I'm working on this for a music theory class. By my analysis:

  1. Song is in key of A major
  2. The chord for measure three uses the 4th scale degree, or IV
  3. The chord for measure four is the tonic, or I

I'd say that this phrase ends on a plagal cadence (IV to I) but the instructions insist that this is a HC or IAC. Am I nuts?


  • See my answer below. But out of curiosity, have you learned about plagal cadences at this point in the book?
    – Aaron
    Feb 21, 2022 at 3:35
  • 1
    What book is it from?
    – Tim
    Feb 21, 2022 at 9:14
  • 1
    This is a worksheet that the music department uses. I think it's homebrewed. The assigned book is Music in Theory and Practice, Tenth Edition (Benward). I've had a lot of challenges with the coursework in just a month's time. The book has definitions of musical terms that are more limited than the expected responses on the worksheets. I did a tutoring session, and even the tutor acknowledged what I'd noticed, and said that she runs into the exact same problems with multiple students.
    – Xavier J
    Feb 21, 2022 at 17:21
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    The instructor takes no ownership because he's forced to use the worksheets by the department.
    – Xavier J
    Feb 21, 2022 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


There are a lot of problems with the homework question.

But first, here's what they're intending:

  1. Look only at the final note (sol) and chord (I).
  2. Is it an HC? No, because the chord would be E.
  3. Is it an IAC? Yes, because it's a I chord, but do is not in the soprano.

As far as the book is concerned, the correct answer is IAC.

Why the question is problematic:

  1. The progression is IV-I, so if it's a cadence at all, it's a plagal cadence, as stated in the question.
  2. It's not a cadence. It's just two chords that happen to be the same ones as in a plagal cadence, but there's no sense of "ending" at this point. (Okay, granted, this is more a matter of interpretation/opinion. A reasonable case could be made that it's a cadence.)
  3. It's not a phrase. It's the first half of a phrase. Had they included the next four bars and asked the question, then the answer would be HC.
  • As you pointed out, the next four bars are not included. So I'm not looking at the last two measures to infer a cadence, but ONLY the last measure.
    – Xavier J
    Feb 21, 2022 at 3:50
  • I have had issues with the way things are worded in our homework for a month now
    – Xavier J
    Feb 21, 2022 at 3:51
  • @XavierJ - There is only 1 chord in the last measure, so you have to look at the last two measures to infer the cadence.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 21, 2022 at 13:06
  • For other readers confused by the terminology like I was, note that American terminology for cadences is totally different from the British (and Commonwealth?) terminology — Wikipedia has a helpful comparison. In particular, a US imperfect authentics cadence is (in UK terminology) a perfect cadence that doesn’t end in root position with the tonic in the melody.
    – PLL
    Feb 21, 2022 at 16:35

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