Beginner Guitar Lessons:

Sus and 4th chords



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What is a major chord? A minor chord? What do all those numbers
and letters and other symbols in a chord's name mean?
Find out in this free mini-course.

Until now, we divided chords in two main categories, major and minor. Sus chords are a different breed because they are neither major nor minor: they are suspended and their sound lends tension to a musical passage. What exactly means suspended? In the previous lessons we transformed major chord into minor ones by moving a single note 'backwards'.
What we actually did was move the major 3rd in the chord and make it minor (for a detailed explanation of chords and intervals see the Theory section of the website).
For now let's just say that the 'numbers' refer to the distance of a note from the 'root' (the note that gives the name to the chord): in a C chord the third would be E (C-D -E= 3 notes) and the the 4th would be F ( C - D - E – F= four notes ).
So if we move a major 3rd forward one fret we 'lose' the third (and with it the minor/major sound of the chord) and we get a 4th and a Sus4 chord.

E major

A major

D major

So let's take the uppermost note in our major shapes and move it forward.

E sus4

A sus4

D sus4

Listen to the sound of these chords and compare it to the major chords' one: can you feel the tension, the suspended quality of it?

We can also mix them with 7th chords and get Sus7/4 chords.

E sus7/4

A sus7/4

D sus7/4

Again, listen to the difference between sus4 and sus7/4 chords: if you memorize their 'sound' you will be able to use them better in your arragemts.
There are also chords with 3rd and 4ths at the same time although they're mostly named 11th chords (4 + 7 = 11: same note one octave higher) since the notes are usually in different octaves. We will see them in the advanced chords section.

Now it's time to explore 9th chords.