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Watch the Sus Chords online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from Funk Fission

Sus chords—short for suspended chords—are a huge part of my harmonic vocabulary. The sound of them is well, music to my ears, and I try to include them in everything I play. As a kid I listened to everything—really—so I always had a healthy dose of seemingly disparate influences such as Alex Lifeson and McCoy Tyner coming into my ears via my Sony Walkman. One thing these two artists have in common, as well as many more of my influences, is their use of these gloriously ambiguous sounding chords.

This segment covers the subject of sus chords thoroughly, but if you find yourself in need of a sus chord boot camp, search out my trilogy of articles I wrote for Mel Bay’s on-line magazine, Guitar Sessions. The collection is called Sus Chord Symposium and they were published as follows: Part 1: Nuts and Bolts (Oct/06), Part 2: Altered Reality (Nov/06) issues, and Part 3: Vicious Cycles (Jan/07). They are, as far as I know, the most comprehensive treatise on suspended chords out there!

The included PDF charts coincide with how the sus chords are presented in this segment and the one that follows albeit they are all in the key of A and the inverted chords are named as slash chords instead of the actual form. When studying a new set of chords, it’s important you view them in a clear and organized manner as displayed here. In regards to the chord naming, the chart provides you the other side of the picture compared to what I suggest in this segment. Also, be sure not to fall into the trap many players make when exploring new chords. That is, just playing exactly what’s on the paper. Immediately try to apply all the techniques I’ve showed you so far and construct some exercises that make it fun for you while drilling these grips into your psyche. Better yet, make some music and compose riff ideas like Pogo Stick and Shackman. If you need some examples, don’t fret; they’re coming soon so sit back and sus away!