• Other Types of Suspended Chords You Can Put To Use Right Away!

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano

    types of suspended chords image

    In this lesson, we’ll explore even more types of suspended chords you can inject into your playing to add flavor and style.

    If you are not familiar with the basic way to form suspended chords, click here to see a recent lesson. Here’s another lesson, too.

    Here are the suspended chords you already know:

    C sus4

    C F G

    C sus2:
    C sus 2 C D G
    C D G

    Recall that a suspended chord occurs when you replace the third degree in the chord (in this case, “E”) with either the perfect 4th (F) or major 2nd tone (D).

    C E G becomes C F G.

    or

    C E G becomes C D G.

    Simple.

    Now, let’s see what happens when we extend these chords.

    Types of Suspended Chords – Exploring Sevenths

    One thing we can immediately do is add the dominant 7th degree to this chord.

    In my free chord guide, I cover this interval in depth, but it is essentially what happens when you take the 7th degree of the scale and lower it by a half step.

    C major scale:
    types of suspended chords C major scale C D E F G A B C
    C D E F G A B C

    What is the 7th degree of this scale?

    Answer: B

    If we were looking to create a major7 chord, adding B to any regular C major triad (C E G) would do the job.

    But we’re looking for the dominant 7th or flat 7th or minor 7th (all different ways to say the same thing — the lowered 7th degree). That’s Bb.

    This gives us one of the most popular chords in music. The dominant 7th chord.

    You can write it as C dominant 7, C dom 7, or just C7 for short. They all mean the same thing.

    (Note: Whenever you see C7 or F7 or G7 or any note immediately followed by a 7, it automatically means to play the dominant 7th chord.)

    C7

    C E G Bb

    This is what the C dominant 7th chord looks like without any suspended notes.

    By simply making the same changes we made to form our C sus4 and C sus2, we get C7 sus4 and C7 sus2 chords, respectively.

    C7 sus4

    C F G Bb

    This chord absolutely loves to resolve to the regular C7 chord you just learned.

    C7 sus4

    C F G Bb

    [TO]

    C7

    C E G Bb

    Exercise: You hear this a lot in funk, blues, and gospel. Try playing the C7sus4 chord for 4 beats, then resolving to the C7 chord for another 4 beats. Repeat.

    C7 sus2

    C D G Bb

    This one isn’t as common as the C7sus4 but still good to know.

    Types of Suspended Chords – Extended

    What if we combined the ideas from the sus4 and sus2 chords to form other types of suspended chords? That is, what if we included both tones.

    This is what we call a C9sus4 chord.

    C9 sus4

    C F G Bb D

    Instead of the “D” operating as the 2nd tone of the scale, it is now operating as the 9th tone of the scale.

    Consider the C major scale (2 octaves):

    C major scale:
    C major scale C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C
    C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C

    If you number this scale, you get:

    C is 1
    D is 2
    E is 3
    F is 4
    G is 5
    A is 6
    B is 7
    C is 8
    D is 9
    E is 10
    F is 11
    G is 12
    A is 13
    B is 14

    D is the 9th degree of the scale, when you extend into the next octave.

    The dominant 9 sus4 chord is also known as the jazz sus chord.

    Here are other types of suspended chords.

    C7 b9 sus

    C F G Bb Db

    At some point, you can leave the “4” off as it will already be implied. Just saying “sus” means to replace the 3 with the 4th degree.

    In this chord, we took the 9 and flatted (lowered) it a half step. This gave us “Db” instead of D.

    C sus 11

    C G Bb D F

    This chord essentially takes the F and puts it on top.

    While some can argue this is still a C9 sus4, it is the order of notes that is differentiated in this voicing.

    When the F is in the lower octave, it is the “4.” When the F is played in the upper octave (in this case, as the highest note), it is the 11th.

    (But I’ll be honest in saying, this language is mixed and matched all the time. Unless you’re studying for a music theory exam, 4 = 11 and 11 = 4 and let your ear be the final judge in terms of whether you place it in the lower or upper octave.)

    This inversion also brings to light an obvious shortcut to playing extended sus chords.

    Do you see the Bb major chord?

    Essentially, if you want a nice extended sus chord, play the major chord a whole step lower than your bass note, and “boom!” you got it.

    C sus 11

    C Bb D F

    *The only thing I did differently here was take out the G, which is optional anyway. The 5th degree (G) doesn’t make or break our chord. Add it back in if you want the chord to have more power on the low end.

    What happens if you extend the Bb major chord (Bb D F) to a Bb major 7 chord?

    Now you get a C13 sus:

    C13 sus

    C Bb D F A

    This chord is popular in gospel praise and shouting music.

    Even More Types of Suspended Chords

    What if you changed the Bb major chord to a minor chord?

    Now, we are back to our b9 sus chord. The only difference is the F is now on top. (But what this does is gives us another way to look at how “smaller” chords form these “bigger” chords. See lesson on polychords).

    C7 b9 sus

    C Bb Db F

    If you want to throw some major dissonance in there, what if you changed the Bb major chord to a Bb minor-major 7? (Never heard of minor-major 7 chords? Click here for a lesson.)

    It’s essentially the Bb minor and Bb major 7 concepts from above, combined into one.

    Bb minor-major7 = Bb Db F A

    It starts like a minor chord (Bb Db F) but ends like a major7th chord (with an “A”… as a Bb minor 7 would normally have an “Ab”).

    C13 b9 sus

    C Bb Db F A

    This could work if you started with this chord:

    C13 sus

    C Bb D F A

    Then, lowered the D to Db (the “b9”):

    C13 b9 sus

    C Bb Db F A

    And for a bonus, we might as well resolve this to an F major 7 chord.

    F major 7

    F A C E A

    This is called a 5-1 progression. We just held the “5” chord by suspending it, which gave us even more tension and resolution to the “1” (in this case, F major 7).

    There you have it.

    Several types of suspended chords and an example on how to use them. Hope you enjoyed!

    Until next time.

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 6 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Tonyxel

    Thank you so much for this post. But where and how can we apply these chords?

    Reply

    2 Jermaine Griggs

    The last example gave you a helpful application.

    They work well in 2-5-1’s when you need to resolve from a 5 to a 1. Instead of going from a C7 straight to an Fmajor, you’d add one or more of these C sus chords to do the job. The build up of tension creates for a stronger resolution home.

    Hope that makes sense.

    Reply

    3 Tonyxel

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    Reply

    4 Jermaine Griggs

    Thank you Tony. We actually have an office I. Nigeria. You are encouraged to buy and interact with http://www.hearandplay.com.ng

    Reply

    5 Emeka

    Men, you are the bomb!

    Reply

    6 Alex

    Very simple yet highly informative. Thanks.

    Reply

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