Suspended Guitar Chords – How To Add Tension & Resolve

When it comes to music theory and guitar playing, understanding guitar chords is a crucial aspect that can elevate your musical compositions and performances to new heights. Suspended guitar chords, often referred to as sus chords, add a touch of intrigue and tension by temporarily replacing the third with either the second or fourth scale degree. This substitution creates a unique harmonic flavor that captivates listeners’ ears and adds depth to your playing.

Suspended chords are derived from the basic triads, which consist of three essential notes: the root, third, and fifth. In traditional major or minor triads, the third determines whether the chord is major or minor.

However, these chords shake things up by replacing this defining third with either the second (sus2) or fourth (sus4) scale degree. As a result, these chords possess an open quality that calls for resolution back to their respective major or minor counterparts.

suspended guitar chords, major and minor chords, chord progressions, play suspended chords

Understanding Suspended Chords

Definition & Structure of Sus Chords

In music theory, suspended chords are a colorful and expressive alternative to traditional major or minor triads. These chords derive their name from the unique tension they create by temporarily replacing the third (the note that determines whether a suspended chord is major or minor) with an added note known as the “suspension.”

This suspension creates a sense of anticipation and resolution within the chord progression. Suspended guitar chords can sometimes be categorized as extended chords, which means they consist of more than three notes.

While triads are made up of three notes (root, third, and fifth), sus chords include an additional note that replaces the third. The fundamental structure of a suspended chord involves four notes: the root note (the foundational pitch upon which the chord is built), the fifth (which provides stability and definition), and either a second or fourth interval, depending on the specific type of suspension.

Different Types of Sus Chords

There are two primary types of suspended chords: sus2 (suspended 2nd) chords and sus4 (suspended 4th) chords.

Sus2 chords replace the third with a second interval above the root, while sus4 chords replace it with a fourth interval. Sus2 chords have a dreamy, ethereal quality to them.

For example, if we take C major chord as our reference chord consisting of C-E-G, replacing E with D creates a Csus2 chord – C-D-G. The added second interval adds tension but also imparts a sense of openness to the overall sound.

Sus4 chords, on the other hand, offer a more dramatic character by replacing E in the C major chord with F – resulting in Csus4 (C-F-G). This substitution creates tension that seeks resolution back to its original form.

By incorporating these chords into your playing, you can add richness and complexity to your harmonies, allowing for a more diverse sonic palette in your compositions and improvisations. Understanding the nuances of each type of suspended chord will empower you to leverage their unique qualities effectively in various musical contexts.

Remember that these examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring suspended guitar chords. In the next section, we will delve into practical techniques for voicing and fingering these chords on the guitar, enabling you to bring out their unique textures with ease.

Voicing & Fingerings

Basic Fingerings For Sus2 & Sus4 Chords

When it comes to voicing suspended chords on the guitar, it’s essential to understand the basic fingerings for sus2 and sus4 chords on different string sets.

Let’s begin with the open chord shapes in standard tuning (EADGBE). For a sus2 chord, you can play the following shapes:


dsus2 chord diagram open, major and minor, neither major nor minor


asus2 chord diagram, open chords, creating movement

For a sus4 chord, you can use these open chord shapes:


dsus4 chord diagram open, sus chord, different chords create movement


asus4 chord diagram open, sus chord, chord theory, root note

These open chord shapes provide a great starting point for exploring suspended chords and their unique tonal qualities.

Barre Chord Shapes For Sus2 & Sus4

To expand your repertoire of suspended chords, it’s important to explore barre chord shapes as well.

By employing barre chords, you gain access to movable voicings that can be played at any position on the neck.

Here are some common barre chord shapes for both sus2 and sus4:

Bsus2 Barre Chord Shape

Bsus2 Barre chord diagram, suspended sound, chord theory, same note, sus2 chords

Fsus4 Barre Chord Shape

Fsus4 Barre chord diagram, create movement, sus4 chord, letter name sus4 sus2

By incorporating barre chords into your playing, you’ll be able to move these voicings up and down the fretboard, providing you with a wealth of possibilities for creating unique sounds with suspended chords.

Exploring Alternative Voicings

While open and barre chord shapes are great starting points, exploring alternative voicings can take your suspended chord playing to the next level.

One effective technique is utilizing open strings to enhance the resonance of suspended chords.

By leaving certain strings open while fretting others, you create a rich and vibrant sound. Experiment with keeping the first or second string open while playing sus2 or sus4 shapes to add a touch of brilliance.

Another technique involves incorporating partial barre chord shapes with added suspensions. For example, try playing an E-shaped barre chord where you only barre across the top three or four strings, leaving the lower-pitched strings open.

This creates an intriguing mix of full-sounding and more delicate notes when combined with sus chords. By exploring these alternative voicings, you’ll discover new sonic possibilities that can infuse your guitar playing with creativity and depth.

