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Playing over Sus chords

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Coward Of Reali, Jul 30, 2005.


  1. Coward Of Reali

    Coward Of Reali

    Oct 13, 2003
    If I'm reading my theory right sus chords is when guitar and piano players re-arrange chords so the fourth doesnt sound dissonant.
    But how should a bass player who usually plays a note not chords play over this?
     
  2. Correlli

    Correlli

    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Mixolydian or Blues scale are said to harmonize with the sus4 chord.
     
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    It's simply a rearrangement of the voicings used, nothing really all that bizarre. If it's an Emsus4, then play a over an Em and don't be afraid to hit the 4. It's not required to hit EVERY chord tone described. For instance, if you see a G9 on the sheet, you have options for chord tones with the root, 3rd, 5th, dominant 7th, and 9th. You don't have to take every option though! Also, if you're playing improvised jazz, then you might do well to NOT hit certain notes to keep the harmony a bit more ambiguous so the soloist at the time has options to get a bit "out there" by reharmonizing on the spot and you won't be snagging his collar as runs out to left field for a few bars.

    When in doubt -- especially if it's a ballad -- half and whole notes are your friends. Well, actually, if you're a player with any sensitivity, whole and half notes should be your friends in ballads anyway, but that's a whole other discussion.

    If you've got a chordal player -- eg, a pianist or a guitarist -- then don't sweat it too much. Even if you don't find your way to that 4, it's probably okay, because if they've got stuff like sus4's written down, then they'd damn well be better playing that sus4 anyway!
     
  4. Just be aware that they're probably not playing the third, and are are playing either the second (for a sus2) or the fourth (for a sus4).
     
  5. The traditionally-taught scale to use over a sus chord is a "mixolydian no third."

    Sometimes sus chords will say "add 3rd", so you add the major 3rd into the chord voicing, which is a quite beautiful sound. If you put in a minor 3rd it's just basically a minor 11th.
     
  6. Coward Of Reali

    Coward Of Reali

    Oct 13, 2003
    Thanks everyone. I've been playing along to 'Wharf Rat' by the Dead and the Mixolydian and blues scale does sound right.
     
  7. theshadow2001

    theshadow2001

    Jun 17, 2004
    Ireland
    Could someone tell me where this mixolodian harmonizes with sus4 chords comes from? ie the reasoning behind it. Surely this cant work in every situation a sus4 is played.
     
  8. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Scotland
    I'm not sure what Kiwi was meaning, but I think it may have been that they work on suspended dominant chords (since he mentioned mixolydian?)

    Minor pentatonic down a 4th would work nicely in this instance... say you've got G7sus (G, A or C for the sus2 or 4, D, F) D minor pentatonic would work (D,F,G,A,C)
     
  9. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    no.. suppose you're playing in C, and there's a chord of Esus4, an E mixolydian will sound a tiny bit wacky because of the harmonic context

    I think it works because mixolydian usually sounds good over most things because there aren't many offensive intervals going on... mixolydian doesn't give you any flat 5 tones over the notes of the sus4, no minor 6's or minor 9's either...

    if you think about it, a mixolydian mode over a sus4 chord is like a mixolydian over the root, major scale over the 4 and dorian mode over the 5... which are all very open and pleasant sounding modes
     
  10. Coward Of Reali

    Coward Of Reali

    Oct 13, 2003
    Is it me or does it seem like Phil Lesh play high up on the neck a lot? Like around the 8th or 9th fret?
     
  11. Correlli

    Correlli

    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Not quite right.

    Look into the theory of harmony, particularly stuff about consonant and disconsonant intervals.

    Any good theory book on harmony should contain stuff about consonant and disconsonant intervals.

    There are some pretty precise guidelines on how chords and scales are used together.
     
  12. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Scotland
    Hey Chris, I've read quite a number of good books on theory and harmony and never seen anyone explicitly state that mixolydian and blues scales always work on suspended chords. How about you explain it for me?
     
  13. Correlli

    Correlli

    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    sus7 is probably a better example.

    Bassline: C sus7 I-IV-V-VIIb

    Melody: C mixolydian I-II-III-IV-V-VI-VIIb-VIII

    The compatibility is the VIIb and IV

    A melody based on C mixolydian would sound less dissonant over Csus7. I think C Ionian would not be as compatibile. C Natural would sound compatibile.

    You can alway use cadence at the end of the progression to give the piece a sense of repose.

    Al depends on what Key you're in too.

    Pentatonic scale would work also.
     
  14. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    they don't necessarily always work over sus4 chords...

    for one thing a 'mixolydian over a sus4' is going to have some elements of 'non-diatonicism' (!) unless it's the V chord of a major key (e.g. Gsus4 in C major)... some types of music can handle all manner of dissonance and alterations, some just don't

    e.g. try playing A mixolydian over the Asus4 chord in the progression C - Em7 - Asus4 - G7

    'A mixolydian' gives you a C#/Db (a lovely flattened 9th in C major... that's not always going to work) and an F#/Gb.. ( a lovely flat 5 in C major... also not guaranteed to work in all circumstances)

    you can't apply such simple rules of thumb on a chord-by-chord basis... the other chords in the piece often provide as much of the harmonic framework and direction as the chord being played at that particular moment