September 6, 2023 by Klaus Crow
Sus2 and sus4 chords are very often used in music to embellish chords and chord progressions.
It’s an easy way of adding some extra flavor to a chord and give you a little space to mess around with that chord.
Especially when you have to play a chord for several consecutive measures in a song and you don’t want to get bored out of your mind, it’s nice to implement a sus4 or sus2 here and there to spice things up a bit.
To understand what a sus chord really is and how it operates you have to know a little bit of music theory. A normal major chord consists of the root, 3rd and 5th notes of the major scale (1-3-5). If we take the C major scale for example: C D E F G A B C and you take the root (1st), 3rd and 5th note of that scale you get C-E-G. The minor chord consists of the root, flat 3rd and 5th notes of the major scale (1-b3-5) and becomes C-Eb-G. Here’s where the sus chords comes in…
The sus4 chord consists of the root, 4th and 5th notes of the major scale (1-4-5) = C F G. You can see that the sus4 chord (“sus” stands for “suspended”.) replaces the third with the fourth note.
The sus2 chord consists of the root, 2nd and 5th notes of the major scale (1-2-5) = C D G. The sus2 chord replaces the third with the second note.
By removing the 3rd in a chord, the chord becomes neither major nor minor, as the 3rd determines the happy major or sad minor sound. Therefor sus chords can be applied to both major and minor chords.
Chords in practice
Suspended chords have the tendency to resolve. The four and fifth in a sus4 chord creates tension and so does the second and root in a sus2 chord. That’s why sus chords are often played in combination with their parent chord.
A combination can be played like this:
A – Asus4 – A – Asus2 or
C – Csus2 – C – Csus4
or suspended combined with minor:
Em – Esus4 – Em – Esus4 or
Am – Asus4 – Am – Asus2
Here are some popular intros using suspended chords:
Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams:
Dsus2 – D – Dsus4 – D – Dsus2 – D (tab)
So this is christmas – John Lennon:
A – Asus2 – Asus4 – A (tab)
Crazy little thing called love – Queen:
D – Dsus4 – D – D – Dsus4 – D – D – Dsus4 – D – D – Dsus4 – D (tab)
However suspended chords can also last indefinitely without resolving to their parent chord which happens a lot in jazz, but also in pop music.
The sus2 chord has an open feel and sounds kind of wistful. It does have a slight tendency to resolve but it doesn’t have that strong pull like the sus4 chord toward its parent chord which makes it feel lightly stable. The Sus2 chord can therefor even be substituted for its parent chord. So you could play Asus2 instead of A major.
The sus4 chord on the other hand has the quality that it fits really good at the end of a musical piece using it on the fifth chord of the key and resolving to the I chord. So if you’re in the key of G, you play Dsus4 – D (D is the fifth of G) and then go back to G major (the I chord).
– Practice and memorize the sus2 and sus4 chords below with their parent chords.
– Study popular suspended intros like the ones above for inspiration.
– Incorporate the use of suspended chords in your favorite songs. Make it your own.
Have a great one!