Jul 24, 2008

Construction Of A Suspended 4th Chord

I'll make a strong attempt to explain to you exactly what a suspended chord is and how it is constructed. Its really not that difficult of a concept, you just have to read this a little slowly. Keep repeating to yourself each key piece of information before moving forward.

First of all a suspended chord has its roots in counterpoint music. Counterpoint is a term that represents music that contains two voices that are working in harmony with each other. It stems mainly from Renaissance music. A great example of counterpoint is Jason Becker's version of Air.
That link will take you to a youtube video, so I suggest that you read this article before checking it out.

Originally, the suspended chord was played on piano by holding down the remaining notes of one chord, while the other hand introduced a new chord over-top of the first chord. In other words, it was expanded to a larger chord, with the first chord still held, or suspended.

On the guitar you could achieve the same results by tapping the second chord with the right hand, but this is not necessary, considering that a suspended chord can now be duplicated as you would normally play any chord.

A suspended chord is considered to be neither major, nor minor.

This makes it a favorite amongst Jazz players, because it allows for a broader interpretation when it comes to improvising.

The Suspended 4th chord (Sus4).

Most chords are constructed with a major or minor 3rd. A Major 3rd is a leap of 4 half-steps from the root note.

Try this:

Play the 3rd fret on your low E, which is a G note. Count 4 frets up from that and you'll land on the 7th fret (B). That B note also happens to be the 2nd fret on the A string. Now play the 3rd fret on the Low E string (G) and the 2nd fret on the A string (B) and you'll see that its the basis of your run-of-the-mill G chord.

A Suspended chord is constructed in a similar fashion, except that a suspended chord doesn't contain a Major or a Minor 3rd. It instead contains a perfect 4th.

A perfect 4th is 5 half-steps from the root note. Try that same experiment. First fret the 3rd fret on the Low E and then count up 5 frets. You'll land on the 8th fret (C). That C note can also be found on the 3rd fret of the A string. Now play the 3rd frets of the E and A strings, together.

This may not all make sense right away, and that's ok. Read through this article a few times, with your guitar in hand and play through the experiments. We'll come back to suspended chords at a later time to talk about Sus2 chords.

Now for the full Gsus4 chord.

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You'll notice that the 3rd fret on the A string (C) is not included in this chord. In fact you don't play the A string at all for this particular fingering. However, you will also notice that the C note happens to be the 1st fret on the B string.

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