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ChoraleGUIDE: writing four-part harmony in the style of Bach




Method - Step 1b: Working out the cadences

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For each cadence, follow the steps outlined below and make a note of the possible cadences you may change your mind when it comes to working out the modulations in the next step. The examples in the table refer to the two phrases below, which are used throughout the explanations of the method.



Step-by-stepPhrase 1Phrase 2
a) Work out which tonic and dominant chords from the closely related keys can fit with the pause note. The G at the end of the first phrase could be harmonised by:
  • a G major chord - I in G or V in C
  • a C major chord - I in C
  • an E minor chord - I in E minor
The D at the end of the second phrase could be harmonised by:
  • a G major chord - I in G or V in C
  • a D major chord - I in D or V in G
  • a B minor chord - I in B minor
b) For any possible tonic chords, work out if the previous note (before the pause) can be harmonised by the dominant of that key to make a perfect cadence.
  • I in G
    V would be a D major chord, which does fit with the A before the pause.
  • I in C
    V would be a G major chord, which does not fit with the A
  • I in E minor
    V would be a B major chord, which does not fit with the A
  • I in G
    V would be a D major chord, which does not fit with the E before the pause.
  • I in D
    V would be an A major chord, which does fit with the E
  • I in B minor
    V would be an F# major chord, which does not fit with the E
c) For any possible dominant chords, work out if the previous chord can be harmonised by the tonic of that key to make an imperfect cadence
  • V in C
    I would be a C major chord, which does not fit with the A before the pause.
  • V in C
    I would be a C major chord, which does fit with the E before the pause.
  • V in G
    I would be a G major chord, which does not fit with the E before the pause.
d) Consider which of the above options are most likely. Remember the most common (but by no means the only) melodic patterns are:
  • 2-1 or 7-8 for a perfect cadence
  • 3-2 or 8-7 for an imperfect cadence
The most likely keys overall are probably dominant, relative minor or subdominant in a major key and dominant, relative minor or subdominant in a minor key. If the correct accidentals for a key are present or lacking in the chords previous to the cadence, this indicates that the key is less likely.
Only one choice from the closely related keys fits both notes - a perfect cadence in G major There are two possibilities:
  • I to V in C - although this fits, the previous note is an F#, which is not in C major - therefore less likely
  • V to I in A - this fits better with the melody in the previous notes



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© Copyright Thomas Pankhurst