Using SUSPENSION In Your Guitar Melodies

Using SUSPENSION In Your Guitar Melodies

Tommaso Zillio

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guitar suspension

In the past few weeks, I’ve received more and more emails from you, my dear subscribers, about a particular topic.

I’m surprised to hear so many of you asking the same thing!

(Seriously, do you guys meet somewhere to talk so you can send me the same question simultaneously? And why am I not invited to the party?)

Anyway, many of you are asking about lately “how to write a melody.”

Precisely, what you guys would like to have is a video on how to write a melody - that is complete, exhaustive, not more than 10 minutes long, and that requires no music theory to understand are videos of tips and tricks on how to write melodies.

And since you keep pestering me gently asking such a reasonable thing, how am I to refuse? :-)

So today, we start the “how to write a melody” series.

And we start with one of my favorite tricks - a trick that never goes out of style.

Indeed, western music has used this trick from the Baroque era (ok, I promise I won’t make another example from Bach…) until today.

Behold: how to use suspensions. Watch the video here:

P.S. Suspension is not the same as “suspended chords,” even if the two ideas are connected. But suspensions are much cooler :-)

To be able to do what I do in this video in real-time on your guitar… check out the Complete Chord Mastery guitar course


Hello, internets, so nice to see you!

Today I want to talk with you about one of my favorite devices to make music. And this is going to apply both to writing melodies and writing chord progression. So double whammy here.

Okay, I’m talking about suspension, and you may have heard about suspended chords. But suspension is actually, in my opinion, cooler than just suspended chords because it allows you to move the music in a specific way.

Anyway, let’s see this. First of all, I want to say one thing; it’s best to hear it first. And then we go and see exactly what it is. Because, as usually music theory, if we just talk about it, there’s not much there, no? It’s when we hear these makes a difference.

So I want you to pay attention because suspensions have been used in different kinds of music. So I’m going to give you first an example from Baroque music. And then I’m going to give you an example on a more modern song.

So what’s happening here? What is this suspension we are talking about?

Well, here’s the idea. Let’s say we have a chord progression; I’m going to start with a super simple chord progression; I’m going to start with C to G in I’m going to consider these in C major and thinking this is the first chord to the fifth chord.

We’re also going to see later five to one; the idea is that I’m going to take these in a super simple chord progression so that we can go really in-depth. And then, once you’ve seen this, you can do this on any other chord progression.

The idea is this: in the C major chord; my notes are C, E, and G. And in my G major chord, my notes are G, B, and D. And then I’m going to play C to G.

A suspension would be taking a note of the C Major chord and holding it or playing it again when the G major chord comes, and then resolving it down by step to a note of the G major chord.

It sounds like something really complex. But let me show you an example immediately. Super simple.

So I’m going to play a C major chord and the notes I’m playing our C, E, G, C. Then I’m going to play this G major chord with notes G, D, G, B. But rather than going straight, I’m going to hold the top C note into the G major chord. So I’m not going to play the B in the G major chord; I’m going to play the C instead. And then later, I’m going to move this C down to a B

Which is, incidentally, exactly what is happening in the Neverending Story theme song.

It seems like a small thing. But if you take this little thing out, the song suffers for it. And indeed, I’m going to dedicate another video on analyzing this little thing on the song and going more in-depth on that specific song.

Is that the only thing we can do going from C to G? No, we can do more because we can also hold, if you notice, the E note and resolve it later into a D note.

So it’s going to sound this way: I’m going to change slightly the voicing of the chord I’m going to play now C, G, C, E, and I’m going to play for G G, higher G, B, D. This way, I have my suspension on the top voice, and it’s easier for you to hear.

Of course, I don’t have to put this on the top voice; I can put it in one of the middle voices: it’s just less evident. So here this, I’m going to now play my voicing C E, G, C for C and G, D, G, D, for G, and I’m suspending this E at the tenor voice here into the D.

As you see, less evident than before, and also the E node is not that dissonant over the G chord. So it’s less evident: the sixth tends to be the most consonant non-chord note. So it’s less evident as a dissonance.

