Encyclopedia > Cadence

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In Western musical theory a cadence describes the particular series of chords that ends a phrase or piece of music. Cadences give phrases a distinctive ending, that can, for example, indicate to the listener whether the piece is to be continued or concluded.

In modern music theory, there are four main types of cadences: perfect, imperfect, plagal and interrupted. Each cadence can be described using the roman numeral system of naming triads (see chord):

  • Perfect (or authentic) cadences: V - I
  • Imperfect cadences: any chord (frequently I or IV) - V
  • Plagal sequences: IV - I
  • Interrupted cadences: V - any chord except I (typically vi)

Early music cadences are different and more varied.

The term cadence is also used in dance. Unsurprisingly, it is used to refer to a dance move which ends a phrase. For example, the cadence in a galliard step refers to the final leap in a cinquepace sequence.

In the United States armed services, a cadence is a chant that is sung by miltary personnel while running or marching. A common United States Marine Corps cadence goes:

Way back when at the dawn of time.
In the heart of death valley where the sun don't shine.

The roughest toughest fighter ever known was made.
From an M-16 and a live grenade.

He was a lean mean green fighting machine.
He proudly bore the title of US Marine.

In the modern marching band, a drum cadence is a work played exclusively by the percussion section, as an embellished way of giving a beat to the marchers. These cadences are descended from the early military marches, and are most often used during parades. They may also be played as pep songs, while marching onto the field, or even as dance breaks during the field show[?].

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