I have recently been exploring chords in the Locrian mode. Down to the flattened 5th and 9th degrees, I have come up with some pretty bizarre sus chords. This got me thinking: Are such chords still recognised as sus chords, in spite of their altered degrees?

A couple of examples:

F sharp, G, C- Can this be described as an F sharp sus flat 2 flat 5?

F sharp, B, C- Can this be described as an F sharp sus 4 flat 5?

m3 V sharp 9

One chord that threw me off was this one: F sharp, A, C, B.

To me, this should be seen as F sharp diminished with an added 11. However, I have seen it described as F sharp sus 4 flat 5 , sharp 9. So, when does a m3 become a sharp 9? Or are both ways of naming this chord as valid as each other?

3 Answers 3


I think that rather than asking whether suspensions "exist" in locrian, you should ask: how do you want the suspensions to be heard?

With sus chords you often get a quartal rather than tertian harmonic feel. Essentially the sound of chords in stacked fourths. If that is what you're after, it seems straight forward. Use sus labels to get the stack of tones you want, and a non-tertian sound.

But, if you want the sound of a real suspension, a dissonant tone that resolves to a consonance, then I think you need to decide what things should be treated as dissonant and then use the suspensions accordingly to create dissonances to resolve. The thing that might make this tricky is the fact that the tonality is locrian. With the tonic chord being a diminished chord - a traditional dissonance - then locrian sort of turns the sense of consonance/dissonance upside down, or at least makes it unconventional. I don't mean to suggest it wouldn't work. It would just be unconventional and that's an opportunity to experiment.


Yes, if in context the chords are suspending notes in place of the third then it would make sense to call them suspensions. The actual chord labels will be a bit tricky, since the examples in the question have diminished fifths and minor seconds and any prospective symbol will have to make that explicit.

Also, in a tonality like Locrian, it can be easy to accidentally lead the listener to a different harmonic interpretation than was intended. So it's worth double-checking whether the music is actually being perceived in the way that the notation suggests.

I'll leave it to OP to sort out good chord symbols, but that last example "F sharp sus 4 flat 5 , sharp 9" is awful. It does technically describe the correct notes, but it obscures the quality needlessly - as written, it's saying "okay, F# major chord. Then suspend the 4th, and then flatten the fifth, and then add the sharp ninth", which is extremely misleading - that set of notes isn't going to be heard as an F# major chord at all, nor will it be heard as a suspension because the minor third is present, nor will the A be heard as #9 since there is no major third in the chord (you should really only be using #9 when the chord already has a major third, otherwise it's just the m3). "F#dim(11)", by contrast, is much better at describing the sound of the chord: "F# diminished chord, then add the 11th". See? Much better.

  • 1
    I think you make a good point about dim versus ♭5. If the critical thing with locrian is the diminished tonic chord as diatonic, and to the extent that ♭5 shows an alteration from a diatonic perfect fifth, then dim is the right choice. The locrian tonic is diatonically diminished, not an altered chord. Not altered like a dominant seventh flat five. Commented May 17, 2021 at 14:26

Any chord name that describes all of the notes in the chord is valid. All the ones you have mentioned seem to instruct a musician to play the intended notes!

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