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Phrases and Cadences
Beat and Meter

Introduction to Phrases and Cadences


Subject Area:

Music Theory






45 minutes (1 class)


Essential Question:

What is a phrase and how does a cadence relate to a phrase?  What function do cadences have in a piece of music?





This lesson provides music theory students with an introduction to phrases and several types of cadences.


Teacher Materials:


  • Types of Cadences worksheet (included PDF)
  • Identifying Cadences worksheet (teachers should create a sheet with various cadences for students to practice identifying)
  • Cadences Summary Chart (included PDF)
  • (go to contextual listening and click on cadences)




  1. The melody and chord symbols for “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (or another song that all students are familiar with) are on the board when students arrive.
  2. Raise your hand if you have heard the word “phrases” when describing music.
  3. Keep you hand up if you can explain what a phrase is.
  4. “What is a phrase in music?”  Play “Twinkle” on the piano, and identify where the phrases are located.  Discuss answers.
  5. “How do we determine phrases when listening to music?”  We hear a certain chord progression, and this gives us a resting point or a sense of conclusion…a CADENCE. 
  6. Find and talk about how some cadences (using “Twinkle”) provide a resting point and others help us identify the end of a piece.



  1. Hand out Types of Cadences sheet.
  2. Talk about the types of authentic cadences and how they often appear at the end of a piece.  Discuss each cadence, and using, listen to examples of various cadences.  (Go to, click on contextual listening, and then click on cadences.)
  3. Discuss authentic cadences and the differences between perfect and imperfect authentic cadences.  Listen to examples from
  4. Talk about how a listener expects V to resolve to I, but sometimes a composer deceives us with a deceptive cadence…V to vi.  Listen to examples from
  5. Discuss how half cadences provide a resting point but do not leave us with a feeling of conclusion. Listen to examples from
  6. Talk about the Plagal (amen) cadence and listen to examples from
  7. Now, go back to “Twinkle” and label the cadences on the board.
  8. Discuss and review if necessary.


Lesson Closer:

  1. Hand out Identifying Cadences worksheet.  Students should work with a partner to complete the worksheet.  Any students who do not finish the worksheet should finish it for homework.



Before leaving, students will fill out Cadences Summary Chart.  Collect these to assess individual comprehension of cadences.  Students will be tested on this material in the future.  Whenever students do harmonic analysis, they will now be asked to label any cadences.




Related Performance Indicators:



Students through listening, analyze and evaluate their own and others’ performances, improvisations, and compositions and suggest improvements.



Students use appropriate technical and socio-cultural terms to describe musical performances and compositions.



Shannon Zolnowski




Oishei Foundation
Corporation for Public Broadcasting