Andalusian Cadence

David Lawrence
• Thursday, 05 November, 2020
• 7 min read

In the third degree of the final chord (III or V, depending on key signature), the subsonic is sharpened by a semitone into a leading note in order to lead back into the minor chord that begins the sequence. A popular melodic pattern of Ancient Greece offers a possible starting point for the Andalusian cadence.

andalusian cadence flamenco chord progressions wikipedia cadences badajoz music common
(Source: en.wikipedia.org)


Called the Dorian tetra chord, the sequence resembles the bass line of the chord progression developed centuries later. A sequence more or less close to the Greek tetra chord structure might have been known to the Moors in Southern Spain and spread from there through Western Europe.

The Andalusian cadence known today, using triads, may not have occurred earlier than the Renaissance, though the use of parallel thirds or sixths was evident as early as the 13th century. One of the earliest uses of this chord sequence is seen in Claudio Monteverdi's choral work, Lament Della Nina.

A minor seventh would be added to the dominant “V” chord to increase tension before resolution (V 7 -i). If the semitone falls between the highest two steps, the melody tends to be ascending (e.g. major scales); a semitone between the lowest tones in the tetra chord involves a melody “inclined” to descend.

This said, the Phrygia tetra chord, borrowed from traditional music of Eastern Europe and Anatolia, is to be found also in the Andalusian cadence and sets the mentioned character (the semitone falls between V and AVI). Andalusian cadence in E Phrygia Play (help · info). A rigorous analysis should note that many chord progressions are likely to date back from an epoch prior to early Baroque (usually associated with birth of tonality).

In such cases (also, that of the Andalusian cadence), explanations offered by tonality “neglect” the history and evolution of the chord progression in question. This is because harmonic analyses in tonal style use only two scales (major and minor) when explaining origins of chord moves.

flamenco cadence andalusian guitar progression chords chord blues bar theory music guitarist should know scale
(Source: guitarendeavor.com)

Thus, the “iv” corresponds to a subdominant chord, while “iii” is the median and “I” is the tonic. (The only purpose for highlighting these “functions” is to compare between the modal and tonal views of the cadence.

When the VI chord, which may be added between III and Wii (iv-III-VI-II-I) and cadenced upon, is the most characteristic contrasting tonal area, similar by analogy to the relative major of a minor key. The tonal system sets three main functions for the diatonic certain chords: tonic (T), dominant (D) and subdominant (SD).

Dominant chord substituted A most unusual way of altering the cadence can be heard in Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb (1979), where the “V” chord is skipped for an “iv”. The resulting progression is on the edge between tonal and modal, where the subsonic doesn't change back into a leading-tone, but the obtained cadence is suitable for tonality (called legal or backdoor).

A most unusual way of altering the cadence can be heard in Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb (1979) , where the “V” chord is skipped for an “iv”. The resulting progression is on the edge between tonal and modal, where the subsonic doesn't change back into a leading-tone, but the obtained cadence is suitable for tonality (called legal or backdoor ).

Other recent uses of the cadence are apparent in flamenco inspired rock songs such as “Ya no me some DE la Reba”, 'La Que five en la Carrera”, and the baseline of “Negros leis intentions”. Tonal Harmony, “Cyprian Porumbescu” Conservatory Publishing House, Bucharest ^ a b Kelly, Casey and Hodge, David (2011).

cadence andalusian
(Source: www.youtube.com)

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Art of Songwriting, . Applicator Harmony in Jazz, Pop & Rock Improvisation, Anemia Publishing House, Bucharest.

Vienna: Tutti LE Opera di Claudio Monteverdi. “The Platonic Agenda of Monteverdi's Second Practice: A Case Study from the Eighth Book of Madrigals”.

In this article I’ll be discussing one of my favorite chord progressions, one that interestingly enough, isn’t likely to be heard in most of today’s mainstream pop music but is still very popular in guitar-heavy genres. The name makes a lot of sense when you realize how important this progression is for Flamenco music.

That said, you can find plenty of pieces from the Baroque period of classical music that implement the structure of this chord progression. For the sake of simplicity we’ll be playing all the examples in the key of A minor, which is easier for beginners to practice in.

To make things sound you simply need to modify each chord to change its particular color. Those of you reading this article and who happen to have a good grasp of music theory will understand that we’re basically working with so-called tension notes that are added to the chords.

chords andalusian cadence
(Source: www.youtube.com)

It is featured in the chorus of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” and it also builds the basis for the middle section in Pace De Lucia ’s signature track, Entire dos Aquas ”, where this progression is played in the key of E minor. You can hear this by the way in a tune by Diploma / McLaughlin / DE Lucia called Chanel ”.

The cool thing about this progression is its simplicity and it’s mainly due to this reason that you can easily play around with it. The reason being is that they constitute the harmonic background to Jimmy Page’s legendary solo in “Stairway to heaven”.

This kind of shape is great if you’re into funk or wish to inject some funky nuances into pretty much anything you write. Feel free to check out my efforts as a guitar player on my Facebook page and on YouTube.

When jamming or simply playing for others, it always makes a great impression. The AndalusianCadence uses four descending chords which give it a “walking” vibe to it.

The chords are vi-V-IV-III with respect to the major scale or i-VII-VI-V in the minor mode. You might want to check my blog post about harmonizing scales if you need help to find the chords for a specific key.

(Source: www.youtube.com)

To get a better understanding on how the progression descends here is an example putting the chords all on one string. Now let’s use the same chords using open strings positions and adding some colors.

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