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So, all my life I've been told that a Sus2 chord includes the 1st,2nd, and 5th degrees of the major scale. I've never had any problem with that, and never come across any oppositional theories...until now.

I am in university music program, and in my theory class, I was told that a Sus2 chord, means that the 1st degree of the scale (root) is suspended. So we have the formula 2,3 and 5. I argued with the teacher for a bit, but he was adamant on his way.

Can anyone confirm/disprove this theory? Please help, it's kinda driving me crazy. I'm also a teacher, and have always taught the commonly understood sus2 chord. I don't want to be teaching something wrong!

Thanks, Kyle
And I can play guitar like a mother****in riot.
I was always taught that a sus2 was 1,2,&5 as well. If the 3rd is in the chord, I think that makes it an add9 chord.
I was told that a Sus2 chord, means that the 1st degree of the scale (root) is suspended. So we have the formula 2,3 and 5. I argued with the teacher for a bit, but he was adamant on his way.

Are you sure you didn't misunderstand him? The purpose of a suspended chord is to suspend a resolution by replacing the the third with either the second or fourth. I have never come across "2-3-5" in my life.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
I am sure I didn't misunderstand him. I have studied for years, and know my theory well-ish, and wouldn't have misunderstood something like that. I've always been taught what you guys have said. If there is a third it is an add9 chord.

Also, sending me links is not going to do much good. I've looked at a lot of them. And who knows who is writing those articles anyways.
And I can play guitar like a mother****in riot.
Yeah, that can't be right. Just about any theory or chord book will confirm that sus2 is 1-2-5. I really hope you misunderstood him, I really do...

Grep.
He wrote it out...with numbers, lol I didn't misunderstand. He told me a Csus2 is D E and G. Okay, no misunderstanding.

I'm gonna ask all my other profs tomorrow about it, see what they say.
And I can play guitar like a mother****in riot.
He wrote it out...with numbers, lol I didn't misunderstand. He told me a Csus2 is D E and G. Okay, no misunderstanding.

I'm gonna ask all my other profs tomorrow about it, see what they say.
lol wut?

That would be an Em7, not a Csus2. Theres a minor third between the E and G, meaning Em.

I dont really want to disagree with a college progressor, but he's wrong. Seeing as he's the one thats going to mark your final paper, agree with him anyway?
From my understanding, albeit a little rusty, your teacher is correct and you can resolve a suspended note to any adjacent consonance, up or down.
(Often seen it implied in this forum that 3rd is always the point of resolution ).

Edit: and it highlights the flaw of naming chords heard in isolation as "sus#". A suspension proper is a three part beast: preparation , suspension and resolution.
It would be far clearer if the chords commonly labeled "sus" were instead referred to as substitute or sub or something similar.
Last edited by R.Christie at Nov 3, 2008,
I think you're teacher doesn't know what he's talking about. get him to show you a source or tell you where he learned this.
I'd go with R Christie. That sounds pretty good to me.

Don't disagree with your teacher if you just tell him he's wrong and that you know better he'll just think you're a dick and you won't learn anything. Tell him you're having trouble on this one explain where your confusion is and ask him if he can clarify this for you. That's his job and if he's worth his salt as a teacher he will be willing to help you. You can ask in front of the class cause there may be others that have the same misunderstanding. Just make sure you ask in the right way.
Si
^ yea, like he said, don't be a dick about it, but get him to explain and maybe ask politely for a reference of some kind.
Your teacher is definetely wrong. A sus2 chord is 100% 1 -2- 5. As someone already stated a 2-3-5 in C is an Em7 chord without a fifth.
Andy
I think OP should clarify whether he is talking about suspensions or run of the mill chord spelling (which may have some different convention), as a second can be suspended into a harmony and then resolved to the root. This is acceptable as a suspension mechanism.
Last edited by R.Christie at Nov 3, 2008,
I personally think your teacher is wrong.

Sus2 as Archeo said, sus chords suspend the resolution, but moving the natural third up or down to the 2nd or 4th, which gives the chord no major, or minor, or augmented, or diminished tonality.

But dont just go, "hey, your wrong cause I learned the other way of the interwebz lulz"

Actually ask him why, present him with this other option. Try and get something sorted out.
Quote by Galvanise69
I personally think your teacher is wrong.

