Chord Construction Part 3: Suspended Chords

So at this point we've learned the Formulas for four common/basic Triads:

Major = R M3 5
Minor = R b3 5
Augmented = R M3 #5
Diminished = R b3 b5

There's another important group of Triads, or basic chords, called: The Suspended Chord or commonly known as the "sus" chord.

Remember how we saw that the "3rd" of a chord determined whether it was Major or Minor?

And, remember in the Power Chord we removed the 3rd and ended up with an Interval of only a Root and a 5?

Well, in the "sus" chord we'll leave the Root and the 5 alone and we'll replace the 3rd with a note that isn't a 3rd...but instead use replace it with one Interval higher or one Interval lower.

But, if we don't have a 3rd (meaning no M3 or b3) how will we know if it's Major or Minor???

Actually, we won't. It will be neither Major or Minor.

We will replace the 3rd with either a 2/9 or a 4/11. These are the Intervals that reside on either side of the 3rd.

Let's explain this with the sus chord Formulas:

sus2 = R 2 5
sus9 = R 9 5

Csus9 = C D G
Gsus9 = G A D
Asus9 = A B E
F#sus9 = F# G# C#

sus4 = R 4 5
sus11 = R 11 5

Csus4 = C F G
Gsus4 = G C D
Asus4 = A D E
F#sus4 = F# B C#

While all these formulas are true, the most common ones you'll see are the: sus2, sus9, and the sus4. It's not common to see a sus11, but it is possible.

And remember: sus2 = sus9, and sus4 = sus11.

Here's some ways to play these chords (these are movable chords, the Root or Note Name of the chord is whatever fret/note you are playing on the D string:

Asus4 (or Asus11):

--x--
--5-- = 5 = E
--7-- = 4 = D
--7-- = R = A
--x--
--x--

Asus9 (or Asus2):

--x--
--5-- = 5 = E
--4-- = 9 = B
--7-- = R = A
--x--
--x--

You can also add the low A string to these chords (but they will become less movable when you do this):

Asus4 (or Asus11):

--x--
--5-- = 5 = E
--7-- = 4 = D
--7-- = R = A
--0-- = R = A
--x--

Asus9 (or Asus2):

--x--
--5-- = 5 = E
--4-- = 9 = B
--7-- = R = A
--0-- = R = A
--x--

By replacing the 3rd with one of these other notes found next to it, the sound will be neither Major or Minor. It will sound "Suspended". And, the "Suspended" gives a sound that something needs to move, or resolve. It will sound like it's hanging in mid-air and needs to move somewhere else.

You can experiment with "moving" sus chords with these examples to see how they sound resolving to Major and Minor chords:

| Asus4 | A |

| Asus9 | A |

| Asus4 | Am |

| Asus9 | Am |

Now try something like this:

| Asus4 | A | Am | Asus9 | then see what sounds better, resolving back to A or Am.

The more you play with sus chords the more you'll realize they need to go somewhere.

Here's some common sus chords you probably already know:

Dsus4 (this sounds great resolving to a D Major chord, but also try Dm):

--3-- = 4 = G
--3-- = R = D
--2-- = 5 = A
--0-- = R = D
--x--
--x--

Dsus9 (this sounds great resolving to a D Major chord, but also try Dm):

--0-- = 9 = E
--3-- = R = D
--2-- = 5 = A
--0-- = R = D
--x--
--x--

Asus4 (this sounds great resolving to a A Major chord, but also try Am):

--0-- = 5 = E
--3-- = 4 = D
--2-- = R = A
--2-- = 5 = E
--0-- = R = A
--x--

Asus9 (this sounds great resolving to a A Major chord, but also try Am):

--0-- = 5 = E
--0-- = 9 = B
--2-- = R = A
--2-- = 5 = E
--0-- = R = A
--x--

Hopefully with this you'll understand how Suspended (sus) chord are built and how they can function with other chords.

Now let's recap with all the Chord Formulas we know at this point:

Major = R M3 5
Minor = R b3 5
Augmented = R M3 #5
Diminished = R b3 b5
sus2 = R 2 5
sus9 = R 9 5
sus4 = R 4 5
sus11 = R 11 5