Guitar skills: A beginner's guide to sus guitar chords

(Image credit: Future / Kevin Nixon)

Guitar skills: There are two main types of sus (or ‘suspended’) chord: the sus2 and the sus4. Each of these is a variation on a basic major chord – so, where a major chord uses the first, third and fifth notes of the major scale, a sus chord replaces the third with either the second (sus2) or fourth (sus4) notes.

You know them from: 

The Who – Pinball Wizard
• Bryan Adams – Summer Of ’69
• Stereophonics – Have A Nice Day

When to use them:

1. Add movement to a major or minor chord
Sus chords are most often heard mixed in around a major or minor chord such as in Led Zeppelin’s Tangerine, which jams around Am, Asus4 and Asus2 chords.

2. Emphasise a chord change
A simple chord change such as A to E can be enhanced with a sus4 chord – simply play A-Esus4-E. It’s used especially in hymns, but also extensively throughout rock, pop and folk.

Learning sus chords

Most of these shapes are based on the open E, A and D chords you probably already know. In each case, play the major chord and notice how the sus chords are a simple finger movement away. Esus2 and Bsus4 are based on standard ‘A shape’ and ‘E shape’ barre chords.

(Image credit: Future)

Exercise 1: Foo For Thought

(Image credit: Future)

The mix of clean and crunchy tones here has an unsettled feel due to using only sus chords. Change the sus2 chords to A and D for a more settled sound.

Exercise 2: Getting It Sussed

(Image credit: Future)

Again, we’re using the unresolved sound of the sus chord, this time in an ambient progressive line. Keep your pick attack uniform so notes are the same volume.

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