Al's Music Tidbits - Volume 10
Al’s Music Tidbits
by Al Shank
A short column this week, so I will introduce “cadences” instead of “secondary dominants”, as promised last time.
A cadence is a set of chords that marks the ending of a musical phrase. Last month, I introduced the “dominant 7th” chord, a V chord with an added minor 7th interval above the root. Thus, the chord is composed of notes 5, 7, 2 and 4 of the scale. The leading tone (7th degree) has a strong tendency to resolve upward to the tonic, while the 4th has a strong tendency to resolve downward to the 3rd, giving you two-thirds of the tonic triad. Many, many phrases in all kinds of Western music end with a V7-I progression, one form of what is called an “authentic cadence”, which may also include the IV chord before the V. For example, can you hear the last line of “Gotta Travel On”?
-----| IV -------| V(7) ------|I
And I feel like I gotta travel on
Lots of Bluegrass instrumentals end with a IV V I cadence, as well (Ground Speed, Daybreak in Dixie, Banjo Signal, etc. etc.).
When the phrase ends with the V chord, it is called a “half cadence”. How many Bluegrass songs and tunes can you think of that have this pattern:
I | IV I | I | V | (half cadence)
I | IV I | I V | I | (full cadence)
For one, how about:
|I--------|IV-------I----|I---------------| V (half)
I once had a mansion and lived in my glory, but now I’m down to my last dime.
I once had a sweetheart, but I was unfaithful. Yes, I’ve lived a lot in my time.
(from “I’ve Lived a Lot in My Time”)
Or, even more simply, how about:
In the hollow where the pines are standing tall,
In the shadow where the woods are dark and still
(from “Never See My Home Again”)
Remember that the V chord may or may not be played as a V7 on the guitar, but that 4th degree of the scale is likely to be heard in a voice or lead instrument.
Finally, a phrase ending with a IV I illustrates a “plagal cadence”, like the familiar “ah --- men” ending to church music. A plagal cadence is often utilized after an authentic cadence as an added close to a verse or chorus, especially in country songs, where the pedal-steel player mashes those A and B pedals.
Next time, “secondary dominants”, really!
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