Suspended chord

suspended fourth chord
Component intervals from root
perfect fifth
perfect fourth
Forte no. / Complement
3-9 / 9-9
Sus4 chord on C  play 
suspended second chord
Component intervals from root
perfect fifth
major second
Forte no. / Complement
3-9 / 9-9
Suspended chord (Csus2) and added tone chord (Cadd2), both with D, distinguished by the absence or presence of a chordal third (E).

A suspended chord (sus chord) is a musical chord in which the (major or minor) third is omitted, replaced usually with either a perfect fourth ( play ) or a major second ( play ),[1] although the fourth is far more common. 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.


The term is borrowed from the contrapuntal technique of suspension, where a note from a previous chord is carried over to the next chord, and then resolved down to the third or tonic, suspending a note from the previous chord. However, in modern usage, the term concerns only the notes played at a given time; in a suspended chord the added tone does not necessarily resolve, and is not necessarily "prepared" (i.e., held over) from the prior chord. As such, in C-F-G, F would resolve to E, but in rock and popular music, "the term is used to indicate only the harmonic structure, with no implications about what comes before or after," though preparation of the fourth occurs about half the time and traditional resolution of the fourth occurs usually.[2] In modern jazz, a third can be added to the chord voicing, as long as it is above the fourth.[3]

Each suspended chord has two inversions. Suspended second chords are inversions of suspended fourth chords, and vice versa. For example, Gsus2 (G-A-D) is the first inversion of Dsus4 (D-G-A) which is the second inversion of Gsus2 (G-A-D). The sus2 and sus4 chords both have an inversion that creates a quartal chord with two stacked perfect fourths.

Suspended fourth and second chords can be represented, in integer notation, as {0, 5, 7} and {0, 2, 7} respectively. The second inversion (quartal chord) is {0, 5, 10}.

C9sus.[2]  Play 

Sevenths on suspended chords are "virtually always minor sevenths", while the 9sus chord is similar to an eleventh chord and may be notated as such.[2] For example, C9sus (C, F, G, B, D) may be notated C11 (C, —, G, B, D, F).

Jazz sus chord

Dominant seventh with added 4th, also written as a slash chord, followed by the tonic major seventh chord.[3] Play 

A jazz sus chord[3][4] or dominant 9sus4 chord is a seventh chord on the fifth scale degree of the key with a suspended fourth and an added ninth. Functionally, it can be written as V9sus4 or V7sus9.

You can have the third with a sus chord, the third being generally voiced above the fourth, though this is not absolutely necessary. An example of having the third with a sus chord would be to have the root doubled below middle C (C4), using G2 and G3, played with the left hand, and using the right hand (from the bottom up) middle C (suspended 4th), F, A, and B (the third).[5]

The dominant 9sus4 has a perfect fourth rather than a major third and is called a sus4 chord rather than an 11th, though it may also be called a slash chord (G9sus 4 = F/G).[6] [G9sus4 = GCDFA = F/G = GFAC] It may even be written Dm7/G, which shows the merging of ii7 and V7.[3] Chord factors include 1-7-9-11 or 1-4-7-9, not 1-4-5 (a sus4 chord with no third).[7] Although the suspended fourth is not always resolved down to a third, the note is still not usually notated as an eleventh because of the chord's function as a cadence point.

On guitar:[6]

-X- -1- -1-
-1- -3- -1-
-2- -3- -1-
-3- -X- -1-
-X- -3- -1-
-3- -X- -X-

Suspended chords are commonly found in folk music and popular music. An example can be found in the piece "One Short Day", part of the Wicked musical by Stephen Schwartz, which starts with a descending arpeggio of a suspended chord. In rock, the verse of The Who song "Pinball Wizard" is a sequence of suspended fourth chords resolving to their major counterparts (Bsus4-B-Asus4-A etc.). Two examples of songs featuring prominent use of suspended chords are the introduction of Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over, where the first chord is an Ebsus2, and the acoustic introduction to Rush's "Natural Science" utilizes a sequence of four suspended chords (Bsus2-Asus2-Dsus2-Esus2). Another example is John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)", where the sequence is of majors progressing to suspended second, then fourth, then back to the original (A-Asus2-Asus4-A). In pop/synthpop, Erasure's "A Little Respect" employs major to suspended changes in much of the song's harmonization. Another example with major to suspended progression is Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory". The last chord of the first bridge of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" is an unresolved suspended chord, the introduction and chorus of Shocking Blue's "Venus" each contain an unresolved suspended chord, and the introduction of Chicago's "Make Me Smile" has two different suspended chords without traditional resolution.[2] Michael Jackson's "Black or White" uses both sus4 and sus2 chords (Esus4-E-Esus2-E), so does Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" F-Fsus4-F-Fsus2. Much of Pointer Sisters' song Automatic uses suspended chords.

See also


  1. Ellis, Andy (October 2006). "EZ Street: Sus-Chord Mojo". Guitar Player.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Stephenson, Ken (2002). What to Listen for in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-300-09239-4.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Humphries, Carl (2002). The Piano Handbook. p. 129. ISBN 0-87930-727-7.
  4. Levine, Mark (1989). The Jazz Piano Book. Sher Music. p. 23. ISBN 0-9614701-5-1. Dm7/G describes the function of the sus chord, because a sus chord is like a ii-V progression contained in one chord. The ii-V progression in the key of C is Dm7, G7.
  5. The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine - p. 24 "A persistent myth about sus chords is that 'the fourth takes the place of the third."'
  6. 1 2 Buckingham, Bruce; Paschal, Eric (1997). Rhythm Guitar: The Complete Guide. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-7935-8184-9. "(A9sus 4 = G/A)."
  7. Coryell, Larry (1998). Jazz Guitar. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-87930-550-5.
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