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Is it just chance or does the sus 4 usually happen on a dominant chord. The beatles used this often and I have only examples where they used it on dominant chords. Is this because the sus 4 creates more tention over dom7 chords? Also, in the vocal melodies in many songs, the sus 4 note is used a lot but not ever over the triad version of the chord. It almost always appears when the 7th is used.

Can someone please shed some light on this?

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When the label sus4 comes up things get tricky, because that label is from jazz/rock/pop which so often doesn't actually use the chord as a real suspension.

This is a traditional suspension...

enter image description here

...the first bar is a G7 and the second bar is plain C major, but notice the F - the seventh of G7 - is suspended (held over from G7) in the first beat of the C chord and then resolves down to the E on the second beat.

The typical thing is for the sus4 to happen on the plain triad after the dominant seventh.

Here is an example from Mozart's K 333...

enter image description here

This is not the only way a suspension gets handled, and sometimes the sus4 chords are used without any resolution, but the example above is the traditional origin of suspensions.

Also, there is a particular harmonic sequence of seventh chord that may interest you. It isn't exactly what your question is about, because the suspension involves a seventh rather than a fourth. Here is an example...

enter image description here

...where the third of one chord is suspended to form a seventh in the next chord which then becomes the third of the next chord. Again, the suspensions are sevenths rather than fourths, but it is a common example showing suspensions used on all diatonic chords except the tonic.


EDIT

The suspension can happen on the dominant too. Compared to the classical example above this is an older style. I think in Mozart's time this would have sounded conservative, or bit formal, Church-style. Here are some example from model cadences from Fenaroli...

enter image description here

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  • "The typical thing is for the sus4 to happen on the plain triad after the dominant seventh": historically, the typical thing is for the sus4 to happen on the dominant seventh. This was happening in the late middle ages long before anyone thought of using a suspension on the final chord (and long before the concept of chords had even developed). This answer suggests that the assumption in the question is off the mark, but it is not. – phoog Feb 4 '20 at 22:01
  • @Phoog, notice that I said "this isn't the only way a suspension is handled." The important thing was to give a clear example of a suspension over a plain triad, because the OP seems to think it's used only with seventh chords. Anyway, post an answer with that usage from the late Middle Ages. – Michael Curtis Feb 4 '20 at 23:37
  • Hm. Maybe I will, thanks for the suggestion. (I did notice that you said they're handled in other ways; I was only taking exception to the identification of the "typical" 4-3 suspension.) – phoog Feb 5 '20 at 3:13
  • "in Mozart's time this would have sounded conservative, or bit formal, Church-style": indeed, the same was true in earlier times. A quick look at Summer from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Bach's Brandenburg No. 1, and Handel's Water Music shows a preference for I-V-I or I(6/4)-V-I cadences that persisted into the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart. – phoog Jun 11 '20 at 18:34
  • I'm not sure what you're getting at. The point is about which chord gets the suspension, V or I. Putting it on V is the "conservative" style. – Michael Curtis Jun 11 '20 at 18:57
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Is it just chance or does the sus 4 usually happen on a dominant chord?

It is not chance. The suspended fourth has its origin in the dominant chord, before chords were even thought of as such. Indeed, it has its origins in the 7-6 suspension that was common in the early 1400s before polyphonic compositions commonly had bass parts.

John Dunstaple (or Dunstable) is widely credited with having introduced a new style of composition to the continent, known as fauxbourdon, based on parallel thirds and sixths. A common cadential formula was

X: 1
L: 1/2
K: Amin
M: none
V:1 clef=bass
C2 B,2 C2 |]
V:2 clef=bass
E,2 D,2 C,2 |]

Later, in the baroque period, this would be figured thus:

X: 2
L: 1/2
K: Amin
M: none
V:1 clef=bass
C2 B,2 C2 |]
V:2 clef=bass
E,2 D,2 C,2 |]
w: 6 6

In practice, this basic cadential framework would more likely be altered rhythmically:

X: 3
L: 1/2
K: Amin
M: none
V:1 clef=bass
z C2 B, C2 |]
V:2 clef=bass
E,2 D,2 C,2 |]

This introduces the common cadential suspension that would later be figured 7-6:

X: 4
L: 1/2
K: Amin
M: none
V:1 clef=bass
z C2 B, C2 |]
V:2 clef=bass
E,2 D,2 C,2 |]
w: _ 7~6

An example may be seen at measure 35 in this Agnus dei. Here is a fragment of the outer two voices, for reference, transposed for comparison with the above examples:

X: 5
L: 1/2
K: Amin
M: none
V:1 clef=bass
B,2 G,2 C2 B, C4 |]
V:2 clef=bass
z G,2 E, C, D,2 C,4 |]
w: _ _ _ _ 7~6

One of the famous continental composers influenced by Dunstaple was Guillaume Du Fay (or Dufay). His music reflects the new fashion for adding a fourth part below the tenor. (This part was called the contratenor bassus to distinguish it from the contratenor altus. The word contratenor was eventually dropped from both names, giving us the modern bass and alto parts.)

