How to voice a sus chord easily on the piano

Last time round I explained how sus chords are constructed.

Here I’m going to show you a little trick on how to voice (play) any 7sus chord quite easily on the piano, and you’ll get a nice, full sound.

I’ll explain this in the context of a C7sus:

Take the root (bottom note), so in this case a C and play it in the left hand. Then look at the root in the right hand again, but go down two keys, So C to B to Bb. Now construct a major triad on this note, so a Bb major triad. Then play this with the C root in the left hand, and you’ll get a really nice sounding voicing. (Note that this chord includes a 4th (F) as well as a 2nd (D), but no 5th (G)):

As this chord is made up of a root and a completely separate major chord in its own right you can also write this chord as a slash chord: Bb/C.

Let’s pretend we have a slightly more difficult chord, say an Eb7sus.

So play the root (Eb) in the left hand, then go down two keys in the right hand, so Eb to D to Db, then construct a major chord on the Db, so a Db major triad and put it all together and you should get this:

The nice thing about sus chords and this type of voicing them is that you can even shift these around to different keys at random and get really nice textures. Here is an example – you can try this yourself by just shifting this voicing around the piano:

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Random sus chords

Lincoln Jaeger


What is a sus chord?

You’ve probably been in this situation yourself: you are playing through one of your favourite pieces and getting along quite all right with the chord symbols until you come across a symbol includes the “sus”. For example: Csus4. What does this “sus” mean? Does it have anything to do with a sustain pedal?

Well no, it has nothing to do with a sustain pedal, but is simply short for “suspended”. So what has been suspended?

The 3rd of the chord (in the case of a C major chord the note E). Let me explain.

Take a bog standard C major chord:

Take away, or “suspend” the 3rd:

Now you add in a 4th instead, and you get a Csus4:

So the 3rd of the chord has been suspended and been replaced by the 4th note of the scale, in this case the F.

You could also suspend the 3rd and use the 2nd instead, so a Csus2:

Also quite common is using both a 2nd and a 4th in a chord at the same time:

You will also find that a minor 7th has been added, creating a C7sus4:

You could also add the 2nd instead of the 4th:

Or indeed both the 2nd and the 4th, which makes for a slightly messy looking chord:

The important thing to remember is that if you come across a chord symbol that symbol reads Csus that a Csus4 is implied as Csus is short for Csus4. By the same token, if you come across C7sus, indeed this is short for C7sus4. So:

Csus = Csus4
C7sus = C7sus4

Sus chords are very common in popular music and jazz due to their softer sound compared to straight major or minor chords, and the fact that you can make up a nice chord progression simply by creating a random progression of sus chords if you omit the 5th of the chord (more on that in the next posting). In classical music sus chords are often used in front of a dominant chord before a perfect cadence, i.e. Gsus G C.

Lincoln Jaeger


The crazy cats have taken their horns and are woodshedding!

Yes indeed. You may ask yourself what this crazy headline is all about.

Well, haven written about how daunting it can be to get into the music of jazz, I thought I might use this blog to talk a little about the strange lingo, the colloquialisms, the vernaculars, call it what you want, basically the inside language that exists in the world of jazz.

Let’s start by de-mystifying the header shall we?

Cats = musicians (though most of you probably already knew this)
Horn = instrument (even if it’s now a horn!)
To Woodshed = to go and practice. This comes from the fact that some musicians have been known to go and practice in the shed in the garden. Most likely because practising can be quite a horrible cacophony for anyone to be subjected to.

So one could imagine a conversation between two jazz cats going something like this:

Cat A (Steve McQueen): “How’s your chops”
Cat B (Miles Davis): “My chops is beat”
Cat A: “Two bad – too much time in the shed?”
Cat B: “Naah, too much blowin on these gigs lately”
Cat A: “Oh yeah, been tryin’ out your new licks?”
Cat B: “Uh-huh, got some bad new hot licks!”
Cat A: “Good gig, was it?
Cat B: “The whole band was in the pocket”
Cat A: “Sweet, the whole bad was in the crease”


In plain English:

Cat A: “How is your playing” (chops could also refer to the lips of a brass player – they tend to get fatigued easily)
Cat B: “I’m worn out / I can’t play well / My lips/fingers etc are hurting”
Cat A: “Too bad – have you been practising too much?”
Cat B: “No, too much soloing/playing on these gigs lately”
Cat A: “Oh yeah, have you been trying out your snazzy new preconceived musical phrases (=licks)?”
Cat B: “Uh-huh, I’ve got some really good, fantastic new phrases” (bad=good)
Cat A: “Good gig, was it?”
Cat B: “The whole band was really playing like a unit, really grooving”
Cat A: “Sweet, the band was playing really well)”

Luckily our two jazz musicians decided to call it a day there, or we could have gone much longer…

As you can see, a bit of jazz language has actually found its way into main-stream language such as “cats” (musicians) and “bad” (good). Phrases like “The Big Apple” (New York), to “dig” (to like), “cans” (headphones) are said to have come from the world of jazz, though this is of course impossible to prove.

Regardless, there are of course many more expressions, so if you are interested in the meaning of such terms as:

  • Comping
  • Turnarounds/Turnbacks
  • Head
  • Trading Twos

… then please go to our Jazz Terms Glossary, where you can find even more jazz terms, including more technical expressions (with all the explanations) and all-round jazz madness!

Dig it.

Lincoln Jaeger


Answer To Teaser Question

Here is the answer to our teaser question about musical notation.

Just a quick reminder. I had given this one bar example, where there appear to be too many notes (6 beats worth) in the right hand:


The reason why this works is because there are two separate voices in the right hand.

This is the first voice:

And this is the second voice:

As you can see, there is a two beat rest at the start of the bar in the example above. Normally you would show this when adding the two voices together:

However, as you can see this means that the rest would have to hang in between two staves, which does not look very neat. As the second voice does not enter until the third beat of the bar, it is therefore fine to omit the rest at the start of the bar, as it does not lead to any rhythmic unclarity.


The second, more complicated example I gave looked like this:

Again, there are two voices, here is voice one:

And here is the second voice:

As the piece (Debussy’s Claire de Lune) consistently uses triplets, it is quite common the omit the triplet sign, which was done here. Furthermore the notes on beats 2 and 3 have been written into the right hand stave, indicating the the left hand part may be played by the right hand. So the entire left hand part written in the left hand would look like this:

And finally, as the two voices share the same note on beat three (G Sharp), you have to take the note head of the longer value as done here, or write the notes next to each other, which the editor did not choose to do. Had he done so it would look like this:

Hope that all makes sense.


Pink Panther Theme Tutorial


We have just added a Pink Panther Tutorial for the piano to accompany the sheet music we feature on our site. I explain how to play the all important left hand in detail and give a few hints and tips, including how to add a few extra bits that aren’t included in the score and what the Pink Panther Theme shares with the James Bond Theme:

You can download the Pink Panther sheet music from our site.

Hope you enjoy the video