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Quick Reminder: Harmonising Cadences

See my new site ChoraleGUIDE.com for advice on Bach chorales.



harmony | voice-leading

The table below lists common cadences found at the end of Bach chorale phrases. They are organised by the interval progression in the top line. At the bottom of this page are some common embellishments of these cadences.

When writing in the style of Bach, it is worth bearing in mind that over 70% of Bach's chorale cadences are perfect (V-I).


Interval Could be scale-degrees ... Could be cadence ...
Descending tone2-1V-I (less often, V-vi)
3-2 (major only)V-I
6-5IV-I
Descending semitone8-7I-V
3-2 (minor only)i-V
Ascending tone2-3 (major only)V-I
1-2I-V
Ascending semitone7-8V-I (less often, V-vi)
Descending major third7-5
5-3 (minor only)V-i
Descending minor third5-3 (major only)V-I (or ii -V)
Descending fifth2-5V6 - I
Repeated note1-1IV-I
5-5V-I OR I-V

Some embellishments of the most common perfect cadences:



Although the final chord of a cadence should always be in root position, Bach employs a number common cadential patterns in which the penultimate chord is not in root position. Because it is harder to write non root position cadences effectively you should avoid doing so unless you follow a particular formula used by Bach such as the two below:




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