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sus2/add9

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(@almann1979)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1281
Topic starter  

okay, so i have been learning some andy summers stuff lately, as i am a huge police fan and we are currently covering one of their songs. however, i saw an interview on youtube with him |(no link im afraid), where he says he likes to play in fifths, so i had a listen to message in a bottle, cobbled out in my head how to play in 5ths for those chords and was amazed to hear i had it right when i played the main riff.

but when you play a chord like that, lets say a C chord (which played in fifths is C, G, D), what chord actually is it? I tried to figure it out but i arrived at both a sus2 chord and an add9 chord. are they both the same? what is it im missing??

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


   
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(@noteboat)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

Chord names can be confusing. And a lot of people are confused in what they write out in chord progressions... so you'll see this set of notes labeled "Csus2" pretty often, especially on line.

Proper chord names also depend on context; that means the same set of notes can actually be labeled correctly in one situation, but in another it's dead wrong. So the right name for those notes depends on what came right before them and what comes just after them - harmony is a complex subject.

C-G-D can be one of three things:

1. Gsus. Suspended chords are the 1-4-5 of the root's major scale. The fact that C is a bass note doesn't change the chord name; if it did, we'd call C-E-G a C major, and E-G-C an Emb6(no fifth). Despite the fact that some people tell you "sus" means to replace the third with whatever comes after it - i.e. that C-D-G is a "sus2", that interpretation has no basis in harmony.

2. Cadd9, or Cm add9. Since the chord doesn't have a third as played, we don't know if it's major or minor. But since there's no Bb, we know it's not C9 (or Cm9) - it'd have to be an "add" 9. Chords are named in context, so if your progression has an E note in the chords right next to it, we might hear it as a major type chord, even without the third; if that's the case, Cadd9 conveys the harmony - and that's the whole purpose of a chord name.

3. It could be in quintal or quartal harmony. These are systems where chords are built in fifths or fourths, rather than thirds. If all the chords in a piece are built that way, you'd be looking at something outside the normal system. In that case, a chord spelling of D-G-C could be seen as stacked fourths; it would most often be labeled D7sus - because the b7 (C) is present, the fifth (A) is optional, and the third (F#) is replaced by the fourth.

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(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1281
Topic starter  

wow, that is a much more detailed response than i expected. in fact, i now realise i am much further away from understanding it than i thought!

anyway, thanks for the reply noteboat - i will certainly study all that info - it may take time, but ill get there.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


   
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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 10264
 

Just a quick point on the whole "sus2" question - I know Noteboat doesn't like the term, and argues that a sus2 is merely an inversion of a sus4, which is fair enough. In the example above - a chord made up of the notes C D and G - he points out it's actually a Gsus (I always call it a Gsus4) but couldn't you actually call it a C5add9 chord? You've got the first and fifth notes of the C scale - C and G respectively - with the D as the added ninth. Or is there some reason why this terminology wouldn't be valid?

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973
 

I don't think Noteboat argues that all chords labeled as sus 2 are actually inverted sus 4s. In his post he gave 3 interpretations of the chord and one of those interpretations was the one you just mentioned, albeit named slightly differently. C5 add 9 is the same as C add9 (no 3rd). In both of those cases, the surrounding context of the chord within a song may indicate an implied major or minor 3rd, in which case both names would become C add 9 if it's a major 3rd or Cm add 9 if it's a minor 3rd.

So it depends on the function of the chord in context as to how it should be named.

The only difference I have with NoteBoat on this, as far as I can tell, is that, assuming (in a particular context) it's clearly not an inverted sus 4 or a quartal/quintal type chord, then I'm prepared to accept the name sus2 despite its misleading origins, and he prefers to call it add 9 or add 9 (no 3rd).


   
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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 21 years ago
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Ah, I see Fretsource beat me to the post :)

Actually, I won't name a chord add9 (no third). I'd just call it add9, and identify what type of chord it should be - it's gotta be one of them!

There are three basic systems at play here:

1. Power chords. Notation like G5 describes an interval, not a chord. You can't "add" to an interval... because if you do, you have a real chord of some kind.

2. Tertian ("normal" chords. "add 9" implies you're adding the 9th to a basic triad. Play C-E-D and it's Cadd9; the G isn't needed (For proof of this concept, look at the open C7: x32310 - there's no G in it. But you could play 3x2310 and include a G if you wanted to!) I'd look at C-G-D the same way: it's either C or Cm with an added D note... and only one will work in context.

3. Non-tertian chords. If you're building chords in fifths, C-G-D is the basic triad, 1-5-9. You can't "add" the 9, because it's a basic part of the chord. These chords are usually named in fourths, which is the D7sus name I gave earlier.

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(@fretsource)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973
 

Actually, I won't name a chord add9 (no third). I'd just call it add9, and identify what type of chord it should be - it's gotta be one of them!

My problem with that is that it implies you could always add the appropriate missing 3rd and it would do no harm to the chord. But I'm sure you'll agree there are cases where adding the major or minor 3rd would definitely ruin the effect of the chord.
I'm thinking of a song I wrote a while back in the key of A major. It opens with A sus2 for a good few bars with no 3rd in sight, which is very important for the dreamy floaty effect I was after. It's played (and returned to) in such a way that we can hear that the key is going to be A something and that we're hearing a modified tonic chord in root position as it sounds stable and balanced, and despite being a little dissonant, it's in no hurry to go anywhere.
A little later in the piece, the note C# comes in and the key is established as A major rather than minor. If you then retrospectively look at the first chord and name it as A add 9, because you now know that the missing 3rd is major, it gives the wrong impression that the first chord can contain that third, when it can't. At least the "add 9 (no 3rd) label tells you: "Yes it's an A add9 but whatever you do, don't include the 3rd.)
I would hate for someone playing it to see the first chord written as A add9 and include the 3rd as that would completely spoil it.


   
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