I've always considered a cadence to be the last two harmonies or chords in a phrase or line of music. Reading about the Andalusian cadence, it looks like it needs all four chords to qualify. I prefer to call it the Spanish sequence, so why 'cadence'?

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    That term sure is one of the murkiest in use in music. (...although, there are good contenders...) Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 16:18

2 Answers 2


Cadere means to fall.

So if something falls even more than I - IV - V -I it is the spanish Sequence or better the Andalusian cadence as it falls step by step: i - VII - VI - V



a cadence to be the last two harmonies or chords in a phrase or line of music

A harmonic cadence is a progression of (at least) two chords that concludes a phrase, section, or piece of music. A rhythmic cadence is a characteristic rhythmic pattern that indicates the end of a phrase. A cadence is labeled more or less "weak" or "strong" depending on its sense of finality.


What constitutes a Cadence?

The following translation of German wikipedia says that the cadence is the chord progression to complete a piece (ending), and the term became ambiguous as it was adapted to design other usual harmony patterns

In today's music theory cadence (Italian cadenza, from Latin cadere, 'fall') usually designates a chord progression that articulates the completion of a section or a whole piece.

Since the 18th century, the term is ambiguous. Because since then it is also used in the harmony theory for certain chord progressions, which are explained to the basic building block of harmony and do not necessarily represent a conclusion.

Great influence here was the music-theoretical writings of Jean-Philippe Rameau. In the later 19th century Hugo Riemann also declared "cadence" to be the principle of musical form as a whole. Against this background, terms such as "extended cadence" and "full cadence" have become established.

In an even more general sense, the term is sometimes used today for certain clichéd harmonic sequences, without them becoming a theoretical principle (eg Andalusian cadence).

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    Considering the main four to be Perfect, Imperfect, Plagal and Interrupted (there are other names for them too) they all involve only the last two chords. Don't know of any others which are outlined in more than two chords.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 16:24
  • As in, with perfect cadences, it matters not a jot what the chord before the penultimate and last chords come, as V>I is the defining factor.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 17:16

Personally, I take the view Caplan gives in The Classical Cadence: concepts and misconceptions. Especially his comments about the 'plagal' cadence.

But about the Andalusian cadence, I think the typical thing it to repeat it like a ground bass...

||: i VII VI V :||

...that brings up the question: if it keeps repeating - and therefore nothing stops - does the chord progression necessarily create a cadence?

You could ask a similar question with a different ground bass: Pachelbel's Canon. Does each variation coincide with a cadence?

I suppose "yes." Each repetition is a new phrase with an ending. The rhythm doesn't stop so I guess we can say the phrases and cadences are elided.

So let's continue with "yes" we get cadences at the repeats. The actual cadence is then...

...V :||: i...

It's just a variety of authentic cadence.

Regarding all four chords, I consider the idea to be a chord progression not a cadence. If someone calls it Andalusian cadence, I take the meaning to be about a chord progression and not the formal (structural) meaning of cadence.

On the other hand, if someone is talking about sonata form, tonicization, modulation, etc. I expect them to know the formal meaning and use the term properly.

  • Good point about 'is it actually a cadence?' The cadence is actually (if indeed there is one!) an imperfect cadence, ending on V... as the 'sequence' ends on V - or is it perfect (authentic)? Only the last time!
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 18:28
  • Exactly. And, I brought up Pachelbel, because the actual handling of melody matters. In the case of elision, in Pachelbel, I would say the cadence isn't the V, but after the bar at I. However, if the endings were feminine with a rhythmic stop on V, before the bar, an imperfect/half cadence would seem a sensible view. Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 19:11

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