Whether you’re a beginner, or have been playing guitar for a while, you’ve probably come across chords with the word “sus” in them (e.g. asus2). But what are sus chords? What do the numbers represent? And do you need to learn them? This post goes over everything you need to know about sus chords including what they are and how to play them. I’ve also included a sus chord chart near the end.
Table of Contents
What Are Sus Chords?
Sus chords, short for suspended chords, are chords in which the third is omitted and replaced with usually either the second or the fourth. Now, if you aren’t familiar yet with the major scale and how a guitar chord is created from that, I would recommend reading my beginner guitar chords guide. Essentially, let’s say we take the C major scale which corresponds to the following 7 notes: C – D – E – F – G – A – B. Here is a quick diagram of the C major scale notes and degrees.
Now, the C major chord is created by taking the first note, the third note and the fifth note in the C major scale. In this case, that corresponds to notes C, E, and G. I’ve shown these 3 notes in the chord diagram below. No need to worry about there being two C notes, as they are the same notes just in different octaves.
So, now we know that a major chord is made up of notes 1, 3, 5. As mentioned above, what a suspended chord does is replace the note in 3rd degree of the major scale with usually either the note in position 2 or 4. So this means for the C major scale example we would be replacing the E note with either the note at the second degree (D) or fourth degree (F).
Difference Between Sus2 and Sus4 Chords
The interesting thing about sus chords is that since they don’t include a third, they have no major or minor quality, kind of like power chords. As mentioned above, sus2 chords consist of the root, 2nd, and 5th degrees of the major scale. The dissonance between the root and 2nd note creates tension, however not so much so that it absolutely needs to resolve to the root chord. In fact, sus2 chords can sometimes even be a substituted for the root chord and still sound natural.
On the other hand, sus4 chords consist of the root, 4th and 5th degrees of the major scale. They tend to create more tension between the 4th and 5th notes than sus2 chords. This means that often times when incorporating a sus4 chord into a piece, it works great in the end of a chord progression however ultimately resolves to the root chord. It should be noted as well that if a chord is referred to as Csus for example (without the 2 or 4) then it should be treated as Csus4.
What About 7sus Chords?
In your research for chords or learning how to play a particular song you may have come across sus chords with an added 7th. You may have seen these for example shown as: A7sus, A7sus4, A7sus2.
But what exactly does the 7 mean? Well, it’s quite similar to what we have explained regarding the sus2 and sus4 chords. However, for 7sus chords, the 7th is actually flattened (also known as a minor 7th), meaning the note is lowered by a half step. Let’s take an example. As we can see by the C major scale note / degrees diagram above, the 7th note in that scale is B. This means that the flattened 7th note would be A# (or Bb). Therefore, if we had the chord C7sus4 for example, we could break it down into 3 sections:
- The “C major” portion of the chord equals degrees 1, 3, and 5. However since it is a sus chord we remove the 3, therefore left with positions 1 and 5 or notes C and G.
- The “sus 4” portion of the chord equals the 4th degree of the C major scale which corresponds to the F note.
- The “7” portion of the chord equals the minor 7th note of the scale, therefore corresponding to the A# (or Bb) note.
In conclusion, C7sus4 is made up of notes C – G – F – A#(Bb). This same process can be applied to any chord, simply take the minor 7th of the root note in question. Alternatively, you may also see something like Cmaj7sus4. This would be the same thing as C7sus4 example except with the major 7th instead, therefore the B note.
List of Popular Sus Chords
The following list includes chord diagrams and images that show how some of the most popular sus chords should be played. This list shows how to play the sus2 and sus4 chords for each natural note from A-G. Try to memorize and use these notes either as replacements or supplements to the root chord of a particular song.
1. Asus2 / Asus4
The Asus2 chord is pretty straightforward, simply use your index finger on the second fret of the D string and your second finger on the second fret of the G string. If you’re playing A major (which will also use your third finger on the second fret of the B string) then you can keep the same finger positioning, just lift off your third finger.
The Asus4 chord is quite similar to Asus2. Simply add your third finger to the third fret of the B string. As you can see, with this finger positioning it is quite easy to move around from playing A to Asus2 to Asus4.
