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Sus and Add Chords, and When To Use Them

Have you ever wanted to play chords that suspend your expectations?

Well, that’s where suspended chords come into play allowing you the choice to play something that’s neither major or minor but can lead into either.

That’s why in this article we are going to go over what makes sus chords great!

The topics covered in this article are as follows:

- What Are Sus Chords Exactly?

- When Can You Use Them?

- The Difference Between Sus And Add Chords

- Using Sus And Add Chords In Your Chord Progressions

What Are Sus Chords Exactly?

A sus chord (not to be confused with Asus) is called a sus chord for a few reasons. The most obvious one is the name sus which is derived from suspended.

This is to imply their function of suspending the outcome before a type of 3rd interval gets played.

I will explain what I mean by this in more detail as the construction of a sus chord is made by taking a minor or major triad and replacing the 3rd interval with either a second or 9th or a 4th /11th interval.

As a sound what this tends to do is add a bright but neutral sound to a chord. This is due to the 3rd adding a lot of information as to where that chord belongs in a key.

When you introduce a sus chord the listener cannot tell whether it’s a major or minor chord yet and that can be a very useful tool for extending or delaying the resolution to the next major or minor chord.

Which brings me on to when to use them.

When Can You Use Sus Chords?

The best way to answer this is that you can use them with any triad that involves a third.

For example;

if we take a dominant chord with the intervals 1 3 5 flat 7.

We can exchange or shift that major 3rd for either a 2/9th or a 4th/11th so if we change that dominant chord to a 1 (root) 2nd ,5, and flat 7 we get the chord Dom sus2.

Which is used quite commonly to make key transitions sound really smooth.

The same way it can be used for dominant chords, sus chords can be used to replace and embellish minor and major chords.

The effect this has is that it “suspends” the outcome to whether its going to be major or minor. You can alter a major or minor triad to be sus and you can start of with a sus chord going to a major or minor chord.

For this reason, its good to go over your harmonised major scale and the chords thereof as sus chords can be another aspect of your vocabulary, the use of which can add more colour to your playing.

The Difference Between Sus Chords And Add Chords

If you are learning about sus chords its not going to be long until you hear about add chords.

The difference between them is slight but since ive explained what a sus chord is, ill explain what an add chord is.

An add chord is adding the extension to an originally built triad.

The cool thing about this is that it doesn’t have to be in order of stacking thirds you can just add an extension and now its an add chord.

For example: if you take a typical major triad 1 3 and 5, you keep that formula and then put an 11 on top of the triad that would be adding the note on as an extension to the chord.

Hence where the term add comes from. Essentially you are slapping (adding) another note onto the triad. The chord then becomes Major add9.

The difference between sus chords and add chords is that sus chords assume you have all the previous notes but the third has been shifted.

Whereas add chords do not assume you have all the previous notes but additional extensions of your choosing.

Using Sus and Add Chords in Your Chord Progressions

Any chord that contains a 3rd can be changed into a sus chord before it resolves to the intended chord.

If we take some common chord progressions and interject some sus chord action, we see how they are used in a practical way.

In each of these examples they will start with the standard way to play the chord progression and then another line with it altered with sus or add chords.

Example 1 I-V-vi-IV

Sus And Add Chords, And When To Use Them - Picture 1 | Grokit Guitar
Sus And Add Chords, And When To Use Them - Picture 1 | Grokit Guitar

Example 2 vi-IV-I-V

Sus And Add Chords, And When To Use Them - Picture 2 | Grokit Guitar
Sus And Add Chords, And When To Use Them - Picture 2 | Grokit Guitar

Example 3 I-vi-IV-V

Sus And Add Chords, And When To Use Them - Picture 3 | Grokit Guitar
Sus And Add Chords, And When To Use Them - Picture 3 | Grokit Guitar

I hope these examples help with giving you some interesting ways to produce add and sus chords for your chord progressions.

Try and take the information you learnt in this article and apply it to your own playing!

Happy strumming!

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