The role of the bass voice in the cadential formula under consideration was indeed largely the familiar role it has in the modern authentic cadence. That is, it has the root of what came to be known as the dominant chord. For example:

X: 6
L: 1/2
K: Amin
M: none
V:1 clef=bass
C2 B,2 C2 |]
V:2 clef=bass
E,2 D,2 C,2 |]
V:3 clef=bass
C,2 G,,2 C,2 |]

Because the tenor is no longer the lowest voice, the figures change. In the homophonic example above, there are no figures, because the chords are now all in root position, but of course the same rhythmic alterations may be applied:

X: 7
L: 1/2
K: Amin
M: none
V:1 clef=bass
z C2 B, C2 |]
V:2 clef=bass
E,2 D,2 C,2 |]
V:3 clef=bass
C,2 G,,2 C,2 |]

In this case, the suspension that was formerly a 7-6 suspension becomes the 4-3 suspension that you are asking about:

X: 8
L: 1/2
K: Amin
M: none
V:1 clef=bass
z C2 B, C2 |]
V:2 clef=bass
E,2 D,2 C,2 |]
V:3 clef=bass
C,2 G,,2 C,2 |]
w: _ 4~3

Finally, an example from Du Fay's Missa l'homme armé, at the end of the last Kyrie, again with the alto part omitted, and again transposed for easier comparison with the other examples (the timestamp in the link is roughly measure 80 in the video; the example below begins at the end of measure 82):

X: 9
L: 1/2
K: Gmin
M: none
V:1 clef=bass
z C2 D2 C2 =B, C4 |]
V:2 clef=bass
G, G, G, F,2 E, D,2 C,4 |]
V:3 clef=bass
z E,2 D, B,, C, G,,2 z2 C,2 |]
w: 6 ___ 4~3

(Later, when it became common for the final chord to include its third, it also became common for the alto voice to move to that note from the doubled root of the dominant chord. This descending melodic third was frequently filled with a passing tone, which gave rise to the 4-3 suspension discussed in Michael Curtis's answer. It also eventually became the 7th of the dominant 7th chord. But all of this happened rather later; it wasn't for another century or so that it became usual for the final chord to have a third. If you look at the video of the Du Fay cadence excerpted above, however, you can see the sort of thing that led to this: The alto drops from the fifth scale degree to the third and then moves back up to the fifth, thereby avoiding the third in the final sonority. Interestingly, there is a passing tone on the way up, but not on the way down.)

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sus4 works on every major and minor chord as you can see e.g. in Bachs little prelude BWV 924

It is also used in the final chord on the tonic Isus4->323 (instead of the plagal cadence IV-I, if you remind this kind of "amen" as the final clause of "let it be" (famiredo ... of course we have here more than just the sus4 ... but here's another well known example :

edit:

It almost always appears when the 7th is used.

Can someone please shed some light on this?

The light may turned on if you write down a progression of chords in the circle of fifths or a fifth fall sequence: you will recognize that the 7th of a chord will be the suspended 4th of the next chord ... etc.

em7 (d=7

am7 (d=4/g=7) ->

dm7 (g=4/c=7) ->

G7 (c=4/f=7) ->

Cj7 (f=4/b=7 ->

Fj7 (b=4 etc.

could be this what you mean?

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  • 1
    IV-V is not a plagal cadence, and IVsus4 is not diatonic in a major key. – user45266 Feb 3 '20 at 19:31
  • yes, this was a "typo" ;) I've edited it. What do you mean with IV4? I didn't mention this one. – Albrecht Hügli Feb 3 '20 at 20:22
  • "sus4 works on every major and minor chord" Not true; in C major, F major is the IV chord. However, Fsus4 contains a B♭, which is not diatonic to C major. – user45266 Feb 4 '20 at 16:10
  • yes, and what I mean is: the 4sus works on every degree, even on IV and even this is a #4 suspense. The question was how far is the sus4 of the dominant a special case. My answer is the: the 4th can be suspended on every degree ... (who said that it has to be diatonic? in a fifth fall sequence you have all kind of sus4 and also in a chain of ii7sus4 - V7sus4. – Albrecht Hügli Feb 4 '20 at 18:46
  • A favorite example of mine is the open chord B7sus4 of vensus by Shocking Blue. – Michael Curtis Feb 4 '20 at 23:39

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