The Solution below shows the A major half cadence on the piano and treble clef.
The Lesson steps then describe the cadence structure in this key, the chords used, followed by an example of its use.
For a quick summary of this topic, have a look at Cadence.
The half cadence moves from any diatonic scale chord eg. supertonic (ii), to the dominant (V) scale degree.
To demonstrate this, on the treble clef above, chords A major triad chord #I, A major triad chord #V, and A major triad chord #IV are used to set up the phrase as being in this key, then the cadence chords ii and V finish off the phrase, giving only a partial sense of completion, in comparison to the A major perfect authentic cadence.
In music theory, a cadence is two chords which create a sense of closure, or rest to a phrase, section, or entire piece of music.
The most commonly used are: perfect authentic, imperfect authentic, plagal, deceptive and half cadence.
Some of the above are US-english terms. In the UK, authentic cadences are called perfect cadences, half cadences are called imperfect cadences, and deceptive cadences are called interrupted cadences.
Each of the above cadence types use different chords (or inversions) to create these rest / closure effects.
Strong cadences give a real sense of finality, and so are most often used right at the end of a piece.
In contrast, weak cadences are less conclusive, which can be used to create a sense of rest, or even surprise the listener with a false ending, when a strong cadence was expected in its place.
Before describing the details of the half cadence in the key of A major, first it would be to useful to identify the scale notes, degrees and chords that could be used in this key.
Below is a piano diagram showing the A major scale notes.
|Note no.||Note name||Scale degree||Triad chord #||7th chord #|
|1||A||tonic||A major triad chord #I||A major seventh chord #I7|
|2||B||supertonic||A major triad chord #ii||A major seventh chord #ii7|
|3||C#||mediant||A major triad chord #iii||A major seventh chord #iii7|
|4||D||subdominant||A major triad chord #IV||A major seventh chord #IV7|
|5||E||dominant||A major triad chord #V||A major seventh chord #V7|
|6||F#||submediant||A major triad chord #vi||A major seventh chord #vi7|
|7||G#||leading tone||A major triad chord #viio||A major seventh chord #viiø7|
For each note in the scale (2nd column), there is a triad chord whose root / first note is that scale note (4th column), and the same applies to 7th chords (5th column).
According to the cadence type, some of these chords, scale degrees and roman numerals will be used in later steps to define this cadence.
The half cadence moves from any diatonic scale chord eg. supertonic (ii), to the dominant (V).
It is less strong than the A major perfect authentic cadence, because it doesn't give the same sense of closure or completion to the phrase, since a music phrase will usually sound most complete when the tonic(I) is the final resting place.
This means that the half cadence is often used as a pause in a piece of music, which finally ends using the A major perfect authentic cadence.
The two chords above are shown as the last two chords on the treble clef below.
The first three chords on the staff below are not strictly part of the cadence, but they are useful to set the expectation that this phrase is definitely in the key of A major.
To do this, we are using chords A major triad chord #I, A major triad chord #V, and A major triad chord #IV, and after hearing these chords, followed by the first chord in the cadence (chord ii), our ear is definitely expecting the tonic chord (I) as the final chord in the sequence.
Instead of resolving on the tonic chord, by resolving on the dominant chord, the sense of resolution and finality is not there, in comparison to the A major perfect authentic cadence.
The audio files below also contain all 5 chords shown on the treble clef above.