How To Play Sus Chords
Welcome to this 5 minute masterclass on Sus chords, also known as suspended chords. This is a short overview lesson and you can find our full course on chord substitution here.
So what is a sus chord? Well I like to look at a sus chord as a slight variation on the regular dominant chord.
The Basic Sus Voicing
If we take a C7 chord in our left hand and move the major 3rd up a half step we are now playing C7sus. The 4th is said to be suspended which is why it is called C7sus4.
2 Handed Suspended Voicings
The easiest way to construct a C9sus is to play the root in our left hand, and a major triad off the b7 of the chord, for C7, the b7th would be Bb and so we play a Bb triad. This enriches the sound and we can also invert the triad shape in our right hand.
Extend To Become C13sus
To extend this chord to become a C13sus, we play a major 7th chord off the b7th which for C7 would be a Bbmaj7 in our right hand over C in the bass. Our right hand is now outlining the b7, 9, suspended 4th, and 13. Again we can invert the 7th chord to create different textures.
A final variation is to include the root at the top of the voicing. We can do this by playing a minor 7th chord off the 9th and playing root and b7 in our left hand. Another option is also to double the suspended 4th. This is a great choice of voicing when we have a dominant chord with the root in the melody.
Resolving The Suspension
An important point with sus chords is that we often resolve the suspended 4th to turn the chord into a regular dominant 7th voicing. This is best demonstrated in context of a 251 progression.
Now instead of going straight from G-7 to C7, we will add a C9sus in between. We can view the sus chord as temporary stepping stone between the 2 and the 5 chord. This can often be very subtle but also very effective at enhancing a simple 251 cadence.
Adding Chord Alterations
Another common technique is to add a chord alteration when moving from the sus to the regular dominant chord. The possible alterations over C7 would be b9, #9, #11, & #5/b13.
We explore a number of options including single alterations, double alterations, and upper structure triads.
Sus Chords Lesson Notation File Type: pdf
Play C7sus4, C9sus4, and C13sus4 and listen to the brightness of each of these chords.
As we add higher extensions the sound becomes more airy, floaty, and mysterious.
Examine the examples in the video and transpose the 7sus4, 9sus4 and 13sus4 in a few different keys.
The next step is to apply sus chords to 251 progressions. Instead of going straight from ii-7 to V7, use the V7sus chord as a 'temporary stepping stone'.
Apply single alterations, multiple alterations, and upper structure triads as demonstrated in the lesson.
Take your favourite tunes and apply the sus movement to every 251 that you come across.