#1
Hi there, I'm starting to be intersted in using suspended chords. I know they are primarily used to create more tension/ambiguity in music but are there even more specific reasons for using them.. for choosing either the 2 or the 4 in a particular situation?
#2
Which one sounds better in the particular situation?
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#3
Ofcourse pleasing sound is the main objective. But I could also ask "why does it sound better when I play B after E instead of C? Obviously it sounds better, its because the notes in the B resolve to the E as a V chord does. I'm looking for a genuine theoretical answer.
#4
There is no theoretical answer. It depends on the context. What sounds better to you is the only correct answer. There is no right or wrong way of using chords. In some cases playing C after E sounds better than B. There are no rules. What sounds good to you is good.

Listen to music and try to spot all the sus2 and sus4 chords. That way you'll learn how other people use them. And you'll see it in context. Music doesn't really work without context.

You need to understand that theory only explains what's happening in music. If somebody decides to use sus2 somewhere, theory can explain it. Usually suspended chords are used for smooth voice leading. For example if you play a C major chord, it has C E and G in it. If the next chord is G major that has G B and D in it, you could play it like this:

C - Gsus4 - G

Gsus4 has G, C and D in it and C major has C, E and G in it. Notice how only one of the chord tones changes. Both chords have G and C in them. So you just keep playing the C note from the C major chord a bit longer. And that's where the name "suspended" comes from.

Of course this is not the only way of using sus chords. But this is the most basic way.

Also, notice how Gsus4 and Csus2 share the same notes (G, C and D). What makes them different is the bass note.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Aug 10, 2014,
#5
I would argue that your B sounding better than C after E thing is all kinda subjective. Honestly, my favorite chord change is a b6 like E to C or A to F.
There is no specific use for them, though there might be some obscure scale that employs their usage. Even then, that doesn't mean they have to be used.
#6
The answer to this question is "what do you feel like" or "Which one is easier for you". I'm sorry but I suck at chords. Listen and choose for yourself.
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#7
Quote by tyle12
Ofcourse pleasing sound is the main objective. But I could also ask "why does it sound better when I play B after E instead of C? Obviously it sounds better, its because the notes in the B resolve to the E as a V chord does. I'm looking for a genuine theoretical answer.



Play what sounds right to you. Don't over think it.
#8
TS, you're problem is that you're letting theory dictate music for you. That's not what it's for.

Theory is a set of analytical tools, not compositional rules.


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#9
When do you want to use a sus2? When do you want to use a sus4? What I mean is...it's all up to you, TS. There are no rules that say "Use sus2 here" or "Use sus4 here". (Anyone who says there are rules like that doesn't understand the point of music theory.) What sounds better to you, in a particular situation?
#10
Quote by RonaldPoe
The answer to this question is "what do you feel like" or "Which one is easier for you". I'm sorry but I suck at chords. Listen and choose for yourself.

This for me as well. I'm good with chords but, I never remember their names.
#11
I get what you guys are saying. But I'm the personality type that likes to fully understand something when I use it. Theory would not exist if everyone said "just play what sounds good". This is obvious. I'm just wondering if there is some relationship with the sus chords and the way they fit with different chord progressions.
#13
Quote by tyle12
I get what you guys are saying. But I'm the personality type that likes to fully understand something when I use it. Theory would not exist if everyone said "just play what sounds good". This is obvious. I'm just wondering if there is some relationship with the sus chords and the way they fit with different chord progressions.

It's not obvious. Theory exists BECAUSE everyone just played what sounded good.

Then they, or others, look at what sounds good and say "hmmm what's happening here?" Then they have music theory. -The music comes first.

That's why the poet Baby Joel said theory was an analytical tool and not compositional rule.

it tells you what happened, not what will happen nor what should happen.

Theory changes all the time to reflect the music that we are making.

The suspension is an example of how theory changes.

Suspension used to be (and still is in more formal contexts) a non chord tone that is held over from the previous chord before it is resolved DOWN to a chord tone. For it to be considered a suspension it must fulfil three steps, a preparation, a suspension, a resolution.

