• # Suspended Dominant Chords And How They Can Be Applied

In today’s lesson, we’ll be learning about suspended dominant chords and most importantly, how they can be applied.

Suspended chords are not commonly used like major and minor chords, however, they still have their place in chord progressions and I’ll be showing you all that in this lesson.

Attention: It is important for me to say that we’ll be dealing specifically with suspended dominant chords – not suspended triads. Keep on reading, even if you don’t know the difference between the two.

Let’s do a review on dominant chords to prepare you for this lesson.

## “What Are Dominant Chords?”

For a better understanding of the term dominant chord, you’ll permit me to explain what the words dominant and chord means.

A chord is a collection of three or more related notes.

The relationship between the notes of a chord (aka – “chord tones“) are based on two things – scales and intervals, therefore, it can be said that there are two kinds of relationship between chord tones:

• Scale relationship
• Intervallic relationship

“What Is A Scale Relationship?”

The notes of a chord must be related to a given scale. For example, the C major triad:

…consists of C-E-G, which are the first, third, and fifth tones of the C major scale:

Consequently, it can be said that the chord tones of the C major triad:

…are related to the C major scale:

The relationship between the notes C-E-G and the C major scale is a scale relationship.

“What Is Intervallic Relationship?”

Intervallic relationship between chord tones is the basis for the distance between them. In the C major triad:

C:

…to E:

…is a third interval.

C-E:

…to G:

…is another third interval. From the intervallic breakdown of the C major triad:

…we can see that it’s built of third intervals. Tertian harmony is the outcome of the relationship between chord tones in third intervals.

Now that we are done with the definition of a chord, let’s take a look at what the term dominant means. The term dominant is the technical name that musical scholars associate with the fifth degree of the scale.

The first degree (C):

…is the tonic, the second degree (D):

…is the supertonic, the third degree (E):

…is the mediant, the fourth degree (F):

…is the sub-dominant, the fifth degree (G):

…is the dominant, the sixth degree (A):

…is the sub-mediant, the seventh degree (B):

…is the sub-tonic, the eighth degree (C):

…is the octave.

The fifth degree of the scale (which is G in the key of C):

…is the dominant, and chords that are formed on this degree of the scale are known as dominant chords.

Using the C major scale and an intervallic relationship in thirds (aka – “tertian harmony”), here’s the G dominant seventh chord:

The dominant seventh chord is one of the most important chords in any key – whether major or minor – and has been used for the past 400 years in chord progressions. Are you still wondering why most songs end with a chord progression from the dominant (the fifth degree):

…to the tonic (the first degree):

Today, our focus is on a special class of dominant chords called suspended dominant chords.

## Suspended Dominant Chords

We’re focusing on suspended dominant chords in this lesson, with emphasis on:

• The dominant seventh suspended fourth chord (dom7sus4)
• The dominant ninth suspended fourth chord (dom9sus4)

### The Dominant Seventh Suspended Fourth Chord

Raising the third of a dominant seventh chord by a half step creates a suspension. For example, the G dom7 chord:

…which consists of G, B, D, F, can be suspended by raising its third degree which is B:

…by a half step (to C):

…to produce the Gdom7sus4 chord:

Following the same principle, you can form the dom7sus4 chord in all twelve keys.

The Ddom7 chord:

…which consists of D-F#-A-C, can be suspended by raising the third tone F#:

…by a half step (to G):

…to form the Ddom7sus4 chord:

Here are dom7sus4 chord in all twelve keys…

C dom7sus4:

C# dom7sus4:

D dom7sus4:

Eb dom7sus4:

E dom7sus4:

F dom7sus4:

F# dom7sus4:

G dom7sus4:

Ab dom7sus4:

A dom7sus4:

Bb dom7sus4:

B dom7sus4:

### Dominant Ninth Suspended Fourth Chord:

A dominant ninth suspended fourth chord is practically a dominant ninth chord with its third degree raised by a half step to create a suspension.

