• Suspended Chords – How To Play and Recognize Them

    in Chords & Progressions

    suspended chords image

    Suspended chords result when the third of a chord is replaced by the perfect fourth, or less commonly, the major second.

    The lack of a minor or a major third in the chord creates an open sound, while the dissonance between the fourth and fifth or second and root creates tension that needs to be resolved (source).

    (Don’t worry, by the way, if you don’t understand the last paragraph. I’ll break it down clearly and simply below).

    You don’t have to be a musician for your ears to know “another” chord needs to follow. That’s how effective suspended chords are in creating tension. And just like life (working out/exercising, feature film plots, laws of nature, etc), when tension is applied, it must be followed by release at some point.

    Curling a dumbbell (tension) is followed by rest (release). A really tense part of a movie (where the good guy is trapped) is eventually followed by some type of resolution (whether good or bad but our curiosity is put to rest for the time being). In nature and the laws of motion, what goes up, must eventually come down.

    Same with music.

    A tense chord seeks resolution. Our ears long for it.

    Suspended Chords – How to form them

    If you don’t have a good understanding of chords, see my free chord guide.

    Consider this C major chord:
    C major chord C E G
    C E G

    Here are the degrees of this chord (again, see my chord guide if this isn’t making any sense).

    C = 1st degree
    E = 3rd degree
    G = 5th degree

    (These degrees come from the major scale).

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

    C is 1
    D is 2
    E is 3
    F is 4
    G is 5
    A is 6
    B is 7

    Suspended chords result from simply taking the third degree out:
    suspended chords breakdown c g
    C G

    …and replacing with the fourth degree of the scale:

    C F G

    This gives us what we call a “C sus4”

    “C suspended 4”

    The number 4 refers to the degree that replaced the third.

    Can you guess, then, what a “C sus2” might look like?

    One thing is for sure: There will be no third degree. It will be replaced by something (hint hint).

    Answer (C sus2):
    C sus 2 C D G
    C D G

    Suspended Chords – Exercises

    Can you figure out these?

    F sus4
    Bb sus4
    F sus2
    G sus4 (joke: Jesus’ favorite chord)


    F sus4
    F sus4 F Bb C
    F Bb C
    *Normal F major chord is F A C. We removed the “A” and replaced it with “Bb,” the 4th.

    Bb sus4
    Bb sus4 B flat E flat F
    Bb Eb F
    *Normal Bb major chord is Bb D F. We removed the “D” and replaced it with “Eb,” the 4th.

    F sus2
    F sus2 F G C
    F G C
    *Normal F major chord is F A C. We removed the “A” and replaced it with “G,” the 2nd.

    **Interestingly, this F sus2 chord has the same notes as C sus4. In other words, if you invert a sus4 chord, you get the sus2 of another key.

    G sus4
    G sus4 G C D
    G C D
    *Normal G major chord is G B D. We removed the “B” and replaced it with “C,” the 4th.

    In this next post, we’ll explore some more fancy extended sus chords.

    Until then.

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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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