The preparation is the preceding chord. The suspended note will be a chord tone from the previous chord. The occurrence of this note as a chord tone in the preceding chord is the preparation.

The suspension is the holding over of that note (or the replaying of that note) when the harmony changes as a non chord tone in the new chord. This note is "suspended" above the expected chord tone in the new harmony.

The resolution sees this suspension resolve down to the expected chord tone of that new harmony.

It's like a delayed change of a single note in a chord change. That note then resolving down to a chord tone.

The example that MaggaraMarine gave was a good example of a classic suspension.

Cmajor Gsus4 Gmajor

he could also have used Am Gsus4 G or F Gsus4 G.

In any of those cases the C note is a chord tone in the preceding harmony (the preparation).

It is held over or replayed on the change in harmony (Gsus4) and is suspended above the expected chord tone (B) (the suspension).

It is then resolved down to the expected B note when we get to G. (the resolution)

There were different kinds of suspensions 9-8 suspension 6-5 suspension or 4-3 suspension.

If the non chord tone resolved up then it would be a ret*rdation.

Similarly there would be a preparation, ret*rdation, resolution.

Again the preparation would be the non chord tone appearing as a chord tone in the preceding chord.

However this time the prepared tone would be held (or replayed) through the harmony change and would be below the expected chord tone. Thus it is not suspended(above) the expected chord tone of the new harmony but held back (below) the expected chord tone in the new harmony.

The resolution then occurs UP to the expected chord tone.

However, the suspensions were eventually used as chords in and of themselves. The second or third was simply replaced with the suspended chord tone of either the second or fourth. There was no longer a requirement for preparation or even resolution. The suspended chords in fact (though originating from the earlier term) has come to be something entirely different and unique in it's own right.

Had people simply learned the theoretical descriptions of suspensions then we would not even have the sus2 or sus4 chords - which are rarely prepared nor do they require resolution and in the case of the sus2 the non chord tone is actually below the expected chord tone (the third). So technically they aren't even suspsensions.

But people liked the way the harmony sounded with a suspended fourth and started using it as it's own chord. They then used the 2nd to replace the third and called it a sus2 chord.

People played what they thought sounded good. That's how it works. If you want theory then present a specific passage of music that uses a sus2 or sus4 chord and maybe someone will help you analyse and understand what is happening. Then you might be able to use those ideas in your own music.

However, there are no theoretical guidelines on how these chords should be used. Theory just doesn't work that way.
Si
#14
On the guitar the easiest or maybe most common forms of sus2 and sus4 happen on the open D chord. The shape just lends itself really well to both voicings.

The sus2 and sus4 chords invoke a certain idyllic quality. I've heard those particular voicings described as the 'teenage love song' type of sound. If I'm not mistaken Tom Petty's Free Fallin' is pretty much built on Dsus2 and Dsus4.

Oasis use them to get that same kind of sound. They're all over Wonderwall for example. Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree does the same kind of thing on songs like Pure Narcotic and Trains.

Ultimately though I think it's already been said, play what sounds good. Maybe try playing an Em - C - G - D progression but try adding sus2 and sus4 voicings on your D chord and see how that sounds.
#15
Quote by 20Tigers
However, there are no theoretical guidelines on how these chords should be used. Theory just doesn't work that way.

If you get ANYTHING out of 20T's explanation, please get this. The idea that they are no theoretical guidelines (whether we're discussing suspended chords or any other musical concept) will always hold true. Theory is DEscriptive, not PREscriptive. You should never use theory to dictate how you write or what you write.
#16
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
If you get ANYTHING out of 20T's explanation, please get this. The idea that they are no theoretical guidelines (whether we're discussing suspended chords or any other musical concept) will always hold true. Theory is DEscriptive, not PREscriptive. You should never use theory to dictate how you write or what you write.
Well nearly any other musical concept. Species counterpoint, is one exception. Gotta be careful about sweeping generalisations.
Si
#18
Quote by TV-Casualty
The sus2 and sus4 chords invoke a certain idyllic quality. I've heard those particular voicings described as the 'teenage love song' type of sound.


