UD #42 Sus Chords: Got a Spare Finger?
from Ukulele in the Dark
w/ Guido Heistek
I remember being excited by sus chords when I was a kid. Still am! Sometimes there are long periods in a song that only have one chord. Sus or suspended chords are one of the tools players use to add tension and release without changing chords. Here is a little exploration of the most common kind of suspended chord: the sus 4 chord. Hope you enjoy it.
The first suspended chord I learned was on the guitar: the mighty Dsus4. On the uke this corresponds in shape to the Gsus4. Let’s play it:
Here’s a G chord which you probably know:
And here is a Gsus4:
Notice that only one note has changed! Please keep your fingers in place for playing the G chord and use your pinky to play the new note. This makes it easy to go back and forth between the two chords. Can you feel the tension that creates? Go back and forth between the G and Gsus4 chords to get a really good feel for it.
You may be familiar with the sound of sus4 chords. Pinball Wizard by The Who is a really famous example suspended chords in action. Listen for the signature riff at about 20 seconds in the video:
It’s an exciting sound. And if you are like me you’re thinking: “How can I make other chords into sus chords?” As a kid, I didn’t have any knowledge of music theory. I had to cobble together rules from the examples I had at hand. As we already discussed the difference between a G and a Gsus4 is one note. More specifically, one of the notes in the chord has been replaced with a note one fret higher. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Let’s try that on another chord and see if we can produce the same affect or vibe as we had with the Gsus4.
Let’s take a chord that we know well. The C major chord:
CHALLENGE 1: Let’s try and raise one of the notes in the chord up by one fret and see if that gives us the sus 4 sound. That gives us four possibilities. Here they are:
1. 2. 3. and 4.
Let’s test them out! Play a C chord and then switch to one of the 4 options. Which of the four options gives us the same feeling and vibe as moving between the G and Gsus4.
Number 3? That’s right this is a Csus4. No theory necessary!
CHALLENGE 2: Okay! Let’s find some more. Please figure out how to play these chords.
1. Dsus4 2. Asus4 3. Bbsus4 4. Ebsus4
and a bonus tricky one: 5. Fsus4
Use the same approach as in Challenge 1. Take the regular major chord (diagrams below) and experiment raising each of the notes by one fret until you hear that sus 4 sound! Answers at the bottom of the page and in the video below.
Here are the chord diagrams to work from:
Here is a little video of me running through the main points of today’s lesson. I demonstrate the sus 4 for D, A, Bb, Eb, F. Also, I explain the rules around sus chords, demonstrate a sus 2 chord as well as use sus chords in a song.
Please find the answers to CHALLENGE 1 at the bottom of the page as well.
Enjoy the video!
In the video, I add sus chords to Four Strong Winds, a song we learned by ear in UD #18.
Here’s the chord progression for for Four Strong Winds:
| C | Dm | G | C |
| C | Dm | G | G |
| C | Dm | G | C |
| Dm | F | G | G |
See you next time,
NOTE: There are two types of sus chords: sus 2, and sus 4. The sus 4 is more common. If you see Csus in a song you can assume it is a Csus4. People often shorten Csus4 to Csus. Sus 2 chords are usually written as such.
ANSWERS TO CHALLENGE #2
1 – 4
5. Several ways to do an F sus 4 in the video. There are two A notes in the open version of an F chord. So you can suspend one of them and not play the other.
Or you can suspend both the A notes.