Can anybody explain suspended chords to me?

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons' started by NewDayHappy, Nov 30, 2017.

  1. NewDayHappy

    NewDayHappy Senior Member

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    I have a very good understanding of minor chords, major chords and power chords but lately I've had the desire to start dressing up my chords and taking my learning further. I found a chord in a song I like, it was a B9sus2 and it just had a really beautiful sound that I liked and wanted to implement in my own songs. Can anybody tell me how to write songs with more suspended chords or just cool chords in general?
     
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  2. jeff_farkas

    jeff_farkas Senior Member

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  3. jeff_farkas

    jeff_farkas Senior Member

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    I know it's not perfect but it's a good start and that was a good question.
     
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  4. NewDayHappy

    NewDayHappy Senior Member

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    That was very helpful! Now I know how to make suspended chords up from scratch. Any idea on how to implement them in a progression?
     
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  5. jeff_farkas

    jeff_farkas Senior Member

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    No.. that's all I got for now. I'm just learning and that video is a big help for me.
     
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  6. frankv

    frankv What Are You Waiting For? Double Platinum Supporter Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    Just use your ears. Forget theory
     
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  7. Sct13

    Sct13 Gold Supporter Premium Member

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    Ears ....is right....

    Hint:

    Suspended means hanging
     
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  8. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Senior Member

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    Suspended chords are great for setting up tension in a progression. If you want to get a good resolution, put a sus chord in the last beat prior to the resolving chord or cadence. If you want the listener to be unsettled, resolve to a sus chord.

    The thing is that because they are neither major nor minor, the listener is kept on edge -- and that is the feeling you're wanting to use when writing something.

    Pete Townshend, Alex Lifeson, and Andy Summers (amogst others) have built careers on using sus chords to balance between major and minor chords, setting up tension for release, or, in the case of Summers, resolving to a sus chord and leaving the listener wanting more.

    I generally use them as passing chords (very easy, either hammer on the fourth, or lift a finger for the sus2) to impart motion to an otherwise-static chord progression. I rarely stay on them, myself -- in that sense, the sus part of it is almost melodic grace-notes rather than a chord I'll sit on. If you do sit on them, do so understanding that that passage will impart irresolution that wants to be cleared up.
     
  9. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    Well, the short answer is (as always) that you can use them anywhere that you like the sound. As frankv says "...use your ears - forget theory..."

    However, it might help to see a couple of standard "traditional" uses to help you recognise the sound in a progression. Then, because you know the sound, you really can forget the theory.

    Classic (and "classical") use: elaborating an A > E chord change with an Esus4

    A major = A C# E
    E major = E G# B

    So when the chord changes A > E three things are happening:

    A falls to G#
    C# falls to B
    E stays the same

    Ok? Two notes move, one stays the same. Now to stretch that out & make more of the change, we could have the two different changes happen one at a time instead of together.

    So lets do the C# > B move first, then the A > G# move. (This will introduce a third chord, between A & E)

    So, starting with A major

    A = A C# E

    move C# to B = A B E (mystery middle chord)

    move A to G# = G# B E (which we can rearrange to E G# B, our E major chord)

    Now let's identify that mystery chord in the middle:

    A B E can be rearranged to E A B which, following the description in that video, you should be able to see is Esus4.

    The "suspended" name comes from the fact that the note A (the 4th up from the root of the target chord, E, is literally suspended - or held over - from the previous chord.

    You can hear that exact change as the intro & verse of "I'm A Boy" by The Who.

    The process works the other way around too. We could pull that same trick (move one note at a time instead of both together) when going from E > A:

    E major = E G# B

    raise the G# to A = E A B

    raise the B to C# = E A C# = A C# E = A major.

    There's one difference this time - strictly speaking that middle chord would now be called an Asus2, because this time it's the B that is suspended from the previous chord (& B is the 2nd from the root of the target A major).

    However, in practice Esus4 & Asus2 contain the same notes and you could see it written either way.

    Ok, so much for the classical history lesson, where else can you put one in a progression?

    Well, another classic use is, as Thump said, to add a bit of life to a static chord.

    Think of the intro to Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen. Would four bars just on a D major have been as effective as that D > Dsus4 > D figure?

    There must be hundreds of other examples - The Beatles, The Who, Tom Petty, The Byrds etc etc all have songs where the main riffs are just using sus4's and/or sus2's to decorate an otherwise static chord.

    Due to the way the guitar is tuned, and the fingering shapes that we get as a result, the keys of D & A are particularly rich for this sort of thing!

    Both of those types of use resolve the suspension - ie the Esus4 does fall to E major etc, but leaving a sus chord unresolved can make a particularly powerful effect as well. Think of the opening of Rush's Hemispheres, or Coldplay's Politik. In both cases the tension & energy is created by unresolved suspensions.

    So really you can put them wherever you want, but you might find you get a better grip on the sound by looking at the more traditional uses first.

    :)
     
  10. NewDayHappy

    NewDayHappy Senior Member

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    Thank you so much all of you, I wish I had more detailed questions but this is a lot to take in, I keep going back to this thread for a point of reference. Appreciate the detailed responses, the information here will be enough for me to ponder for a few weeks. Thanks for your time guys. :)
     
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  11. NewDayHappy

    NewDayHappy Senior Member

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    It's amazing how many chords you can make by just moving one finger. I came up with 4 chords by moving the pinky around while playing an open C major. Cmajor7, Csus2 and Csus4. I'm really starting to understand how to use the suspended chords, they sound great with majors and minors. Sus chords with major chords sound like something you'd hear in a church. Sus chords paired with minor chords sound more like rock n roll to me, although I'm sure sus with major chords has been done in rock countless times, maybe it was because I was playing D major/Dsus4/A major/Asus4. Sounds great but not what I'm going for, very churchy but great practice.
     
  12. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Senior Member

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    They're useful for leading tones.

    Another guy you want to listen to if you want to hear sus chords used in context is Ty Tabor. He's really good at setting up tension and resolution.

     
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  13. Yofresh

    Yofresh Junior Member

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    Hey! Good job on learning those sus chords :)
    I'd like to enlighten you a little in how to implement sus chords in a progression. Maybe you know that in the key of C major, these chords are "normal/standard":

    C - Dm - Em - F - G - Am - Bdim

    following the "rules" (rules are for breaking ;) you can change them to:

    C: Csus2 or Csus4
    Dm: Dsus2 or Dsus4
    Em: only Esus4
    F: only Fsus2
    G: Gsus2 or Gsus4
    Am: Asus2 or Asus4
    Bdim: ... yeah this is a complicated story, let's for now NOT get into this :) *note: Bdim often is replaced by G/B. x20003

    I hope this helps :) This applies to every key, but then with different notes of course.
    Let me know if you have any further questions or when this helped you! Cheers, James
     
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  14. NewDayHappy

    NewDayHappy Senior Member

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    This is why I love MLP! Thanks to all of you, thanks for your time.
     
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