Sus chords

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Spec, Feb 10, 2015.

  1. Spec

    Spec Member

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    Sorry if this is a re-hash, search didn't turn up much for me.

    Oh yea kind of a rant...

    I come from a jazz theory background. To me a suspended chord is a 3rd raised to the 4th. There is tension with the suspension that wants to resolve.

    How the heck is a 2nd, 6th, 9th whatever suspended? I see this more and more. It gets confusing in my simple mind; Sus 9, uh do you mean an 2 chord (no 7th), or an add 9 (7th present) or a sus (4th) add 2, or 4th, 7th and 9th?

    I play with mostly younger players these days (I'm vintage!) so maybe it's the evolution of theory? No third in the chord it's a sus!
     
  2. Frank Prince

    Frank Prince Member

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    Sus 2 is the 3rd converted to a 2nd. Add 2 or Add 9 is a 2nd and 3rd present with no 7th.
     
  3. cameron

    cameron Member

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    A sus chord replaces the 3rd with either the 4th or the (major) 2nd. Since using the 4th is more common, if you see notations like Asus, Csus etc. you can assume that sus4 is intended. If the 3rd is to be replaced by the 2nd, you'll see chords notated sus2.

    Sometimes you'll have sus chords with both the 2nd and 4th in there, instead of the 3rd . . . marking those in a chart can be tricky, though in full notation it's perfectly straightforward.

    The key, though is that the 3rd is left out. Otherwise you'd consider them add9 or add11 chords, which of course are perfectly fine in themselves.
     
  4. Spec

    Spec Member

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    See this is what I'm talking about.

    Sus = suspended, you know raising something above.

    You aren't replacing the 3rd with the 2nd there just isn't a 3rd in the chord. An add9 chord necessarily implies that there is a 7th in the chord or it wouldn't be a 9th it would be a 2 chord. (R, 2nd, 3rd, 5th I would probably call an add 9 just to avoid confusion)

    R, 2nd, 4th, chord what would you call it? 2 sus is how I would think.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2015
  5. dlguitar64

    dlguitar64 Member

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    Add 9 is used to specifically omit the 7th from the voicing-it is called a 9 when the b7 is present.
     
  6. Frank Prince

    Frank Prince Member

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    Well, the term originally refers to a note suspended or held over from another chord which then resolves either up or down to the 3rd. Since a 3rd is vital to the basic tonality of a chord it is considered to be replaced temporarily by the 2nd or 4th.
     
  7. Kenny Blue

    Kenny Blue Supporting Member

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    So... with a Sus 2 (with no 3rd in the chord) the 2nd creates tension.
    In that scenario does the 2nd want to resolve up to the 3rd ?
     
  8. Frank Prince

    Frank Prince Member

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    Yes.
     
  9. Spec

    Spec Member

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    R, 4th, 5th major chord tonality. The 4th creates tension that wants to resolve back down to it's happy place. Much like the 5 chord wanting to get back to 1.

    R, 2nd, 5th... tonality? major or minor? Neither it's ambiguous that's why those ambient guys like it so much!
     
  10. celticelk

    celticelk Member

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    From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspended_chord):

    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]

    An add9, as others have noted, doesn't have a seventh in it, or else you'd call it a maj9, min9, or (dominant) 9th chord. The hypothetical root-2-4 chord you mention would probably be better thought of as a min7 on the notional 2: all else being equal, an A-B-D cluster will tend to be heard as Bmin7, not some oddly-suspended A chord.
     
  11. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    The 2nd is delighted to just sit there.
     
  12. Spec

    Spec Member

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    Wait... I'm being dense about the add 9. Of course there isn't a 7th. Sorry.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2015
  13. celticelk

    celticelk Member

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    A chord with a 2nd but no 3rd is actually *quite frequently* called a sus2. I'm sorry that you don't like the convention, but that *is* the convention. I have on very rare occasions seen chords noted as "2" chords, but that seems to be on the way out. And if you had a chord spelled C-E-G-F, I would expect that to be called Cadd4, not Csus or Csus4, which would be C-F-G.
     
  14. stevel

    stevel Member

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    A Suspension is a non-chord tone that is prepared in the previous chord as a chord tone, then when the chord changes, the suspended tone is not part of the chord, and then it then resolves either to a chord tone within the same harmony, or the harmony may change and the chord is chord tone there:

    F - F - E
    D - C - C

    This is a 4-3 suspension. The F in the D chord (pretend it's part of a G7) is a chord tone, then when the chord changes to C (again entire chord not present) the F forms a non-chord tone, which then resolves into the chord tone of the C chord.

    If this happens:

    F - F - E
    D - C - A

    It's called a "suspension with a change of bass".

    The latter is more common in Counterpoint than in chordal harmony.

    There are the following types:

    9-8
    7-6
    4-3

    There's also something called a "suspension figure" because the note is not a chord tone, but is consonant (so also sometimes called a consonant suspension):

    6-5

    There's also one Bass suspension:

    2-3

    In all cases, suspensions resolve downward by step.

    If something that acts like a Suspension resolves upwards, it's called a Retardation.

    In modern usage with Sus2 and Sus4 chords, the 2 or the 4 replaces the 3.

