Questions you never thought to ask, part 1

June 26, 2008

Q. Greg, what is your favorite musical chord?

A. The suspended 4th, hands down.

This chord is kind of a guilty pleasure — one that may identifiy me as being overly sentimental and not in possession of the most sophisticated taste. So be it. With a CD collection dominated by artists like Billy Joel and Carole King, it’s not as though I’m fooling lots of people anyway.

The suspended 4th is ubiquitous in popular music as well as less popular music. As an example of the latter, Alex Stemm-Wolf has written a beautiful song (from the album Lisa Colorado) called New Mall which features suspended 4ths at the end of almost every line (coinciding with the words that rhyme with “mall,” among others). Just listen to that blend of piano and vocals — how it keeps you hanging on, waiting for the chord to resolve into its major-chord cousin….


  1. Maybe a tad sexist by today's P.C. musical standards, but "She's Always a Woman" by Billy Joel is crawling with those suspended chords.While "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" will never be confused with "A Day in the Life", that guy made some great records back in the day and can still play like nobody's business. As for Carole King, her "Really Rosie" soundtrack (from the old Sendak stories) is still in heavy rotation with our kids.Thanks for sharing that guitarator site.

  2. As I recall, Christopher Cross made a decent living off suspended 4ths. While thinking of that, a Todd Rundgren song also popped into my head which probably qualifies.

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