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Suspended Fourth and “Ray’s” chords

Suspended Fourth and "Ray's" chords
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There are a number of things that make modern jazz piano from today sound more contemporary than earlier - post bebop playing. One of them is the use of dominant pedalling which we’ve just met. Another one is the use of suspended fourths. So what’s a suspended fourth? A suspended fourth, as the name suggests - in the key of C - is the fourth and usually it resolves down to the third. So it’s what happens when you lift the third to the fourth.
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You can get suspended fourths with major sevenths. You can get suspended fourths with minor sevenths, although they tend to be considered to be elevenths - we’ll discuss that later. Mostly suspended fourths come in with sevenths. Let’s have a look at the case of C7. The first voicing of C7 is the ninth shape. If you want to play C7sus4 in that position, you simply raise the third to the fourth, and so that can resolve home.
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The other case is when you have the thirteenth shape, and this time you can turn it into a 4 note chord typically by moving the second finger up to the fourth and introducing the third finger playing the ninth.
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Now look at that chord. We’ve seen that chord before. It’s just the first inversion of G minor7 - it’s what we play for G inor7 - and so, sometimes, you will see this chord as G minor7 over C. So G minor7 over C and C7sus4 - or C7sus for short - are really the same chord. You see typically if the C7 is going somewhere then it’s probably going home - it’s the fifth of F major - so it’s going - that’s II-V-I back.
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It’s a sus - it’s over the C - and then we can have a C7 thirteenth voicing, then we can go to F and we’re back to dominant pedalling - the idea of dominant pedalling which I have said is so important. The two, in some sense, are related. What’s the scale that goes with it? It’s the same scale as we have for C7 - the seventh scale, C major with a flattened seventh - but the E natural, the third, is considered an avoid note. It means you don’t hammer it because the fourth will cause a slightly unpleasant sound. Typically, you put it in parentheses and indicate that you don’t usually play it - but you can.
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Normally the C7 goes home - the C7sus goes home to C7.
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When might you use it? Basically whenever you see a seventh chord you can replace it by a 7sus.
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Take a blues, for example. Take a blues in F. The first chord is F7 but, instead, you can play F7sus if you want to because the sus tends to, sort of, give everything a kind of lift. Instead of B flat7 you can play B flat7sus. Instead of C7 you can play C7sus.
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That’s probably overdoing it a bit. I played a blues there - a simple skeletal blues - where every chord was suspended, but you can have a judicious mix of sus and resolved chords. That gives you a kind of another dimension really to add to your playing as a pianist - you can sus the chords. What I want to do is have a look at playing in root position and I want to show you this chord. I’ve been teaching jazz piano for some years and I didn’t know what to call it because I used it a lot - perhaps overused it - I called it “Ray’s” chord and that seems to have stuck - with my students at least.
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What is it? First of all we’re going to play a C chord in root position. That’s a nicely balanced chord because you’ve got third, fourth, fourth, fourth, fourth. So you’ve got that nice balanced space between them. What we’re going to do now is to play … I’m going to play a sus going home to the seventh - not “home” to the seventh, we’re going from a sus chord to a seventh chord. The way in which I alter this is to - instead of just going to the seventh - I flatten the ninth and I flatten the fifth - so you get this sound. Going to F. That chord’s got a flattened ninth and a flattened fifth in it.
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Or, I can raise them both - so this now becomes a sharp nine and this becomes a sharp five - so you get an augmented sound.
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I use that chord quite a lot. You can only really use it in that area, If you go below B flat it gets a bit muddy.
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If you go above F, it gets a bit high. There are contexts in which you can use it. Let’s have a look at that left hand for the moment, because I use that quite a l bit when I’m playing in root position, especially if I’m soloing. I wouldn’t really want to play C7 in root position with all 4 notes in because it sound a bit clumsy, but if I take the fifth out it doesn’t sound too bad. If I sus it -
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it’s not too bad at all. I quite often use that root voicing, especially with the sus to improvise, say, and sometimes to play chords as well in root position. We have suspend fourths - especially with the seventh and we have Ray’s chords
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and
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sorry and the other one.

We investigate suspended fourths and their resolution and extend it to a root voicing I call “Ray’s” chord.

You can download the charts for “Suspended Fourth Voicings” and “Ray’s Chords” in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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