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I have always thought that a phrygian cadence was VI - V but I now read that it is actually iv6 - V. Can both be used?

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The Phrygian half cadence is exclusively iv6–V, not VI–V.

One of the reasons is that the PHC very often has scale-degrees 4 to 5 in the soprano voice. (This isn't a requirement—they can be in an inner voice—but it's very very common.) And since there's no scale-degree 4 in the VI chord, it's not a viable option for this cadence.

By the way, the presence of the 4–5 foreshadows the eventual evolution of augmented-sixth chords: composers and performers alike shaded this 4 up to ♯4, giving that characteristic augmented-sixth interval that would become so popular.

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  • Thanks Richard. Your replies are very helpful and it seems you know all about the material I am learning. So what kind of cadence is VI - V? this is a very common chord progression.
    – armani
    Oct 6 '21 at 16:40
  • @armani Happy to help! If VI moves to V and the phrase ends there, it's just a regular old half cadence; there's no specific name given to it if the V is preceded by VI. But if it's a larger pattern of I–bVII–bVI–V, we do call that the Andalusian cadence.
    – Richard
    Oct 6 '21 at 20:05
  • aaah ok, I remember that. Actually that is the progression I am most familiar with and I was getting it mixed up with the phrygian cadence. Thanks
    – armani
    Oct 6 '21 at 20:15

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