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Thread: sussing out the sus4

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2014


    Quote Originally Posted by ripock View Post
    hey ubulele, I've been working through your list of cool things to do with sus chords. You mentioned using a 7sus2 in tritone substitution. Do mean something like this:

    instead of C F7 G7, do something like C E7sus2, G7 or even C F7 F#7sus2? [...]
    Um, no, neither of your proposed substitutions is rooted a tritone (six semitones, an augmented fourth or diminished fifth) from the chord it's substituting for, and in your second example, you shouldn't substitute for the chord you're leading to but rather for the chord you're leading from. The progression C F7 G7 is also not the best example to work with because (assuming you're playing in the key of C) F7 deviates from the key (there's presumably a reason you want this) and doesn't set up an expectation of moving to G, though it often does so in blues. If , for the F7 chord, you tritone-substitute B7sus2 (rather than the more usual B7), you'd lose that Eb deviation which is apparently important (though if you sang Eb while playing a B7sus2, you'd have a five-note B9 chord, which might be just what the doctor ordered).

    A more characteristic example of when you'd use a tritone substitution is in a stock fifths progression, like ii-V-I: Dm7 G7 C. There are two basic substitution options: first, you could substitute for the middle chord, using some dominant 7th variant rooted on C#/Db:
    Dm7 Db7 C (the most basic form)
    Dm7 Db7sus2 C6 (a sus variant)
    Because of the jazzier second chord, I've also jazzed up the target chord a little, but a plain C would work fine, too. Notice that the tritone substitution root ends up a half-step higher than the root of the next chord (the one you're leading to), and here is also a half-step lower than the root of the preceding chord, forming a chromatic descent, D Db C. This makes it child's play to do tritone substitutions in the middle of chained fifths progressions. (It's also because of this descent that I've named the sub chord Db7sus2 instead of C#7sus2.)

    There's a wrinkle here, caused by nut interference. For the most fluid chord connections, not only should the root pitches descend smoothly (no big interval jumps up or down), but the general pitch range of the chords should descend smoothly as well. Unfortunately, you can't play a 7sus2 effectively around the lowest Db on the fretboard, so it would probably sound better to move the entire progression higher on the fretboard; compare:
    2213 4434 0001
    5555 4434 5433

    The second common option is to substitute for the first chord; a tritone from D is Ab, so:
    Ab7[sus2] G7 C
    With either of these options, you can play both the replaced and the substituting chords:
    Dm7 G7 Dbsus2 C[6]
    Dm7 Ab7sus2 G7 C[6]
    or even
    Dm7 Dbsus2 G7 C[6]

    You could also use tritone substitutions for both the first and second chords, though this creates more chance of clashes with the melody line. On the other hand, if you're writing a song, it may jog you out of staid melodic and harmonic patterns.
    Dm7 - Ab7[sus2] - Db7[sus2] - C[6]

    In your base example (C F7 G7), C and F7 form a fifths progression, so without compromising the F7 chord, you might interpolate a tritone substitution for the C chord, just as you might use a C7 there; compare:
    C C7 F7 G7
    C F#7[sus2] F7 G7
    I think voicing is important here: to make the progression have a better "shape" and sound less aimless, I'd try voicings like these, which build up, then drop down a little to the G7, partially releasing tension:
    0001 or 5433 - 1424 - 5556 - 4535

    You could also try substituting for F7.
    C - [F7] - B7[sus2] - G7
    Since F7 doesn't intrinsically pull to G7, another idea is to interpolate a tritone substitution of the V7 chord relative to G, adding a little pull. More simply put, add the dom7 rooted a half step higher than your target chord is:
    C - F7 - Ab7[sus2] - G7

    Remember that 7sus2 is only one possible dom7 variant to use in tritone substitutions.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    okay, I see the misconception I had. Thanks.

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