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Re: a:4 chord

From: Brett Duncan
Subject: Re: a:4 chord
Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:26:11 +1100
User-agent: Thunderbird (Macintosh/20090302)

Luc Saffre wrote:
Can somebody explain what's the difference between printing "A^sus4" and
"A^4"? I had only basic music education but am helping with publishing a
songbook using Lilypond, and I thought that the difference is not
important. But now I'm afraid I'm wrong and that I'll have to check some
songs again. Is that right?

The short answer is, it depends on who you are talking to!

If you look at the Dolmetsch Online for example (, you'll find there that C4 means a C major triad with an added 4th (C-E-F-G). I know several jazz musos who interpret it exactly this way.

OTOH, others interpret C4 as a suspended 4th (C-F-G).

Just to add to the confusion, some rock guitarists use this notation to indicate an inversion of the classic "power" chord, which is really just an interval of a 5th (e.g. the C5 power chord is just C-G). A C4 in this case is just an inversion of an F5 power chord, with just C-F.

Personally, I prefer to avoid the potential confusion by not using the notation C4 at all, and use Csus4 or Cadd4 to clear what I mean. (I don't have to myself the power chords, since they don't get used that often in jazz ;-).

One other thing to be aware of - if you put C:4 into LP, the chord you get is C-E-F, which doesn't actually fit any of the above interpretations of "C4". So if you want the power chord, for example, you need to enter c:4^3 to remove the 3rd.


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