The guitar is among the most versatile of all string instruments and is capable of playing more chords and chord variations than almost any other instrument out there. Some of the most underrated chords that every guitarist should learn are 4 chords, as they can be wonderfully useful and sound great when used in the proper context.
4 chords, or suspended 4th chords, are chords that are made from the 1st, 4th, and 5th intervals from the major scale. Any chord can be played as a suspended 4th. This chord is strong-sounding and fits most music. All guitarists should learn to play sus4 chords well.
There are several ways to play a 4 chord on guitar, and learning to use the right variation of this chord in the right context is key to using it well. When a 4 chord is used well on the guitar, it can elevate the sound and feel of a piece of music or add tremendous depth to a song. Let’s explore guitar 4 chords and how to use them.
What Are 4 Chords?
Almost all string instruments are capable of playing chords, but the guitar can play many more chords and chord variations than nearly all other string instruments. There are dozens of different chord types that every guitar player should learn to use, and among the most unique-sounding and interesting are 4 chords.
4 chords are those that are constructed using the 4th interval from a major scale rather than the 3rd interval.
A regular major chord is constructed with the 1st, 3rd, and 5th intervals from a major scale, but a 4 chord is constructed using the 1st, 4th, and 5th intervals.
The term ‘4 chords’ is an abbreviation of the proper chord name, suspended 4th. Any chord can be played as a suspended 4th, provided the correct notes are used.
For example, to play a D4 or Dsus4, the guitarist must simultaneously play the notes D G A.
This chord is so built because the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes from the D Major scale (which is made from the notes D E F# G A B C# D) are D G A.
The exact process is used to construct any suspended 4th chord, and the notes in the chord can be repeated in any order. The chord will remain a suspended 4th regardless of the note order and placement so long as no other notes are used in the chord.
Playing these chords on the guitar usually involves a simple modification to a major chord shape, but it can also be constructed by identifying and playing the specific notes in the chord.
How To Play sus4 Chords On The Guitar
Suspended 4th chords are interesting-sounding chords that can elevate certain pieces of music if used correctly. Learning to use these chords is more than learning the notes they are made of; it is essential for guitar players to learn to place these chords on their guitars to use them well.
There are several ways and places to play suspended 4th chords on the guitar, as there are multiple ways to play any chord on this instrument.
The easiest and most universal way to learn to play suspended 4th chords on the guitar is to realize that the suspended 4th is only the major chord with the 3rd interval moved one fret forward. Identify the 3rd interval used in the chord, move it forward, and it becomes a suspended 4th.
This trick is true for every type of major chord.
For example, the E Major chord in the open position is played by pressing the first fret on the G string, the second fret on the D string, and the second fret on the A string. The other strings are played open, creating the note combination E B E G# B E.
The 3rd interval in the key is G#, which means that moving the note from the first fret on the G string to the second fret on the G string creates an Esus4 chord by changing the 3rd interval to the 4th interval.
This method works for all major chords, including open position majors and bar chords.’ Simply change the 3rd intervals in any major chord to a 4th interval from the major scale, and the chord becomes a suspended 4th.
4 Chord Variations
We have now established how 4 chords are played on the guitar and what makes them different from other chords, but it is essential to know that several variations of suspended 4th chords can be played on the guitar.
The best way to learn the suspended 4th chord variations is to base them on the regular CAGED system chords. This will provide any guitarist with all 4th chord variations for both open and moveable chord shapes.
To play a suspended 4th chord in the C Major shape, simply play all three bottom strings in the shape on the same fret as where the second finger is usually placed. This moves both of the E notes in the chord forward to F, and changes the chord to Csus4.
To make the same change in the A Major shape, move the note on the B string in the chord forward one fret. This changes the C# in the chord to a D, making it Asus4.
To change the G Major shape into a suspended 4th, move the note on the A string forward one fret. This is the only 3rd in the chord, and moving it forward changes the chord into a suspended 4th.
The E Shape requires a move of the note on the G string forward one fret to change it into a suspended 4th, and the D Major chord shape simply requires the note on the high E string to move one fret forward.
Making these changes to any open or bar chord will transform them into a suspended 4th.
10 Songs That Use 4 Chords
Learning how to use suspended 4th chords on the guitar is good for every guitarist, and the best way to learn how to use them and make them sound good is to use them in songs.
Here is a list of some of the best songs for the guitar that make use of suspended 4th chords:
1. For No One – The Beatles
2. Crazy – Gnarls Barkley
3. Pinball Wizard – The Who
4. Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
5. Cold As Ice – Foreigner
6. Exit Music (For A Film) – Radiohead
7. Summer Of ’69 – Brian Adams
8. Other Side Of The World – KT Tunstall
9. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty
10. A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
The sus4 chord is among the most underused chords on the guitar, but it should be used far more than guitar players currently do. This chord sounds strong and vibrant and adds life to any piece of music.
Take the time to learn these chords for yourself and how they fit into music, and you will find yourself growing as a musician and quickly discover more about the instrument that you love.