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Predictability: non-cadential chords

How do you end a song with a non-standard cadence (and by non-standard cadence, I mean ending on a weird-sounding chord)?

Try these ideas. You might like them. You might hate them. Gotta try them to know.


Repeat non-cadential chord a few times.


This one is easy. Just play anything other than the I chord as the final chord. This can be any chord at all, either in the key or not.

The execution can be tricky. Since everyone is expecting the I chord, the non-cadential chord will sound wrong. Play it a second time and now they know you meant it. The third time sounds normal.


Trailing off


Play the final, weird-sounding chord and don’t stop playing it. As you continue to play it, gradually get quieter. Arpeggiate the chord as it fades away.


Full stop


Just stop with confidence on the non-cadential chord. This doesn’t always work. The song has to do something to set it up. Gradually getting slower can help, as can playing and holding the chord.

This last one is more difficult because, unlike the first two, it doesn’t hold the chord for very long. Continuing to play the chord eventually makes it sound normal because after a while, you forget what came before it.



I’ve made an effort to not explain too much; it’s important to experiment with this kind of thing. Some non-cadential chords work for some songs, but not others, and you have to do some work to figure it out.

You may find that they work in the middle of songs, too…

Doing this work will stretch your ear. It makes chords that never sounded like they could work, suddenly become a resource for making more interesting songs.

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