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SuS 2 Chord

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Mr Ralph, Dec 4, 2018.

  1. Mr Ralph

    Mr Ralph

    Jul 12, 2014
    Hinckley Ohio
    Hello Everyone,
    Can some one tell me as a bass player how we treat a Sus 2 chord? I looked in my Jazz Theory book and Jazz Bass book and do not see it addressed.
    Thank you
  2. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Start with the chord tones.
  3. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    With kindness and love. :)

    If you've got a tune in mind that you could post a bit of, that would help.

    It very much depends on what sort of music you're playing. If, e.g., a Sus2 chord appears in something folk or country, probably not much different is going to happen in what I play on the bass. (Although, thinking about it now, I would probably avoid stepping down through that scale degree 2 since I wouldn't want to steal its thunder, especially if it's going to resolve to the root of the chord. But I'd still like to see the chord in context to see what you're asking about in particular.)

    jleguy and saabfender like this.
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Hi Mr. Ralph,

    A sus2 chord is spelled root - major 2nd - perfect 5th.

    So those are the notes you want to play, if you want to sound like you are defining the chord. (Or, if you don't want to sound like you are defining the chord, then play different notes.)

    For example, Csus2 is C, D, G.

    The "safest" bass note choice for Csus2 is the note C.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Sus chords are tricky. The advice above is good, and I would add that the point of a sus chord is to hide the "gender" of the chord (i.e. - quality of the 3rd) either momentarily or completely by suspending it to one of the adjacent scale degrees; it either gets suspended up to the 4th or down to the 2nd. The first thing I try to figure out when playing over them from the context of the rest of the song is what that gender/color likely would be were the 3rd to be played.
  6. Pat Harris

    Pat Harris Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2006
    Austin, TX
    I see this most commonly in contemporary Christian/Worship music and show tunes.

    Most instances where I've seen it have it voiced more as an "add9" chord on what would otherwise be a major triad. The sus2 or add9 is typically a tone that is common to multiple chords in a given progression from my experience with it, and even if a pianist lays out a chord voiced with C-D-G, anything from the C major scale will work (in context, of course).
    Jhengsman likes this.
  7. Play the root.


    Looking for more notes? Play the 5th.

    Want more?
    Play the root again, and octave higher.

    Still want more? Play the 2nd and octave higher than the root. (i.e. C2 - (G2) -> D3)


    By now, you've likely moved on to the next chord in the tune.
    eJake and Jhengsman like this.
  8. Mr Ralph

    Mr Ralph

    Jul 12, 2014
    Hinckley Ohio
    Thank you all for the responses. Yes, I usually only run across it in the contemporary worship music.
  9. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    If I play one in a line I usually put it up top
    Like a 9
    More often I just let the keyboard player deal with it
  10. I’d stick to the root. Ah, but what is the root? Suspended chords are ambiguous. They lead parallel lives. The chord built on the notes C D G could have C as a root (Csus2), or a D (D7sus4), or a G (Gsus4). Because of this we need context. We need to know the chords before and after. That sus chord could have a strong dominant function, or a weak tonic function.
  11. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    In that context the song will often call for a major or minor chord, only it was arranged/written in an easy guitar format in order for a single singer songwriter to lead without thinking too much about changing his fingering and the chord shapes.

    if your band is free enough during rehearsal you can try a major or minor triad against the sus2 chord and see what it sounds like. But bare in mind a more experienced keys player, or guitarist might have been naturally doing that substitution anyway.
  12. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Usually the sus2 chord is written to indicate a particular voicing or 3-note grip that pianists, guitarists & composers use, often in a modal context. Here's an excerpt of an arrangement that I'm playing this week with the WDR Big Band, arranged by Miho Hazama:


    The chord Bbsus2 implies: Bb, C, F, Bb, or a voicing like F, Bb, C — or — Bb, C, F

    There's no real major or minor in that sound. But when the progression continues, it gives a distinct feeling of being in a Bb major / F7(no 3rd) -- (without the note A) vibe.

    Csus2 = C, D, G
    Ebsus2 = Eb, F, Bb
    F7(no 3rd) = F, Eb, F, C

    So, the sus2 sound is often clarified by the sounds/chords/scales that come before or after. The sus sound functions in the context of a composition.

    There are a lot of modal tunes that use sus2 chords, and play on the commonality of the suspended sound. Take the Csus2. If you go to the piano and grab the notes C, D, G in any inversion (D, G, C or G, C, D), then you can play all kinds of bass notes underneath that give those three notes a different color or context:

    Csus2/Ab, Csus2/Bb, Csus2, Csus2/F, Csus/A, Csus2/D, Csus2/Eb

    Of course, you can name all of those chords something else, but if you're working with modern modal compositions, it's good to see the "grip" of three or four notes that the composer is hearing, rather than a fleshed out string or functional chord symbols. Here are the chords above, translated to normal chord symbols:

    Csus2/Ab = AbMaj7(#11)
    Csus2/Bb = Bb6/9
    Csus2/F = F6/9 (no 3rd)
    Csus/A = Amin11
    Csus2/D = D7sus (You could translate this to a D7sus11 or to Dmin7sus11 — it depends on the surrounding context)
    Csus2/Eb = EbMaj9(add 6)

    Csus2 = ambiguous; it could be a C minor, C major, or C dominant sound depending on the context.

    Wayne Naus wrote a good book that deals with these sounds: "Beyond Functional Harmony."
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018
    hhalt, marcox, Michael Glynn and 2 others like this.
  13. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Where is the (alleged) "7th"? (Eb)
    Why is the "sus2" (G) not in the name of the chord?

  14. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Right you are, Prof. Don . . . I will fix that in the original post. It should be

    F7(no 3rd) = F, Eb, F, C or C, Eb, F or Eb, F, C

    Anything else?
    Don Kasper likes this.
  15. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    In the words of Jack Benny - "I'm thinking it over!".
    Thanks, Prof. Goldsby!
  16. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I imagine that you have absolutely no idea what you're getting into when you add to these convos, but... Naus' book is out of print and appears to be inaccessible unless you know someone like @John Goldsby who might have his copy photocopied and email the resulting PDF to interested parties.
  17. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Sorry, Tom — Life is too short to sit around scanning out-of-print jazz theory books.

    BTW — The video that @Duanestuermer posted from Rick Beato is great. RB knows what he's talking about (and he can play and demonstrate everything).
    Tom Lane likes this.
  18. hhalt

    hhalt Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2010
    Reno, Nv

    This is a good example of effective slash chord harmony that gives the chordal player the voicing intended by the composer.

    Excellent video by Beato, however he doesn't address (at least in this video) the common practice in jazz of using sus7 as a mixolydian sound. Maiden Voyage for example. D9sus to F9sus7 (as notated in Real book 3). I like to think of this as a ii chord with V in the bass. Ami9/D, etc. In this case the major 3rd becomes a very colorful note against the 4.
    Chris Fitzgerald and Don Kasper like this.
  19. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Amen, Brother!

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