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Why is the connotation of suspended used to describe suspended chords? Is it due to the sound of the chord or does suspend refer to the omission of the 3rd? Information of when the term was first applied to music and who first used it would be appreciated.

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  • When, or why? The title contradicts the text.
    – Tim
    Mar 25, 2023 at 19:58

2 Answers 2

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The term actually comes from the situation where a note from one chord is "suspended" (i.e., "held across") into the next chord but is not a part of that chord. The quintessential example would be a dominant seventh chord moving to a tonic chord, but the chordal seventh is held over into the tonic chord before resolving, as shown below.

V7 - I4-3 suspension

As jazz and popular music developed, they adapted the use of the term "suspension" to reflect chords in which the third, for example, was replaced with a non-chord tone, but which may not be suspensions in the sense shown above. The chords became used as independent entities, not requiring the preparation or resolution.

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  • Is there a historical record that defines "they," and gives the year the term suspended was added to music theory?
    – ejbpesca
    Mar 25, 2023 at 14:02
  • @ejbpesca Not so far as I'm aware.
    – Aaron
    Mar 26, 2023 at 19:26
  • You are saying the the suspended chord did not get its name until the jazz and popular music era?
    – ejbpesca
    Mar 27, 2023 at 19:35
  • @ejbpesca Yes. Historically, a suspension was a musical operation, not an individual chord. However, with jazz and popular music, the suspension became detached from its historical requirements and became a chord unto itself.
    – Aaron
    Mar 27, 2023 at 19:38
  • Very interesting. On guitar, for example, while strumming any major or minor chord, the fingers can get busy playing a melody as the chord is strummed. This action is in effect forming alternate chords like Asus, Adim, Aaug. I wonder if suspended, diminished, and augmented all were jazz names added to music theory during the jazz era?
    – ejbpesca
    Mar 27, 2023 at 19:54
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'Sus' is generally related to the lack of 3rd, being substituted by 2nd or 4th. In reality sus should be used when the 4th is used, and 'ret' (retarded) used for 2nd, but it's rarely applied.

iim7♭5 is often a substitute, which actually sounds good.

There's always the possibility it's called sus as it's neither major nor minor. The 3rd is in the wings, waiting.

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  • I understand the concept of SUS. Is there any record of who came up with the term and when the term SUS was added to music theory?
    – ejbpesca
    Mar 25, 2023 at 14:04

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