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An imperfect cadence is any cadential progression that ends on V. Three are particularly common and two of these involve the relationship of a perfect fifth. The third in the example below (C) is discussed along with other progressions that involve the interval of a second.

The progression from I to V (A in the example below) is the exact reverse of the perfect cadence and is therefore has the opposite effect. If the perfect cadence is considered as a closing gesture - bringing a sense of resolution- the progression from I to V is an open gesture. At the beginning of a phrase an opening gesture might be expected, but when a phrase ends I - V (an imperfect cadence) it introduces a tension that listeners have come to expect to be resolved by a later perfect cadence.

The progression from ii to V (B in the example above) also involves the relationship of a fifth. This is involved in the most common cadential progression - ii-V-I). When it apppears at the end of a phrase it therefore V sets up and then denies the expectation of a further progression to I. Again, this could be interpreted as creating tension. This progression often appears, as in the example, with the ii in first inversion.


An example of an imperfect cadence in A minor taken from a Bach chorale. In passages in a major key, I and V are both major triads, but in the minor, the imperfect cadence goes from a minor to major triad:



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