2. Bsus2 / Bsus4
Bsus2 is a little different as you are barring most of the strings on the second fret (except the low E string). Here, you have the option of using alternative finger placements. You can either choose to use fingers 3 and 4, as shown below, to play the notes on the fourth fret or use fingers 2 and 3. It all depends on what you feel is most comfortable.
As shown in the diagram below for Bsus4, the fingers used on fret number four have changed to used fingers 2 and 3 since the fourth finger will be used to play the note on fret 5. That’s why you may want to use fingers 2 and 3 when playing Bsus2. This will allow you to more quickly change between chords, however, may also feel a bit harder to play for beginners.
3. Csus2 / Csus4
Csus2 is another half barre chord. Similar to Bsus2 you have two options either use your 3rd and 4th fingers to play the notes on the 5th fret as shown in the diagram below or you can use your 2nd and 3rd fingers. Whichever feels more comfortable.
Again, similar to Bsus4, the Csus4 chord uses the index finger to barre the bottom 5 strings. Then, it uses the 2nd and 3rd fingers on the fifth fret for strings D and G respectively, along with the 4th finger on the sixth fret of the B string.
4. Dsus2 / Dsus4
There are a couple of variations for Dsus2. As seen in the diagram below, the index finger is placed on the second fret of the G string and the 2nd finger is placed on the third fret of the B string. Alternatively, you could also use the finger placements for a D major chord and simply lift off your 2nd finger.
Similarly, with the Dsus4 chord you can use the finger positionings shown in the diagram below. However, if you’re playing a D major and want to switch between that and a Dsus4, then you’ll probably find it faster to simply add your 4th finger to press down on the third fret of the high E string.
5. Esus2 / Esus4
The Esus2 is another half barre chord. Use your index finger to barre the bottom 4 strings, your 3rd finger to play the fourth fret of the G string and your 4th finger to play the fifth fret of the B string.
Esus4 is pretty closely related to E major or E minor. You can play this chord as shown in the diagram below or use the finger placements of an E major chord and simply add your fourth finger to play the note on fret two of the G string.
6. Fsus2 / Fsus4
Another half-barre chord. The Fsus2 chord uses the index finger on the third fret, the 3rd finger on the fifth fret of the G string, and the fourth finger on the sixth fret of the B string.
Fsus4 is quite similar to F major or minor. If playing F minor you can simply add the 4th finger as shown in the diagram below. However, there is no getting around the fact that if you want to play between F major and Fsus4 there will need to be some finger placement adjustments.
7. Gsus2 / Gsus4
Again, similar to Fsus2, another half-barre chord with the index finger on the fifth fret barring the bottom four strings. The 3rd finger is placed on the seventh fret of the G string and the 4th finger on the eighth fret of the B string.
The Gsus4 chord is comprised of the same finger placements as Fsus4, only 2 frets higher. Again, this chord is quite easy to switch between G minor, however, if you want to play G major there will need to be some inevitable finger adjustments.
Guitar Sus Chord Chart
The following guitar sus chord chart displays all of the chord diagrams above along with the added sharp note and 7sus4 chords. If ever you need a quick reference to a complete sus chord chart, check out the one below. For a full list of charts and other resources, check out the Musician Tuts resources page.
Playing Sus Chords
Sus chords are often used in conjunction with their parent chord. Take Tom Petty’s song, Free Fallin’ for example, which uses a combination of D, Dsus4, and Asus (depending on where you play it). These types of chords can stand on their own, however, more often than not, they are used in a way that embellishes the parent.
A good way to practice / use them is to alternate between the parent chord and the sus chord. So for example, you might play the chord progression: A – Asus4 – A – Asus2 or D – Dsus2 – D – Dsus4, you get the point. Of course, this isn’t the only ways to use sus chords, however is a popular method.
A cool thing about sus chords is that in some cases you only need to lift up or put down one finger to change from the parent chord to the sus chord. Be sure to be aware of this as you practice finger placement for these types of chords. The idea is to find your preferred finger placement on the parent chord and then make slight adjustments to play the sus chord. Of course, this isn’t possible in all cases, however, try to be conscious of this as you work through learning sus chords.
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