The G dominant ninth chord:

…which consists of G-B-D-F-A, can be suspended to form the G dominant ninth suspended fourth chord by raising its third tone which is B:

…by a half step to C:

…to form the G dom9sus4 chord:

In the same vein, the Fdom9 chord:

…can be used to form the Fdom9sus4 chord by raising its third tone which is A:

…by a half step to Bb:

…consequently, this forms the Fdom9sus4 chord:

I’ll be showing you in the next segment how you can apply these suspended dominant chords. But before we go into all of that, here are few things you need to know about suspended dominant chords.

Dominant chords are formed with the active tones in the key, consequently, they have the activity, tension, and instability that makes them want to resolve to other stable chords.

To a large extent, what makes the dominant chord unstable is the interval between its third and seventh chord tones – which is a diminished fifth interval (aka – “tritone”.) In the Gdom7 chord:

…the interval between B and F:

…which are its third and seventh tones is a diminished fifth interval.

Attention: All diminished and augmented intervals are harsh and unpleasant, and the diminished fifth interval is no exception.

Raising the third tone of a dominant chord by a half step (to the fourth degree), shrinks the diminished fifth interval by a half step, to create a perfect fourth interval. For example, in the case of the C dom7sus4 chord:

…the interval between F:

…and Bb:

…is a perfect fourth interval, versus the C dom7 chord:

…where we have an interval between E:

…and Bb:

…which is a diminished fifth interval.

The peculiarity of suspended dominant chords is that tension is reduced to the barest minimum, and that’s why they can be used in situations where you don’t want to play regular dominant chords that sound harsh.

Let’s quickly go on to the application of suspended dominant chords.

## The Application Of Suspended Dominant Chords In Chord Progressions

A 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C:

…features a chord progression from the Dmin9 chord:

…to the Gdom9 chord:

…then to the Cmaj9 chord:

In the 2-5-1 chord progression, chord 5 (the Gdom9 chord) can be preceded with a suspended dominant chord.

Dmin9 chord:

…Gdom9sus4 chord:

…Gdom9 chord:

…then the Cmaj9 chord:

“Did you notice the resolution of the suspension?”

When the Gdom9sus4 chord:

…moved to the Gdom9 chord:

…only the C note:

…moved down a half step to B:

That’s the resolution of the suspended chord.

### Harnessing The Power Of Suspended Dominant Chords

Suspended dominant chords and chord 2 in any given key are related in the sense that any of them can be played before chord five. Heck, another name for the second degree of the scale (aka – “supertonic”) is predominant.

There must be a reason why both chords can be used interchangeably before chord 5, and that I’ll tell you.

In the key of C:

…the Gdom9sus4 chord:

…has elements of chord two (which is the Dmin9 chord):

The most important tones of any chord are its third and seventh tones (aka – “skeleton“.) In the case of the Dmin9 chord:

…its skeleton are F and C:

F:

…and C:

…are the seventh and fourth tones of the Gdom9sus4 chord:

Due to the fact that suspended dominant chords like the Gdom7sus4:

…and the Gdom9sus4:

…chords have the skeleton of the Dmin9 chord (chord 2):

…suspended chords can be used to completely substitute chord 2 in a 2-5-1 chord progression.

“Check Out This 2-5-1 Chord Progression”

Chord 2:

…substituted with the Gdom9sus4 chord.

Chord 5:

…the Gdom9 chord.

Chord 1:

…the Cmaj9 chord.

In a nutshell, a suspended dominant chord on the fifth degree of the scale can be used to substitute the minor chord on the second degree of the scale.

## Final Thoughts

Did you know that this so what chord voicing:

…can either be considered as a fourth voicing of the Dmin11 chord or a G9sus4 chord?

Here’s a jazzy 2-5-1 chord progression using the ambiguous so what chord…

Dmin11/G9sus4:

G13[b9]:

Thanks for your time and see you in another lesson.

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#### Chuku Onyemachi

Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group
Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.