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Home LJS Podcast Learn Jazz Theory LJS 74: How to Improvise Over Sus Chords

LJS 74: How to Improvise Over Sus Chords

Welcome to episode 74 of the LJS Podcast where today we are talking about how to improvise over suspended chords. Specifically, we are covering the Dominant 7 Sus 4 chord, which shows up a lot in jazz music. These chords can sometimes stump an improviser when they come up and this lesson digs into some different ways to approach them. Listen in!

Listen to episode 74

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Suspended chords can be confusing to know how to improvise over them. The concept is relatively simple, but they still can leave a player unsure of how to approach them.

In this episode, we take an in depth look as some different ways to approach dominant 7 sus 4 chords. We uncover some chord/scale theory that can help you conceptualize note choices you have to work with.

At the end of the episode, I do a little bit of improvising myself over this chord, using all of the concepts that are talked about in this lesson.


Basic Formula: Root-4th-5th-b7

Approach #1: Mixolydian

Approach #2: ii Chord Dorian

Approach #3: ii Chord Minor Pentatonic

Approach #4: I Chord Major Scale

Approach #5: Relative major of ii Lydian

(or b7 of Dominant 7 sus4 chord Lydian)

Approach #6: Triads of b7 Chord and 7sus4 Chord

Listen to episode 73: 4 Strategies for Improvising Over Major 2-5-I’s

Mentioned in the show:

Zero to Improv eBook

Our flagship eBook, Zero to Improv, is a book that teaches you how to become a great jazz improviser from the ground up. No stone is left unturned.

Have anything to add to today’s show? Leave us a comment below.

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


    • Hi Dennis, great question! Whenever you see a 9th, 11th, or 13th, that means there is an extension added to the chord. For example, a major9 chord is spelled: Root-3rd-5th-7th-9th. So the 9th is simply being added to the top of the chord, whereas a basic 7th chord does not include an extension. So in the case of a 9sus, you are simply adding the 9th to the top of the dominant7sus chord.


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