Tag Archives: sus4 chords

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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6 Triads for a Cmaj7 Chord (well 10 actually..)

Using triads to play jazz chords is a great way to get the sound of the chord and have a flexible three note voicing that you can change the extensions and melody on. This video is going over 6 triads that I use for my Cmaj7 voicings and will also demonstrate how you can use them in a II V I cadence in C major. At the end of the video I go over 4 more triads that are a bit tricky to use but also yield more interesting sounds!

Finding the triads

The most important note in a Cmaj7 voicing is probably the major 3rd: E.

If we want to find the triads that can be used it is probably a good idea to just look at what options are available with the diatonic triads that contain an E.

As you can see here below I have written out the triads where E is the 3rd, the root and the 5th. Which gives us C, Em and Am triads. But we can also use the sus4 triads. The second half of the example below are the sus4 triads where E is the root, 5th and 4th.

The Bsus4 is not really diatonic to C major, but is a great sound to use for a Cmaj7(#11) or Lydian sound.

The Tonic triads

The C major triad is of course a good candidate to convey a Cmaj7 sound. The example below shows how that might be used:

The C major is of course lacking a bit of color, but it can still be used. I chose to use it with the E in the melody because if it has  the root in the melody it immediately sounds like the ending of the song.

Em triads – Triad from the 3rd of the chord

A lot of very common Cmaj7 voicings are in fact just Em triads with a C bass note (as I demonstrate in the video) This of course means that yet again the structure from the 3rd of the chord is incredibly useful as a voicing for the chord.

The Am triad – C6 chords

When using the Am triad we don’t actually get a Cmaj7 sound but instead a C6 sound. As you probably already know, the two are interchangeable so this is also a useful triad to have in your vocabulary

Esus4 The super triad

A very rich Tonic sound is the Cmaj7(13) and this is what you get if you use an Esus4 triad to spell out the Cmaj7 as shown here below:

Asus4 The 6/9 upper structure

Using an Asus4 as a Cmaj7 voicing gives you an C6 chord with an added 9. This sound is very common in Bossa Nova and other Brazilian styles but is in general of course also a beautiful sound on a tonic chord and a great alternative to the more common Cmaj7 sounds.

Lydian with a Bsus4

The last sus4 triad is the Bsus4 which is in fact diatonic to G major not C major. Bsus4/C gives us a maj7, 3rd and b5 (or #11) which is a lydian sound.

Combining the triad sounds

Now that we have 6 different ways to play the Cmaj7 chord we can combine them to get a varying set of colors on the tonic chord.

This is shown in the example below where I am first resolving to Asus4 then Am and further on to Esus4. This small move on Cmaj could also be a riff for a song with a period of static Cmaj7.

The second example is starting with a very basic II V voicing set. From there it resolves to C using Asus4, then an inversion of Asus4 that moves up to a Bsus4 and on to Esus4 before it resolves to a Gsus4.

The Gsus4 is a great choice for a Cmaj7 but it is a little more context sensitive as it does not contain an E.

The secret triads

There are four more triads that I often use for voicing a Cmaj7, but these last ones are a litte more difficult to work with because they are more incomplete or very specific in the sound that they convey.

The four triads are shown here below:

The first three are difficult because they don’t contain an E, and the last one is tricky because it has the #5 of C in the voicing.

The beautiful incomplete voicing – Gsus4

In the example here below I am using the Gsus4 triad. The Gsus4 mostly works as a C voicing because the fact that is missing the E is somehow compensated by the C in the voicing.

G/C Upper-structure triads

This voicing is fairly open sounding and not too specific as a Cmaj7 sound. This comes from it only containing the upper part of the chord. One way that it still sounds great as a Cmaj7 voicing is to have it preceded by a G7alt, because the strong pull from the G7 will then automatically make it sound like a resolution.

The Lydian Upper-structure

Another example of only using an upper structure is the D major triad. This triad spells out the 9th, #11 and 13th over the chord. Since we are missing both 3rd and 7th it is not really giving us the sound of the chord, at the same time the Lydian sound is so  heavily represented that it is still fairly clear what is going on.

The Augemented Maj7 – E/C

In this last example the chord sound is actually altered, but since it is by now a very common sound I chose to include it anyway. The E major triad is in fact a Cmaj7#5 without a C, so it is in that respect a very clear sound. That said you should probably be a bit careful with what is going on in the music before you start using this sound.

How to use these 10 triads

This exercise is mostly and overview of what triads you have available as voicings but it should give you some idea on what you can try to use. 

You probably want to spend some time with each one that you want to get into your vocabulary and work on them one at a time to get used to how they work in different contexts.

This can ofcourse also be applied to solos, so maybe that is something to do a video on at some point.

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You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

6 Triad Voicings for Cmaj7

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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