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    Kirks Guitar and Music Primer

Suspended chords are those that replace the 3 of the chord with either a 2 or a 4 ... in other words, one of the two scale notes that is either side of the 3. Remember that the 3 is the note in a chord that determines whether it's major or minor, so by replacing it, that major/minor quality disappears. I guess that the term 'suspended' comes from the fact that the major/minor quality (which is the main identifier of any chord) is temporarily suspended. The sound of these chords also has a 'suspension' quality about them ... an unfinished, something-needs-to-happen sound. The most common of the two types of suspended chords is the suspended fourth, or sus4, where the 3 is replaced by a 4. If you remember your TTsTTTs formula for the major scale, you'll see that the 4 is one semitone up in pitch from the 3, so sus4 chords are easy to figure out if you know the major shapes ... you just need to 'sharp' the 3, or 3s if there are more than one. The term 'to sharp a note' means that you raise it in pitch by one semitone, or one fret on a guitar. When you sharp a 3, you get a 4.

Here are the 5 open sus4 chords
The green dots tell you where to put your finger tips. The red crosses mean 'Don't pluck/play this string'.
The blue numbers indicate the best left hand fingers to use.
1 = index; 2 = middle; 3 = ring; 4 = pinkie.
open C
open A
open G
open E
open D
Watch the movies above to see how the hand should be positioned.
The C and G forms have two 3's that need to be raised, so they're a little clumsier than the A, E and D. If you look at the images below, you'll see how the 3s in the original major shapes — the all-important CAGED shapes — have been raised to become 4s. Chord building really is as simple as that, it's all numbers and once you know which numbers are which, it's simply a matter of adding them to or subtracting them from those five main chord shapes. The A and E forms of this suspended 4th chord are the easiest to turn into barre chords, but you can move fragments of any of them up the fretboard to become new sus4 chords. For example, if you moved just the notes on the three top (thinnest strings) of the Dsus4 chord up 2 frets, you'd be playing another Esus4 chord. You would not be able to play the three bass strings of course, you'd have to avoid strumming or plucking them, but that's OK.
open C
open A
open G
open E
open D


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