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> Suspended And Added Tone Chords
Andrew Cockburn
post Feb 4 2008, 01:11 AM
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Suspended and Added Tone Chords


In this lesson, we are taking our understanding of chords to the next level! We have looked at triads, sevenths and even extended chords, but there is more! Once again, we can modify the combinations of notes in our chords in some ways that are different again to get more cools sounds!

Until now we have been following a simple principle of stacking notes on top of each other. That lead first to triads, then 7th chords, and finally into the world of extended chords such as 9ths, 11ths and 13ths. In this lesson, we are going to reign back the stacking a little and look at other ways of combining chords principally by adding and substituting notes rather than just plain stacking.

Suspended Chords

So, without further ado, lets get at it! Suspended chords are a variation of our basic triads. Suspended chords focus on the 3rd interval in a major triad (which is actually formed between the first and 2nd notes in the chord. As a quick refresher, a triad of C major would be:

C E G

C is the root, E is a major 3rd, and G is a 5th - this is the basic pattern for all of our chords. Now, what happens if we change the 3rd, that E note? Well, we all ready know that if we flatten it to an Eb, we end up with a minor triad because the 3rd interval in the chord is a minor 3rd. But what if we change it such that the middle note is no longer a 3rd at all? The answer, as you have probably guessed is that we end up with a suspended chord.

Before we rush into the specifics, lets think about that name for a little while - why suspended? Well, as we will hear, these notes, lacking as they do a 3rd interval, tend to sound unbalanced, and create a sense of suspense or unbalanced-ness - hence the term suspended - the listener is suspended by this chord waiting for the chord to change to something more balanced - and usually we resolve suspended chords by moving back to the regular major chord - a very common chord progression trick. This description applies much more to the sus4 than the sus2.

There are 2 flavors of suspended chord - the sus4 and the sus2.

Sus 4 Chords

So called Sus4 chords are the most common variation of suspended chords, so much so, that when people refer to them they usually just say "suspended" and sus4 rather than sus2 is understood. As you may have guessed by the name, in a suspended or sus4 chord, we replace the 3rd interval with a perfect 4th interval. In our example above, we would end up with the following notes to make a Csus4 chord:

C F G

You could play a sus 4 chord like this:

E---x---
B---1---
G---0---
D---3---
A---3---
E---x---

Try it - do you feel a sense of suspension? Now play a regular chord of C straight after it - you should feel the tension release.

Sus 2 Chords

Much less common than a sus4, the sus2 chord is made, not surprisingly by replacing the 3rd interval with a major 2nd. In our example, the Csus2 chord would look like this:

C D G

And you could play it like this:

E---x---
B---1---
G---0---
D---0---
A---3---
E---x---

Once again, play it - it has a sort of incomplete feel that is resolved by moving to the regular C major triad.

Added Tone Chords

Moving on from suspended chords, next we will look at added tone chords, or just "add" chords - so called because of the way we notate them - as we'll see soon.

Lets think about a 9th ... as an extended chord, we know that we name the chord for the highest of the added tones. In the case of a 9th, that we take a basic major triad and add a 7th and a 9th. In this case the 7th is implied. Its the same for a 13th for instance - in this case the 7th, 9th and 11th are all implied. (Aside: on a guitar they are often not all played but they are technically part of the chord - on guitar we have to choose a voicing that allows us to play the most important notes of the chord, a kind of compromise that we don't make in pure theory).

By contrast, if we take a triad and add a 9th to it without the intervening notes (the 7th in this case) we end up with an add9 chord. So, for instance, C9 is:

C E G Bb D (remember that the 7th is flattened unless otherwise noted)

but Cadd9 is:

C E G D

An add9 can also be called a +9 chord. You could play a C+9 (Cadd9) like this:

E---x---
B---3---
G---0---
D---2---
A---3---
E---x---

The same principle applies to +11 and +13. You can't have a +7 because that would be identical to a dominant 7th chord in any case. The only remaning tone worth mentioning is a 6th - this is technically an added tone chord but is notated as if it were an extended chord - we would talk about C6 for instance and we would mean a C major triad with an added 6th note. C+6 would mean the same thing but is rarely if ever used. The astute amongst you might have noticed that a 6th is the same as a 13th, so is there any difference between C6 and C+13? When you add guitar voicings into the equation there is very little difference, C6 is mentioned a lot more often than C+13. Since a 6th is the highest note in the 4 notes anyway, there is no real difference between this and the +13 variation. A C6 consists of these notes:

C E G A

And you could play it like this:

E---x---
B---1---
G---2---
D---2---
A---3---
E---x---

Again, this is a compromise voicing, as it doesn't include a 5th (a G), but it does include the all important 6th (A).

