Sus4 chords are very handy structures to use as a variation from third based structures like triads and 7th chords. In this lesson I want to show how you can apply or find them when improvising on chords, and of course some suggestions on how to play them and examples of how I use them.

Sus4 chords

Let’s first make a few interesting observations on sus chords. In example one you have inversions of an Asus4 triad on 3 sets of strings

Notice that the inversions are:

A D E – Asus4

D E A – Dsus2

E A D – stack of 4th

So we have sus4 = sus2 = stack of 4ths

Let’s just try and spot the structure in some chords voicings:

As you can probably see we the top 3 notes of each of these voicings are an Asus4 triad. There are more examples but the idea is clear. It is very practical to notice what the root of the sus4 triad is relative to the root of the chord (so on the G7 it is a sus4 triad from the 13) and to also figure out exactly what the notes are in relation to the chord (The E sus4 triad is 13(E), 9(A) and 3rd(B) ).

Let’s have a look at some ways to play the arpeggios:

These 4 examples are no where near all possible ways to play these arps, and you should spend a bit of time to check out what different ways to play the arps you can find and which ones suit you the best.

Example lines

Now that you have ways to play the triads and can recognize them as part of chords you already know I’ll try to give you some lines that I made using the sus4 triads.

The first II V I line  is in the key of C major. On the Dm7 chord I am first playing a Csus4 triad (which over D is a m7(11) sound). The rest of that bar is a descending Fmaj7 arpeggio. On the G7alt I am using first an Absus4 (b9, b5, b13 relative to G) and then an Ebsus4 triad (b13,b9,#9).

The Cmaj chord is using the lydian sound that I described in last weeks lesson: Lydian Mode so the first part is a Dsus4 triad followed by a Bsus4 triad and ending on the #11 (F#)

The 2nd example is a minor cadence, a II V I in the key of Am.

The Bm7b5 part of the line is first a basic Bm7b5 arpeggio played from the root. It then continues up using an Asus4 arpeggio. On the E7alt the first part is a descending Bb7 arpeggio followed by a Csus4 (b13, b9, #9 relative to E) before the line resolves to the 5ht of A minor (E).

In the final example is again a II V I in C major. Here I am using a Dsus4 triad over the Dm7 chord which will work in the context too. The line on the G7alt is first an Ebsus4 triad (b13,b9,#9) and then an AbmMaj7 arpeggio. On the C maj7 the line consists of the combination of a Gsus4 and an Esus4 arpeggios.

I hope you can use the examples and exercises I presented here to make your own lines and expand your melodic vocabulary a it with the Sus4 sound. To me it is also a good gateway to using quartal harmony in lines.

If you want to download the examples for later study I have them here as a PDF:

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

In this lesson I want to give you a few exercises and show how I use open voiced triads in my solos. The sound of open voiced triads is often associated with Eric Johnson and Steve Morse but is a fairly common device in Jazz and Rock. Hopefully this lesson will give you some insight and a way to incorporate it in your own playing.

The lesson is based around a basic  II V I in F major as shown here:

In some of the examples I decided to also use a dominant from the diminished scale, and not only the altered scale. Especially because triads are really great melodic material when using the diminished scale.

The Exercises

The first basic exercise is to practice playing the open voiced triad in inversions. Here’s the Bb Major and G minor triads.

As I mentioned in the video and also in the lesson: Open triads for jazz chords there are more ways to play the same triads and you might find that in some contexts it is easier to use something else than what I have put in these 2 exercises, but these are the ones I use for this exercise and sometimes I’ll use something else if that works better in other situations.

The next exercise is to play the triads through a major scale. In this case the F major scale. I most of the time practice arpeggios and other things in a scale or tonal context since that is where you have to put it to use.

This exercise is not that useful in a position so I wrote it out across the neck from low to high. This is also a very useful approach to practicing for building an overview of the neck and also to help you connecting the different positions.

You might want to try taking the other inversions through the scale as well.

The lines

Before I start going through the lines I just want to explain how I chose triads for each of the chords. The process is fairly simple as it is just picking triads out of the stacked thirds that make up the chords and add some extensions to get a few more triads.

I have chosen to show the C7alt using the same trick as in Diatonic Arpeggios – Superimposing arpeggios and altered chords, so the triads are chosen by looking at the tritone substitution of C7, Gb7. In the video I also briefly explain how I come by the triads in the diminished scale.

In this lesson I tried to write the lines a bit further so that it also shows some of the melodies I might use on the I chord.

The first line is build by using a Bb major open voiced triad that continues into a Gm arpeggio. For the dominant I string together an Eaugmented triad and an inversion of the Gb7 arpeggio. The line on the Fmaj7 is a stack of fourths from G and then an Asus4 triad. The Asus4 works well over Fmaj7 because it is 3(A), 13(D) and 7(E) of the chord.

In the 2nd example I start with a Dm7 arpeggio over the Gm7 chord which resolves to the 3rd of the Gm on the 3rd beat. On the C7 the first part is a Gb open voiced triad followed by a Dbminor triad. on the Fmaj7 I first play a Gsus4 arpeggio and then a pentatonic 3 note per string idea that in this case turns out to be an Aminor triad resolving to the 13 of F.

I chain the Gm7 and the Dm7 arpeggios over the Gm7 chord in example 3. The line over the C7 is an Bbdim open triad, followed by an Eb major triad. As you might see from the notes being played I am usin gthe diminished scale over the C7. On the Fmaj7 I play an D7sus4 arpeggio, but I guess you could argue that it is also an Am pentatonic line.

The coltrane minor pattern opens up the fourth example and it continues into an open voiced F major triad. The C7 line is again usin gthe diminished sound and is an E diminished arpeggio followed by an open A triad. The line resolves to the 7th of F and then the melody continues to the 9th(G) of F.