If you are a musician, you may have come across the term ‘suspensions’ in music theory. Suspensions are an essential part of Western classical music and are used to add tension and release to musical phrases. But what exactly are suspensions, and how do you label them in music theory?

What are Suspensions?

A suspension occurs when a note from a previous chord is held over into the next chord, creating dissonance until it resolves into a consonant note. In other words, a suspension is like a delayed resolution of a note that doesn’t fit into the current chord but will eventually resolve to it.

For example, let’s say we have a C major chord (C-E-G) followed by an F major chord (F-A-C). If we hold the E note from the C major chord over into the F major chord, we create a suspension. The E note clashes with the F-A-C notes from the F major chord until it resolves down to D (the seventh of the F major chord).

How Do You Label Suspensions?

In music theory, suspensions are labeled using numbers that indicate their position within the musical phrase. For example, if we continue with our previous example of C major followed by F major with an E suspension, we would label it as follows:

– C major: I (Roman numeral indicating root position)
– F major: IV
– Suspension: 6/4/2

The numbers 6/4/2 indicate which notes are involved in the suspension. In this case, 6 represents the suspended note (E), 4 represents the bass note (F), and 2 represents the uppermost note (C).

It’s important to remember that suspensions usually occur on weak beats (like beats two or four in a four-beat measure) and typically resolve on strong beats.

Types of Suspensions

There are different types of suspensions, depending on the interval between the suspended note and the chord’s root note. The most common types are:

– 4-3 suspension: This occurs when a note is suspended by a fourth and resolves down to a third. For example, if we have a G major chord (G-B-D) followed by a C major chord (C-E-G) with an F suspension, we would label it as IV – I – 4/3. – 7-6 suspension: This occurs when a note is suspended by a seventh and resolves down to a sixth.

For example, if we have an A minor chord (A-C-E) followed by a D minor chord (D-F-A) with a G suspension, we would label it as vi – ii – 7/6. – 9-8 suspension: This occurs when a note is suspended by a ninth and resolves down to an eighth. For example, if we have an F major chord (F-A-C) followed by a G major chord (G-B-D) with an A suspension, we would label it as IV – V – 9/8.

Conclusion

Suspensions are an essential part of Western classical music and add depth and interest to musical phrases. They are labeled using numbers that indicate their position within the phrase and typically occur on weak beats before resolving on strong beats. By understanding how suspensions work and how to label them in music theory, you can better appreciate the artistry behind your favorite pieces of music.