There are four basic cadences - perfect, plagal, imperfect and interrupted - in U.K. terms. In major keys, they are, simply put, V>I, IV>I, I>V, and V>vi (often) respectively.

I'm looking for cadences in minor keys. Obviously there's perfect - V>i, plagal - iv>i, and imperfect - i>V. There's also tierce de Picardie - V>I. But what about interrupted, or are there others?

I'm aware that other parts of the world use different cadence terminology, and this isn't about that.

  • 1
    I'd add that ANY cadence landing on V is imperfect-- it doesn't have to come from I. Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 23:02
  • @Bennyboy1973 - hence 'simply put'.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 25, 2021 at 9:02

4 Answers 4


Minor key cadences are essentially the same as those in a major key. (I'll use American terminology because I think that's what I know but it may be 60 years out of date. The Roman Numerals should clarify things.)

Perfect Authentic Cadence: V-i (the "strongest ending) (V could be a V7)

Imperfect Authentic: V-i6 (the V in these cases can be a V7 or in inversion or vii06 treated as a V sans root) (anything V-i with non-root positions) (second "strongest")

Plagal: iv - i (Normally not functional but decorative, often occurs after an Authentic Cadence)

Half-Cadence: usually i-V (I think i-v may be treated this way too) could any cadence not ending on a tonic. I've seen ii06-V called a half-cadence or even II-V (major or minor) called a half-cadence or a secondary-dominant; it doesn't matter as these would be different names for the same treatment in this case.)

Deceptive Cadence: usually V7-VI (analogous to the V7-vi in major) This only differs in one tone from an Authentic Cadence and is an easy way to extend a piece; country music uses this a alot in major key.) Voice leading is smoother with the 7 than without. I've seen V7-non i or I or vi or VI but these sound different to me.

A major tonic can be used "at will" mostly. The usage I've seen (like in Greensleeves) is that the V-i is used at section ends but v-i (which isn't even a cadence supposedly) occurs internally. In a Circle of Fifths, i-iv-VII-III-VI-ii06-v-i-iv-VII-III-VI-ii06-V7-i is common; one has a 5-1 root movement but without cadential feeling (then the repeat gets an ending-like treatment). There's a version of Greensleeves in Bucholzer's book on Renaissance music that goes: i-VII-i-v, i-VII-i-V-i, III-VII-i-v, III-VII-i-V-i.

The Picard third is mostly decoration and could be used whenever it sounds good. Maybe in the Cycle of Fifths: ...v-i,...V-i,...V-i,...V-I would allow the listener to hear the section breaks.

Cadences are also used internally. Sometimes they mark important points. Some Renaissance pieces just cadence in a couple of voices and keep the motion going he the others. Country and Latin (and maybe pop and jazz but I'm less familiar) will cadence with the drums still going and the bass walking between keys to make a smooth key change.)

  • Thanks. A cadence could well be at a section end - it's the last two chords in a line, or section, or verse, etc.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 14:05
  • I learned these a bit differently: perfect authentic = soprano has tonic; imperfect authentic = soprano has other than tonic; inverted imperfect = one or both V and I are inverted.
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 14:47
  • @Aaron - all these little variations seem quite nit-picky to me! And offering a perfect (not imperfect!) opportunity for total confusion between US and UK.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 16:17
  • I think these are a bit nit-picky too. In a tonal setting, I just think of V-i or V-I in root position as a section-ending thingy and other variance not so much so. I don't much worry about the details unless something sounds wrong. Cadences can probably be decorated in so many ways that classification isn't helpful. And just being V-I out of context doesn't make a cadence. La Folia starts i-V-i which doesn't sound cadential but ends with i-V-i which does (usually due to melody and rhythm.)
    – ttw
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 19:21

Interrupted - or deceptive - would be V ♭VI - or E major to F major chords in the key of A minor.

The other cadences in minor you listed seem right to me.

  • 1
    In key Am, V =E, and bVI = E also (Fb)? This is where it gets awkward, as bVI could be the F# flattened - F. RN seems to fall down a bit with minors.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 14:01
  • 2
    @Tim - Nope, in A Minor, V is E, and bVI (really ♮VI) is F.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 14:08
  • 2
    @Tim, I used ♭VI to mean the root on the not-raised-sixth-degree, so like E7 F not F♭ Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 14:09
  • @Dekkadeci - I guess this is where having all sorts of differing minor notes (scales), RN can't be that representative. Or, is the natural minor the go-to?
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 14:21
  • @Dekkadeci This is quite confusing. In arabic numbers the number always refers to the major scale (ionian mode), while in RN... it depends. According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_numeral_analysis#Minor_scale bVI (first row of the table) is equivalent to vi (second row). So VI would be F# in the key of Am. Or maybe F#m?... A borrowed chord from A major? I find it very ambiguous. Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 15:06

Ultimately, any cadences in a major key can also happen in a minor key.

I can only think of one cadence type in minor that doesn't occur by default in a major key: the Phrygian half cadence. This is a special subset of the Half Cadence where V is preceded by iv6. This produces scale-degrees ♭6–5 in the bass, a half step, from which we get the term "Phrygian" half cadence.

In major, this IV chord is major by default, creating a whole step between scale-degrees 6 and 5. The only way to have a Phrygian half cadence in major is through mode mixture, making the IV chord a minor iv.

And while we're on the topic of half cadences, I've seen a few answers these past few days saying that a half cadence is I–V. In my experience, this is actually pretty rare; the key point of the half cadence is that it ends on a (root-position) V triad, not that that V is preceded by I. In fact, it typically isn't, instead being preceded by IV, ii, vi, and even occasionally iii.

See also cadence naming confusion for other examples and terminology.

  • There seem to be lots of different cadence categories. For exam purposes in UK, only the four I quoted seem to be recognised. A 'half' cadence is, I presume, what I call an imperfect one, landing on V. And that Q (last para.) was mine, A yours!
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 16:06

A few cadences that are "native" to minor keys:

  • Phrygian half cadence: moves from iv6 to V.
T:Phrygian half cadence
T:iv6 --> V
%%score {V1 | V2}
[V:V1] [CF] [DG] |
[V:V2 clef=bass] [A,C] [G,=B,] |
  • Lydian cadence: moves from #iv6 to V, but still considered a minor-key cadence.
T:Lydian half cadence
T:#iv6 --> V
%%score {V1 | V2}
[V:V1] [^C^F] [DG] |
[V:V2 clef=bass] [=A,^C] [G,=B,] |

Backdoor cadence: moves from ii to bVII7 to I. not a minor-key cadence per se, but borrows its characteristic bVII chord from minor.

T:Backdoor cadence
T:ii --> bVII7 --> I
[DFA] | [_B,DF_A] | [CEG] ||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.