SUS CHORDS (Part II):
(You may want to read Sus Chords Part I first).
The basic sus7 arpeggio formula is:
root, P4, P5 and m7.
For Csus7 we have: C, F, G, Bb
There are two interesting 3-note arpeggio structures we can generate from the chord.
1. Csus: C, F, G
(R, P4, P5)
Officially, there is no such thing as a "sus triad" (at least not in traditional theory where we only acknowledge Major, Minor, Diminished, or Augmented triads). However, we can think of a "sus triad" for practical reasons.
2. Csus7: C, F, Bb
(R, P4, m7)
We simply omitted the P5, and what we have now is a 3-note version of the chord.
Note that we also have 2 consecutive P4 intervals in that structure.
The first thing I would recommend is that you learn the various fingerings for both the sus triad and the sus7 arpeggios all over the fretboard.
If you are already familiar with the usual triad arpeggios, all you have to do is replace the M3 of a basic Major triad with the P4.
You will eventually learn the fingerings in all 5 CAGED forms:
Those fingerings can be tricky at first, and they often necessitate a lot of "finger rolls" with your fretting hand.
Now, the good news is that the sus triad arpeggio and the 3-note sus7 arpeggio use the same fingerings !
Not from the same Root, of course, but you will notice that they use the same exact notes inverted.
For example, for a Csus triad you will play:
C, F, G
Those same notes also spell out a Gsus7 3-note arpeggio:
G, C, F
Same 3 notes, therefore same fingerings !
So, now that we have some new arpeggios in our vocabulary, let's discuss some practical applications.
Over a Csus7 chord:
Obviously, we can start with arpeggios from the root of the chord.
For Csus7, we can play either Csus or Csus7
We can also think an Fsus triad arpeggio (built from the P4 of the sus7 chord).
F, Bb, C
(Which happens to be an inversion of Csus7)
From the P5 of the chord, we can play:
Gsus: G, C, D
(No P4 there, I know, but no other chord type is defined either...)
Gsus7: G, C, F
(Which happens to be an inversion of Csus).
If you find it confusing to go back and forth between sus triad and sus7 3-note arpeggios, you can always stick to just one type and simply remember which intervals you build them from.
So, to recap with just the sus triad form, we had:
Csus from the root of the Csus7
Fsus from the P4 of the Csus7
Gsus from the P5 of the Csus7
You might also remember that Csus7 = Gm7/C
We can then build our arpeggios in relation to the Gm7.
Here are the sus triads we can experiment with, along with the resulting intervals over Csus7:
Gsus: P5, R, 9
Bbsus: m7, #9, P4
Csus: R, P4, P5
Dsus: 9, P5, 13
Fsus: P4, m7, R
Over a minor 7 chord:
The minor 7 chord is going to offer us a lot of sus triad possibilities.
We can start with those sus triad arpeggios that happen to have the most chord tones of the m7 chord (C, Eb, G, and Bb).
The following sus triad arpeggios each contain 2 of the chord tones from Cm7:
We can derive an easy rule then: build a sus triad arpeggio from any of the chord tones of a minor 7 chord, or from its P4.
But wait, there is more...
The following sus triad arpeggios each contain only one (or none) of the chord tones from Cm7:
Due to the non-committal nature of 4ths-based lines, we can experiment with no less than 9 sus triad arpeggios. Some of them do not even contain a single chord tone from Cm7, yet, they do not clash. Personal taste can also be a factor there...
(I basically omitted those sus triad arpeggios that would contain the M3 of the Cm7 chord)
You will find that the sound of our sus or sus7 arpeggios (4ths-based) is quite different than what we hear in usual arpeggios-- where we normally stack up thirds (3rds-based).
Joe Diorio, Sid Jacob, Paul Bollenback, Ben Monder (to name just those few) are guitar players who often use 4ths-based lines in their improvisations.
McCoy Tyner also explored extensively 4ths-based lines (and voicings) on the piano, and made that an important part of his style.
That sound is generally considered freer, less confining harmonically than the more conventional 3rds-based lines.
That can be a double edged sword though: Dave Liebman tells a story in which pianist Bill Evans was asked why he wasn't using more 4ths-based lines in his playing and why he didn't "pursue the fourths".
"Not lyrical enough". That was Bill's answer...
(That conversation is mentioned in David Liebman's 2012 autobiography, "What It Is": The Life of a Jazz Artist").
and here are a few more articles I wrote on Sus Chords:
Sus Chords (Part I)
Substitutions for Sus7 Chords
Pentatonics For The Sus7 Chord
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