Suspension is a musical technique used to create tension and resolution in a piece of music. It is a type of non-chord tone that occurs when a note from the previous chord is held over into the next chord, creating dissonance before resolving to a consonant note.

What Is a Non-Chord Tone?

Before we dive deeper into suspension, let’s first clarify what a non-chord tone is. A non-chord tone is any note that is not part of the current chord being played. These notes are used to add interest and complexity to melodies and harmonies.

Types of Non-Chord Tones

There are several types of non-chord tones, including passing tones, neighbor tones, and suspensions.

How Does Suspension Work?

Suspension occurs when a note from the previous chord is held over into the next chord, creating dissonance with the new chord until it resolves to a consonant note. The dissonant note typically falls on the strong beat of the measure, emphasizing the tension it creates.

The Numbers Game

Suspensions are often labeled with numbers that indicate their relationship to the chords being played. The number represents how many scale degrees above or below the root of the current chord the suspended note is.

For example, if we are playing a C major chord (C-E-G), and we want to create a suspension using the G note from the previous F major chord (F-A-C), we would label it as a 4-3 suspension. This is because the G note is four scale degrees above the root of the F major chord, and then resolves down to the third scale degree of the C major chord (E).

Resolving Suspensions

The resolution of a suspension occurs when the dissonant note resolves to a consonant note, usually by moving down by step to a chord tone in the next chord. The resolution typically happens on the weak beat of a measure, creating a sense of release and resolution.

Examples of Suspension in Music

Suspension is commonly used in many genres of music, from classical to pop. Let’s take a look at some examples:


Suspension is an important technique in music theory that adds tension and interest to melodies and harmonies. By holding over a note from one chord into the next and resolving it to create consonance, suspensions create an emotional impact on listeners that can make music more engaging and memorable.