Suspended, Added Tone Chords (lesson)
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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!