In this chord progression, | I vi IV V | I vi IV V | I |, there seems to be a perfect cadence that occurs at the end of one chord progression/measure (V) and the beginning of the next chord progression/measure (I). Is this still taught as a perfect cadence or is the progression 'left hanging'?

This lesson has it seem that the chord progression has to end on the tonic in order to have a perfect cadence (https://colinarcher99.medium.com/chord-progressions-part-2-92e90e942000)

  • You need to read further into the referenced link. A music phrase ending on V is a "half cadence".
    – Aaron
    Jun 15, 2021 at 4:06
  • Yes but the phrase does not end it goes back to the tonic from the V. The V is resolved and not left hanging. If you read my post I explained this. There is a perfect cadence it just happens when the progression repeats. Jun 15, 2021 at 5:31
  • I'm not following the question then. If the phrase keeps going, then the chord progression hasn't ended either. Cadences by definition only happen at the ends of phrases. V going to I in the middle of a phrase isn't a cadence.
    – Aaron
    Jun 15, 2021 at 5:33
  • That website says a perfect cadence involves a chord progression as (I IV V I). The cadence in every example happens before the progression ends. Jun 15, 2021 at 5:35
  • 1
    I tried to rewrite your question based on our discussion, but please let me know if I failed to capture your intent.
    – Aaron
    Jun 15, 2021 at 5:54

3 Answers 3


Before answering, some clarification of terms.

  • chord progression: Any sequence of two or more chords
  • measure: A set number of musical pulses
  • phrase: A complete musical idea, typically ending with a cadence
  • cadence: A special chord progression creating a sense of pause or ending

Chord progressions, measures, and phrases all can act independently of each other. A phrase can span one or more measures, including partial measures, so a cadence can occur and the end of a measure, or anywhere at the beginning or middle as well. It's fine for a cadence to occur across the boundaries of a measure, such as the V chord at the end of one measure and the I chord at the beginning of the next.

A chord progression corresponding to a musical phrase, would end in a cadence. Given the above relationship between phrases and measures, a chord progression can begin or end at any point within a measure. "Chord progression", being a general term, could encompass just part of a phrase, a complete phrase, or multiple phrases — even an entire piece could be discussed in terms of its chord progression.

Regarding perfect cadences

A perfect cadence is a V chord followed by a I chord, but a V chord followed by a I chord is not necessarily a perfect cadence. A V chord followed by a I chord at the end of a phrase is a perfect cadence, but V-I chords can occur anywhere within a phrase.

This is true for any set of cadential chords. They can occur anywhere within a phrase; it's only at the end of a phrase that they form a cadence.

  • I like this answer. It seems to me OP was a little confused by certain terms - this clears up that. The example OP uses is the basic U.K. explanation of cadences - excluding all the U.S.(?) subtle alterations - which is a good thing here. Bars (measures) have little relationship with cadences.Chord progressions are not necessarily correspondent to phrases. It seems only two cadences are actually cadences - perfect and plagal. Others aren't cadences - hence 'half-cadence - as they don't (usually) end a sequence. Your last para. - are cadential chords actually cadential when they're not ...
    – Tim
    Jun 15, 2021 at 7:12
  • ...at the end of that phrase. I'd say they're just chords.
    – Tim
    Jun 15, 2021 at 7:13
  • When going from ii-I , is this not a cadence? I can't find any name for such a cadence. It doesn't sound too bad playing I-IV-ii-I. Jun 15, 2021 at 20:42
  • @PabbleGoobs A cadence is just an ending point. In that respect, anything can be a cadence. But some cadences are so common, like V-I, that they receive names. ii-I can certainly serve as a cadence, it just doesn't have a special name.
    – Aaron
    Jun 15, 2021 at 20:45

No. It can go in different places in regard to bar lines. But, as Aaron pointed out, cadences end phrases, so identify phrases and the cadences that demark them.

A few terms to be aware of regarding phrase endings (cadences) and bar lines (metrical position) are:

  • masculine ending where the final cadence chord is on beat one after a bar line
  • feminine ending where the final cadence chord is on the last beat of a measure, or at least after beat one
  • elision, elided phrases where the ending of one phrase and the beginning of the next phrase overlap.

A cadence comes at the end of a musical phrase. A phrase doesn't necessarily end at a barline. Here's three cadences.

enter image description here

Your Answer

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

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