5 Sus4 Triads and the Perfect Maj7 licks you can make with them

Sus4 triads are great for creating some beautiful super-imposed lines on maj7 chords, and the sus chords are often forgotten among the diatonic chords and triads. In this video I will go over 5 examples of sus4 triads and show you both how you can use play and practice them and also how an example of them over a Cmaj7 sounds. 

I have also included the chord voicings that you can create using these sus4 triads as upper-structures.

Finding Sus4 triads in a major scale

To find the triads you can build all sus4 triads in a C major scale:

C: C F G

D: D G A

E: E A B

F: F B C

G: G C D

A: A D E

B: B E F

Since the objective is to find triads that work well on a Cmaj7 then it does not make too much sense to include an F in the triad. This means that we have These sus4 triads left: D,E,G and A. I have one more sus4 chord that I often use, but I will explain that later in the article.

The Sus4 triad from the 3rd: Esus4

The best place to look for an upper-structure is the 3rd, somehow it is always like that. Probably because the 3rd is the most basic color of the chord. In this case the Esus4 triad gives use these notes against C:

Triad:         E      A     B

Tension:    3      6     7

Here the sus4 chord is much really conveying the basic color of the chord (with the 3rd and the 7th) and adding the sound of the 6th or 13th. In that respect this triad is maybe as much evidence that the melody of the sus4 triad is at least as important as the notes it contains.

You can play the triad in the position like this:

In the 2nd bar I have included the Esus4/C chord which is a Cmaj7(13) chord.

Using the Esus4 triad on Cmaj7

A lick with this triad is shown here below. The first bar of the lick is the basic Esus4 triad arpeggio.From there it continues with an Em7 arpeggio and finally resolves to the 7th(B) of Cmaj7.

The Prince chord re-interpreted: Gsus4/C

The Gsus4 triad is of course an inversion of the Csus2 (or the other way around) which is the first chord in Prince’s Purple Rain. As shown here below the triad only yields one extension(the 9th) and for the rest consists of basic chord tones, but again the strong melody of the sus4 triad is enough to make is a good arpeggio to use in a solo.

Triad:         G     C     D

Tension:    5      1     9

To place the arpeggio in the 8th position it is written it out here below and the chord you can create with it is added in the 2nd bar.

The Sus4 Melody

In this lick is using two inversion of the Gsus4 triad. The first one is really described just as well as a Csus2. The 2nd half of the bar is the beginning of a descending Gsus4 triad. The triads are played with pull offs and the repeated sequence really brings out the 4th interval and the sus4 sound.

Asus4: The C6/9 arpeggio

The way that diatonic chords are usually practiced and explored there is no real arpeggio for the 6/9 chords. The Sus4 triad on the 6th of the scale could easily fill this void:

Triad:         A     D     E

Tension:    6      9     3

The Asus4 triad is in fact just a rootless C6/9, so it works great for this.

The arpeggio and the voicing is written out below:

Sus4: The Signal melody and the repeating octave displacement

Suspended chords ask for resolution. In a melody this makes it great to catch attention and it gives it the sound of a signal or announcement. This lick really uses this melodic aspect. The opening of the lick is a basic A minor pentatonic run that then transitions into a 3 octave Asus4 triad arpeggio.

The arpeggio is played using the idea that if you play a sus4 triad on the E and A strings you can shift this fingering and repeat it up an octave on D and G strings and one more time another octave higher on the B and E strings.

Mostly colors: Dsus4

As with the Gsus4 triad the Dsus4 is not really conveying the sound of the Cmaj7 chord. But of course less clear structures can also be useful on a tonic major chord.

Triad:         D     G     A

Tension:    9      5     6

The arpeggio and the chord voicing is shown here below. Notice that like the Gsus4/C chord this voicing is not a complete chord since it does not contain a 3rd. It is how ever easy to add a 3rd on the A string in the 7th fret.

The Quartal harmony connection

The lick below is showing how Dsus4(D,G,A) inverted is in fact a 3-part quartal arpeggio (A,D,G). The first part of the lick is a repeated figure playing the Dsus4 triad as a quartal arpeggio. The 2nd part of the lick is resolving the melodic tension created by the ascending quartal arpeggio. This is done with a descending Em7 arpeggio.

B Sus4 triad: Getting a Lydian sound.

The one sus4 triad that is not diatonic to C major is the Bsus4. This triad is great to get a lydian sound and you might not realize that you have been using it all along for your Cmaj7(#11) chords.

Triad:         B     E     F#

Tension:    7      3     #11

The triad contains the basic part of the chord (3rd and 7th) and adds the #11 to convey the Lydian sound.

Play The Arpeggio in the 8th position like this:

Borrowing from Michael Brecker

The first part of the Bsus4 lick is using a quote that I took from a Michael Brecker solo. It’s a nice way to play the sus triad in groups of 4 and it is surprisingly easy to execute on guitar.

The 2nd part of the lick is using a more basic Em7 to get the Cmaj7 sound across.

The Chord Diagrams

This lesson includes 5 voicings using the sus4 triads. The voicings are shown below as chord diagrams as well if you prefer to read an visualize them in that way.

Using Super-imposed structures like the sus4 triad

In Jazz there is a long tradition of using upper-structures when improvising, and it is a very useful approach to building a vocabulary of lines when improvising. The use of the upper-structure and the ability to connect it with more simple material on the chord means that anything you study can be put to use in several places.

I hope you can use these 5 sus4 triads I went over here to expand you vocabulary and add some great melodic ideas to your solos! 

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5 Sus4 Triads and the Perfect Maj7 licks you can make with them

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