What are “Sus2” and “Sus4” Chords?
How are they used in familiar songs?
Watch this video to find out.
Guitar Chord Construction
To understand what sus2 and sus4 mean, you need to know basic chord construction first. Chords are built from triads, which consist of the intervals 1, 3, and 5.
For example, if I take the A major scale (A B C# D E F# G#)… 1, 3, and 5 are A, C#, and E.
The note C# is important here. It’s a major 3rd. It defines the quality of this chord.
If I replace the 3rd, C#, with the 2nd, B, then the triad becomes 1-2-5 or A-B-E.
This chord is called Asus2. “A” because the chord is A. “Sus” is short for “suspended.” Suspended means the 3rd is left out. Finally, 2 means there’s a 2 in the chord. In this case, the 2 replaced, or “suspended,” the 3.
Sometimes the 3rd is replaced by a 4th instead of a 2nd. So an A major chord would change from 1-3-5, A-C#-E, to 1-4-5, A-D-E. This chord is called A suspended 4 or Asus4 for short. You might even hear musicians say simply, Asus. Usually, when sus is not followed by a number, sus4 is implied.
You hear the Asus2 and Asus4 chords used in the song “Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders.
Anytime you replace a major chord’s 3rd with either a 2nd or 4th, you make a sus2 or sus4 chord. For example, a D major chord consists of the notes D-F#-A. F# is the 3rd. If I replace the 3rd with the 2nd, E, the chord becomes Dsus2. If I replace the F# with the 4th, G, the chord becomes Dsus4.
You hear these chord shapes used in “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams. The same song also uses Asus2 and Asus4.
There are countless songs that use sus2 and sus4 chords. Sometimes these chords are played in the open position like the A and D chord shapes I demonstrate. Other times the chords are played in other positions on the fretboard. Now that you understand how sus2 and sus4 chords are built, you can make sense of them when you encounter them in music.