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Thread: iiisus4 (or sus2) and viisus4 (or sus2): Are there such things?

  1. #1
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    iiisus4 (or sus2) and viisus4 (or sus2): Are there such things?

    It seems like sus4 and sus2 chords on steps 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the major scale are fairly consonant. But when I look at iiisus4 and viisus4, I wonder, because the 4th and 5th in these chords are only a half step apart instead of a whole step in all the othere sus4 chords. Same thing with root and 2nd of iiisus2 and viisus4. In theory this seems to work, but in practice? They might not even sound good!

    I'd enjoy hearing some thoughts out there please before I stick my foot in my mouth with my students. And feel free to comment on ANY suspended chords besides these that may seem dicey.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ceilr View Post
    It seems like sus4 and sus2 chords on steps 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the major scale are fairly consonant. But when I look at iiisus4 and viisus4, I wonder, because the 4th and 5th in these chords are only a half step apart instead of a whole step in all the othere sus4 chords. Same thing with root and 2nd of iiisus2 and viisus4. In theory this seems to work, but in practice? They might not even sound good!

    I'd enjoy hearing some thoughts out there please before I stick my foot in my mouth with my students. And feel free to comment on ANY suspended chords besides these that may seem dicey.

    Thanks!
    Diatonic sus4s in major keys are available on I, ii, iii, V, vi. Not on IV or vii.
    Diatonic sus2s in major keys are available on I, ii, IV, V, vi. Not on iii or vii.

    A 4th on the vii(half-dim) chord is not out of the question, in that an 11th is a common extension on a m7b5 as a ii in a minor key. But the 3rd would not be omitted, so calling it a "sus" is maybe not appropriate.

    Bear in mind (sorry if you know any of the following) that "sus" has slightly different meanings in different genres:

    1. In classical music, a suspension is a note held over from a previous chord. So in a chord consisting of C-F-G, the F is not a "sus" unless it's been held across from a previous chord with an F in it (eg F, Fm, Bb, Gm7 etc). It would just be a non-chord tone.
    AFAIK, any non-chord tone can be a suspension if held from a previous chord; could be 2nd, 4th, or 6th, I think. The implication is always that it's a dissonance that needs to resolve, usually downwards to a chord tone

    2. In jazz, "sus" means sus4 only, and usually implies the inclusion of a b7. Sus2s, therefore, don't exist - in theory that is. (Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory Book" contains no mention of sus2s at all.) The idea is twofold: firstly, what looks like a sus2 would be regarded as an inverted sus4 (C-D-G = Gsus4, or even a partial D7sus4, not Csus2); secondly, jazz harmony (the functional kind) regards 3rds as possibly the most important chord tone; adding a 2nd to a chord is never dissonant with the 3rd (even in a minor chord) so there is no need to remove the 3rd. It would be regarded as a 9th, therefore, or an "add9" on the rare occasion of the 7th being missing.
    IOW, not many jazz players would play a mere C-D-G over a C root; it's too uninteresting and meaningless a chord; what's the 3rd? would be their question: E or Eb? It would sound much better to add E or Eb, it sounds fine next to the D, or below the D.
    So, in jazz, "Csus" is a shorthand for C7sus4, and might even include a 9th (although "C7sus" and "C9sus" would be more common symbols). Adding the "4" is not necessary, because "sus" always means "sus4". (If anyone knows of exceptions in published jazz chord charts, let me know!)
    Sus4 chords have also become a standard form in modal jazz, which favours quartal harmonies, and in which suspensions don't need to resolve; and in which, also, a major 3rd can be added on top. IOW, "sus" does not mean "omit the 3rd"; just "if you want to add a 3rd, voice it above the 4th". (A 4th added above a major 3rd, especially an octave higher, as an 11th, is regarded as an "avoid note".)
    IOW, the basic jazz idea of "sus" seems to mean essentially 1-4-b7 (stack of 4ths); maybe with a 5th too; 9th optional, maybe 13th, and maybe even a M3 as a cherry on the top.