Sus2 as Archeo said, sus chords suspend the resolution, but moving the natural third up or down to the 2nd or 4th, which gives the chord no major, or minor, or augmented, or diminished tonality.

But dont just go, "hey, your wrong cause I learned the other way of the interwebz lulz"

Actually ask him why, present him with this other option. Try and get something sorted out.

You can suspend any note, for example, the 7th can rise or fall to the root or sixth,
2 can go to root or 3rd.

Suspension has been around for 500 years, it's one one of the earliest formal treatments of dissonance.

This confusion in this thread and insistance on only considering the 3rd as the note of resolution is why the common useage of the term suspension in chord "spelling" is unfortunate.
Your teacher is not incorrect. R Christie & others on the same tune have it right.

9-8 suspension.

5
3
2 - 1

It's fairly common type of suspension (in the classical sense as in accented non-harmonic tone held over from previous bar that resolves downward) but I've never heard it called "sus2".
Umm, like most have said, wouldn't sus2 the root note change that chord all together. But of course, others have excellent arguments.....would love to know the truth in this, or maybe everybody is right in a way..
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The popularity of guitar has introduced some "not-really-correct" music theory nomenclature. But, that is not necessarily a bad thing...

The chord often referred to as "sus2" arguably doesn't really exist, at least not the way it is used on guitar. The voicing used on guitar ( Asus2 = x 0 2 2 0 0 = notes A E A B E) could be thought of as Aadd9.

If I played this chord ( x 0 7 6 5 7 = notes A A C# E B ) along with the first one they would not clash. The lack of scale degree #3 in my first chord doesn't mean that it CAN'T be included by another instrument.

I would suggest that most of the time the "function" of this chord for most guitarists is merely to serve as a more colorful version of a major chord. It is NOT functioning as a "suspension to be resolved." For suspension/resolution purposes I can think of several better choices than sus2 to Major. Very pansy....

Similarly, calling the G "power chord" G5. There is no chord called G5. It is really G(no 3rd). But that takes up a lot more space. It is easier to write G5, but that's not really "correct."

It is "theory," right? What we lose sight of is that the job of the theory is to explain to another musician what you want played. How do you best describe that? A few shortcuts are not a big deal. The director of the band will be able to help me interpret his wishes. That's why he is the boss. And, if it's up to me, I have to be able to use my musical sensibilities to create the best sound, regardless of what the chart says.

If you want to break it down to what is really going on...

There are only 3 chords...

Major, or the sound of the Major 7.
Minor.
Dominant.

Now, before some newbie with his new chord book goes nuts, keep this in mind...
Yes, there are chords in your book called "diminshed" and augmented."
Augmented chords function as Dominant chords. Diminished chords function as minor or dominant chords.

All this theory is JUST TALK. If I put a chart in front of you and start counting, you can either play it or you can't. I don't care if you can explain music. If you can't PLAY it, then you are a journalist, not a musician. Now, quit reading this and go practice...
There are only 3 chords...

Major, or the sound of the Major 7.
Minor.
Dominant.

Now, before some newbie with his new chord book goes nuts, keep this in mind...
Yes, there are chords in your book called "diminshed" and augmented."
Augmented chords function as Dominant chords. Diminished chords function as minor or dominant chords.

You're confusing chord with function and common practice harmony with "music theory". It's very true that your super fancy G7(#9b5) chord is really just functioning as a dominant, but attempting to classify all chords in one of three categories is grossly oversimplistic and misleading, and makes we wonder if you've actually listened to anything composed after the common practice period.

The purpose of music theory is both to describe musical concepts, and to communicate them to other musicians. As musical conventions become more complex, the descriptive system evolves as well. Your simplistic view of harmony is woefully insuficient in circles that do treat a G7(#9b5) far differently than other dominant chords. The fact that it is functioning as dominant does not change the fact that it is often not arbitrarily interchangeable with other dominant chords, not without the soloist breaking his instrument over your head. Separating chords into categories of major, minor, and dominant seems incredibly arbitrary to me. Many different chords can function as dominant chords, but major and minor chords do not have inherent functions. Classifying chords as either tonic or dominant would make more sense, but is still ridiculously simplistic in most genres.

