by Gabriel Gatzsche
This blog post is part of a series about the musical theory which SoundPrism is based upon. Check out the previous one: SoundPrism Pitch Layout II
Today I’d like to start to explain how you can compose well sounding cadences using SoundPrism. There are many definitions as to what cadence is. Some say it is a melodic configuration, others say it’s the final chords of a chord progression. The definition I am going to develop within this article is influenced by my german harmony theory background. For us a cadence is a chord progression that sounds round, esthetic and well formed. It starts end ends at the same chords between which musical tension and relaxation is alternated in various and interesting ways.
The pendulum metaphor
A cadence can be compared to a pendulum. At the beginning the pendulum is in the center bottom position and rests. If you nudge it with your fingers it starts to oscillate around its resting point. Sometimes it is right of its resting point, some times it is left of it. The more the pendulum is elevated to one side the greater the power is that draws the pendulum back to its resting point, the more the pendulum is moved to the right the more it will oscillate to the left. It can also happen that the pendulum overturns. But at the end, the pendulum will find rest again in its origin.
Figure 1: The pendulum metaphor (major)
The same counts for a cadence: A cadence starts and ends with the same chord. This chord is called tonal center or tonic. The toniccorresponds to the non elevated pendulum that rests in its center position (Figure 1, yellow circle). The tonic indeed sounds relaxed and and resting. The chord that corresponds to the left position of the pendulum is called subdominant (blue circle). The chord right of the tonic is called (super)dominant (red circle). The word stem dominant expresses that the two chords of both sides of the tonic are above the tonic and that they dominate it: The subdominant dominates the tonic from the left and the (super)dominant dominates the tonic from the right.
Major and minor cadences
When we talk about cadences we have to distinguish between major cadences and minor cadences. Figure 1 represents a major cadence. You can see this because tonic, subdominant and dominant are represented by the uppercase letters T, S and D and the circles are colored. A minor cadence is represented the lowercase letters t, s and d and the circles are filled in white (Figure 2).
Figure 2: The pendulum metaphor (minor)
Cadences in SoundPrism
Figure 3 shows the major cadence within SoundPrism. The pendulum metaphor has been directly applied to the SoundPrism interface: The tonic occupies the (vertical) center, the subdominant chords are below the tonic and the (super)dominant chords are abovethe tonic. If you want to know which actual chord is the dominant, the tonic or the subdominant, simply look at the pitch class label left at the BassSection of SoundPrism. In Figure 3 the tonic is the chord C-major, the subdominant the chord F-major and the dominant the chord G-major.
Figure 3: The major cadence in SoundPrism
The minor cadence in SoundPrism looks very similar to the major cadence. It is directly one stripe below the major cadence.
Figure 4: The minor cadence in SoundPrism
I will now show four cadences that are the basis of many rock and pop songs. The following examples only visualize the major cadence. The corresponding minor cadence can be easily derived by applying the things said in the previous paragraph.
Figure 5: Typical cadences (major)
Figure 5 shows three typical cadences. Example (a) is a simple clockwise circular movement. The pendulum starts with the tonic moves then to the subdominant, overturns directly to the dominant and returns to the tonic. This cadence is also called “classical base cadence”. German harmony theory books use it as reference and prototype cadence. Example (b) illustrates a cadence with opposite moving direction: The cadence starts at the tonic, moves then to the dominant, overturns to the subdominant and ends at the tonic again. Example (c) is a real pendulum movement: The cadence starts in the center, oscillates to the left, where the subdominant is, moves then back to the tonic, oscillates to the right, where the dominant is, and falls finally back to the tonic. Example (c) can also be played in an opposite direction, which would be example (d).The following video shows how the cadences of Figure 5 can be played with SoundPrism Pro.
Video 1: Typical cadences in SoundPrism
Within this blog post, fundamental terms and concepts around cadences and its representation in SoundPrism are introduced. A cadence is composed of three fundamental chords, the tonic T, the subdominant S and the dominant D. Later, I will blog about how many quite complex harmonic progressions can be traced back to these three fundamental chords. This is the reason why it is so important to understand and internalize these basics.
Analogies like the pendulum metaphor help to create a conscious visual imagination of the cadence. This again helps you to recognize, understand and remember harmonic patterns, but also to compose new music. The post today covers pure diatonic major or minor cadences. Within my next blog post I will talk about combined major and minor cadences.
Video 2: Ten steps to make a simple minor cadence interesting