Watch the Altered Sus Chords online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from Funk Fission
Shaking things up, we have the altered sus chord collection consisting of the following: susb2, susb2b5, sus#4, and sus4b5. These piquant chords are invigorating sounds and when used correctly, will give whatever it is your doing with them some very cool enhancements. Just like the sus2 and sus4 chords mirror each other as I explained in the previous segment, so too do the altered sus chords. So, the same set of three chords created by the susb2 chord—for example Asusb2, Bb∆7sus#4, Esus4b5—is the same set of chords for the sus4b5, just now with the Esus4b5 as the root position while the remaining two chords become the 1st and 2nd inversions respectively.
For some the term altered may pose some mystery, so let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. The term altered refers to any note in a chord formula that has been changed by way of raising (sharp) or lowering (flat) said note from its diatonic (all in one key) state. To understand this takes a little background information, so here it goes …
It’s common practice to assess all of our interval identifications from the major scale, which is a method known as parallel major comparison. Now, taking the A major scale we’ve been working with throughout our sus chord learning you know the seven notes plus the octave define the key of A and thus it’s corresponding key signature (number of applicable accidentals, which in this case has three sharps: F#, C#, and G#). So, dig this: say you have a chord formula that includes the 2nd degree of the A scale (B) in a chord with A as the root. If that B were to be flatted, then that newly crowned Bb would be known as an altered 2nd. Simple, right?
While this concept has it’s notable exceptions, such as the rare instances you consider a root to be altered or the fact you never refer to the 3rd or 7th of any type chord to be altered even if they have been adjusted from their diatonic state, this quick explanation will get you off on the right foot for the altered sus chord quest we’re on right now.