|Component intervals from root|
|Forte no. / |
|3-9 / |
|Component intervals from root|
|Forte no. / |
|3-9 / |
A suspended chord (or sus chord) is a musical chord in which the (major or minor) third is omitted, replaced usually with either a perfect fourth ( play (help·info)) or a major second ( play (help·info)), 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 (or 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. In modern jazz, a third can be added to the chord voicing, as long as it is above the fourth.[not in citation given]
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 (A–D–G) with two stacked perfect fourths.
Sevenths on suspended chords are "virtually always minor sevenths", while the 9sus4 chord is similar to an eleventh chord and may be notated as such. For example, C9sus4 (C, F, G, B♭, D) may be notated C11 (C, —, G, B♭, D, F).
Jazz sus chord
It is possible to have the third with a sus chord, the third being generally voiced above the fourth (i.e. as a tenth), 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).
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 (G9sus4 = F/G). [G9sus4 = GCDFA = F/G = GFAC] It may even be written Dm7/G, which shows the merging of ii7 and V7. Chord factors include 1–♭7–9–11 or 1–4–♭7–9, not 1–4–5 (a sus4 chord with no third). 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 to the tonic.
Red Garland’s piano introduction to “Bye Bye Blackbird” on the Miles Davis' Album Round about Midnight features suspended 9th chords. (Chuck Sher has published a transcription of this passage in The New Real Book, Volume 2.)  In his book Thinking in Jazz, Paul Berliner writes at length and in detail about how the improvisation unfolds from this opening.
Examples in popular music
Suspended chords are commonly found in folk music and popular music. Ian MacDonald (1994, p. 341) writes of the "heartbreaking suspensions" that characterise the harmony of "The Long and Winding Road" from the Beatles' final album Let It Be (1970). Ian MacDonald describes another Beatles song "Yes It Is" as having "rich and unusual harmonic motion" through its use of suspensions. Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love" in the arrangement performed by Dusty Springfield (1967) opens with a clearly audible Dm7 suspension. Carole King's song "I Feel the Earth Move" from her album Tapestry (1971) features a striking B♭sus9 chord at the end of the phrase "mellow as the month of May". Another example can be found in the piece "One Short Day", part of the musical Wicked 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 E♭sus2, 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. 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. The album Loveless by My Bloody Valentine also uses suspended chords extensively.
Examples in classical music
Examples of suspended chords can be found in:
- Debussy’s "Golliwogg’s Cake Walk" from his Children’s Corner suite for piano (1908):
- The piano postlude to the song "Ich Grolle Nicht" from Robert Schumann's 1844 song cycle Dichterliebe.
- The concluding bars of the Prelude to Wagner's final Opera Parsifal (1882):
- The first movement of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7:
- Ellis, Andy (October 2006). "EZ Street: Sus-Chord Mojo". Guitar Player.
- Stephenson, Ken (2002). What to Listen for in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-300-09239-4.
- Humphries, Carl (2002). The Piano Handbook. p. 129. ISBN 0-87930-727-7.
- 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.
- Levine, Mark. The Jazz Piano Book. p. 24.
A persistent myth about sus chords is that 'the fourth takes the place of the third.'[ISBN missing]
- Buckingham, Bruce; Paschal, Eric (1997). Rhythm Guitar: The Complete Guide. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-7935-8184-9. "(A9sus4 = G/A)."
- Coryell, Larry (1998). Jazz Guitar. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-87930-550-5.
- Sher, C (1991, p.35). The New Real Book, Volume 2. Petaluma, Sher Music.
- Berliner, P. (1994, p.678-688), Thinking in Jazz. University of Chicago Press.
- MacDonald, I. (1994, p. 341) Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. London, Fourth Estate.
- MacDonald. I. (1994, p. 147) Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. London, Fourth Estate.