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Tue September 4, 2012
Musical Space: Suspension
One way musicians create tension in a melody or chord progression is through use of a suspension.
Here’s a little music theory for you: the suspension. A suspension is a note that clashes with the harmony and needs to move to another note to resolve the tension. For instance, the fourth note above the root of a chord is dissonant, and likes to move to the third note, which is consonant. Here’s a 4-3 suspension on a piano; the tension in this C chord is resolved when the dissonant F moves to the consonant E:
Example 1: 4 3 suspension.piano
It can sound glorious on an organ:
Example 2: 4 3 suspension.organ
Suspensions are not limited to classical music. The Who’s Pete Townshend gets the same glorious effect from 4-3 suspensions on his guitar here:
Example 3: beginning of “Pinball Wizard”
Here are some I found in the work of Lennon and McCartney:
Example 4: “Paperback Writer,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Nowhere Man”
Let’s end with a suspension tour de force: in a section just before the chorus of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” Stevie Wonder uses no less than six suspended chords.
Example 5: “Don’t Worry About A Thing”