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?


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.

  • 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

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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