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Thread: sussing out the sus4

  1. #1
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    Default sussing out the sus4

    Does anyone have any suggestions for things to do with the sus4 when composing/improvising?

    I am restricting my question to the sus4 because it seems to be highly preferred to the sus2 (at least in the books I have glanced at) and, secondly, because I don't really like the sound of the sus2. To me it sounds rather blah and as if it isn't going anywhere, whereas the sus4 sounds like it needs to move forward in the progression.

    Aside from the usual application (breaking up the monotony of a major chord in a measure) I have had a few ideas.

    Inspired by our younger millennial friends and colleagues who, unlike us, have the fortune of being able to choose their gender, I was thinking that perhaps I could choose the "gender" of my progression and be initially ambiguous.

    For example, I could do something like:

    Esus4
    B7
    Asus4

    Most people's ears would assume the E ionian, since that is the most common harmonization. However what if in the next iteration the chord qualities were Em, B7, Am...a little progression of the E Harmonic Minor. That would be novel.


    Another thing with which I was toying was using the sus4 as a passing chord, of sorts. For instance, if I wanted to end on a B7, I would go a little bit higher on the fret board and walk back down to the B7:

    C#7sus4
    C7sus4
    B7sus4
    Bb7sus4
    B7

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by ubulele View Post
    In addition to modal (major/minor) ambiguity, sus4 has another inherent ambiguity: it's identical to sus2 rooted a 4th higher/5th lower (i.e., the next chord in a typical fifths progression).

    Sus2 may also stand in for an add9 chord.

    Since sus and 7sus chords are by nature modally ambiguous, they can be used like power chords, particularly in genres like blues, where dominant and minor 7th chords (ahem) predominate.


    Once you get into 7sus's, there are other ambiguities you can exploit:

    7sus2 is a voicing for a (thirdless) 9th chord on the same root.

    7sus4 is a voicing for an 11 or m11 chord on the same root.

    7sus4 is a voicing for a thirdless 69 chord rooted a whole step lower, and it's the voicing for a rootless 69 chord rooted a major third higher.

    7sus2 is a voicing for a fifthless 69 chord rooted a whole step lower.

    7sus4 is voicing for a maj13 chord rooted a major third lower.


    7sus2 can serve as a tritone substitution (where it functions as a 9th chord, as mentioned above). Using 7sus4 is less effective for this function.

    There is also a class of chords in which the third is suspended both ways: down to the 2nd and up to the 4th. It's common for the suspended notes either to both move melodically up (to the third and fifth) or down (to the root and third), a form of double gracing.
    There is a lot to think of here, and I have nothing cogent to add. I only wanted to quote your comment for reference because in the past I have found that your posts seem to disappear and I would like to contemplate this information before it evanesces back into electrons.

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    Passing chords that add color in my opinion. They need in our traditional major and minor harmonies resolve to basic scale chords, even when if usually containing all the scale notes.
    Sus usually as you told means sus4. So if it is sus2 it should written so.

    Good thing is that they both can be played with our ukes well, unlike your extended chords above 7ths, that need some larger range, usually

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarmo_S View Post
    Passing chords that add color in my opinion. They need in our traditional major and minor harmonies resolve to basic scale chords, even when if usually containing all the scale notes.
    Sus usually as you told means sus4. So if it is sus2 it should written so.

    Good thing is that they both can be played with our ukes well, unlike your extended chords above 7ths, that need some larger range, usually
    I agree that sus4 chords are very nice because they are merely triads. I normally play mine as triads, using only three strings. For example, for A sus4 I use:

    220X
    14 14 12 X
    9 9 10 X
    455X
    X200
    X 14 12 12

    In reference to extended chords, I have never played guitar in my life but I was under the impression that guitarists often suppress notes in a 9 chord just like we do on ukulele. Guitarists do it for convenience whereas we ukulele players do it out of necessity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ubulele View Post
    Not only guitarists but keyboardists. I regularly read through piano scores to find a more complete set of chords than is reflected in the dumbed-down (and not infrequently wrong) uke and guitar chords provided in sheet music. The piano chords are often rootless, thirdless, fifthless, etc., despite that a pianist would have no trouble whatsoever in playing all notes in the chord, if that was desired. A perfect case in point is the dim7 chord, which more often than not functions as a rootless 7-9 chord (on a different root than named). Jarmo is simply off-base in demeaning the partial extended chords we can produce on ukulele. Only certain notes are "required" in order to carry the sense of the full chord, the other notes just add fullness. The more notes you include, the denser the sound you produce, which can get tiring and may not fit the spirit of the piece—"less is more." There are very few chords I run into that I can't adequately play on the ukulele—mostly, they're polychords—and I often play arrangements where the chords aren't the usual suspects on the usual roots, and where I have no backing fill to help out, it's just me and the uke. Sure, there are times when I'd like to have fuller-sounding chords, either with more components or with component doubling, but that's a trade-off one accepts when one takes up the uke.

    Note that if you sing as you play, the note you sing is also an effective component in the chord—if you omit that note in an extended chord, you can then create a five-note chord, quite sufficient for any but the wildest chords! Just think of the rich harmonies that vocal quartets and quintets produce. Granted, ukuleles aren't quite that flexible in terms of either the breadth or narrowness of the chords produced or the rapidity with which one can make changes, but the chordal capabilities of ukes are greater than most people believe (including many ukists, apparently).

    It's also unnecessary in modern harmony for suspended chords to resolve the third as expected, to be merely "passing chords that add color"; they can provide ambiguity, color, a "quartal" harmonic cast, tension, an open feel. Modern practice has evolved well beyond the restrictive guidelines of traditional harmony. Sus chords have become primary chords in their own right.
    Can you give us some youtube channel where you teach us those things? Just you, your voice and your uke. I'd like to hear cause I'm obviously so basic

  6. #6
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    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?

    Also, I like the idea that a sus2 and sus4 are the same chord with different roots. It leads to a lot of possibilities in misdirection. For instance, if you're playing the blues in Db, you could play X122 and consider it as Dbsus4, the I chord, or you can consider it the Gbsus2 and then move to a different key. Very sneaky.

  7. #7
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    I often use sus chords just to embellish a string of the same chord. eg: G G Gsus2 G, Gsus G Gsus2 G (usually with a bit of syncopation, not just straight on the beat strums)

    I didn't even realise that they were called suspended chords when I started doing this. I just did it cause it sounded neat.

    G-0232 Gsus2-0230 Gsus-0233 (or Gsus4)
    Last edited by Jim Yates; 11-09-2019 at 04:06 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ripock View Post
    In reference to extended chords, I have never played guitar in my life but I was under the impression that guitarists often suppress notes in a 9 chord just like we do on ukulele. Guitarists do it for convenience whereas we ukulele players do it out of necessity.
    Guitar is not that superior instrument either, We have only 4 fingers, mostly. There are some extended chords that do work sounding beautiful in guitar, of course as you say some less important notes need be omitted in that too.
    In my opinion they can sound beautiful, when those 9th, 11th etc. notes are played an octave above the basic chord.

    But no worries, with 4 note 7th chords we can always support the perfect harmony when playing at home alone

  9. #9
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    okay, I see the misconception I had. Thanks.

  10. #10
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    Well, this certainly is a sus...penseful thread...

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