How To Play Specific Suspended Chords

LetterSuspended Chords
AAsus2, Asus4
BBsus2, Bsus4
CCsus2, Csus4
DDsus2, Dsus4
EEsus2, Esus4
FFsus2, Fsus4
GGsus2, Gsus4

Tips for Practicing Guitar Chords Effectively

Developing Finger Strength & Dexterity

Practicing sus chords effectively requires developing finger strength and dexterity.

Start by practicing simple chord shapes in isolation, focusing on clean fretting without any buzzing or muted notes. Gradually increase your speed while maintaining accuracy to build up finger strength.

Additionally, incorporate exercises that target specific challenges of suspended chords such as barre chord shapes or complex fingerings.

These exercises could include repetitive switches between different sus2 or sus4 shapes along the neck to improve muscle memory and coordination.

Integrating Sus Chords Into Daily Playing

To truly master suspended chords, it’s crucial to integrate them into your daily playing routines.

Dedicate focused practice sessions solely to exploring different voicings, experimenting with alternative fingerings, and improvising with suspensions in various musical contexts.

By consistently incorporating suspended chords into your playing routine, they will become second nature over time.

Experimenting w/ Different Musical Genres

Don’t limit yourself to just one musical genre when practicing suspended chords. Experimentation across different genres exposes you to diverse ways that musicians utilize these fascinating chord voicings.

Whether it’s jazz progressions infused with complex sus4 harmonies, folk ballads featuring delicate sus2 arpeggios, or rock anthems driven by powerful sus chords, exploring various genres will expand your musical horizons and inspire your creativity.

Applying Suspended Chords in Musical Contexts

Creating Tension & Resolution

One of the most captivating aspects of suspended chords is their ability to create tension and resolution within chord progressions.

Suspensions are known to add an element of ambiguity by temporarily replacing a stable consonance (such as a major or minor third) with either a second (sus2) or fourth (sus4).

This creates a sense of anticipation that begs for resolution back to the stable tonality. Within chord progressions, suspensions often work as temporary substitutes for regular triads.

They add color and emotion, providing contrast against more traditional chords. For instance, in a progression like C – G – Am – D/F# – Gsus4 – G, the use of Gsus4 creates tension before resolving to a G major chord, infusing the progression with a sense of movement and emotional depth.

Popular Songs Examples

Numerous popular songs showcase the effective use of suspended chords. One iconic example is “Hotel California” by The Eagles, where the opening chords feature an intricate interplay between Dsus2 and Dsus4.

This technique creates an instantly recognizable and hauntingly beautiful sound that perfectly complements the song’s atmosphere.

Another notable example can be found in Coldplay’s hit song “Clocks.” The main piano riff consists of Gsus4 – G – Asus2 – Am7 chords played repetitively throughout the song.

This sequence not only adds a distinct flavor but also reinforces the anthemic nature of the track.

Exploring these songs and dissecting how suspensions are integrated into their chord progressions will deepen your understanding of how to effectively apply sus chords in your own musical compositions.

Advanced Techniques with Suspended Chords

Incorporating Arpeggios & Melodic Lines w/ Suspended Progressions

To further elevate your playing with suspended chords, consider incorporating arpeggios and melodic lines within your progressions.

By breaking down sus2 or sus4 chords into their individual notes and playing them sequentially, you create arpeggios that add rhythmic interest and melodic flair to your playing.

Experiment with various picking patterns or fingerstyle techniques to bring out the unique qualities of each note within a suspended chord.

This allows you to weave intricate melodies around the fundamental harmony, enhancing its overall impact and musicality.

Frequently Asked Questions

What chords can be suspended?

The chords that can be suspended are typically major and minor chords. The main suspended chords are sus2 and sus4 chords.

A suspended 2nd chord (sus2) replaces the 3rd with the 2nd degree of the scale, and a suspended 4th chord (sus4) replaces the 3rd with the 4th degree.

For example, in the key of C major, a Csus2 chord would be C-D-G, and a Csus4 chord would be C-F-G.

What are suspended chords good for?

Sus chords are useful for adding tension and release to chord progressions, adding color and variation to the music, creating an open and airy sound, and facilitating smooth voice leading between chords.

How do you find suspended chords?

To find suspended chords, take a major or minor chord and replace the third note with either the second degree of the scale (sus2) or the fourth degree of the scale (sus4).


Through understanding suspended chords, you open a world of possibilities for adding depth, tension & resolution to your playing.

Overall, suspended chords, also known as sus chords, create intrigue and tension by replacing the third with either the second or fourth scale degree. 

Suspended chords are derived from the basic triads, consisting of the root, third, and fifth notes. By replacing the defining third with either the second (sus2) or fourth (sus4) scale degree, these chords possess an open quality that calls for resolution back to their respective major or minor counterparts. 

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