Suspended fourth chords (sus4) - Guitar shapes and voicings

What are suspended fourth chords ?

In music theory a normal minor or major chord consists of a root (1) a third (major or minor) and a perfect fifth (5). The third determines the quality of the chord (major or minor). If we take the C major chord for, example, we have C (root), Eb (minor third) and G (perfect fifth). A C minor chord will be built with a root (C), a major third (E) and a perfect fifth (G). Here’s where the suspended fourth chords come in.

Suspended fourth chords are neither major nor minor, because the third (that determines the chord quality) is replaced by the fourth, giving the formula (1-4-5). The fourth and fifth creates tension so sus4 chords have to resolve. That’s why they are generally combined with a parent major or minor chord, even if sometimes they can also last without resolving.

Comparison with dominant 11 chords

Suspended 4th chords can be confused with dominant eleventh chords. Dom11 chords are built with 6 notes, including an eleventh (11) which can be considered as the fourth (4). The difference is that a dominant 11 chord contains a major third (3), a minor seventh (b7), a ninth (9) and an eleventh (11). There are six tones for the 11th chord and three tones for the suspended fourth chord.

Suspended fourth chord 1 3 4 X X X X
Dominant 11 chord 1 3 X 5 b7 9 11

 

Comparison with dominant 7 suspended 4 chords

There can also be confusion between sus4 and 7sus4 chords. The difference is simple. Dominant suspended 4th chords have a minor seventh (b7) unlike sus4.

Sus 4 1 3 4 X
7sus4 1 3 4 b7

Suspended fourth guitar chords and voicings

Here are twelve guitar diagrams to play suspended fourth chords on the guitar with roots on the E, A, D and G strings.

Root position  R 4 5
1st inversion (third in the bass) 4 5 R
2nd inversion (fifth in the bass) 5 R 4

Suspended 4 guitar chord - Root in the bass - Bass on E string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 11

Suspended 4 guitar chord (1st inversion) - 4th in the bass - Bass on E string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 10

Suspended 4 guitar chord (2nd inversion) - 5th in the bass - Bass on E string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 12

Suspended 4 guitar chord - Root in the bass - Bass on A string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 9

Suspended 4 guitar chord (1st inversion) - 4th in the bass - Bass on A string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 8

Suspended 4 guitar chord (2nd inversion) - 5th in the bass - Bass on A string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 7

Suspended 4 guitar chord - Root in the bass - Bass on D string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 6

Suspended 4 guitar chord (1st inversion) - 4th in the bass - Bass on D string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 3

Suspended 4 guitar chord (2nd inversion) - 5th in the bass - Bass on D string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 4

Suspended 4 guitar chord - Root in the bass - Bass on G string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 5

Suspended 4 guitar chord (1st inversion) - 4th in the bass - Bass on G string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams

Suspended 4 guitar chord (2nd inversion) - 5th in the bass - Bass on G string

Sus 4 guitar chord diagrams 2

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Last edited: 27/04/2018