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Fsus Barre Chord in Session 7

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Hi compañeros, I hope you're well.

I want to ask a theory question. On page 37 of the Gibson Learn and Master series, we got taught the Esus chord which is just like the open E Maj chord with the 3rd #-ed up from G# to A natural. (Photo attached with my scribbling). Then on page 44, Steve shows us the Fsus chord which is just the same as the Fm7 next to it but with the pinky slid up on the G-string to an A#. Cool, the 3rd is #-ed a semitone (half-step to the US players). BUT!!!! we've still got an Eb in there, which is a flattened 7th in the F Major scale.

So, rather than a Fsus chord which I guess should be F A# C, we've got F A# C Eb. Doesn't that make it a Fsus7 ?

I'm no genius on music theory or harmony, so can someone who knows what they're talking about tell me the answer? I would have assumed the Fsus would be identical to the Esus played with 1st finger barre a semitone (half-step) higher, i.e. on the 1st fret. F-C-F-A#-C-F, not F-C-Eb-A#-C-F as shown on page 44.

Also, my apologies if this is already covered in another thread, only I haven't found it.

Saludos desde Madrid.





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3 hours ago, Eduardo said:

Hi compañeros, I hope you're well.

I want to ask a theory question.

Theory?!?!  Paging Ms. @DianeB!   Paging Ms. Diane B!!!

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@Eduardo Good eye, my dear man! Yes, this has been called out here before, but I've forgotten where, so let's clarify.

A major triad is the root, major third, and perfect fifth, abbreviated 1-3-5. A suspended fourth (sus4) chord is the root, perfect fourth, and perfect fifth, 1-4-5. As you observe, the middle pitch is raised a semitone to form this from the major triad.

At this stage in the course, to avoid unnecessary complication, Steve uses "sus" to mean "sus4". There are also "two" chords, written as either "sus2" or simply "2", as in G2 (= Gsus2). These come later, in Session 12.

He also makes another simplification here for the student, again for the same reason. He does not distinguish between "sus4" and "7sus4", a suspended dominant seventh, which is 1-4-5-b7, referring to both as "sus".

The open position Em7 chords shown are variations on 1-b3-5-b7 (E-G-B-D). The open position Dsus (Dsus4) is 1-4-5 (D-G-A) and the open Esus (Esus4) is also 1-4-5 (E-A-B). 

The first position Fm7 is 1-b3-5-b7 (F-Ab-C-Eb). But the "Fsus" illustrated is actually an F7sus4. Fsus4 is 1-4-5 (F-Bb-C), but F7sus4 is 1-4-5-b7 (F-Bb-C-Eb). The A# pitch class is not in the key of F, but rather its enharmonic, Bb. Note the presence of the b7th (Eb).

A true Fsus4 (1-4-5 = F-Bb-C) in the first position is 133311, or an Esus4 shape two frets behind a full barre. Even in Steve's full chord chard (attached), he has labeled F7sus4 as "Fsus7" (?!), complexicating things even more. Fsus4 does not appear on the chart probably because Steve has found little use for it. In classical guitar, it's not that unusual. The F7sus4 shape is slightly easier to form, and it works harmonically because the (added) b7 will function as a leading tone much like the 4th.

Steve is not being misleading, but doing what all good teachers do in not introducing complexity too early and needlessly. But sharp eyed students will catch these moments every time!

Chords You Need to Know.pdf

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On 8/20/2022 at 7:14 PM, DianeB said:

The A# pitch class is not in the key of F, but rather its enharmonic, Bb

Diane! Long time no see! Thanks for that - of course, it's all coming back now. There's no such thing as a sharpened Major 3rd, because it automatically becomes a perfect 4th. Which is why it's not A# in the Fsus chord, but Bb. (As well as A# not existing in the scale of F Major).

Thanks for explaining the "sus4" bit - I never twigged on to that. I owe you one.

I started learning proper theory a couple of years back with an absolute diamond of a professional musician (sax, tuba, and piano player) but then the pandemic hit and the poor guy was too afraid to keep coming round for classes. He's now at University studying Schoenberg and Poulenc...

I need to get back studying theory, or I'll be forever limited to the ranks of "amateur annoying Dad that no-one wants to listen to" !!!

Oh, and don't for a minute think I was being critical of Steve, I wouldn't dream of it. Even though I've never met the guy, I know he's put his life's work into helping people learn music, and if he's made omissions, it'll be for a good reason. Thanks for the chart. It's getting printed off and pinned to the bedroom wall for just as long as my wife is away working!

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On 8/20/2022 at 7:14 PM, DianeB said:

There are also "two" chords, written as either "sus2" or simply "2", as in G2 (= Gsus2). These come later, in Session 12.

Sorry to pester you Diane, can you explain a bit more about the sus2 chords to me? I'm checking out the chords chart and on page two, I'm "spelling" the chords out. So the 3rd in the triads go down a tone: A2 goes from A-C#-E down to A-B-E, D2 goes from D-F#-A down a full step to D-E-A, and G2 goes from G-B-D to G-A-D. Why's it called "suspended" then? If a suspended 4th goes up a semitone, yet a suspended 2nd goes down a whole tone? I don't get it. It sounds cool though! In fact, it sounds kind of "unfinished". It needs to end on a Major chord. Is this what musicians mean when they talk about "tension" and "resolution"?

I really appreciate your input Diane. Thanks for taking the time.


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@Eduardo Glad you asked, because that question also arises frequently. I wondered myself. From the Harvard Dictionary of Music: "Suspension (under 'Counterpoint'): normally a dissonant tone occurring on a strong metrical position, having been sustained (or "suspended" or "prepared') from an initial attack as a consonance and converted to a dissonance as a result of motion in another voice. It is most often resolved downward by step." (Italics mine.)

So whether to notate a chord as G2 or Gsus2 is merely a matter of convention and preferred usage. If we regard the dissonant note (the second or fourth in the chord) as "lifted", then the physical meaning of "suspension" is applicable to a fourth but not a second. Steve reports that "sus2" usage is more common in the UK, and "2" in the US. I can't say, because I've seen "sus2" over chord blocks in a lot of music books here in the US. He uses "2". It seems to be like "color" vs. "colour". And yes, this is the essence of almost all Western music from the Classical period on, tension and resolution.

-- Diane

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