Chord Substitution

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Vic Lewis VL
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Chord Substitution

Post by Vic Lewis VL » October 14th, 2005, 5:51 am

Having read Noteboat's lesson on chord substitution (Excellent lesson, thanks Tom!!!) and filed it away in the "must" remember section of the brain cell, something cropped up on another forum which raises a question.....

consider the triad G, A and D...

if you take G as the root, you have G(i) A(ii) and D(v) which would make it a Gsus2 chord...

however if you take D as the root, you then have D(i) G(iv) and A(v) which would make it a Dsus4 chord....

Does this mean I could substitute, say, a Dsus4 for a Gsus2 chord in a sequence, or does it depend entirely on context?

Not even sure if this belongs here or the Theory forum....

I've just tried switching back and forth from Dsus4 to Gsus2, and they don't sound very similar....I'll have to experiment.....

:? :? :?

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Post by dsparling » October 14th, 2005, 7:12 am

Yes, good lesson by Tom...but since I know what the other thread is you're referring to, I'll throw in my two cents :)

I'd say it's mostly context...yes, you've got G, A, and D in your chord (not sure I'd call it a triad, even though there are three notes...perhaps Noteboat can elaborate on that)....take a look at the fingerings (at least how I normally play them)...

Dsus4
xx0233 (Bass: D, rest of chord: ADG)
G2
3x0233 (Bass: G, rest of chord: DADG)

The top strings are the same, only the bass notes differ.

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Post by Vic Lewis VL » October 14th, 2005, 8:30 am

Thanks (AGAIN!) Doug....

You could actually play the Gsus2 and play the A string open, though, couldn't you? (just a personal preference of mine...I HATE having to mute a single string when I'm playing a chord....)

I was actually playing it wrongly -er, the Gsus2 that is - I was playing it with the B string open...

And I usually play the D chord with the F# bass note on the bottom E string...I like to use all 6 strings whenever possible...

So playing them like this.....

E A D G B E
2 0 0 2 2 3 (Dsus4)
3 0 0 2 2 3 (Gsus2)

There's an even smaller difference....

:D :D :D

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Post by NoteBoat » October 14th, 2005, 8:45 am

Ah, suspensions.

In 'classical' theory, they don't exist. All chords are built on thirds of some type, so without that root-third-fifth structure, it ain't a chord.

That's not to say composers didn't use them - just that they are not recognized as chords; they don't add anything to the harmony.

The typical use of a suspension is to have a chord, like F major, followed by another chord, like C major. Instead of having all the notes move at once, you move them one at a time... F-A-C becomes F-G-C becomes E-G-C.

The chord change is still recognized as F-C in harmonic analysis, but in between there's a 'suspension' - a term from harmony that means there's a note that's too high for the chord, and it's going to resolve down to a chord tone. If it resolves up to a chord tone, it's called a retardation.

When suspensions started to be used a lot in popular music, the term 'sus' started popping up in sheet music, as in 'Csus'. It ALWAYS meant a suspended fourth (C-F-G). Some publishers then started labelling them 'sus4'... which led to the misconception that you can replace the third with any note and you get a suspended chord. I see references to 'sus2' all the time, and sometimes 'sus6'.

There's no need to use those names - Csus or Csus4 is the same notes as Fsus2, so I prefer it - it's clear. Resolution doesn't matter, since harmony doesn't recognize this as a chord change. I wouldn't call it a substitution, because it's the same notes... it's like substituting Am7 (A-C-E-G) for C6 (C-E-G-A). You get the exact same notes, so you might call it a renaming, but not a substitution :)
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John Smith

Post by John Smith » October 19th, 2005, 9:14 pm

Thanks Tom for writing "The most useful lesson ever written on GN!" When are you gonna start writing for Acoustic Magazine? 8)

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Post by NoteBoat » October 20th, 2005, 3:28 am

I'm really glad you liked it. I'm talking to an editor at a guitar magazine now - so probably some time next year. I
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Post by xdamnablex » December 6th, 2005, 1:52 pm

Which magazine? Please tell me it is Guitar Player magazine! :D

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Post by Nick » March 8th, 2006, 6:34 pm

Niliov, If you want a discussion on the intricacies of theory do it in the theory section and create your own thread. Do not hijack any more threads.

