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    Implementation of Sus2 & Sus4 Chords       

    Utilizing Sus2 and Sus4 Chords within AutoTheory is very easy.  After selecting a chord from the Chord Generator, go to the Chord Editor and deactivate the “3” step of the chord.  You can then go to either the “9(2)” or “11(4)” step, and select one.  If you are not using inversions for the Global Chord Types, you will also want to lower the added 2 or 4 tone an octave in the chord editor so that it fits with the other tones.

    Example of a Sus2 chord:

    Example of a Sus4 chord:

    Now that we know how to program a Sus2/4 chord, it is important to understand the context in which they are best used.  Most commonly Sus2/4 chords lead into the normal triad or seventh of the same chord position.  So if I was to play a Sus4 i chord, I would probably follow that up with a normal i chord triad.  The black keys of the Chord Generator are very helpful in this instance, as they allow for secondary chords to be assigned.  It is important to note that Sus4 chords are more commonly used than Sus2 chords.


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    Chord Progressions that Work

    Understanding why certain chords transition well to others is relatively simple when you break it down mathematically.  The key concept to understand is contrast.  When two chords sound similar to each other, they do not create much contrast and probably won’t deliver a quality transition.  Nowhere is this truth more clearly illustrated than in the most commonly used chord grouping there is; I, IV & V.  In almost all instances these chords will provide quality contrast and transitions with each other.  But why is that?  When you analyze the data, it is right in front of your eyes.  The I(i) chord shares only 1 out of 3 tones (2 out 4 with sevenths) with both the IV(iv) and V(v) chords, while the IV(iv) and V(v) chords share no tones (1 with sevenths) with each other.  When we look at the transitions between I and either IV or V, you notice that they always sound good.  The transition between IV and V works as well, but maybe not quite as good.  So if we were going to make a generalization, we could say that the most desirable chord changes involve chords that share 1 tone (2 with sevenths) while those sharing no tones (1 with sevenths) also provide a solid option.  When you transition between chords that share 2 tones (3 with sevenths), the contrast is not as good (especially with inversions).   That’s not to say that using a progression between chords sharing 2 tones never works, but the odds are against you.

    Chords sharing 1 tone (2 with sevenths) – Ideal contrast
    Most common: I & IV,  I & V,  II & V,  II & VI
    Less common: III & VI,  III & VII,  IV & VII

    Chords sharing no tones (1 with sevenths) – Good contrast
    Most common: I & II,  IV & V
    Less common: I & VII,  II & III,  III & IV,  V & VI,  VI & VII

    Chords sharing 2 tones (3 with sevenths) – Less desirable
    I & III,  II & IV,  III & V,  IV & VI,  V & VII,  VI & I,  VII & II


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    Global Chord Types and the Chord Editor

    Located at the top of the AutoTheory GUI in between the Scale and Mapping, is the Global Chord Types parameter.  This important control defines what type of chords will be output by the Chord Generator.  It sets the values for the step octave parameters within the Chord Editor.  While more experienced players will probably dive into the Chord Editor “step” functions, many users will be fine with just setting the Global Chord Types parameter. 

    The available options found within the Global Chord Types parameter provide users with different ways of grouping and organizing chords.  In many situations musicians make use of inversions or voicings to play chords in creative and unique manners.  Inversions and voicings are what we call it when we move certain tones found within a chord to the same note on a different octave.  This changes the pitch of the chord, but does not affect the overall character of the chord.  This is very helpful to understand and apply when you are also mixing, and need to have an idea about where different instruments fit into the mix frequency wise.  With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the different options available to you within the Global Chord Types parameter.

    Sevenths:

    Here is what each chord looks like when you use the GCT value of Sevenths with a Dorian Scale (i-ii-III-IV-v-vi*-VII).  You can see that the root tone along with all other tones gets higher in pitch with each chord.  If you are looking for a shift in pitch with each chord selection, this might be a good way for you to go.

    Sevenths (inv):

    Here is what each chord looks like when you use the GCT value of Seventh (inv) with the same Dorian Scale and chord ordering.  You will see that the i chord has all of its tones in the same location.  With the ii and III chords however, the last tone has been moved down in front of the root tone.  With the IV and v chords, the last two tones have been moved down in front of the root tone.  With vi* and VII, the last three tones have been moved down in front of the root tone.  These inversions serve the purpose of keeping every tone of every chord within an octave.  Although the pitch of the inverted chords has changed, the overall character of each chord remains the same.

    Seventh (voiced 1.5):

    Here is what each chord looks like when you use the GCT value of Seventh (voiced 1.5) with the same Dorian Scale and Chord ordering.  You will see that most of the chords are spread out over a one and a half octave range.  This provides each chord tone with a little bit more room to breathe.  When using seventh chords, this is often effective as there is an added tone that can make things a little more cluttered.  The octave adjustments performed to achieve these voicings are not quite as straight forward as traditional inversions.

    Sevenths (voiced 2):

    Here is what each chord looks like when you use the GCT value of Seventh (voiced 2) with the same Dorian Scale and Chord ordering.  You will see that all of the chords are spread out over a two octave range.  This provides each chord tone with a lot of room to breathe.  As with the (voiced 1.5) value, the octave adjustments performed to achieve these voicings are not quite as straight forward as traditional inversions.

    When you look at the outcomes of the Global Chord Types parameter, you can see that you are provided with different ways of approaching the frequency spectrum in the mix.

    Do you want a chord progression that changes in frequency?  Then you probably should not use any inversions or voicings.

    Do you want a chord progression that fits snugly into a one octave range?  Then you probably should use inversions.

    Do you want a chord progression that maintains frequency and spreads out over multiple octaves?  Then you probably should use one of the options for voicings.

    With each option, there are potential conflicts that could arise as well.  If you are using voicings that go into the frequency range (octave) of another instrument, it could potentially create problems in the mix where neither instrument is clearly defined.  If you are trying to fit harmonically rich seventh chords into a lower one octave range however, that too could also give you some extra work in the mix.  Consequently it is very important to have an overall awareness about what instruments you are using, and which octave (frequency range) they are occurring on.

    The examples provided in this tutorial relate to seventh chords, but the principals are the exact same for triads and fifths.