Basic Chord Theory IV

In part four, we will wrap up by looking at suspended chords, as well as learning the basics of chord inversions.

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Intro: Hello, and welcome to the fourth and final instalment of the Basic Chord Theory series. In part four, we will wrap up by looking at suspended chords, as well as learning the basics of chord inversions. Enjoy! Suspended Chords: The first thing we will look at today is suspended chords. To start, there are two main types of suspended chords, a suspended second chord, and a suspended fourth chord. Both these types of chords alter the base chord slightly. To get more insight on suspended chords, it's probably best to look at some example, which is what we will do! The Suspended Second Chord: Lets start off with the suspended second chord. Like all the other chords we have learned, this chord can be expressed in a numerical sequence: 1 2 5 So, lets use this sequence to construct a Csus2 chord, starting on C:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
Next, we would add the second note of the C major scale, being D:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||--0----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
And then finally, we would add the fifth note of the C major, G:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||--0----||
D||--0----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
And that's a Csus2! Now as you know, you can change around the order of the notes and get the same chord, so why don't you experiment with that. For example, I play my Csus2 many ways, one being C D C D G, which is played like this:
E||--3----||
B||--3----||
G||--5----||
D||--0----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
Play it however you feel comfortable. We will discuss this chord more later. I think it would be helpful if we also new the suspended fourth chord, so we can reflect on suspended chords in their entirety. The Suspended Fourth: The suspended fourth is very similar to the suspended second. It follows this pattern: 1 4 5 So, lets now construct a Csus4, starting with C:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
Next, we would add the fourth note of the C major scale, F:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||--3----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
And finally, the fifth note of the C major, G:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||--0----||
D||--3----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
So, there is your basic Csus4! Once again, try experimenting with different ordering. Luckily, the Csus4 is a pretty versatile chord, so you could simply just play it C F G C F, and get this:
E||--1----||
B||--1----||
G||--0----||
D||--3----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
Suspended Chords pt. 2: Now that we understand how to play the two main types of suspended chords, lets discuss them. What you should notice is that a suspended chord is just a major chord, with a replaced third. In the suspended SECOND chord, the third is replaced by a SECOND, while in the suspended FOURTH chord, the third is replaced by a FOURTH. Do you see the pattern? Now, suspension can be added to any chord. For example, a C7sus2 would be 1 2 5 b7, while a C7sus4 would be 1 4 5 b7. One exception is that there is technically no such thing as a minor chord with a suspension. Why? Well, lets try and figure out what a minor suspended chord will be. We know a minor chord is: 1 b3 5 And we know that suspended chords replace the third with another note. So, to get a suspended second, we would replace the third in this chord with a second, to get: 1 2 5 Which is exactly the same as the major with a suspended second. So, just for simplicity, we stick with Csus2. Chord Inversions: The final thing we need to look at is chord inversions. Don't worry, we don't need to learn any new numerical sequences. Chord inversions are just altering the chords we already know. Remember how I said when rearranging the order of notes in a chord, you must keep the root the same. Well, I lied. I said that so I don't confuse you early on. But know, with your knowledge of chords, you are ready to learn about the chord inversion. Chord inversions are actually really easy. Lets say we had a C major chord: C E G So, there it is, as standard C major triad. But, how do you invert it? Well this chord has two inversions. The first inversion of this chord is this: E G C Notice how now the first note is E, while the other two are G and C (you can change the order if you wish to E C G, just like you would change the order of any other chord). This is a C chord, first inversion. You might see it written multiple ways, such as Calt, or C/E. How do you determine this is first inversion? Well, lets look back at the standard C major: C E G Notice how the E is the first note from the C? Well, if we make that E the root: E G C Than we would have what we already know is C/E. In the original chord, the E was the FIRST note from the C, making this chord C major, FIRST inversion. Now, the second inversion is very similar. It goes like this: G C E Notice how now the root note is G. In the standard C major chord, G was the SECOND note from C, making this note C major SECOND inversion. Also, chords can have more than two inversions, depending on how many different notes are in the chord. For example, lets look at a C7 chord: C E G Bb Now, we know that first inversion would be this: E G Bb C And second inversion would be this: G Bb C E But, this chord has four notes, meaning we could make a third inversion. Bb is the third note from the root, C, meaning if we made Bb the root, we would have C7 third inversion, or C7/Bb. Bb C E G Using this knowledge, we can determine that a thirteenth chord has six different inversions! So, there you have it, you now know chord inversions! But, one final question remains Why Use Inversions? You are probably asking yourself what's the point? Why not just play the chord normally. Well, this is a lesson in itself, which I will be sure to write later. The reason people use inversions is because of the voicing's of the chords. With inversions, one can hold a melody, while following the standard chords of that key. Confused? Don't worry, I'll write about voicing's later. The Table Of Chords! Well, it's time to add the final chords to our table of chords. M = 1 3 5 m = 1 b3 5 Aug = 1 3 #5 Dim = 1 b3 b5 7 = 1 3 5 b7 7M = 1 3 5 7 m7 = 1 b3 5 b7 m7M = 1 b3 5 7 Add9 = 1 3 5 9 9 = 1 3 5 b7 9 Add11 = 1 3 5 11 11 = 1 3 5 b7 9 11 Add13 = 1 3 5 13 Sus2 = 1 2 5 Sus4 = 1 4 5 7sus2 = 1 2 5 b7 7sus4 = 1 4 5 b7 7Msus2 = 1 2 5 7 7Msus4 = 1 4 5 7 I only added a couple suspended chords to this list, but feel free to add suspensions to any chord you want. Now, if you look at this table, you see 19 chords. But don't be intimidated! Remember, all these chords can be traced back to the Major chord somehow, so really, it's the only one you need to memorize. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, most of these chord names are self-explanatory. Look for the patterns, it will immensely help you. Don't think of it as memorization, think of it almost as reading. When you read suspended second, don't say 1 2 5, say major chord with a second instead of a third. It will make it easier when you have 19 chords to deal with. Outro: So, that's it for both this lesson, and the entire series on Basic Chord Theory. But, don't forget this! We will look back on it in future lessons! So, I guess my job here is done. Remember your table of chords (print it out if you want to!), and remember chord inversions, because all those things will expand your general knowledge of music. Goodbye! Did You Like This Lesson? Check Out All My Lessons Here More Lessons Coming Soon!