Of course, all of that only applies to Western diatonic harmony. In any other harmonic system, everything you said falls apart even further.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
Last edited by Archeo Avis at Nov 3, 2008,
The problem here is conflicting uses of the term "suspension"

The type of suspension you'll study formally is ornamentation: if you were to simplify the movement, you could remove it. A note from one chord is held over to the next as a dissonance / nonchord tone, then resolving stepwise downwards in accordance with good voice leading (the preparation should logically lead stepwise into the intended resolution)

In jazz, sus is normally used for dominant chords (the tritone formed with the 4 and natural 7 interferes with the attempted tonic sound) because it avoids unwanted dissonance created by 4ths played melodically over the 3rd. This weakens the resolution by removing the tritone, and sus chords are now more characteristically used in contexts, similar to quartal voicing (which creates a sus chord at 3 notes) where there is meant to be little or no harmonic movement.

In a lot of contemporary / popular / I have no good name for it but you get the idea maybe music, the kind where you'll see sus2 and sus4, it's often used as ornamentation (if it's next to the unmodified chord it's likely just dressing) or just as its own sound (idiomatic or borrowed from another genre).

the reflections on function: This approach is very useful studying bop (which is the area I'm most familiar and confident with) where any chord can usually be boiled down to being ii, V, or I/i in function, and played, reharmed, interpreted accordingly. Simplification is not a bad thing. It's necessary for understanding, which comes before embellishment (or should).
Last edited by Nick_ at Nov 3, 2008,
Quote by revtfunk
Similarly, calling the G "power chord" G5. There is no chord called G5. It is really G(no 3rd). But that takes up a lot more space. It is easier to write G5, but that's not really "correct."
Whoever said G5 was a chord. It's a diad and yeah maybe this notation is more recent than most theory but it's perfectly legitimate and correct to call it G5. Similarly there is a difference if I said "play a G6 diad" and "play a G6 chord". Move with the times or get left behind man.

Quote by revtfunk
If you want to break it down to what is really going on...

There are only 3 chords...

Major, or the sound of the Major 7.
Minor.
Dominant.
Okay, so I just pulled out my new chord book and...
Seriously though, I don't get this. I'll explain my confused state of thought regarding this idea as best I can and hope maybe you could clarify.

Major Minor and Dominant are the only 3 chords??
Isn't a dominant chord built on a major triad? Namely a major triad with a minor 7. This gives us a Dominant 7. Called such because the only diatonic 7 chord that has a minor 7 added to a major triad is the V chord (the dominant).

Now the chord built on the leading tone is a diminished triad. It fits in the "Dominant Family" because it 's basic triad shares two notes with the basic Dominant triad (the V) and they both resolve well to the tonic. But to say the diminished triad is fundamentally major, minor or dominant in quality is odd? I could understand if you said the fundamental triad of a dominant7 chord is major but to say an augmented or diminished chord is major, minor, or dominant really confuses.

When you describe chord types as Major Minor or Dominant I think basic qualities - Major (1 3 5); minor (1 b3 5) and dominant (1 3 5 b7). Maybe you're talking of seventh chords? Major7 1 3 5 7 minor7 1 b3 5 b7 and dominant7 1 3 5 b7.

Quote by revtfunk
All this theory is JUST TALK. If I put a chart in front of you and start counting, you can either play it or you can't. I don't care if you can explain music. If you can't PLAY it, then you are a journalist, not a musician. Now, quit reading this and go practice...
Awesome!!
Si
I could understand if you said the fundamental triad of a dominant7 chord is major but to say an augmented or diminished chord is major, minor, or dominant really confuses.

I believe what he meant to say is that they function as dominant chords, which is generally correct. He is still oversimplifying the issue, however.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
Quote by Archeo Avis
I believe what he meant to say is that they function as dominant chords, which is generally correct. He is still oversimplifying the issue, however.

Well it's still confusing. If you're talking about function as in a diminished chord serves the same harmonic function as a dominant chord then you're talking about substitution right? But then two major chords can have completely different harmonic functions. And if a chord is serving a dominant function why would one describe the other harmonic functions as major or minor. Wouldn't they be Tonic and Sub Dominant? Sometimes a major chord is the tonic. Sometimes a minor chord is the tonic. Both can serve the same function in their respective contexts even though they are different in quality.

