22. Suspended chords

So what you’re saying is chords can like…get red cards and get suspended from songs?

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(â™­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:

E|-----|
B|--1--|
G|--0--|
D|--0--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, you’re going to play the chord like this:

Csus2_Cform

Let’s move on to the A form:

E|--3--|
B|--3--|
G|--5--|
D|--5--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, you’re going to play the chord like this:

Csus2_Aform

Let’s move on to the G form:

E|--8--|
B|--8--|
G|--5--|
D|--5--|
A|--5--|
E|--8--|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, you’re going to play the chord like this:

Csus2_Gform

Let’s move on to the E form:

E|--10--|
B|---8--|
G|------|
D|--10--|
A|--10--|
E|---8--|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, you’re going to play the chord like this:

Csus2_Eform

Finally, let’s move on to the D form:

E|--10--|
B|--13--|
G|--12--|
D|--10--|
A|------|
E|------|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, you’re going to play the chord like this:

Csus2_Dform

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:

E|-----|
B|--1--|
G|--0--|
D|--3--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, you’re going to play the chord like this:

Csus4_Cform

Let’s move on to the A form:

E|--3--|
B|--6--|
G|--5--|
D|--5--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, you’re going to play the chord like this:

Csus4_Aform

Let’s move on to the G form:

E|--8--|
B|--8--|
G|--5--|
D|--5--|
A|--8--|
E|--8--|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, you’re going to play the chord like this:

Csus4_Gform

Let’s move on to the E form:

E|---8--|
B|---8--|
G|--10--|
D|--10--|
A|--10--|
E|---8--|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, you’re going to play the chord like this:

Csus4_Eform

Finally, let’s move on to the D form:

E|--13--|
B|--13--|
G|--12--|
D|--10--|
A|------|
E|------|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, you’re going to play the chord like this:

Csus4_Dform

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.

Chord charts generated using this chord generator

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