"True" sus Chords

Hello to all,

I don’t know if this counts as a feature request, but I haven’t found the “solution” I was looking for on current threads.

When adding “sus” to any chord, Dorico will automatically default to “sus4”. I’m aware that this can be turned off by toggling the option to display all “sus4” chords as simply “sus”, though my issue is that in my experience a “true” sus chord and a sus4 are not the same chord. For example, I’ve learned that a “Dsus” is interpreted as a C/D chord since you would suspend the 2nd, 4th, and 6th. In some tunes I’m writing lead sheets for, I find myself wanting to have some “sus” chords, but I also want some “sus4” chords (which will not appear if I turn off the “sus4” function.

I understand that I could simply write it as C/D as a workaround, though sometimes when engraving something for a client, I would need the option to use multiple different suspensions. I personally find it would be nice if one could enter “sus”, “sus4” or “sus2” as needed. Am I alone in this, or does this resonate with other users?

I want to take a moment to thank the whole team for all the work you do. As an ex-user of another notation program which will remain unnamed, I’m always so thrilled with the ease which Dorico allows me to feel when working on scores. Cheers!

I’ve never heard of a sus chord being another way to notate C/D. In my opinion it is a similar sound but not the same thing.


Hi Daniel,

Totally fair, but my goal here isn’t to debate how it’s interpreted, I’m just wondering if it’s possible to have “sus” and “sus4” chords coexist in the same page. Sorry if I got into too much detail with that (perhaps erroneous) example.

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I’ve never heard of “sus” referring to C/D either. I’m not piling on, but I think it’s pertinent to the discussion: these symbols are semantic, and development time is finite… so I think you’d need to demonstrate the usage of this nomenclature in published literature (I’m not saying it isn’t valid).


It was a stupid way of wording it but I guess I was just trying to say a similar thing to Dan. Sorry.

I’m thinking I gave too much information in my initial post which I’m already considering taking down in all honesty…

Am I out to lunch with the fact that “sus” “sus4” and “sus2” are not the same thing? I’ll state again that that’s really the core of what I’m getting at.

Without doing any research, I believe that sus and sus4 are the same thing, and sus2 is different.

Please don’t! :slight_smile:

Yep, sus and sus4 are the same: C-F-G. Csus2 is C-D-G.

In Jazz, a sus chord can also mean Gm7/C. That’s how my teacher said I should harmonies when I see „sus“.
Obviously, it’s simultaneously sus2 and sus4 in the Upper structure, or: a sus4 with the usual lower structure up to the ninth.

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Jazz pianist and author here.

When I see Dsus I’d consider D G A where G the 4th is being suspended. Dsus4 and Dsus means the same thing since sus stands for suspending the 4th nit the 2nd.

Dsus2 is a mention to play D E A. If the composer wants both supensions of the 2nd and teh 4th he’d wrote Dsus4(add2) or maybe Dsus(add2).

C/D is a slash chord that dictate how to play a D7sus or D7sus4 chord, C major chord includes the b7, 9 and 11 (C, E, G) or any of its inversions.

So C/D can’t be written as Dsus. I’m sorry to say that you’ve laerned the wrong lesson or from a wrong person.

Be carefull how sus is used either alone or 7sus, 9sus, 13sus, 7susb9, 7sus4, -7sus, -9sus, -13sus etc… there should be usually a mention what to be suspended. So, sus only means sus4 where a major triad has the fourth instead of the third.


I haven’t used this at all but maybe it could help:


Right, this is along the lines of what I learned. I for example have two lead sheets of “What a Wonderful World”. One expresses the chord as “Am7/D” while the other expresses it as “Dsus”.

In any case, it’s seeming like there are different approaches to it (I don’t think this is the place to debate which is objectively right or wrong, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who thinks that way).

Thanks Daniel, I’ll look into using custom chord symbols for “sus”. Needless to say, if the way I’m used to isn’t as conventional as it seems, it’s up to me to find a workaround.

I’m really impressed with this active community. Thanks to all for your own input, I’ve learned a few things today.


What I have learnt from the experts on this forum is that if my convention is less standard than I thought, then it’s probably more sensible for me to learn the right convention.

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There’s all sorts of jazz pedagogy that agrees with you. Take a look, for example, at Mark Levine’s “The Jazz Theory Book,” the section on sus chords. For Dsus, you could think of that as Am7/D, C/D, Cmaj7/D, or for the Barry Harris approach, Cmaj6/D. All of these are more or less equivalent (although not exactly the same). Dsus or Am7/D is what you would most likely see in a chart.

Please note, though, that this is in the jazz context, seen most often in bebop, hard bop and later. In a rock or pop context, yes Dsus would just imply D-G-A.


Dsus and D7sus are not the same thing. All these other possible ways of notating D7sus, like C/D, Am7/D, etc, work for D7sus, but not for Dsus which doesn’t contain a C. C/D is not an equivalent for Dsus, but is going to be interpreted pretty much the same as a D7sus.

For example, when McCoy’s Peresina moves off the F9sus chord to the section with the faster harmonic motion, is he thinking Eb/F, Db/Eb, Eb/F, Gb/Ab, etc… or is he thinking F9sus, Eb9sus, F9sus, Ab9sus, etc? I dunno, and it probably doesn’t really matter as it’s likely going to be played the same way. The first chord in that sequence is certainly not Fsus though as you have to indicate the Eb in one way or another.


You beat me to it.

Also, I always want to think about function when figuring out changes and when you see

| G | Bm7 | C | C/D |

it’s definitely not Dsus at the end, it’s the IV chord with the V in the bass. I even have a hard time thinking of that as a D7sus chord because functionally it’s just not, in most cases.

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Ok, just wanted to add my $.02

The word “sus” is, of course, short for the word “suspended”. The way I’ve come to think of it:

It’s the 3rd that is suspended—either up to the 4th, or down to the 2nd. As the word implies, typically the suspension might get resolved back to the 3rd… or it might not. The word “sus” really only relates to what we’re doing with the 3rd.

G(sus4) or G(sus2) are both triads, G, C, D and G, A, D respectively.

If I want the 3rd included in the chord as well, I write, for example, G(add4). Implies a G major triad with an added 4th.

If you want the dominant 7th chord with a suspended 4th: G7(sus4)

Professional keyboard/guitar/vibes players, and those that have studied Mark Levine’s book, or Barry Harris, or David Berkman, etc. will probably more freely interpret these symbols according to what they think sounds appropriate for the musical context.

That’s kind of the fun, and heartache of chord symbols; they’re really shorthand for a sound. We rely on the musicians to be “musical” about it—but I do try to be as explicit as I feel I need to be in a given instance. If I don’t need to be explicit, I might write, for example, G7alt; which as a student, I used to hate seeing. What EXACTLY do you WANT HERE?? I’ve come to realize the freedom of interpretation is a large part of what makes jazz exciting to play and listen to.


When one is sight-reading, the clearest depiction is what’s wanted.

I have just been catching up on some posts - and I am puzzled by the second half of your comment on C/D - the bit about C maj. The CMaj chord is CEG. CMaj7 is CEGB, it has a major 7th - the diatonic B (natural) . A C7 chord is a dominant 7 chord CEGBb (Flattened 7th).
A major chord (as in C or CMaj) does NOT include a 7 nor does it include a flat 7 - and nor does it usually imply 9th, 11th or 13th. To include tensions one would write CMaj7(add 9) or CMaj7 (add9,11,13).

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There unfortunately are no standards when it comes to chord symbols so opinions vary.

What I can say personally is that I would interpret sus and sus4 in the same way.

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