There are pretty chords, ugly chords, and some chords that are just plain sus

Okay, that’s the first and last sus joke – promise! 

So, why did you land on this blog post? 

  • Perhaps you’ve been learning a new song and the chord chart switched out a regular D major chord for a ‘Dsus’ chord. 
  • Maybe you’re looking for a chord with a distinct flavor to spice up your next song?
  • It could be that you already know a few sus chords shapes, but want to know exactly what they are

Whatever it was that piqued your interest – we’ve got you covered. 

In the next few minutes, you’ll learn how to play sus chords on guitar and how to build them yourself.

What are suspended chords?

In short, ‘sus’ stands for suspended.

Sus chords are most often used to suspend the character of a chord by briefly removing the 3rd

  • In music theory terms, the 3rd is hugely important to the overall mood and sound of the chord. 
  • Major 3rds create a lighter, and happier sounding chord – minor 3rds create the opposite. 
  • For this reason, the 3rd interval defines the character of a chord.

Don’t worry if this doesn’t make sense right now, our chordal tech support will be with you shortly!

When to use a sus chord?

The sus chord sound makes its way into almost all styles of music from pop and rock to jazz and classical. Their use is universal and always creates more interest when included in a guitar part. 

Once you know how to create them, you can use them in a variety of places for many different purposes.

  • In renaissance and baroque music, composers would use suspended chords as a way of creating dissonance and instability in a progression. 
  • While modern listeners won’t necessarily identify the sound of a sus chord as a dissonance anymore, they can still be used to create subtle instability within a harmonic progression.

Here are some other useful applications of suspended chords:

  • Delay the resolution of a chord progression. 
  • Add ‘mini melodies’ on the top voice of regular chords.
  • Take chord progressions to the next level by adding interest.

Bonus tip!

A great way to use suspended chords on guitar is as embellishments.  

The hammer on and pull off technique is perfect for adding some suspended notes into into regular chord progressions. This can transform tired chord progressions into guitar parts that have a melody and bass-like accompaniment.

How to build sus chords

Let’s take a look at how sus chords shape up on guitar – we’ll break it down into three levels to help lock in the theory.

Level 1

You need to know how to form a triad to understand sus chords. Whenever you build a chord on the guitar fretboard, you need three ingredients:

  • Root - The grounding note that identifies the key.
  • 3rd - The ‘character’ note defining a happy or sad quality.
  • 5th - The cornflour note that thickens the texture of the chord.

These three notes form a triad which is our foundation for understanding and building sus chords.

Level 2

Now that you’ve got the triad theory under your fingers, we’ll introduce you to the two types of sus chords and how to find them. 

  • Remember, the key to creating a sus chord is by suspending the 3rd of the chord. 
  • This means removing it entirely from the chord and replacing it with the 2nd or 4th note of the major scale. 

Both the 2nd and 4th notes create an unresolved feeling – like they’re pulling us toward the 3rd. Here is the structure of the two types of sus chord.

  • Sus2 - Root, 2nd, 5th.
  • Sus4 - Root, 4th, 5th.

Sus2 and sus4 chords are actually 2 sides of the same coin!

  • Dsus4 and Gsus2 share the same notes – both chords consist of the notes D, G, and A.
  • This shows that depending on the context, three identical notes can have different qualities.

Acoustic guitarists often throw sus chords into open-string chord progressions to immediately create more harmonic or melodic depth. 

If you’re interested in fingerstyle or folk guitar, knowing suspended chords on guitar can be a game-changer!

Check out our article on hammer ons and pull offs for some fun tips, tricks, and licks for using sus chords. 

Level 3

Although there are only two kinds of sus notes, you’ll see four options for sus chords below. 

This is where the dominant 7th gets involved. If you want to add extra tension to your sus chords, adding a dominant 7th to the chord can increase that unresolved feeling. 