    3. In rock, meanwhile, "sus" has come to mean "omit the 3rd", and "replace with 2 or 4 as indicated" (that's major 2nd or perfect 4th). But rock has adopted the modal practice of not always requiring suspensions to be resolved. (And, like jazz, not requiring the suspension to have the classical meaning of "held over from previous chord".)
    The practice of always omitting the 3rd from a sus4 means that a 9sus4 chord can be called "11" in shorthand, because a 3rd would never be included with an 11th. IOW, you'd never get a chord built as 1-3-5-b7-9-11; if there's an 11th, then the 3rd is out: 1-5-b7-9-11 = 9sus4 = "11".
    (#11s are different of course; they can and do include the major 3rd.)

    As for what "sounds good"... that's not down to what's diatonic, necessarily, but what works in context.
    Maybe sometimes diatonic doesn't work; maybe chromatic does?
    In modal jazz, eg, sus chords (7sus4) occur all over the place, because the rules of key (diatonic major or minor scales, functional chord movements) don't apply.

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    My apologies! I was a little too tired when I started this thread last night and realized that it was IVsus4 I wanted to ask about after I hit the sack. I came back here this morning to fix it before anyone responded, and voila!

    That being said, I am grateful, JonR, for your thoughtful and detailed response. Thanks so much!

  4. #4
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    In classical music, a suspension is a note held over from a previous chord. So in a chord consisting of C-F-G, the F is not a "sus" unless it's been held across from a previous chord with an F in it (eg F, Fm, Bb, Gm7 etc). It would just be a non-chord tone.
    AFAIK, any non-chord tone can be a suspension if held from a previous chord; could be 2nd, 4th, or 6th, I think. The implication is always that it's a dissonance that needs to resolve, usually downwards to a chord tone
    True, but suspensions have to be a dissonance, so it can only be a 4th (resolving to a 3rd), 7th (resolving to a 6th) or 9th (resolving to an 8th).

    Quote Originally Posted by ceilr View Post
    when I look at iiisus4 and viisus4, I wonder, because the 4th and 5th in these chords are only a half step apart instead of a whole step in all the othere sus4 chords. Same thing with root and 2nd of iiisus2 and viisus4. In theory this seems to work, but in practice? They might not even sound good!
    iiisus4 and iiisus2 are possible, but not very common - not classically anyway (but then chord iii isn't very common in itself).
    viisus2 and viisus4 are not generally found (the only suspension you're likely to find on chord vii is the 7th).

    Quote Originally Posted by ceilr View Post
    It seems like sus4 and sus2 chords on steps 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the major scale are fairly consonant.
    Be careful. "Consonant" here is almost an oxymoron! - You mean they are common.
    Incidentally, iisus2, iisus4 and visus4 are not what I would call common, classically they are somewhat rare.

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    You can't use things like IVsus4 to indicate a DIATONIC 4th because it's assumed that sus4 is a P4 from the root. Just like you have I7 IV7 and V7 (all dominant 7 chords) Isus4, IVsus4, and Vsus4 are all going to be the same structure.

    You'd need to put IVsus#4 or Fsus#4 to get F B C out of it.

    Likewise, and Esus2 is going to be assumed to have an F#, not F natural, even if you call it "iiisus2".

    If you want E F B you need something like Esusb2 or iiisusb2.

    I don't find anything wrong with the sound of these chords - it really depends on the context, but I'd agree that any structures outside of the straight sus2 and sus4 (C D G; C F G) are comparatively rare as standalone chords.

    Steve

  6. #6
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    True, but suspensions have to be a dissonance, so it can only be a 4th (resolving to a 3rd), 7th (resolving to a 6th) or 9th (resolving to an 8th).
    thanks JJ.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    True, but suspensions have to be a dissonance, so it can only be a 4th (resolving to a 3rd), 7th (resolving to a 6th) or 9th (resolving to an 8th).
    Originally, in counterpoint, suspensions had to be dissonances. However, when we got to a more "chordal" style of music, they could be a consonant non-chord tone. There is something called the "consonant suspension", also sometimes called a "suspension figure", in the 6-5 consonant suspension.

    Suspensions by definition have to resolve downward by step. Something that looks like a suspension but resolves upward is a Retardation.

