Guitar Lesson – Music Theory Part 6.4 – 4 and more sus2

1, 2, 3, 4 … come on baby say you love me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChrzEJ27M2U)

Alright, so we’re going to talk about the 4 note.  The most popular use of this note on guitar is probably the sus4.  Here are the common shapes for this chord:

In these chords, the (major) 3rd is not played and is “covered” by the 4th.  The 3rd is shown using the white dot.

Very similar to the 2 chord, the 3rd is not played so these chords are ambiguous.  They’re not major or minor.

A common (proper? classical?) way to use the “sus” chord is to use the suspended (that’s what “sus” stands for) note as a way to “smooth” out a transition between two chords.  For instance:
     G    Dsus4    D


The G is the “preparation”.  The Dsus4 is the “suspension”.  And the D is the “resolve”.

Here, the G is made up of: G-B-D.  Dsus4 is: D-G-A.  So the G is suspended.  (If you use the open-string shape for G and the Dsus4 shown here, the G on the high-E string is suspended.  If you use fingers 2, 3, and 4 to hold the G, then you’ll probably find that you don’t need to lift your pinky going from G to Dsus4).  And D is: D-F#-A.  So the 4th is resolved by the (major) 3rd.

In these diagrams, the 3rd is shown by the white dot which is “covered up” by the 4th.

Another common use of these chords in modern music is going between the sus chord and normal triad.  This happens a lot with both sus2 (see part 6.2) and sus4.

To hear some examples, check out:

Black or White (Michael Jackson) — the riff basically goes from sus4 to major then sus2 to major http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLWt7kzaex0

Another way to use the 4 note, of course, is to leave the 3rd in.  In that case, we’d be adding the 4.

I find that this chord by itself could be a little strange sounding.  But it makes a lot of sense when you play it along with other chords.  For instance, try holding the open-string C chord the same way (ie include the G on the high-E, shift this shape up 2 frets).  Play the C then Dadd4.  C, of course, have the G in it also (and it’s been suspended on the G-string).

Another example of how this chord might be used is in the song Hysteria by Def Leppard (wow… I’m really showing my age with these examples!):
http://www.videocure.com/video/157050.html

Watch Phil Collen’s hand position (that’s the guitarist on the left for you youngsters) .  In this case, I would consider that the riff is made out of the 1, 3, and 4 notes (D, F#, G) and it repeated as a “theme” over D, G and Em (actual progression is: ||D    |G    |Em  G |D   :|| )

Okay, yes, there was a lot of use of sus4 in the 80s!  Probably too much in fact!  (Although, I think these songs “technically” came out in the early 90s)

Let’s try this more recent example of sus2.  Here’s Bad Day by Fuel (well, relatively more recent): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LKUVkRAmPs

Here, the beginning chords are:  A   Asus2   A

Again, the play is with the 3rd.

Sometimes, the sus4 chord might be used as a “substitution” for the V chord and the sus2 chord in place of the IV chord.  (see M&m post)  

There are a few ways guitarists like the play these.  Here is one example:

|G    |Cadd9   |Dsus4   |G      |

For this progression, try holding the G using all 4 fingers.  Your ring finger should be holding the B-string on the 3rd fret and your pinky on the high-E strin gon the 3rd fret.  These are now holding notes D and G.  (see G<–>Cadd9 Thing post)

Cadd9 also has these notes.  Then Dsus4 as well.

In this case, the 4 note is not used as a way to “mask” the 3rd (in the D chord), necessarily.  But the G is suspended throughout the progression.  This is also sometimes called the “pedal point” or “pedal tone”.


For a sus2 example, try:


    |E      |Bsus4     |Asus2    |E       |

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About ckyoungmusic

Guitarist ♪ Songwriter ♪ Instructor ♪ Nice Guy ♪ Music for the Soul | Rock | Country | Blues | Pop | Folk | Funk

Posted on September 15, 2009, in Guitar Lessons, Music Theory. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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