TonalityGUIDE - basic tonal music theory and analysis for undergraduates
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Short Progressions


introduction diatonic chromatic

introduction | fifths | seconds | thirds

introduction | perfect cadence | imperfect cadence | plagal cadence | seventh chords

introduction | ii-V-I | cadential 6/4 | suspension

Progressions of V - I are very frequent in tonal music so composers use a variety of techniques that aim to make the perfect cadence at the end of a piece or section sound more final. The main effect of many of the most common chromatic progressions is one of intensifying the sense of closure, but there are also a number of diatonic chord progressions that achieve this effect.

The chord progression ii - V - I is the simplest and most common intensification of a perfect cadence. It effect seems to derive from fact that the descending fifth (V - I) is prefigured by the same progression from ii and V - a sort of double cadence. When this progression includes the chromatic chord known as a secondary dominant, this double cadence effect is even more apparent.


The following presentation of ii - V - I is the one found most often in Bach. The fact that ii is in first inversion lessens the effect slightly but this is compensated for the addition of a seventh to this chord which intensifies the sense of resolution onto V.



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TonalityGUIDE - Tonal Harmony and Voiceleading - Table of Contents