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I set my DAW to organ and was playing with chords. I played Csus4, Csus2, C roughly 95bpm 2 counts each. The descending (in my opinion) dissonance from sus4 to sus2 to major feels really nice. But it's also incredibly familiar. Is there a name for this? Or some song which might have stuck it in my consciousness?

I almost want to say its very old church-y but I didn't grow up in a tradition with instruments so I can't exactly place it.

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  • Do you know what exact voicings are being played, i.e. what notes your DAW plays when given these chords? Oct 31, 2022 at 15:53
  • It is multi-voice, 12 to be exact. I play C/F/G, C/D/G, C/E/G. The effect works on every octave but I find it sounds most familiar at either C2 or C4.
    – foreverska
    Oct 31, 2022 at 16:28
  • The reason it sounds familiar is because those 3 chords in various combinations and keys have been used in countless songs over the years, Mother Nature’s Son by the Beatles, Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin and Fantasy by Earth Wind and Fire to name a few. This sequence of 3 chords does not have a name that I’m aware of, It is simply the resolution of the suspended ^4 to the ^3 of a C chord with a detour to the ^2 suspension first. It’s a type of voice leading, F-D-E against a constant C and G. Oct 31, 2022 at 17:29
  • It’s also possible that those three specific chords with a similar sound patch are part of a song you know or have heard before but cannot recall right now. Oct 31, 2022 at 17:34
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    It's also an enclosure (of the E). Nov 1, 2022 at 3:29

3 Answers 3

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The chord progression doesn't have a name, per se, but it is not unusual. A very common place to encounter it is in Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. The cadence at the end of the Halloween-famous opening is exactly the progression described.

Bach Toccata and Fugue m. 3
(Image Source: IMSLP, Bach-Gesellschaft Ausgabe)

On beat 2, the chord is D major, but approached by G ("sus 4") and E ("sus 2").

Analytically, this would be called an inverted double appoggiatura: a principle note (F#) preceded by a note above (G) and below (E). A typical double appoggiatura (also called "changing notes") starts from the note below, then the note above, thus the Bach example being inverted.

It looks a lot like a double suspension, but technically doesn't qualify, because while the G is held over from the previous chord, the E is not.

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  • What a coincidence to ask this question on Halloween. It is certainly in there and I have definitely heard it.
    – foreverska
    Oct 31, 2022 at 17:57
  • I'm more used to seeing that double appoggiatura get called "changing notes".
    – Dekkadeci
    Nov 1, 2022 at 4:08
  • @Dekkadeci Good point. I've added a mention.
    – Aaron
    Nov 1, 2022 at 17:42
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Yes, there is a name for it, but maybe your overlooking it, because it's so obvious.

It would be much clear put into a basic context, like this for example...

enter image description here

When the tones D and F are chord tones in the chord before, like a G7, then the thing that is happening is called a suspension. That's the source of the sus label, it's an abbreviation of the word suspension.

To have a proper suspension you precede the occurrences of dissonant tones like D or F over a C bass with those tone as chord tones like D or F in a G7 chord in what would be called a "preparation". The formal model is preparation, suspension, and resolution. Your example only gives the suspension and resolution parts of the formal model, but a suspension is so very, very familiar that you can hear a suspension without the formality of preparation.

Depending on what exactly happens before the Csus you might have something other than a suspension, but that will only be a difference in classifying it more specifically. Without that preceding stuff, generically you would just call the D and F in Csus "non-chord tones" that "resolve" to the plain triad C.

But it's also incredibly familiar. Is there a name for this? Or some song which might have stuck it in my consciousness?

This kind of musical "device" it too broadly used to name any specific song. It's broad to level of terms like "cadence" or "chord progression" except that this device is particular to melody. Terminology about melody seems less familiar to the average person who isn't a music theory nerd compared with many familiar terms related to harmony (chords.)

FWIW, you might be thinking the matter is about chords, because you're using a chord symbol - Csus - and indeed you might play this in accompaniment not the song's melody. But, keep in mind I'm just explaining terminology, the label you can use for it, and historically the origin of the terminology comes from its use in melody and counterpoint, back in the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

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  • Looks like we were thinking along the same lines at the same time. I've just updated to call it an inverted double appoggiatura.
    – Aaron
    Oct 31, 2022 at 19:20
  • Yup, appoggiatura, suspension, etc. depends on the approach before, of course, but some kind of non-chord tone, resolving. Oct 31, 2022 at 19:22
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If you alternate from major to the relative minor chord triad with those sus4 and sus2 you've got yourself the intro to "Dust In The Wind," by Kansas.

C - Csus2 | Csus4 - C | Asus2 - Asus4 | Am - Asus2 | Csus4 - C | Csus2 - Csus4 | Am - Asus2 | Asus4 - Am ||

just a drop of water in an endless sea

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