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Sus4 Triads on Guitar

In a previous lesson we dove into the sus2 triad, which gave us another option when In this lesson, we’re going to wrap up the suspended triads with a look at sus4 triads.

Suspended Chords

Suspended chords are chords in which the 3rd (major or minor) of the chord is replaced with either a major 2nd or perfect 4th. Because the 3rd is removed, the suspended chord takes on a different tonal quality which is neither major nor minor. This gives the suspended chord a bit of flexibility when it comes to implementing it in a chord progression and its tonal characteristics will be impacted by the surrounding chords.

The building block of the suspended chord is of course the suspended triad (sus2/sus4). In this lesson we’ll be focusing on the sus4 triad specifically.

Sus4 Triads

To build the sus4 triad, we can simply take the major triad and raise the major 3rd interval a half-step to a perfect 4th, which gives us the following formula: root – perfect 4th – perfect 5th

Major triad to sus4 triad intervals

As we did with the sus2 triads, we can take this formula and map it to the fretboard using string groupings.

Sus4 Triads on the Fretboard

As with major, minor and sus2 triads, sus4 triads will form distinct shapes across the fretboard. We can create these shapes by taking the major triad shapes and raising the 3rd by one fret. Below are examples of doing this for the triads on the 1-2-3 string groupings.

Major triad to sus4 triad, root position
Major triad to sus4 triad, 1st inversion
Major triad to sus4 triad, 2nd inversion

Now let’s go through each of the four string groupings to create the sus4 triads across the fretboard.

Sus4 Triad Shapes on Strings 1, 2, & 3

On strings 1, 2, and 3, we get the following sus2 triads:

  • Shape 1 (First Inversion): 4th on string 3, 5th on string 2, root on string 1
  • Shape 2 (Second Inversion): 5th on string 3, root on string 2, 4th on string 1
  • Shape 3 (Root Position): root on string 3, 4th on string 2, 5th on string 1
Sus4 triads vertical diagrams for string grouping 1, strings 1, 2, and 3
Sus4 triads horizontal diagrams for string grouping 1, strings 1, 2, and 3
Guitar tab for sus4 triads on strings 1, 2, and 3

Sus4 Triad Shapes on Strings 2, 3, & 4

On strings 2, 3, and 4, we get the following sus2 triads:

  • Shape 1 (Root Position): root on string 4, 4th on string 3, 5th on string 2
  • Shape 2 (First Inversion): 4th on string 4, 5th on string 3, root on string 3
  • Shape 3 (Second Inversion): 5th on string 5, root on string 3, 4th on string 2
Sus4 triads vertical diagrams for string grouping 2, strings 2, 3, and 4
Sus4 triads horizontal diagrams for string grouping 2, strings 2, 3, and 4
Guitar tab for sus4 triads on strings 2, 3, and 4

Sus4 Triad Shapes on Strings 3, 4, & 5

On strings 3, 4, and 5, we get the following sus2 triads:

  • Shape 1 (Root Position): root on string 4, 4th on string 3, 5th on string 2
  • Shape 2 (First Inversion): 4th on string 4, 5th on string 3, root on string 3
  • Shape 3 (Second Inversion): 5th on string 5, root on string 3, 4th on string 2
Sus4 triads vertical diagrams for string grouping 3, strings 3, 4, and 5
Sus4 triads horizontal diagrams for string grouping 3, strings 3, 4, and 5
Guitar tab for sus4 triads on strings 3, 4, and 5

Sus4 Triad Shapes on Strings 4, 5, & 6

On strings 4, 5, and 6, we get the following sus2 triads:

  • Shape 1 (Root Position): root on string 4, 4th on string 3, 5th on string 2
  • Shape 2 (First Inversion): 4th on string 4, 5th on string 3, root on string 3
  • Shape 3 (Second Inversion): 5th on string 5, root on string 3, 4th on string 2
Sus4 triads vertical diagrams for string grouping 4, strings 4, 5, and 6
Sus4 triads horizontal diagrams for string grouping 4, strings 4, 5, and 6

Wrap up

Sus4 triads can be used just as sus4 chords would be used. In many cases, you’ll find them paired with major and sus2 triads to create a little melodic movement over a persistent tonic note. Check out the suspended chords lesson for some examples.

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