The Suspended Chord

suspended chord on keyring
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Other Names:

Fourth Chord

Symbols & Abbreviations:

sus2, sus4

Scales:

Diatonic, Melodic Minor

Set Class:

(027)

This chord has very different connotations depending on its inversion and context. As a stack of perfect fourths (e.g. D-G-C), this chord provides the basis for the classic sound of modal jazz and can be heard in playing by pianists McCoy Tyner, Wynton Kelley, Bill Evans, and many others. When played as a “sus2” chord (C-D-G) or a “sus 4” chord (G-C-D), it can behave in one of two ways: it can serve its stated purpose by suspending resolution to a more stable chord, as in the last two chords of Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For A Film),” or it can connote the open sound of an acoustic guitar, as these chords do in much contemporary Christian music. The beginning of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” gives us the guitar sus chord in its natural habitat—allowing the first and fifth scale degrees of the key to ring out on open strings even over the IV chord, where it results in a sus2, and the V chord, where it results in a sus4. 

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