This Issue: No Thirds
in music theory, the 3rd is a very important note. more than just the third note in a scale, it’s also the middle note in the triads forming the basis of most chords. it has major and minor variants (four or three semitones above the root) and this distinction defines whether the resulting chord is major or minor. it’s VITAL! But you know what? No-one likes a smart-arse. Let’s get rid of it.
Chords without 3rds are by nature ambiguous, with no explicit major or minor quality. Usually, though, we tend to work with simple sus2 or sus4 chords, created by taking a triad and pushing the 3rd up or down to the 2nd or 4th (‘suspending’ the 2nd or 4th). Those chords have a distinctively hollow, austere sound, but there’s a lot more you can do, using more complex chords. There are two ways to approach this: you can suspend the 2nd or 4th of the chord, or you can just omit the 3rd, not replacing it with the 2nd or 4th.
From our ‘vanilla’ progression, we’ll use both approaches and you’ll see that they can often be interpreted both ways. This basic shape is a fusion evergreen; as you’ll see later, it also works with a major 7th.
The D7sus4 never seems quite as obviously Pinball Wizard as the straight sus4, so it’s a bit more cliché-proof. Also, although we call it D7sus4, that’s music theory convention – it’s not dominant or major. It’ll work perfectly in minor contexts.
here’s the major 7th version of the first shape, and this is another common fusion chord. Don’t let that put you off, though; these chords can be applied to loads of different styles.
here’s another chord that’s actually quite common – you’ll hear it in fusion, Steely Dan, 70s Motown and loads more.You can interpret it as a modified F dominant chord or simply as an E triad over an F bass (E