    D-D-C
    G-C-C = 9-8 suspension

    G-G-F
    C-D-D = 4-3 suspension

    D-D-C
    F-E-E = 7-6 suspension

    When the last is inverted, we also have the 2-3 bass suspension:

    F-E-E
    D-D-C = 2-3 bass suspension (the only one where the numbers go the wrong way!:

    When we start talking chords, the preparation doesn't have to be a consonance, only a chord tone:

    F-F-E
    G-C-C = 4-3 suspension from a G7 (implied) chord.

    And finally, the consonant suspension:

    A-A-G
    F-C-C = 6-5 suspension figure - alone, it's just a "figure" because it's all consonances but looks and acts like a suspension, but in a chordal context:

    A-A-G
    F-E-E
    C-C-C
    F-C-C

    It's clear that it's a IV-I move (assuming C) with the A being a non-chord tone "suspended" from the previous F chord. Since it's a non-chord tone in the C chord, but consonant with the bass it's called the 6-5 consonant suspension.

    Best,
    Steve

  8. #8
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevel View Post
    Suspensions by definition have to resolve downward by step. Something that looks like a suspension but resolves upward is a Retardation.
    Ah-ha! So that's what that guy in the audience last night meant when he shouted "Retard!" at me... He must have thought I resolved my suspension the wrong way!
    The hand signal he was making also suggested some kind of upward movement....

  9. #9
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevel View Post
    There is something called the "consonant suspension", also sometimes called a "suspension figure", in the 6-5 consonant suspension.
    I agree you can get figures like that, but I'd be wary of calling them "suspensions". Some kind of appoggiatura might be more appropriate.

    You mentioned retardations, and many theorists don't bother distinguishing these from "suspensions" (just as how the difference between an échappée and a cambiata is lost of most people). Perhaps this is a similarly grey area.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Ah-ha! So that's what that guy in the audience last night meant when he shouted "Retard!" at me... He must have thought I resolved my suspension the wrong way!
    Lol

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Ah-ha! So that's what that guy in the audience last night meant when he shouted "Retard!" at me... He must have thought I resolved my suspension the wrong way!
    The hand signal he was making also suggested some kind of upward movement....
    No ... just no! *SMH*

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    This is VERY interesting. Although I'm classically trained, I am looking at all of this in more of a "folk context" on chorded stringed instruments, where "hard" chords occur more than suspensions. So I harmonized the first couple bars of Pachelbel's Canon in D with a suspension on every melody note except the first and last, and couldn't find a IVsus4 at all. There was, however, a iiisus4, and then a handful of "sixth" chords (when talking "hard" chords).

    Today I found 40 Bach chorales at http://www.pjb.com.au/mus/arr/a4/satb_chorales.pdf to hunt down suspensions from the master and BWV 310 on page 10 of that doc caught my eye, particularly the cadence at the end of the second system. Granted, this chorale is in E >minor<, but in that context it seems that a IVsus4 chord is needed (really under the guise of a secondary chord).

    But stevel, your point is well put about sus4 chords whose 4-5 are a half-step apart. It seems like they >would< need an extra symbol to define that. I already had a sus4 series built atop the tones of the major scale, then added another series of sus2 chords. The half steps from 4-5 and 1-2 respectively seem to be the "problem", and I found in particular that perhaps the only way to label the last chord is viisus4b5 and viisusb2b5! More trouble than it's worth, I think!
    Last edited by ceilr; 03-25-2013 at 07:22 PM. Reason: I needed to add some more findings!

  12. #12
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ceilr View Post
    Today I found 40 Bach chorales at http://www.pjb.com.au/mus/arr/a4/satb_chorales.pdf to hunt down suspensions from the master
    Excellent idea, although the fact that this collection is "arranged for the piano" rings alarm bells; you'd be better finding the originals. - Many are available online for free.

    Quote Originally Posted by ceilr View Post
    and BWV 310 on page 10 of that doc caught my eye, particularly the cadence at the end of the second system. Granted, this chorale is in E >minor<, but in that context it seems that a IVsus4 chord is needed (really under the guise of a secondary chord).
    Not at all. The cadence there is a classic II7b-V7-I (in D major), which is extremely common in Bach's chorales. In this case, the II briefly moves to its root position, and this too is not unusual.

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