  • Sus4
  • Sus2
  • 7Sus2
  • 7Sus4

Suspended chords that include a dominant 7th are essentially stacked 4th intervals. This is super easy on guitar because all you need to do is bar three or four strings to create the 7sus4 shape. 

As an example, we can make a C7sus4 by stacking C, F, Bb, and G on top of each other. 

Just as before in level 2, sus chords with a dominant 7th often resemble other sus chords. 

  • In the case of C7sus4, this chord has all of the elements to create Fsus4
  • The dominant 7th (Bb) of C7 becomes the sus4 note of F. 

Jazz guitar players will often use sus chords in tandem with altered dominant chords to maximize the sound of tension.

Songs that use sus chords

As we mentioned earlier, you hear sus chords in all kinds of music. 

Here’s a small selection of songs you’ve probably heard but might not have realized were so sus chord heavy – check them out!

Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles

Starting with one of the biggest songs of all time, Here Comes The Sun is a Beatles classic and features an acoustic guitar part that makes use of Dsus4 in the most recognizable phrase. 

Lingus – Snarky Puppy

When Snarky Puppy hit the music scene in the early 2010s, the world was introduced to the new sound of fusion jazz. Lingus is perhaps the most popular song that Snarky Puppy has ever recorded and features a long chord vamp on a 7sus4 in the opening section and later solo sections.

Never Too Much – Luther Vandross

One of the kings of soul and disco, Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much features an iconic chordal riff that uses a string of 7sus4 chords before eventually landing on a major7 chord to settle the track.  

Kiss – Prince

We couldn’t leave Prince out of this sus chord discussion. Kiss is one of the clearest examples of how to use sus chords to create a funk-infused, pop classic. The song uses a clear E7sus2 funk riff in the intro, but unbeknownst to many, the song features an entire chord progression made up of sus2 chords.  

Message In A Bottle - The Police

The Police’s Message In A Bottle is a fantastic example of how to use sus chords as the basis for a single note riff. The iconic opening guitar part uses exclusively sus2 arpeggios (Root - 5th - 2nd) to create a sense of tonal unrest. It’s hard to tell whether the song is in a major or minor key until the chorus settles the song in a major key.

Sus chord shapes for guitar

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for – the chord shapes! These are some of the most commonly used sus chords for guitar players.

For extra points, try to see where the 3rd would usually be in the chord. This will help you feel more comfortable visualizing each of the shapes on the fretboard and how to choose between sus2 and sus4 chord types.

Want a bonus challenge?

Once you feel comfortable with the sus2 and sus4 chord shapes, introduce them into your playing as a way of adding a mini melody to the progression.

Below are three chord progressions. Use these as templates for creating your own sus chord movements.

  • C - F - G - C 
  • G - D - C - D
  • F - C - F - G

Need an example? 

You can use the first chord progression as your template for exploring sus chords. Instead of the regular C-F-G-C progression, you could include sus chords in between each of the chords to create a different sound – like this:

C - F - G - C —---> C - Csus2 - F - Fsus2 - Gsus2 - C - Csus4 

Because suspended chords are unresolved, we can also use them before minor chords to create the same effect. Once you’re done with the major chord progressions, test yourself to recreate the same chord progressions in a minor key.

  • Cm - Fm - G - Cm 
  • Gm - D - Cm - D
  • Fm - C - Fm - Gm


Sus chords are an amazing addition to any chord progression. They’re great for visualizing notes on the fretboard, and a finger workout when you switch between them during chord progressions. 

The big payoffs from learning suspended chords are – more variety in your music and some fresh ideas that’ll keep your compositions interesting.

Now that you’ve got a head full of chords, it’s over to you!

As you explore sus chords and how to use them, we highly recommend checking out our Fingerstyle Learning Pathway to get an even deeper understanding of how to use sus chords in your acoustic guitar playing to create beautiful progressions.  

Try now with our 14-day free trial!

Author: Jack Handyside