One of the most common questions I get when working with musicians who aren’t used to playing chords is “what does that ‘sus’ or number mean after the chord?” Let’s take a look:
Most of us are used to playing the basic chords that we looked at in the last two days, but what happens when you run up against something like Csus or Cmaj7 or C2?
Those three suffixes (sus, 2, and some type of 7) are probably the most common suffixes you will see in most praise and worship music. The easiest way to figure out these chords is by looking at the numbers.
If you see the chord C2, think logically. In the C scale, find out the second note of the scale, which is D, and add it to your C chord.Â You now have C, D, E, G. It’s that simple. In order to make the chord sound more open, however, eliminate the E from the chord, leaving you with C, D, G. This chord gives a nice, warm sound to the music.
So, if C2 means that you add the second note of the scale to the chord, a chord with a 7 in the suffix must mean what? You got it! This does get a little bit tricky as there are several types of 7 chords that can be played. I will go into much more detail in a future post, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s stay within the key signature and figure out how this works.
When you see Cmaj7 written out, do the same thing as C2. Count up to the 7th note of the scale (B) and build the chord accordingly. C-E-G-B. You now have a maj7 chord. One caveat to this is that maj7 chords can only be build on the I (one) and IV (four) chords if you are staying within the key signature.
So what about ‘sus?’ There’s no number there!Â Fortunately, most of the time ‘sus’ is used, it is shorthand for ‘sus4.’ There are exceptions to this, but this is the most common use of ‘sus.’ So, just as before, count up to the fourth note of the scale and add that note. C-E-F-G. Here, however, you must eliminate the middle note, E, from the chord. ‘Sus’ is short for suspended, telling you that a note is suspending and wanting to resolve. By playing C-F-G, the chord now wants to resolve itself to C-E-G. Sus4 chords are a great way to add some interest to the end of a phrase. While staying in the key signature, this chord works with the I (one) and V (five) chords.
Experiment with inversions with these chords as well! Tomorrow we will look at the relative minor chord, or the VI (six) chord, the fourth most commonly used chord in popular music.