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Learn Suspended Chords on the Guitar
Posted on October 11, 2023
If you’re familiar with the basics of playing guitar chords, you already know the difference between minor and major chords. Even if you don’t know the music theory behind them, you can maybe tell whether a chord is major or minor based on how it sounds. But did you know that guitar chords aren’t limited to just minor and major ones? In fact, there are many different types of chords to learn, including suspended chords. Read on to learn more about suspended chords and how they are different from other types.
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What are suspended chords on the guitar?
To understand suspended chords, or sus chords for short, it’s helpful to look at minor and major chords for comparison. For instance, a major chord consists of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes on a major scale. As a result, the chord sounds bright and happy. Meanwhile, a minor chord consists similarly of a 1st and a 5th note as well as a flattened 3rd note. Because of this difference, the minor chord sounds darker and sadder than its minor counterpart.
Like a major or minor chord, sus chords are also built of a 1st and 5th note. Instead of the 3rd, a suspended chord has either a perfect 4th or a major 2nd note, resulting in so-called sus2 or sus4 chords. Because of this difference in the 3rd note, sus chords sound unresolved and — you guessed it — suspended. For a songwriter, suspended chords are a great way to add tension to the song.
Suspended chord naming
Depending on the note that replaces the third note of the chord, suspended chords can be named sus2 or sus4 chords. These are added to the name of the chord after the root note that defines the chord. For example, an A chord where the third is replaced with the second note of the scale is called Asus2, and one with the fourth note is Asus4. If you see a chord with only “sus,” such as Gsus, this is most likely the Gsus4 chord. Because the third note is replaced with something else, a suspended chord is missing the major or minor quality.
How to use sus chords?
Suspended chords are a great way to add more nuance to your playing with very small changes to a single chord shape. One way to make a song more interesting is by playing first a minor or major chord and then changing to a suspended chord around the same root note. Try adding a suspended chord to a chord progression to see how it sounds instead of using just minor and major chords.
For example, you can first play the A major chord, and then transform to an Asus4 or Asus2 chord. All you need to do is lift up your ring finger from the B string (from A to Asus2) or move your ring finger up from the second fret to the third (from A to Asus4).
Songs with sus chords for the guitar
To get some practice playing suspended chords, choose some songs you like that take advantage of the unique sound created by sus chords. Here are a few popular songs with suspended chords on the guitar.
- “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen
- “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams
- “Pinball Wizard” by The Who
- “Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure
- “Message in a Bottle” by The Police
Other types of chords
In addition to suspended chords, make sure to get familiar with other guitar chord types. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but knowing these will help you expand your guitar-playing repertoire. Start with the easy ones and begin learning new ones as you master the basics.
Major and minor chords
These are the basic building blocks of your guitar-playing arsenal. As mentioned, you can distinguish between major and minor chords based on how they sound: Major chords are happy and bright, while minor chords sound sadder in comparison.
Power chords are an easy way to add some edge to rock and punk songs. A power chord consists of the root note and the perfect fifth. Unlike major and minor chords, power chords are missing the third.
Barre chords can be difficult to nail down, but they are worth learning. What makes barre chords so great is that they are moveable and can be easily played in different positions on the guitar fretboard. You just have to learn a few different chord shapes and how to barre a chord.
Open chords (or “cowboy chords”)
These are the essential beginner chords you should learn, including E, A, C, D, E, and Am. Open chords are generally played around the top of the guitar fretboard and are called open because there is at least one open string. Open chords are sometimes called cowboy chords as well.
These are just a few chord types to add to your guitar-playing arsenal. In addition to these, you can learn different types of 7th chords, augmented chords, and diminished chords, for instance. Always be on the lookout for new chords and try to memorize them as you encounter new chords in different songs.
Learn suspended chords with Yousician
Make learning the guitar more fun and motivating with Yousician. Playing the guitar is, of course, more than just minor, major, and suspended chords. With Yousician, you can improve your playing by learning how to play melodies, riffs, different guitar playing techniques, and the basics of music theory. Yousician’s interactive online guitar lessons and extensive song library make learning guitar easy. Try Yousician for free and get started!
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