn't really phrases as a question, but the answer is: ascending and descending melodic voice leading factors do not change harmonic function.

Does this have any impact on the harmonic function (not sure if this is the right term here) of the cadence?

It isn't really clear if you mean strictly "harmonic function" or something like "function of the cadence." But I don't think the answer needs to be either/or. Both things should be understood.

Melodic factors don't change harmonic function, but they change the quality and function of cadences.


Yes, they are the same. The octave doesn't matter. A C is a C in any octave, an E is an E in any octave. The only differences are in timbre, taste, darkness, openness. The function is the same.

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