22 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    shadowmaster036
    Another great chord theory lesson. You're doing a great job. I've already learned this from other lessons but I did catch a few tidbits i didn't the first time around. 10/10
    slowlybilly
    Great lessons....I knew all the information, but I am a terrible teacher, and am bad at presentation...you have made it easy to understand, and the information is correct...great job....btw he is right about the major chord with a 125 instead of the third...that is not the name, but all chord constructions, and scale alterations are based off the major scale in western music...that is the point he was trying to make....
    Guitarra_acores
    I think this is good in the sense that it explains things in a practical way, not too analytical and formal, but you should be careful not to post incorrect statements "(...)dont say 1 2 5, say major chord with a second instead of a third" This isn't true... While I get what you are trying to say and might even be easier for beginners to understand with simplifications like this,a lesson shouldn't have false statements IMO. Please keep it in mind if you post more in the future.
    redhavok
    sorry to burst ur bubble but u missed min9, 6th chords and non diatonic chords
    Sadokun
    Wow these lessons have left me mind blown! Made lots of sense and has made some chords like add9, 9, add11 and 11 etc look less daunting. Cheers man. A 10 out of 10!
    MWriff
    Brilliant series of lessons, Ive learned alot from them but I do still have a request. You seem to know alot about chords so could you maybe do another lesson with some examples of where to use them etc I mean, I dont have a clue where to throw in such complicated chords. Maybe some examples of them in use? i know it probably takes the piss to do and I appreciate it man, keep up the good work!
    HealthyNormal
    One exception is that there is technically no such thing as a minor chord with a suspension.
    Well, then there is technically no such thing as a major chord with a suspension.
    When you read suspended second, dont say 1 2 5, say major chord with a second instead of a third.
    Not to be a dick, but that's wrong. A sus2 and sus4 can act as a minor, major or dominant chord. It is not just a major with a suspended second. A suspended chord is in no way tied to minor or major tonality, it just depends on the situation in which it is used to determine which of the three it "feels" more like. I know everyone makes mistakes, but I just don't want people getting the wrong notion about suspended chords.
    Ibanezbelyeu
    Nice lesson! Just be careful how you use the word "alter". Some cats might get confused by that
    rafaelinux
    I had investigated a li'l bit already, but it's a great series you've got there , nice and simple.
    cgolden
    This is definitely a very applicable lesson to guitar, but some sections, especially on suspensions, don't reflect a standard view on chord structure. The lesson is excellent for guitarists, but from a technical theory perspective, it's a tad off.
    flava14
    Bravo and congrats. Great explanations and a great lesson overall. This is just the lesson ive been looking for. Cheers
    crazysam23_Atax
    ajreciever14 wrote: cgolden wrote: This is definitely a very applicable lesson to guitar, but some sections, especially on suspensions, don't reflect a standard view on chord structure. The lesson is excellent for guitarists, but from a technical theory perspective, it's a tad off. well this is ultimate-guitar
    Just cuz this is UG doesn't mean making it theory tight is unneeded.
    CPDmusic
    thebjorno wrote: Very Nice! As a teacher, I'm always looking for others who are good at teaching n00bs and seeing what they do. However I'd add the m7b5 (1 m3 b5 b7), the dim7 (1 m3 TT/b5 dim7/bb7), the aug7 (1 M3 #5 b7), the dom7 add13 (1 M3 5 b7 13). This amount of chord theory is totally enough for non-jazz musicians.
    Well, what I'm hoping for is that with the theory I've taught, when someone sees something like Cm7b5, they would be able to say "okay, that's just a minor seventh chord with a flattened fifth. Easy!" instead of teaching EVERY chord known to mankind. But I see what your saying, thanks for the feedback.
    thebjorno
    Very Nice! As a teacher, I'm always looking for others who are good at teaching n00bs and seeing what they do. However I'd add the m7b5 (1 m3 b5 b7), the dim7 (1 m3 TT/b5 dim7/bb7), the aug7 (1 M3 #5 b7), the dom7 add13 (1 M3 5 b7 13). This amount of chord theory is totally enough for non-jazz musicians.
    Zeppelin Addict
    and here lies the final product.. great job CPD! you got these out quick and you did a fantastic job with your explanations and how you showed each chord.. awesome lessons for anyone looking to grasp a better understanding of how chords are made. \M/
    VMNTXdave100
    i only looked at this lesson, now everything seems so much easier to me when looking at chords i will definitely look at this more often
    ajreciever14
    cgolden wrote: This is definitely a very applicable lesson to guitar, but some sections, especially on suspensions, don't reflect a standard view on chord structure. The lesson is excellent for guitarists, but from a technical theory perspective, it's a tad off.
    well this is ultimate-guitar
    SatanPriest
    Sweet, I've learned alot from these, very well put lessons, I hope to see more in the future!