Improvising with SUS structures

Here is a common improvisational tool used a lot in jazz. Palle Pesonen explains how they work in Improvising with SUS Structures. A really common imrovisational tool is to use smaller cells / structures instead of complete scales . One frequently used, is a structure made of three notes 1, 4 and 5. Starting from C, that would be C, F and G, this is called a SUS structure. If your scale of the moment is C Ionian, see how many SUS structures that are contained in that particular scale, you have: Csus ( C F G ), Dsus ( D G A ), Esus ( E A B ), Gsus ( G C D ) and Asus ( A D E ) Fits on: CMaj7 If it's Lydian, you have all the above plus: Bsus ( B E F# ) Fits on: CMaj7(#11) If it's Dorian you have: Csus ( C F G ), Dsus ( D G A ), Fsus ( F Bb C ), Gsus ( G C D ), Bbsus ( Bb Eb F ) Complete this list with every scale YOU frequently use (Altered, Spanish, Phrygian, Eolian etc.). Note that in some scales no SUS structures exist, as in Symetrical Diminished (half/whole and whole/half ), Symetrical Augmented, Wholetone and others. To start with, you assign specific SUS structures on the chords you're improvising on, that is; you don't start with every structure available. You can even just start to play in one Mode, and choose a SUS structure to work with so that you get a handle on it, it's really not all that easy as it may seem, with six notes you cover two octaves if you're going in one direction, just like regular triads, alot of work here. The next step after modal playing would be to write ones that you are going to use over a whole tune. Once again I use a jazzstandard, this time it's " The Days of Wine and Roses ":
SUS structures Original Changes: SUS structures Original changes:

Asus Csus Ebsus Dsus Ebsus Fsus Gsus Gsus Gsus Absus D7 (alt.)

Fmaj7 Eb7

Gm7 Bbm7 Eb7 Am7 Dm7 Gm7 C7



Asus Dsus Csus Dbsus etc

Em7(b5) A7(alt.) Dm7 G7

Gm7 C7(alt.)

Now if you want to comp with these sounds you can take the SUS structure as an upper structure triad and just play the Root of the original chord, and thus making a SLASHCHORD.

Ex : Asus/F, Csus/Eb Ebsus/D etc. Next step would be to use some of the other three chordtones as Roots, if that root happens to be a note contained in the SUS structure it sounds bland, compared to how it sounds when there are four different notes. Ex: Asus/A (third of FMaj7 as root) ends up being just Asus, whereas Asus/C (fifth of FMaj7 as root) has more density, and then again Asus/E (seventh of FMaj7 as roo ) ends up being "just " Asus in second inversion. So this particular SUS structure did not have many interesting results, but if you choose a SUS structure that doesn't contain that many notes from the regular chordsound the result is different . Ex : Dsus/F, (Dsus/A), Dsus/C, Dsus/E Only one of these resulted in doubling a note - Dsus/A (=Dsus in second inversion). Back to single line playing again. The next step here is getting some chromaticism in, i.e. connecting the preset SUS structures with nonharmonic notes, these could also be arranged in SUS structures. Ex : Connecting Asus with Dsus via Bbsus. You could have line that went - A D E, F Bb Eb ascending resolving halfstep down to D, remember ANY of the three notes you have, CAN connect with any of the three notes in your next SUS structure. Ex : The G in Csus can connect chromatically with Ab in Ebsus, we tend to think of chromaticism as it happens between two roots that are a half step away from each other, but there are SO much more to chromaticism than that. You can connect Csus with Fsus via Absus, at first it doesn't appear to be all that obvious, but Db ( the 4th of Absus ) is a halfstep above C which is the fifth of Fsus. Is it getting interesting yet ? As you may have noticed the possibilities are endless. Here's another one: If you put SUS structures in a 4 tonic system ( b3 between each one ); Csus - Ebsus - F#sus - Asus, no single note is repeated twice, you have all the 12 notes, but in an organised way. Try this:
structures chord Csus , Ebsus , F#sus , Asus Cm7

For inspiration to play along these "lines", listen to: Dave Liebman, Gary Thomas, George Garzone and other contemporary Jazzplayers.