Suspensions

Suspensions are a great way to get more out of any chords you know.

This page gives you the low-down on suspensions, hosts the background notes for the various Musicarta YouTube videos with suspensios as their main focus, and hopes to introduce visitors to Musicarta and the joys of messing around at the keyboard generally.

The suspension riffs on this page are 'generic' (typical). A fully worked-out Musicarta digital sheet music download piano solo - 'Longing' - is now available - click through to check it out.

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That's all! Sorry to KEEP YOU IN SUSPENSE!

A Practice Suspensions Riff

This video sprang directly from a demonstration in a lesson. The groove is pure MOR pop, but don't be put off if you're Goth - plenty of darker material is built on exactly the same principles. 

If it's more convenient, you can watch it on YouTube. The chord sequence is:

G 2-1 (root pos) Am 2-1 (root pos) D7 4-3 (1st inv) G 2-1

Here are some spin-off exercises. But first...

A note: Don't give up if you can't 'get' the keybaord riffs as played. Settle for an approximation that you can play. You might not need or even want to develop such a completely solo keyboard style. The point is to absorb some 'theory that works' and use it creatively down the line.

Suspensions Exercise No.1

Another generic, but mainly 4-3's. Raw footage - your 'by ear' challenge.

Here's the chord sequence:

G 4-3 Em 4-3 Am7 4-3 D7 4-3
G 4-3 Em 4-3 Am7 4-3 D7 4-3
G 2-1 Cm 6-5 G 2-1 Cm 6-5 G 2-1 Cm 6-5 G add 9 (ending)

Some of the chords are 'fattened up' - the A minor and D chords both get sevenths. Note the technique for getting the seventh into the Aminor chord - you play both (notes) G and A with the side of your thumb.

The melody voice (tune) is inside the right hand chord half the time. Seasoned pianists 'bring out the melody' (make this melody voice stand out from the surrounding notes) just by thinking about it - thinking importance into it. Quite literally true - try it and see.

Continued after the break!


Do you enjoy learning keyboards like this? Musicarta has released three digital home study packs designed to structure your efforts, maximise your progress and give a boost to your creative music-making!

Each package comprises:

  • An illustration-rich PDF workbook of around 150 pages;
  • The audio and MIDI files for all the musical examples;
  • The MidiPiano application (to play the MIDI files); and
  • Drum and/or instrumental backing tracks to support you practicing and inspire your improvisations. (See individual product specs for variations.)

The other five Musicarta keyboard creativity downloads are:

The MUSICARTA 12-BAR PIANO STYLES WORKBOOK

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Pyramids Variations cover
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The CANON PROJECT

Pachelbel’s Canon in D is perhaps the most famous chord sequence of all time, and the basis of dozens of popular hits. If you can play and understand the Canon chord sequence, there isn’t much in popular music harmony you won’t be able to figure out! Its regular structure also makes it a great springboard for improvising and composition.

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All the Musicarta home study downloads are designed to help you enjoy becoming a creative modern keyboard player!

Click through to the sample content pages using the ‘LEARN MORE’ links to help you decide which home study pack would suit you best. 

Good value? Please

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Suspensions Exercise No.2

We move into C

The chord sequence is:

C 2-1 (root pos) Dm 2-1 (root pos) G7 4-3 (1st inv) C 2-1

You'll hopefully notice something about this exercise, either by ear or musical intuition: it's the same chord sequence as the original 'Practice Suspensions Riff', but in C instead of G.

This is where the Roman numeral system of naming chords shows its value:

Chords in G G 2-1 Am 2-1 D7 4-3 G 2-1
Roman numerals I 2-1 ii 2-1 V7 4-3 I 2-1
Chords in C C 2-1 Dm 2-1 G7 4-3 C 2-1

Once you see-and-hear this kind of internal structure (and the Roman numeral system really spells it out for you), all manner of creative musical avenues open up.

Suspensions Exercise No.3

The suspension-resolution device is 'in our head', so to speak. We expect the chord tone that's pushed out of place to spring back into position.

A chord tone can be pushed down just as easily as up. Academic music theory call these deliberately lowered chord tones 'accented lower auxiliaries'.

Here's a demonstration riff:

The chord sequence is the same as No.2, but the chord tones wobble both ways:

C 2-1-7-1 Dm 2-1-7-1 G7 4-3-2-3 C 2-1-7-1

(Warning: 2-1-7-1/4-3-2-3 etc is Musicarta-only notation.)

Notice that the D minor 'accented lower auxiliary' is a C sharp. Try it with a C natural and you'll quickly hear why!

Suspensions in Thirds and Sixths

You can apply the suspension-resolution technique to pairs of chord tones too, providing they’re harmonious pairs, like thirds and sixths. Watch this video.

The chord sequence here is a generic G–Em–Am–D (I–vi–ii–V) – just one step up from the entry-level I–vi–IV–V ‘mother’ chord sequence, and now straying into circle-of-fifths territory.

Suspensions (as the name suggests) are pulled up, but, like pushing a ball below the surface of a swimming pool, you can also push chord tones down and let them pop back up of their own accord. The harmonic ‘middle bit’ of this little study (the ‘B’ of the AABA form) has these ‘accented lower auxiliaries’ – and note they are all ‘chromatic’ too, that is, depressed by just a semi-tone. (F sharp in the C chord, G sharp in the D chord, A sharp in the E chord – all fifths lowered by a semi-tone.)

The video is a three-layer cake, with hands at the bottom, the actual MidiPiano performance in the middle and then – most importantly – the harmonic fundamentals at the top. You should endeavour to train yourself to see this what’s-really-happening-before-all-the-finger-flapping material; knowing this is what makes you a creator rather than just a performer.

Moving on from here

Transpose Exercise No.3 back into G major, and any and all of these exercises into other keys.

Listen out for suspensions in popular and classical music, and let your own melodies hit non-chord tones on the beat (promptly resolving them to the nearest chord tone, of course).

Knowing a chord sequence inside out is the essential foundation for building creative theory skills. All three Musicarta digital home study downloads incorporate suspensioin technique as a way of optimnisng your chord vocabulary. Consider buying a package as a way of structuring your efforts and maximizing your results!

Actually playing a suspensions-focused solo to performance standard put you right in the frame. Check out this ready-t0-go example (formerly known as 'KCD Suspensions').

'Longing'

Suspensions offer a great way to get more out of the chords you know, and add a real emotional charge to music. This passionate solo is fully annotated to cement your understanding.

Music (2pp. PDF), audio + MIDI + player, flashcards, bonus track. 4MB.
only $3.95
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Watch it on YouTube.

For a limited period only, you can take advantage of some online teaching notes for this solo.


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PUBLICATIONS
Exciting digital home study packs!
KEY CHORDS VOL.1
Key Chords Vol.1
ONLY $14.95
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THE
CANON PROJECT
The Canon Project
ONLY $14.95
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THE PYRAMIDS
VARIATIONS
The Pyramids Variations
ONLY $14.95
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