Tip #14 – Softening an Ending with a Shifted Cadence

When nearing the end of a phrase or musical idea, a cadence is in order to signify to the listener that we have reached a point of conclusion in some way shape or form. However, a composer way wish that the cadence not be so drastic – in the necessity to have a continuation of motion.

So how does a composer acoustically signal the end, but do it in a sophisticated way to allow the flow to continue – like a yellow light at a traffic stop?

For compositions that feature an anacrusis, or pick-up measure, a shifted cadence can work to their benefit by working off the already shifted phrasing. Take a look at an example that cadences at the strong beat 1, coming to an ultimate conclusion:

There is nothing wrong with this, but we can improve the ending by shifting it to a weaker part of the beat to essentially “lessen the blow” of the cadential figure – thus, maintaining an element of continuity to the flow of music to progress further without an abrupt stop. Here is a possible edit:

Notice that the cadence is now on beat three, which in 3/4 time is the weakest part of the measure grouping.


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Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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