Sussing Out The Symmetry Of Suspended Chords

March 04, 2015

Suspended chords are used in lots of different styles of music, from classic to modern.

Many of our favourite songs rely on them to add dimension to an otherwise repetitive progression. They are just slightly modified triads, but, that slight deviation opens the door to new harmonic possibilities within the same general chord progression.


In chord formulas, suspended is abbreviated to: sus. The implications will vary from application to application, but all you really need to know is that a sus chord will modify the third interval in a three-note triad. While the implications will vary from application to application, both the sus2 and sus4 chords will remove the variable from the pre-existing chord formula which determined it as being either major or minor.

Sus chords, by themselves, are neither major nor minor. They are a symmetrical harmonic structure in which the root note, is not always the root of the chord. When you begin to peel the onion back, sus chords are begging the question of what the root note really is. Does the root, the one - as we know and perceive it now - really exist?

    I               IV


C Maj: C – E – G (1 – 3 – 5)
C sus2: C – G – B (1 – 5 – 2)
C sus4: C – G – F (1 – 5 – 4)

A min: A – C – E (1 – m3 – 5)
A sus2: A – E – B (1 – 5 – 2)
A sus4: A – E – D (1 – 5 – 4)


About the Author:
Dealey is a Vancouver, Canada based guitarist, songwriter, recording engineer and producer. He is the author of the forthcoming independent book, "The Relative Nature of Chords: A Street-Smart Field Guide for Guitar." Watch for exclusive excerpts on Ultimate-Guitar! You can support his music here - or talk to him about collaborating on your project by email to: info(a.t.)

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