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Ian MacDonald (music critic/author) writes of the "heartbreaking suspensions" that characterize the harmony of "The Long and Winding Road". I was curious about this, so I printed the first page of sheet music (transposed to C major).

In the first bar, here is a B note sung over a vi chord as it moves into the iii chord, though the melody doesn't remain on the B but rather moves to a G. Does this count? In bar 3, a b-flat is sung in the bass while the chords above move from a C7 (I) chord (with notes C, E, and B-flat) to a IV chord (containing C, F, and A) prior to the subsequent down beat where the bass plays the root of the IV chord. Is this a suspension, even though it takes place in the final eighth note of the measure?

I'm just not sure if i'm seeing was MacDonald describes . . . I am also now realizing that I may have "anticipations" and "suspensions" confused. Regardless, I don't see these chords necessarily falling into either camp. Perhaps this occurs later on in the song.

Another note . . . do the flat 7 and flat 3 notes push the progression along, or are they just used as flavor for the individual chords they belong to?

Here is an image of the music--if it is too hard to see, then please refer to the source where it came from:

enter image description here

Thank you kindly!

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    Suspensions are usually deemed to be notes which take the place of another note normally found in a chord. Thus sus 2, where 3 is replaced by 2, and sus4, where it's replaced by 4. Those slash chords (C/B♭ an C/E aren't any more than inversions. F/G is maybe what he means, but that's not a sus. – Tim Sep 20 at 14:39
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    F/G works very similarly to G7sus4. It has the G, but C instead of B. It's practically the same as G7sus4add2, and "add2" is a bit like a flavor enhancer note that changes very little but adds flavor and thickness. – piiperi Sep 20 at 14:47
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    I'd say if you're writing for the general public rather than actual musicians, that marvellous F/G would count as a 'suspension'. It carries a tension that demands resolution… & we're only in the 2nd bar!! Then it resolves to C, where no-one would dream of showing their hand this early, & off into 'obvious but not until you've heard it' through the B♭to F . They were rather good at this stuff ;) – Tetsujin Sep 20 at 15:06
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    @piiperi - with F/G being spelled F A C G, yes, there's an element of G7, or rather G9, losing D (but nobody cares!) and so G11 might be another way to write it - but that isn't sus. So, we end up with G9sus4, I guess. He says suspensions, so what else is there? – Tim Sep 20 at 16:11
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    tbh, the more I look at this the better it gets. Who on earth would start a song with what is essentially the 'last line'? It starts by 'ending', it has no chorus, no real verse, the relief is the same line repeated twice then back to the 'ending' again. It's sheer genius, it really is. – Tetsujin Sep 20 at 16:15
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The C note is suspended from bar 2 until bar 5. Anticipated as part of the right hand piano chord, it's given emphasis at its beginning leading into bar 2. Then being kept held through the I42 resolving powerfully to a F Major chord in root position, (the almost awkwardness of that progression seeming asking for forgiveness implying both a C and a F chord in passing for beats 2-4 of measure 4) drifting down the F of the chord to an E and then to C to re-emphasize the suspension of C until the last half of bar 5. This is when the C is a suspension in the foreground of the music at the melody and the accompaniment together, replacing the 5 of the VI chord (Em) with a 6th (C) held from the F major through to the Am re-quote of the opening phrase.

In addition, I note the implied chord of beats 3 an 4 of measure 5 is an Em chord resolving to its tonic, Am. Which is why I would say this piece is in Am, not C.

  • Are you counting the pickup as b.1 and the first full bar as b.2? – Rosie F Sep 21 at 10:28
  • I counted the first full bar as m.1, disregarding the pick up note. – Derek Blaak Sep 21 at 16:07
  • Also, Ian McDonald talked about the haunting suspensions in the harmony of this song, not just the melody... – Derek Blaak Sep 21 at 16:08
  • Melody and harmony work together in this song to create the effects we hear and feel. – Derek Blaak Sep 21 at 16:15
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One suspension I can see is the A in b.2, which is technically a suspension, thanks to

  • that same A being anticipated at the end of b.1
  • the A's resolution G being anticipated at the end of b.2, which means that the non-chord note A resolves before the bass moves

However, the feeling I get from that bar is more of a chord which could be analysed as F/G (as people commenting on the question have mentioned) or alternatively as G11 (if you prefer to analyse in terms of one chord made by stacking a lot of 3rds, rather than in terms of polychords).

If either of the above anticipations weren't there, then the chord is not a suspension at all, not even technically.

The very end of your extract might contain the preparation of a suspension in the following bar, but I'd have to see that bar to know for sure.

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