That's it for suspended and added tone chords - questions in the forum as usual!


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Muris Varajic
post Feb 4 2008, 01:46 AM
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Love it Andrew,well done!! smile.gif


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DeepRoots
post Feb 4 2008, 11:09 AM
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Great one thanks Andrew
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eddiecat
post Feb 4 2008, 11:30 AM
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QUOTE (DeepRoots @ Feb 4 2008, 11:09 AM) *
Great one thanks Andrew


Crystal clear! Thank you very much.
Just what I was looking for!

Eddie

This post has been edited by eddiecat: Feb 4 2008, 11:57 AM
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Dejan Farkas
post Feb 4 2008, 11:55 AM
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Quite useful material, well done Andrew smile.gif


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coffeeman
post Feb 4 2008, 03:52 PM
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Thanks a lot Andrew , Its a very useful lesson.


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botoxfox
post Feb 4 2008, 04:03 PM
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Cool stuff.


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djohnneay
post Mar 22 2009, 10:58 PM
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Liking all the theory lessons smile.gif

Reading them before and after I was a member, taking notes and learning alot. Also the kinda lessons that dragged me over the line of becoming a member.

I just wanna thank you for all your lessons Andrew!!


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Pedja Simovic
post Mar 22 2009, 11:00 PM
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Great read on sus and add chords Andrew !


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Andrew Cockburn
post Apr 1 2009, 08:46 PM
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Thanks guys!


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Janos Kallai
post Aug 4 2009, 04:37 PM
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It's so useful and important.


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Stephane Lucarel...
post Aug 4 2009, 06:13 PM
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Thanks Andrew, really useful indeed!


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kingpatzer
post Nov 10 2009, 05:44 PM
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Just to take a bit of a pendantic stance, the definition you give for suspensions is well understood among guitarists who tend to name chord shapes and generally aren't well schooled in classical theory. But these chord shapes come out of a history of classical theory, and the reason suspensions are called suspensions is simply not historically correct.

Historically, within classical theory, suspensions aren't chords. Suspensions happen outside of the harmony. They happen over a 3 chord progression where one tone is held over (suspended) from the first chord, and then that tone is resolved in the 3rd chord.

A suspension does not mean "remove a third."

In classical (read mainstream) theory one can not technically play a Csus2 by itself, in that context the "correct" naming is an add9 chord without a third. However, the idea is actually moving into more mainstream circles, largely due to the huge number of add9 chords without thirds that appeared in lots of jazz and blues, and which moved into the rock genre.

This difference in naming comes about because most guitarists start out thinking about chords in a specific way, lacking a formal background in theory, they'll learn G7 has a shape which is 320001, for example. If we move our fingers, we expect a different name... and if we don't get one, we resort to all sorts of slash chords or other weird names to tell ourselves the fingers need to move.

Looking at a G7 chord realizing the chord is really the set of tones G-B-D-F is a step that a lot of guitarists never take. Even fewer take the next step, and realize the important tones are B and F (the tritone which resolves outward to E and C in the C chord that usually follows) - the G and D notes are optional with respect to harmony!

Compare that to what a pianist traditionally first learns. In the beginning, they don't even learn chord names - they just play the written notes. And since a seventh chord has four notes, a beginning pianist won't play all four - they'll play three. The usual first voicing for a G7 is B-F-G (left hand fingering 521). When they move from G7 to C, it's really clear that only two notes are moving - so even before they get around to giving it a name, they're thinking in terms of moving single voices.

By the time they are playing from fake books, they are thinking in terms of scales, moving voice lines, and individual tones. Chord names give them a harmonic basis, not a particular chord shape. In that context, a chord named Dsus4 simply makes no sense!

Now, that doesn't mean that calling a certain fingering on the guitar a 'sus' chord is wrong. Theory and language both evolve all the time. But it does mean that the reason we call a suspension a suspension has to do with the history of the theory combined with the way guitarists think about harmony (a series of shapes) compared to how classical music theory talks about harmony.

Guitarists aren't necessarily wrong (though a formally trained theorist can make a very compelling argument that they are), but they are a new, and somewhat marginalized, way of naming things.

Suspended chords are called suspended chords because they are the shape associated with a suspension -- which is an extra-harmonic embellishment where a note is suspended over a harmonic series in time -- and has nothing to do with how they sound.

This post has been edited by kingpatzer: Nov 10 2009, 05:49 PM
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