Suspended Chords

In the study of chords, one of the most interesting topics to arise is that of suspended chords, also called sus chords. A suspended chord is one in which the third of the chord has been replaced by either the 4th (called sus 4) or the second (called sus2). If this seems a little sketchy to you study the theory and play the interactive diagram you see below.

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

That's the theoretical explanation and analyzation of sus2 and sus4 chords, sus4 chords are seen and used more often in guitar playing. In the open position, the key of D is very friendly to suspended chords. Study the diagrams in the interactive graphic below, play the chord voicings on your guitar, and finally, to get the suspended sound firmly in your ear, hit the play button and listen as the music cycles between the D major and Dsus4 and then Dsus2.

Video Lesson

 

10 Classic Songs Defined By Their Use Of Suspended Chords

Honkey Tonk Woman
Pinball Wizard
Ziggy Stardust
Free Fallin’

Listen To Her Heart

Summer of ‘69
Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Venus
Losing My Religion
Dance The Night Away

Five Applications Of Suspended Chords

As I covered in the video there are 5 well known applications of suspended chords. There are 5 musical examples to follow which will afford you the opportunity to not only listen to these beautiful chords do their job but also to put each of these 5 principles into action through play along exercises and through reading chord charts. There may be some suspended chords in the following musical examples which are not known to you, that's OK, just learn to play them for the exercises as their are extensive chord reference charts at the end of the lesson.

The first example uses the most common application ofnd that is to provide a temporary sensation of tension and release inside of one single chord change. It's like the song within the song or something that acts like the little mini . This type of progression would be extremely popular and widely used in modern country music and all forms of pop and rock music. The Dsus4 is serving as a V chord.

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Example 2 uses a suspended 7th chord purely as a substitute for a plain old D minor. In other words, the cadence within the cadence idea is out the window and the suspended 7th chord simply occupies the spot of the II chord in the cadence, the suspended 7th chord is moving to a new chord, the D7sus4 is serving as a II chord.

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Example 3 examines the use of the suspended chord in classical music and traditonal music theory, where the term originated. In pop, rock and jazz music the term suspended applies to a single chord, to identify the sound, formula and spelling of that single chord. Also, in modern music, suspended chords are virtually always used in the manned I have used them in examples 1 and 2 above.

The use of suspended chords in classical music and traditional theory still provides a valuable lesson for the modern guitarist. In that regard, suspended means a suspended note is sustained through two chords, being carried over from a previous chord and then resolving up or down to a chord tone of the following chord, the destination chord. I have heard the suspended note called a 'lingering' tone because it is left over from the previous chord arriving or resolving after the rest of the notes in the next chord. The real purpose however is top play the game of music, which is always creating and resolving tension, creating and controlling dissonance in a meaningful way. Great writers can create all sorts of feeling, interest, drama and emotional meaning in this way.

To bring this to life, and to make it easier to compare to exampes 1 and 2 I have used Dsus4 and Dsus2 in various settings in the following example. This chord to chord to chord movement is often called Preparation - Suspension & Resolution.

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Suspended Chords Reference Charts

Now that you have studied a number of famous and favorite licks and chord progressions featuring suspended chords and also analyzed and played my examples which outline the most common applications of suspended chords in the world of todays guitarist, there is one more thing left to do in this lesson: develop a vocabulary of interesting and unusual sus chords as well as mastering the most common forms of sus2, sus4 and sus7 chords.

In keeping with my systematic approach we should first examine all the possibilities in position one, or open position. Of course, the chords which have root notes of A, B, C, D, E, F and G are the chords most often thought of as being first position chords. Below are sus2, sus4 and sus7 voicings in positon one employing those very useful root notes. These chords should be played, listened to and experimented with. Those labeled 'most common' merit extra attention and immediate memorization.

Root 6 And Root 5 Sus2, Sus4 and Sus7 Chords

The next logical step in keeping with the oranized and logical approach I have presented in this course would be to learn anumber of good sounding, useful and common knowledge suspended chords that would fit in with the system of Root 6, Root 5 and Root 4 thinking you learned earlier in the course. Study, experiment and play with the moveable chords diagrammed below. The chords labeled 'most common' should be memorized immediately.