Phrase Rhythm

The rate at which (and the way in which) phrases (and thus cadences) succeed one another.

In a way, a composition's phrase rhythm determines the rate at which (and the way in which) it breathes.

Consider the following Bach chorale setting, which exhibits a very simple kind of phrase rhythm:


Composers often add variety to a piece's phrase rhythm by using one or more of the techniques of phrase rhythm development listed below:


Link (lead-in)

A chordal or melodic figure that joins the end of one phrase with the start of the next. Here is an example of a melodic link:

[Mozart, Adagio to K. 576, mm. 15-17]

Phrase extension

The addition of extra material at the cadence.

Phrase expansion

The interpolation of extra material prior to the cadence of a phrase. Clearly this is only possible in the consequent phrase of a period, or during the restatement of a phrase heard previously.


The last note of one phrase is also the first note of the next.

Phrase overlap

While one phrase ends in one voice, the next phrase begins in another voice.

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