Intermediate Chords tutorials
11. Suspended chords
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So what you're saying is chords can like...get red cards and get suspended from songs?

  1. Topics of discussion
  2. Suspended 2 (sus2) chords
  3. Suspended 4 (sus4) chords

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial, we are going to talk about the two different types of suspended chords. So, let's have some fun.

2. Suspended 2 (sus2) chords

Suspended 2 chords (which are notated as sus2) occur when we take a triad and replace the third between the root and middle notes of a triad with a major second. The major triad is used for building such chords, thus giving us the formula:

1 2 5

If we go on and lower the fifth note by one semitone, then the chord is still a sus2 chord, but with a flatted fifth (it's notated as sus2(♭5)). The same rule is applied for when we raise the fifth note as well.

Sus2 chords are neither major nor minor, since they lack that middle third that usually gives us the quality of the chord. As a result, they can be easily played on any note of a scale, regardless of the quality of the scale.

Let's use the CAGED system in order to play the Csus2 chord. First off, the C form:

EADGBEX13X
Csus2 chord

Here it is played back:

Let's move on to the A form:

EADGBE11431X
Csus2 chord

Here it is played back:

Let's move on to the G form:

5EADGBE431112
Csus2 chord

Here it is played back:

Let's move on to the E form:

8EADGBE41X321
Csus2 chord

Here it is played back:

Finally, let's move on to the D form:

10EADGBE1431XX
Csus2 chord

Here it is played back:

Sus2 chords tend to add a sense of unfinished business in your playing and they tend to want to be resolved by a tonic chord (or tonic substitute chord). More often than not you may feel a natural tendency to want to move to the chord formed on the middle note of the triad. For example, when playing a Csus2 chord, you may feel the need to play a Dm chord next, because of that D note in the Csus2 chord. Feel free to play around with these chords a bit to get accustomed to them.

3. Suspended 4 (sus4) chords

Suspended 4 chords (notated as sus4) function in the same manner as sus2, only instead of replacing the third with a major second, we instead replace it with a perfect fourth. As a result, the chord formula for suspended chords is:

1 4 5

Let's use the CAGED system in order to play the Csus4 chord. First off, the C form:

EADGBEX143X
Csus4 chord

Here it is played back:

Let's move on to the A form:

3EADGBE14321X
Csus4 chord

Here it is played back:

Let's move on to the G form:

5EADGBE441132
Csus4 chord

Here it is played back:

The barres are done with the pinky finger on the 8th fret and with the index finger on the 5th fret.

Let's move on to the E form:

8EADGBE114321
Csus4 chord

Here it is played back:

Finally, let's move on to the D form:

10EADGBE4321XX
Csus4 chord

Here it is played back:

Sus4 chords produce a lot more tension than sus2 chords and are generally resolved by playing either the original, unsuspended chord or the chord formed on the middle note of the triad. In the case of Csus4, you can usually play either a C (or Cm) chord or an F chord after it.

Remember that these are just some general guidelines and in no way should limit your decisions when it comes to chord playing. However, generally speaking, sus2 and sus4 chords are usually used to replace a basic chord in a scale, be it major or minor.

That about covers it for this post. Next time, we are going to discuss about power chords. See you then.

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