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So a coda is "the concluding passage of a piece or movement, typically forming an addition to the basic structure" (Oxford Languages). A cadence, according to Britannica, is the ending of a phrase.

I've seen some websites define a coda as a sort of "extended cadence", so are they basically the same thing then?

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  • You may be getting cadence conflated with cadenza. Similar in sound, but not the same. A cadenza is possibly closer to a coda.
    – Tim
    Jul 31 at 11:04
  • Codas often end with a cadence. I don't think that makes them extended cadences though. Britannica's definition of cadence is OK as long as it says phrase and not phase. Jul 31 at 12:27
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    @OldBrixtonian - doesn't just about everything end in a cadence? Unless it fades out.
    – Tim
    Jul 31 at 12:39
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    @user87626 Oh OK :) Jul 31 at 22:29
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    Coda is Italian for "tail" btw - it's just the end after having repeated some sections of the piece ^^
    – moonwave99
    Aug 1 at 21:23

3 Answers 3

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I've seen some websites define a coda as a sort of "extended cadence"

Well, yes. But very 'sort of'. A cadence comes at the end of a musical phrase, a coda comes at the end of the whole piece. And that's about as far as the 'sort of' goes.

Your question suggests that you're just looking at books (or websites :-), you've no actual experience of music that contains cadences and codas. Here's a brief illustration.enter image description here

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    Great illustration, you beat me to it. It could be nice to show also the notational meaning of "To Coda" 𝄌 etc. which doesn't really care about what there is inside the coda, cadence or no cadence, it doesn't matter. Jul 31 at 15:26
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    Yes, 'DS al Coda' often leads to something that isn't a Coda at all, in terms of musical form!
    – Laurence
    Jul 31 at 16:36
  • Really nice illustration. What software do you use, by the way?
    – Aaron
    Aug 1 at 18:32
  • @Aaron Sibelius
    – Laurence
    Aug 1 at 23:23
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Think of a coda as being a part of a piece's formal structure while a cadence is more a part of the harmonic or melodic structure.

For example, take a basic song form — AABA — but now compose some additional material to form a sort of extended ending, or perhaps a musical commentary on the main body of the piece. The form is now AABA+coda. However, each of those sections of the piece could have its own cadence.

The key is Oxford's note that a coda is "an addition to the basic structure." Formally, with a coda, the piece could already have concluded, but the composer chose to add an extension or extra section "after the end", so to speak. Such additional material sometimes serves as an "extended cadence", prolonging what otherwise might be a quick ending.

A cadence typically refers to a smaller structure within the piece, forming moments of pause or separation between phrases or sections.

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There can be lots of cadences in a piece, but only one coda. A coda may contain cadences, or it may contain none.

A cadence is a harmonic structure

the end of a phrase in which the melody or harmony creates a sense of resolution.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadence

A coda is an ending part of a whole piece, and it can contain anything rhythmically, melodically and harmonically. Or even complete silence. In pop music it's an "outro".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coda_(music)

The Wikipedia page says "Technically, it is an expanded cadence" ... Who writes this stuff. "Technically?" Maybe in old classical pieces, codas usually did something specific regarding harmony.

In music notation, a coda 𝄌 is where you jump to finish off a song. "D.C. al Coda" means, repeat from the beginning, and when you reach the small coda sign, jump to the big coda sign. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coda_(music)#In_music_notation

"See you at the Coda" is a musicians' saying. Saying "see you at the cadence" would be nonsensical, because there can be cadences all over.

There may be something in the coda section that you could call a cadence, or maybe not.

Codas are like what you get, when you press the Ending button on an arranger keyboard:

That particular coda i.e. ending seems to have lots of cadences programmed into it, but it wouldn't have to have any. It's just a break from the flow of the song, and it probably makes you get the idea that the song is going to end now. It's the opposite of an intro: an intro gets the song started and a coda gets it finished. One could say that a cadence, on the other hand, finishes off a harmonic phrase. But there are other dimensions to musical phrasing besides harmony, of course.

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    'See you at the coda' might mean 'Let's at least try to END together!'. Or it might mean 'See you in the pub afterwards!'. In which latter case the brass players might well manage to get one in at a cadence :-)
    – Laurence
    Jul 31 at 16:40
  • "Who writes Wikipedia?" (Do you really not know?) Anybody. So it doesn't say that "technically" bit any more, cuz I removed it. Jul 31 at 17:18
  • @BrianChandler It was my way of reminding everybody that there is weird stuff there and you shouldn't take it at face value. It's actually fairly common thing to hear, that something "is technically" something, and when it comes to music, that's just rubbish. There's no "technical" anything involved. Whoever is saying that just cannot put that particular use of the word in perspective, or thinks that it is some kind of a universal rule. Or just never realized that there are multiple different uses for a word, among different groups of people, and that languages evolve Jul 31 at 17:20
  • If I had actually been interested in finding who or what wrote that, I could have looked at the page edit history. But anyway, this "technically" thing has already been copied and distributed over many sites on the internet. A better explanation might say something about specific traditional or historical forms and practices in classical music. I'm not an expert on that, I cannot give those explanations, but I know the explanation is not something "technical". Jul 31 at 17:26

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