First and only warning. Thanks. Actually, since David locked down the last hijacked thread, consider this the second and final warning.

Tom, I'll reserve judgement on our new poster and give him the benefit of the doubt, but just in case remember, "please don't feed the trolls".
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Post by NoteBoat » March 8th, 2006, 7:36 pm

xdamnablex wrote:Which magazine? Please tell me it is Guitar Player magazine! :D
I'll have an article in PlayGuitar! magazine in June. Hopefully a lot more to come :)
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Chord Substitution

Post by Roseman » May 28th, 2011, 8:22 pm

I was reading with interest the lesson on chord substitution and noticed a typo error:

#12 – m7 ai fifth higher than a dominant (for part of a change) Should read, '#12 – m7 a fifth higher...'.

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Re: Chord Substitution

Post by martmiguel » January 17th, 2013, 7:08 am

They are diffeent chords, if you are under the key of G the Gsus2 will be a tonic but if you use Dsus4 this one will be one of the dominant chords of the scale, so they have different harmonic functions.

This means that they are different chords and work differently on the scale.

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Re: Chord Substitution

Post by NoteBoat » January 17th, 2013, 7:09 pm

Functional harmony is a great topic. And you're right, martmiguel, if two chords have identical tones but different roots, they may have different functions. So if we were talking about Dm6 (D-F-A-B) and Bm7b5 (B-D-F-A) in the key of C, you would have a valid point - the Dm6 would be a ii chord, and would have a predominant function; the Bm7b5 would be a vii chord and have a dominant function.

But we're talking about sus chords. And that means you're mistaken. Here's why:

Harmony is the study and classification of chords - their construction, function, tendencies, and so on. And the classification of harmony begins with defining what kind of harmony we're looking at - in other words, how are chords built?

When you talk about functional harmony, it's implied that we're talking about Tertian harmony: chords built in thirds. But sus chords are not built of thirds. That means that in the context of harmony, they are not chords!

Sus chords in the context of Tertian harmony are EVENTS.

Think about it this way - if you're playing with another guitarist, and you play a Bm chord... and he plays the notes F#-G-A-B against it, are you going to analyze each moment of the the music as Bm, Bm6, Bm7, Bm?

Of course not. You would recognize that the sounds of Bm6 and Bm7 are transient moments, and the underlying harmony of the entire passage is Bm.

That's what harmony does - it separates the stuff that matters (the actual chords) from the stuff that doesn't (the non-harmonic tones) so the underlying structure of a work can be analyzed.

The fact is, suspensions in classical music - which is where all the ideas of harmony (including functional harmony) come from - are moments where a chord resolution is spread out over time. For example, we may hear F-> Csus-> C. These aren't three distinct chords - it's just like the example of the Bm6 and Bm7. In this case, there are TWO chords: F and C. Rather than moving as block chords, the voices move one by one, like this:

A G G
F F E
C C C

The moment in between is called a suspension. This is not because it's a suspended chord - it's because the delayed voice moves DOWN to resolution. If the order of the tones was reversed, the voice would move up (G would become A for resolution) and it would be called a retardation. This gives all the information needed for harmonic analysis: the F or G is simply a lagging voice between two chords.

The use of "sus" as a chord label is about 100 years old, and it's an attempt to capture the quality of the sound of that event, originally so it could be used for improvisation within jazz. The label "sus 2" is younger than I am - and it doesn't represent any new breakthrough in harmony. In fact, the concept of functional harmony is at least 60 years older than the earliest use of the sus2 label.

Sus chords don't have a function at all. Because they lack a tritone, they can't have a dominant function; because they lack a third, they can't be classified as either tonic or predominant. They simply fill the space between two chords that have functions.
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