Sus4 Chords (Suspended Fourth) - Guitar Shapes and Voicing Charts

What Are Sus4 Chords ?

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.

What is the Difference Between Major and Minor Chord?

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 minor chord for example, we have C (root), Eb (minor third) and G (perfect fifth). A C major chord will be built with a root (C), a major third (E) and a perfect fifth (G). 

Suspended 4th Chord Notation

Suspended fourth chords are written sus4. Exemple : Csus4 or Gsus4.

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 X 4 5 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).

Sus 4 1 4 5 X
7sus4 1 4 5 b7

Suspended Fourth Guitar Chords in Close Position

What is a Closed Chord?

Closed chord means no chord tones lie between any two adjacent notes. All the notes are close together as possible.

How to Play Sus4 Chords on Guitar?

Here are four guitar diagrams including three voicing shapes to play suspended fourth chords in closed position on the guitar. The blue shape is the root position, the green is the first inversion and the orange form is the second inversion.

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

Suspended 4th Chords - Open Voicings

Now you that know how to play suspended 4 chords in close position, let's tackle open voicings also known as spread voicings.

What is an Open Voicing?

Contrary to closed voicings, the tones of open voicings are spread out over more than one octave. Thus, giving new chord positions as shown in the three guitar neck diagrams below.

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


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Last edited: 06/12/2019