TonalityGUIDE - basic tonal music theory and analysis for undergraduates
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introduction | perfect cadence | imperfect cadence | plagal cadence | seventh chords

Like the imperfect cadence, the plagal cadence (IV - I) is a progression by ascending perfect fifth. Although it is quite common in liturgical music, it is generally considered to be less emphatic than a perfect cadence.

The two examples below show plagal cadences as they are most often found at the end of piece, with the bass moving by descending fourth.



The following example is of a plagal cadence at the end of the first phrase of a Bach chorale. Here the effect is even less final, and, out of context, it would be easy to mistake the second bar for an imperfect cadence in G major (would be quite common to intensify by sharpening the C).



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