Lesson 32: Suspended-4th Chords
This lesson teaches suspended-4th chords
, a popular "special
effect" chord alteration used in many songs.
Before taking this lesson, you should know:
The suspended 4th
is an alteration
of a "normal" chord. Its
(or sometimes just "sus"
), added to the
end of a chord symbol. For example:
How to play it:
|Csus4 ||"C sus four" |
|B♭7sus ||"B-flat seven sus"|
The "sus4" symbol means "play 4 instead of 3"
You know from earlier lessons that the notes in a "normal" chord are:
- 7th (for 7th chords)
The notes in a sus4 chord
- 7th (for 7th chords)
In theory, you can alter any type of chord with a "sus4"; but in real songs,
the only two chord types you'll usually see with a "sus4" added are the
and the dominant 7th
. Here are reference tables for
the notes in these chords:
|Dominant-7th Sus4 Chords
How Sus4 Chords are Used
use a sus4 chord anywhere you like. However, most of the sus4
chords you'll find in popular songs occur in one of these patterns:
Suspension and resolution
- Suspension and resolution
- V chord with tonic melody
In this pattern, the sus4 chord is followed
by the "normal" version
of the same chord
. The 4th
in the sus4 chord is called the
and feels "unresolved"; the 3rd
in the following
"regular" chord is called the "resolution" and feels "finished". For example:
(F note in Csus4
chord resolves to E note in C
(E♭ note in B♭7sus4
chord resolves to D note in
This suspension-resolution pattern was popular in classical music and is still
common in modern popular music. It is usually used on the V chord
the I chord
V chord with tonic melody
In this pattern, the Vsus4
("five sus-four") chord is used instead of
the regular V chord
simply because it sounds better with the
. Let's walk through an example in the key of C
Say we have a "climax measure" in the song, where we use the V chord
(the V chord is commonly used for climax measures).
Our song is in the key of C, so the V chord is the G major
triad, whose notes are G, B, and D. So, the
melody notes which will sound good with this G chord are the
notes G, B, and D.
Now, say the composer wants the melody to strongly emphasize the tonic
note (that's the note C here, because our example is in the
key of C), by using the note C in the melody, even during the
V chord. This is a common effect in pop/rock melodies.
But, the C melody note will clash with the B note in
the G chord.
This pattern avoids the clash by using a Gsus4 chord
(Vsus4) instead of a regular G major triad. The Gsus4 chord
contains a C note instead of a B note, so it sounds good with
the C melody note.
You can add these activities to your writing exercises (from
Lesson 2: Practicing Songwriting
Practice playing the sus4 chords. Use the charts above to find the
notes if you like.
Practice writing short musical phrases (chords and melody) using the
above two patterns: "suspension and resolution" and "V chord with tonic
melody". You may already have musical phrases you've written which you can
modify to use these patterns.