I'm still confused but I'm not going to lose sleep over it. I just thought it would be interesting to understand what he was saying as it may give me some insight into chordal relationships that I haven't considered before.
Si
And if a chord is serving a dominant function why would one describe the other harmonic functions as major or minor. Wouldn't they be Tonic and Sub Dominant?

That was exactly the point I brought up. Separating all chords into major, minor, and dominant is just arbitrary.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
OK, I see that only Nick understood what I was trying to convey.

the reflections on function: This approach is very useful studying bop (which is the area I'm most familiar and confident with) where any chord can usually be boiled down to being ii, V, or I/i in function, and played, reharmed, interpreted accordingly. Simplification is not a bad thing. It's necessary for understanding, which comes before embellishment (or should).
Quote by revtfunk
OK, I see that only Nick understood what I was trying to convey.

The problem is, that's not what you said. We all understand the concept of chord functions, but the way you explained it was misleading and over simplistic, and wasn't really relevant to the thread anyway.

Regarding the TS's professor: It's entirely possible, and indeed common to use suspensions that way, but calling it as a sus2 chord is incredibly misleading and is going to confuse anyone who doesn't live inside of his little academic microcosm.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
Last edited by Archeo Avis at Nov 3, 2008,
Quote by Nick_
the reflections on function: This approach is very useful studying bop (which is the area I'm most familiar and confident with) where any chord can usually be boiled down to being ii, V, or I/i in function, and played, reharmed, interpreted accordingly. Simplification is not a bad thing. It's necessary for understanding, which comes before embellishment (or should).

Quote by revtfunk
OK, I see that only Nick understood what I was trying to convey.
I was just looking for clarification. If that's all you meant, I'll be honest, I was pretty disappointed. I was genuinely hoping for a new insight into chordal relationships that I hadn't seen before. Through understanding and studying harmonic function I've been reducing chords to one of three chord families for a long time.

Differing from Nick my studies are not in bop and the chords get boiled down to being either I - Tonic (offering stability and resolution), IV - Sub Dominant (moving away from the tonic), or V Dominant (pulling toward the tonic).

Calling these families Maj Minor and Dominant is rather novel. Since of these terms only "Dominant" can refer to harmonic function as well as quality. The reason a Dominant 7 chord is called dominant(with regard to quality) is because in the major diatonic scale only the Dominant (functioning) chord, the V chord, creates that specific 7th quality (major triad plus a minor7) so the chord takes it's name from the function of the only chord at which it occurs the Dominant.

Using qualities to describe function is misleading and confusing as a chord with a dominant function might not actually be dominant in quality it could be major or diminished and a chord serving a tonic function could be Major or Minor.

Archeo did understand what you said. As did Nick. I understood what they said but was hoping you actually meant something more. I guess it just shows why it is important to use the correct terms when discussing ideas with other musicians.

And to Gonzaw. No Major and Minor are not functions - they are qualities.

EDIT:
TS from Wiki:"The term is borrowed from the contrapuntal technique of suspension, where a note from a previous chord is carried over to the next chord, and then resolved down to the third or tonic, suspending a note from the previous chord."

Like I said before R Christie seemed to know what he was talking about. And your teacher will know a lot more than 99% of people here (that definitely includes me).
Si
Last edited by 20Tigers at Nov 3, 2008,
TS from Wiki:"The term is borrowed from the contrapuntal technique of suspension, where a note from a previous chord is carried over to the next chord, and then resolved down to the third or tonic, suspending a note from the previous chord."

No one is denying that. What I have a problem with is describing it as a sus2 chord, which is incredibly misleading.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
SO he was calling minor major and dominant the quality of the chords, and not functions?

Why only those qualities though? Isn't he detailing the qualities of triads with minor and major but detailing the quality of a bitriad (or whatever, 3 stacked thirds or a x7 xM7 xm7 chord) with saying Dominant?
Quote by gonzaw
SO he was calling minor major and dominant the quality of the chords, and not functions?

Why only those qualities though? Isn't he detailing the qualities of triads with minor and major but detailing the quality of a bitriad (or whatever, 3 stacked thirds or a x7 xM7 xm7 chord) with saying Dominant?

