2.8 Suspensions

Suspension in Boccherini: Minuet

Just after the last barline in the above excerpt (Boccherini's Minuet from Op.13 No.5), the D in the treble clef clashes with the A major harmony in the left hand. Moreover regardless of the harmony, the interval of a fourth above a bass note (in this case the A in the left hand against the D in the right) is a dissonant interval. The D on beat one is called a suspension. It is falls on a strong beat and is approached by the same note, D, as a member of the previous E7 chord. The nonharmonic D then resolves to the third of the A chord, C-sharp.
Suspensions in general, are accented nonharmonic tones which are approached by the same note (often tied) and which then resolve down to a chord tone by step. See the schematic picture to the right.

Suspensions arrive at the resolving note "too late." Compare them to anticipations which arrive at the resolving chord tone "too early."

Suspensions are named after the intervals they form above the bass.
A 9 - 8 suspension is illustrated in Phrase 1 on the left. The suspended note, F-sharp, is a 9th (plus an octave) above the bass note, E. The suspension delays the soprano's resolution to the final tonic in its descent 3, 2, 1.
A 4 - 3 suspension is illustrated in Phrase 2. The suspended note, E, is a fourth (plus two octaves) above the bass note, B. This suspension delays the soprano's descent to the lower neighbor, D-sharp.
7 - 6 suspensions resolve to first inversion chords. They will not decorate the root position triads which have expanded the fundamental harmonic progression so far. 7 - 6 suspensions are illustrated below only to complete the presentation of suspensions in higher voices.

PLAY the above video.
A 7 - 6 suspension will appear in measure 2 of phrase 1. The soprano D will become an E over the first inversion V chord. The interval of a 7th against the bass will resolve to a 6th on beat 2.
Another 7 -6 suspension will appear in measure 1 of phrase 2. Here the soprano F-sharp will become a G as a suspension above the vii°6 chord. The interval of a 7th will resolve to a 6th on the second eighth note of beat 2.
Listen to more suspensions on the nonharmonic tones Contextual Listening page.

Comments? Click here.