But for instance, what if I did something like using a C minor to G like I’m in the C minor key, and so my notes are now C, E flat, G and E flat is going to be a bit more dissonant. So here’s what I’m going to play, C, G, C, E flat into D, G, B, D, and suspending the E flat.

That’s a bit of a stronger sound, don’t you think?. Now, the fun thing is that I can suspend both nodes at the same time; I’m going to do this in two different voicings, the first one with the C suspension on top.

And the second one with the E suspension.

Again, all those sounds are just plain old C to G; I’m just holding a note of the C chord into the G chord. And then later moving this note down a step in the scale into a note of the G major chord.

Can I do the opposite? Can I play the G chord and suspend one of its notes into the C major chord, so I can go from G to C and suspend a note?

Of course, I can; I cannot do it for the B, not the normal way, because the B note will have to resolve down a step. And down a step, it’s A, and the A note is not in the C chord.

So that’s not a candidate for a normal suspension, but you’re gonna see something later. But I can do this for the D note because the D note can resolve later down to the C note in the C major chord. So how is it going to sound?

And this seems to be it, but I can cheat. And rather than playing a G major triad, I could play a G seventh chord instead. Because after all, most of the time I play a five to one, I’m going to put a seventh in there.

So my notes are now not just GBD, but GBDF with F being the seventh, and this F is exactly in the right position to be used for a suspension. Indeed, I can just hold this F into the C major chord and then resolve it down to the E note.

At this point, the question is, though, why we are resolving all our suspension down, and an academic will simply say because that’s the definition of suspension.

So the question is, why is this the definition of suspension? Why is it not something different?

Well, and the idea is that when you resolve those notes down, it gives a better feeling of resolution because, I mean, going down seems to relax better.

Psychologically speaking, your ear feels this movement down as a relaxation, like something falling Okay in a gravitational field or something goes from a place of high energy to a place of low energy. Okay? But of course, we can do whatever we want with music theory, right?

So we can actually suspend the note into the next chord and resolve it up. Now, here’s when music theory books start fighting among each other. Because some music theory books say that this is an “inverse suspension.” Some others think this is a “suspension going up,” and some other music theory books call this movement a “retardation” rather than calling it a suspension. I actually don’t care about all those names.

And I actually don’t care even about the debate if it’s the same thing or not. To me, it sounds good.

And honestly, if you want to classify it just as a suspension that resolves up, I’m perfectly fine with that. Okay, so where will this happen? Well, a great candidate here is when we go from G to C, we’re going to suspend the B note into this C major chord and then resolve it up into a C note. And this sounds this way.

The important point for me is that you can take any chord progression and start doing the exact same thing you were doing now; for every pair of chords, take any simple chord progression, and please stay simple.

Take two chords, take three chords, don’t go with eight chords. Okay? Start simple. Take every single chord in the progression and think what notes of these chords can I suspend into the next chord and resolve them step-wise, so just moving them by a single step in this scale, and then you have to find a way to play them on your guitar.

And this is much, much much easier if you really really know your fretboard and your guitar because honestly, if you have to spend, I don’t know, 5-10 minutes just to find where you can play a G chord so that you have a D note on top to suspend that note. Well, you’re doomed. Okay.

You need to know your chords on your fretboard and be familiar with them so that you can do your musical experimentations without spending hours and hours.

Now, if you find yourself spending time searching, like: where is this chord? What inversion should I find here and all this kind of thing? Then I recommend you guys check out my course, Complete Chord Mastery, where I teach you everything there is to know about chords and harmony on guitar, how to play all the inversions, how to play chords in all positions, and all this.

At the very beginning of the course, I’m teaching you different systems to see all those chords all over your fretboard and connect them, and this will make your life way way way easier. So totally absolutely recommended.

If you like this video, smash on that like button, don’t forget to subscribe, and if you have any questions, comments, etc. Please leave me a comment below. I love reading your comments, and I’m making videos on them.

This is Tommaso Zillio of and until next time, enjoy!

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