No and yes.
He used the wrong labels and it led to confusion. The point was that any chord basically serves one of three basic functions.

He was actually calling those functions major, minor, and dominant which is rather misleading since the terms major minor generally refer to a chord's quality not it's harmonic function, while "dominant" can refer to both the quality of a chord or it's function.

It's just a confusing post. I'm not sure where he got his info from but try to understand his point, which is valid, while ignoring the labels which are off.
Si
Last edited by 20Tigers at Nov 3, 2008,
Wow, I leave for a day, and look what happens...

After addressing the original topic I just wanted to include a nugget of insight for future consideration. Sometimes getting back to the essence of the subject can allow you to see the forest AND the trees.

This was my original post...

If you want to break it down to what is really going on...

There are only 3 chords...

Major, or the sound of the Major 7.
Minor.
Dominant.

Now, before some newbie with his new chord book goes nuts, keep this in mind...
Yes, there are chords in your book called "diminshed" and augmented."
Augmented chords function as Dominant chords. Diminished chords function as minor or dominant chords.

I suppose I should have said, "Diminished chords assume the function of the chord for which they are being substituted." That way, if your minor chord was iii or vi, everyone would know what it was doing. Excuse me for not thinking the statement through. I never imagined such a rash of comments.

Now, it is interesting that Nick knew exactly what I was saying. But, everyone else is about to blow a gasket. Which tells me a lot...
Now, it is interesting that Nick knew exactly what I was saying. But, everyone else is about to blow a gasket.

We all understood what you meant. It was just irrelevant to the topic of the thread, poorly phrased, and grossly misleading.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
wow. this has gotten way off topic, but interesting. I'm not going to add to the already extensive argument, because I understand what both sides are saying, and agree to an extent.

I also talked to some of my other profs, and they explained to me, that he is not wrong. Theory has changed though. Guitar has been a huge influence in this, and there are many things guitarists see as normal theory, that many others disagree with. Also different genre's have some slightly different theory. I am learning theory from a classical perspective, where a larger orchestra, is often assumed, therefore the root will be taken by another instrument - usually. Guitar theory, like a previous poster said, has changed our modern theory. And we need to be careful not to get stuck in our own world.

This is what I've been advised of. So I suppose I've gotten my answer. Thanks, everyone.
And I can play guitar like a mother****in riot.
Quote by Archeo Avis
No one is denying that. What I have a problem with is describing it as a sus2 chord, which is incredibly misleading.

But we don't know exactly what was said in the classroom.
The harmony which was under study can be legitimately described as a chord at the point of suspension, assuming it was three or more voices. So how else could the professor reasonably describe it other than as being a suspended second chord?

So, I have the same problem with the nomenclature but from the completely opposite direction, i.e. I think it is incredibly misleading to use of the term sus2 to describe an isolated harmony. But I realise that like it or not, and as flawed as it is, such is the popular adopted convention. So I just have to live with it.

As said above (by Nick?) the popular use of sus# chords gives the suspended note the function of harmonic decoration, as it's hardly ever melodically prepared, so its almost more accurate to describe it as appogiatura. I could be provocative and ask why aren't the chords labeled ap2 ? It's just as accurate.
So, just to get a bit of an overview as to these suspensions. I know the threads a little old, excuse me.

Is it just that a dissonance (Perfect 4ths, Major & Minor 7ths) can resolve to any consonances Perfect or Imperfect (Unision, Perfect Fifth, Octave, Majro & Minor 3rd, Major & Minor 6th)

So, Sus4 can resolve

1 4 5
1 3 5

"Sus2" can resolve

2 3 5
1 3 5

7 3 5 resolving
1 3 5

Is that a type of sus chord? Because your resolving a dissonance to a consonance..
Quote by Galvanise69
So, just to get a bit of an overview as to these suspensions. I know the threads a little old, excuse me.

Is it just that a dissonance (Perfect 4ths, Major & Minor 7ths) can resolve to any consonances Perfect or Imperfect (Unision, Perfect Fifth, Octave, Majro & Minor 3rd, Major & Minor 6th)

So, Sus4 can resolve

1 4 5
1 3 5

"Sus2" can resolve

2 3 5
1 3 5