    G
    F
    C = Sus4

    G
    D
    C = Sus2

    The latter would really be a Retardation because the D is likely going to resolve up to an E (since the other two are already present).

    But it's not the first time modern people neglected to learn established music theory before misapplying terms!

    Steve
     
  15. stevel

    stevel Member

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    C-D-G = Sus2

    C-F-G = Sus4

    C-D-F-G = Sus2 Sus4 (can happen!)

    C-D-E-G = add2 (or add9 but people try to show octave).

    C-E-F-G = add4 (or add 11)

    C-D-E-F-G = add2 add4 (or add9 add11).
     
  16. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Suspended means "hanging", not raising.

    The 4th is "hanging in the air", waiting to resolve.

    We could say the 2nd is "hanging in place" too (though again, in classical music it's a retardation, which means to "hold back" or "hold down" which is what's happening).
     
  17. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    This just in: never presume the person writing the chord symbols for the chart has a degree in music theory. Most of the time chord symbols are pretty general suggestions and if someone really wants to get specific they'll write the actual voicing out. The Real Book is full of broad generalizations.
     
  18. JonR

    JonR Member

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    This has been pretty well answered above, but just to add:
    "suspended" means "hanging [on]", as in "held over (from previous chord)".

    At least, that's its classical derivation, it's original meaning, with a strong implication that it's a tension waiting to resolve (4 down to 3).

    However, in modern music (rock as well as jazz), the 4th (or 2nd) in a "sus" chord doesn't need to have been present in the previous chord, and nor does it need to resolve. Jazz in particular uses sus4 chords all the time in modal music, with no sense that the note needs to move.
    That's because modal harmony invokes different expectations from functional harmony. Ideally we'd have a brand new terminology for quartal harmony, but for now we're stuck with "sus" from tertian language, with its misleading implication of a leading tension.

    (As stevel rightly says, this is a "misapplication" of terms from a classical perspective, but it's really just one of those linguistic evolutions that tend to annoy traditionalists and pedants :). (I'm a pedant myself, but I'm getting treatment...) It's an adaptation of an old term, given a new meaning (not totally different). In general rock musicians understand perfectly well what they mean by "sus2" and "sus4", and couldn't care less what those terms mean to theorists or classical (or jazz!) musicians. Sus chords sometimes are used as resolving tensions - that sound is still a familiar and useful one - but just as often not. IOW, it's become a blanket term, for a few different situations where "proper" theory has a different term for each.)

    As I think you know, jazz understands "sus" to mean "sus4", and "sus2" is somewhat meaningless. That's because jazz tends to see a sus2 as an inverted sus4. A C-D-G chord would be seen as Gsus4 (in a slighly odd inversion). In jazz, there is no good reason to omit the 3rd from a C chord in that way. Adding a D to a C major or minor triad causes no uncomfortable dissonance (in the way an F does in a C major), so why not keep the 3rd in? Jazz likes 3rds! :)
    Rock is much more ambivalent and careless about 3rds. It happily mixes parallel major and minor keys, and also happily uses power chords. It will often add a 4th or 9th (2nd) to a chord before adding a 3rd. Those ringing 4ths 5ths and 2nds have more rockist appeal than boring old classical 3rds! ;)
    Hence the sus2 chord (1-2-5, or 1-5-9 if you're Hendrix...) is a major (oops! :rolleyes:) part of the rock arsenal, while being barely considered in jazz.

    In the terminology, it's true there is the slightly odd convention of using "sus2" but "add9" - even though 2 and 9 are the same note, and can go in any octave.
    I.e., 1-5-9 is still a "sus2" chord, while 1-2-3-5 would be an "add9" (although admittedly it's more likely to be voiced 1-3-5-9, or 1-5-9-3).
    Of course that derives from the tertian "stacking" principle, in which 1-3-5-7-9 is considered a standard structure - a "9" chord (named after the top note of the stack) - so a chord with a 2nd is considered to be a 9th chord with the 7th omitted; not a triad with a 2nd added.
    So C-D-E-G must be a 9th chord, just missing its 7th. But calling it "C9(-7)" could cause all kinds of confusion, so it becomes "Cadd9". (Not that that necessarily makes it any clearer... :rolleyes:)
    But when the E is omitted, giving C-D-G, then it looks like the D has replaced the 3rd - so must be the 2nd. So we then apply the (spurious) rule "a note replacing the 3rd is a sus" - hence "Csus2". (and not "Csus9", even if voiced C-G-D.)

    IOW... there is a kind of logic to all this twisting of terminology, and it's always based on practicality, a shorthand governed by economy and a kind of careless common sense; often jamming together conventions from two different places. Name the chord first, worry about theoretical inconsistencies later... (or not at all... :))
     
  19. Lephty

    Lephty Member

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    Particularly in a jazz (or jazzy) setting, when I see a "sus" chord with no further information, as in "Csus", in my mind it's telling me more about the scale choice than the chord voicing itself--Csus instantly tells me to use a Bb pentatonic scale (Bb C D F G). I don't know if others would recommend this approach, but it's the kind of mental shortcut that got me through music school.

    It's not uncommon to see "sus2" and "add9" used interchangeably, but technically incorrectly, especially in guitar tabs found on the web.
     
  20. Spec

    Spec Member

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    Nice explanation. Thanx
     

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