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Section 10.9 Suspension

Suspensions are accented non-chord tones occurring on downbeats. A suspension is approached by the same note and resolves down by step. A suspension is made up of a preparation, suspension, and resolution. Sometimes the preparation is tied to the suspension.

Figure 10.9.1. Introductory Suspension example with and without tie

Suspensions are classified by numbers (9-8, 7-6, 4-3, 2-3, and sometimes 6-5) that specify the interval distance of the suspended note and its resolution to the bass note

Figure 10.9.2. Examples of the 9-8, 7-6, 4-3, 2-3, and 6-5 suspensions

In the example above, the notes in the 4-3 suspension are an 11th and 10th higher than the bass. Reduce all intervals larger than an octave to the numbers 7-6, 4-3, and 6-5.

Here is an example with a 4-3 suspension.

Figure 10.9.3. Barber, Adagio for Strings

Here is an example with 7-6 and 9-8 suspensions.

Figure 10.9.4. George Frideric Handel, Suite No. 2 in D Major, HWV 349: II

The 2-3 suspension is the “bass suspension” and is measured against an upper voice. Again, you may encounter the literal intervals 10-9 but should label the suspension as 2-3.

Figure 10.9.5. Bach, J.S., Chorale 238, “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier,” BWV 373

When a chord is inverted, you will sometimes encounter non-standard suspension numbers like 5-4 or 3-2.

Figure 10.9.6. Non-standard suspension numbers because of inverted chords

You will sometimes encounter decorations of suspensions where other notes occur before the resolution, as in the following example.

Figure 10.9.7. Bach, J.S., French Suite No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 812, Sarabande

The “ret.” in the tenor part in the second measure is a retardation, which is covered in the next section.