Really. I guess this means that Metallica's The Unforgiven would be a teenage love song then.

Alternatively the idea that the chord invokes a specific feeling is just rubbish.
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#19
Quote by tyle12
I get what you guys are saying. But I'm the personality type that likes to fully understand something when I use it. Theory would not exist if everyone said "just play what sounds good". This is obvious. I'm just wondering if there is some relationship with the sus chords and the way they fit with different chord progressions.



It's a combination of what sounded good, and some most likely physics related thing.

For example, we start and/or resolve on basic major or minor chord 90% of the time, because it's consonant, and the actual sound waves are easy on the ear. I mean even if you are the biggest metal fan, I'm pretty sure ur more likely to wake up from Slayer, than from Jingle bells.

Just with colours, there is not one colour that is best used for something, but most people will agree that wearing a shirt with bright yellow, pink and baby blue together with the image of a rotting sheep carcass on top is most likely not the most appealing combination

Off course there are some people that will find that totally awesome, we call them pretentious. JK!!! ... We will call them hipsters.

What I think is the best way to go about this, is first off all check out some lessons/examples on voices moving in relationship to each other, and first see if you "agree".

To give a personal example. I always loved orchestral music. I didn't care too much back then about the most of traditional classical, but I always found myself humming the melodic motifs (inner voices and ornamentation) in the background of a piece, rather than humming solely the top melody.

For me it made sense how voices move, and I was emotionally moved by inner voices from a young age "by nature". I found these to create depth and create more of the feel/ambiance than just the lowest and highest voice. I found this out by trying to play some stuff on piano, and while the top melody and bass were moving perfect, the inner was not and it felt as if I was watching an HD video in 240p. It just missed every inch of depth and detail for me.

What it comes down to is that music does not work like a science (luckily) It's more of a "If I make the melody go like this, the next voice sounds better if going like that, but then the bass clashes with this" etc. It's more about the choices u make.


For example maybe the (highest) melody line goes [G, B], [F, E] this being 2 bars of 2 half notes.

I could go [G, G] - [Csu4, C] or [G, G] - [Csus2, C].

I would almost have to go for the Csus4, because of the F.

On the other hand, a lot of pop artists play just G to C on their acoustic, but still might sing the F note in their melody. Their songs still "work" or are listened to by many people.

so..... Who is right who is wrong?

A lot of people are fulfilled with just G to C, Others might think it's too one dimensional skipping the inner voice leading of the suspended chord.

Bach would say B to F in the melody is an atrocity and would kick my nuts, and Miles Davis is scratching his head wondering where the 7th on the dominant (G chord) has gone.

Here u make the choice of being elitist, or acknowledging music is not a science and go on with much more excitement than resentment of (certain) music and that some things work in some context and others do not.

I have not much trust you will get great joy if you solely make musical decisions based on your personal information pool of "harmony facts".


Tldr;

Yes in the end it's about how you like how it sounds.

Things like chord substitution, alterations, suspensions, inversions etc.. Well they sound fancy, but in actual objective viewing, they just describe the same thing and that is voice movements in relation to the other voices.

The most important thing is to know why something is done. If you can't get in that mindset, music is going to give you a bitching time.

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Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Aug 11, 2014,
#20
Quote by AlanHB
Really. I guess this means that Metallica's The Unforgiven would be a teenage love song then.

Alternatively the idea that the chord invokes a specific feeling is just rubbish.


Just some food for thought. No need to be rude.
#21
Pinball Wizard was characterized by the Sus4. A lot of Contemporary Christian music uses Sus4, Sus2 and moving bass lines. I think Sus4 creates tension and Sus2 tends to open up the harmony in a song relative to a common major triad. These are simply creative choices with no firm, black and white rules. Trust your ears.
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