Sorry for the vague question title, I'm not sure how to phrase it more descriptively.

In the following image, I've written in an imperfect I-V cadence for a melody in D major. I've tried to follow these rules as much as possible:

  • The melodic note should be at the top of the chord.
  • The note which is common to both chords should remain the same pitch.
  • Other notes should transition as smoothly as possible.

imperfect I-V cadence

I believe I have followed these rules as closely as possible, except the transition doesn't feel smooth, as (assuming I'm using piano), the right hand must completely lift every finger and assign new keys to each.

Question: Is there a better way to complete this exercise?

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    We're not typically in the business of checking homework. However, if you re-title your question to be specific to voice-leading for authentic cadences, then this question would be useful to further readers. // Put the tenor line in the top voice of LH to give yourself more options. Also, there's a 2 octave gap between Bass and Tenor in final voice; max spacing should be a 10th. This would be much smoother if you used a vi chord, voicing: B, B, F#, D moves to A, C#, E, E. Not ideal but better. Dec 8, 2017 at 13:32
  • Thanks for the extra information about the 10th! I didn't know that was an additional rule to keep in mind. I also wasn't sure if this question was appropriate in its current form (but was concerned about it), and asked this question: music.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2855/… on meta at roughly the same time. Dec 13, 2017 at 1:33

4 Answers 4


I think your answer is fine.

Another possibility is to go to an open position for the V-chord:

The A keeps its place as a common note, and the F# goes down to the C# just above middle C.

The chord then has following notes from low to high: A C# A E

  • Sorry for the slow response; it's exam season, and I procrastinated digesting these answers. Thanks for the suggestion about the alternative! I've never encountered the phrase "open position", but I think I can guess by context what you mean. I have actually since realized that the fingering 124 to 135 in my existing answer, while holding the 4th finger to make the transition legato, results in a fairly smooth transition between the V and the I after all. Dec 13, 2017 at 1:41
  • Ahh, the definition of an open position chord is quite straightforward I see: ars-nova.com/Theory%20Q&A/Q21.html. Dec 13, 2017 at 1:43

That's fine for piano writing. Many of the 'rules' of harmony are about 4-part SATB writing. In that context we could complain about the voice leading I suppose!

Here's a version for SATB. Note that I've tried to give each voice some melodic interest. And that, as long as it ends on V, there are many ways of approaching an imperfect cadence, not just I, V.enter image description here

  • 1
    The alto G quaver rising to an A makes a parallel fifth with the soprano line rising D to E Dec 8, 2017 at 12:51
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    Does the "b" mean first inversion? Also, the 10th between alto and tenor in the IV chord, depending on the rules in play, may be considered incorrect spacing.
    – Richard
    Dec 8, 2017 at 14:41
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    Brian and Richard, fair points. I favoured melodic interest over 'correctness'. Tim, this is for SATB, not piano. Dec 8, 2017 at 15:28
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    @Richard on spacing, Absolutely - entirely depends on the school of thought; either an octave or tenth. In school I always used the octave limit to be safe. Never seen a “b” after Roman numeral; meaning there is unclear. Dec 9, 2017 at 16:16
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    a,b,c etc. indicate inversions. A useful system. Dec 10, 2017 at 13:40

The A in treble clef gets played in both,(it's the only common note), so your penultimate paragraph isn't accurate. Yes, it's fine, you've gone from a D F# A triad (I) to A C# E (V) making an imperfect cadence.

  • Thanks for this; but can you clarify what part of which paragraph exactly isn't correct? I'm not sure where to look. Dec 13, 2017 at 1:35

On guitar, the best transition would be to use G (classical music admits 7th chords on V) as the bass note of the chord; which would make it the 3rd inversion but that would move the melodic note which is not what you want. On piano, well, maybe the first inversion, seeing as C sharp is a half-step from D. I'd say C sharp in bass clef, A stays where it is in treble clef and D moves up to E.

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