Monday Mail: What Actually Happens to a C7 Chord Suspension?

suspension
Photo Credit: OldGreySeaWolf

Many readers ask for more information on chord suspensions.

Q: "What actually happens to a C7 chord suspension?"

A: Wikipedia says:

Suspended chords are commonly found in folk music and popular music... A suspended chord (sus chord) is a chord in which the (major or minor) third is omitted, replaced usually with either a perfect fourth or a major second,  although the fourth is far more common. The lack of a minor or a major third in the chord creates an open sound, while the tension between the fourth and fifth or second and root creates dissonance.

Actually, suspensions are used in two very different ways. The term "suspension" comes from a technique developed in early classical music (one associates its origins with the Baroque era). When a dissonant note is placed on a strong beat in place of an expected consonant one, and when that note then moves to a consonance, the result is a slight delay or "suspension" of the harmonic movement. We are forced to wait for a resolution of the chord progression, and feel temporarily "suspended."


DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC
DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC

 Dm7 = D/FAC

For example, here is a simple II-V-I chord progression. First, it resolves clearly and directly to a C chord. Next, it moves into a C suspension (an F is used instead of an E in the C harmony); this suspension then resolves when the F moves down to an E.


DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC
DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC

 G7 = G/FGB


DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC
DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC

C = C/EGC

So, you can repeat the same chords, Dm7 and G... then play:


DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC
DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC


Csus4 C = C/FGC then to C/E 

Sometimes this suspension-resolution formula appears in a form associated with hymn and gospel playing. Like, C/FGC, then single r.h. notes E, D, E.

But there is another type of suspended sound, and it doesn't follow these rules. It occurs in very contemporary pop and jazz pieces. Simply, this kind of suspension is a chord sound in which the fourth is used instead of the third. It is a sound enjoyed for its own sake, and it doesn't resolve or move in any particular way. Here it is in a V-I progression using dominant and seventh harmonies.


DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC
DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC

C11 = C/BbDF then C/BbDFG

DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC
DbEbGbAbBb
CDEFGABC

F11 = FBb/EbGC, then F/EbGBbD

The best way to fully understand the way suspensions are used is to try them in as many situations as possible.



Suspended chords leave you hanging in mid air. They create suspense or anticipation. They sound and feel as though they should be resolved. And so they are used in endings. Also, they are perfect for extending the measure to do a run in your right hand. For more on this subject, visit How to Play Suspended Chords

A suspended chord (or a chord suspension) is usually made by holding one of the tones of a chord a tone higher, then resolving it to its resting place. This can be done with any tones of a chord, but one of the more common suspensions is to manipulate the third of the chord, by first playing the fourth, and resolving it to the third. So a C suspended chord has the tones of the root, the fourth and the fifth. More on suspended chords, here.

One of the best music resources that is a theory book is called 300pg Course Book. You'll learn about a common passing chord, the diminished7. Passing chords are simple and adding passing chords is a great way to spice up your progressions.

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Have fun playing chord suspensions!

All the best,






"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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