Dm/sus4 and other mysterious symbols

I’ve been going through my copy of Tommy Emmanuel - Note For Note and I noticed two musical symbols I’ve never encountered before in the transcription of Blue Moon. In the back of the book there’s a section on notation and tabulate explanation, but clarifications on these symbols are missing.

One is a Dm/sus4 chord. I’m plenty familiar with slash chords but I’ve never seen one written like this. Does anyone which notes are part of this chord?

The other one is a pair of C-like symbols – looking like cut and common time respectively – combined with a roman numeral or something similar. Any idea what this implies?

The ‘C’ symbol indicates a barre at whatever fret the roman numeral specifies. If there is a vertical line through the “C” that probably means the barre doesn’t cover all 6 strings. A ‘half’ barre, I’ve heard it called.

The slash between Dm and sus4 … I have never seen that. I’d consider that very misleading. I think it should be reserved to show an inverted chord with the very first letter listed indicating the bass note. Strange!


5 on 5th string is D and 3 on 1st is G, so these are I and IV of a chord, sus4 (V is omitted)
As for the slash in ‘Dm/sus4’ it may be idiosyncratic to the author. Also they could use a slash instead of a space for some typographical reasons. Moreover, from traditional point of view it’s whether minor chord or suspended, not both.

1 Like

You know I didn’t even think of this but there is no such thing as a minor or major sus4. “sus” means to forego the 3rd of the chord, which is the defining characteristic of it being major or minor. If the 3rd is present, I think it’s more common to see a chord like this called Dm11

I am growing more and more suspicious lol!

Thanks, that makes perfect sense!

Yeah, never seen it written otherwise! :face_with_monocle:

Don’t think it’s for typographical reasons as there’s e.g. a standard Dsus2/F# written elsewhere in the notation.

The Dm/sus4 chord is also present in the beginning of the piece, when Tommy goes for the D on the fifth string seen here at 1:41

Which makes no sense, because if there’s an F# in a D sus2 (or Dsus4) chord…it’s no longer a ‘sus’ lol This should be Dadd9/F# to be correct.

Ah, true! However, since there’s a moving base line throughout the song which Tommy seems to distinguish as a separate part I can see why it’s notated that way.

Yeah that is a good point! This style is and should be considered (at least!) 2 things going on at once.

sus means the major/minor third is instead a major 2nd or perfect 4th.

Beyond that, if you look at what’s actually notated… A 5th string 5th fret D and a 1st string 3rd fret G is, if you consider the harmony as a D at that point, the root and the 4th. So, I suppose you could argue that what that notation is trying to indicate is that you’re playing a diad to imply a suspended 4th, but the surrounding chords are implying a minor harmony even though one isn’t being played. I suppose.

I’m not sure I really love that as an approach though. If you think it’s critical the reader understands that the overall harmony is sort of suggesting a Dm, then notate that as Dm and just consider the 4th a passing tone much as the 2nd in the preceding chord (the 3rd fret high E over the 5th on the 1st fret B, relative to F) is evidently a passing tone here. If you think it’s critical the reader be thinking about this as a suspended chord though, then why even bother with the minor indicator?

On the flip side, Tommy Emmanuel is a far, far more advanced and I would assume formally schooled musician than I am, so I’m not going to categorically do away with the assumption that I just don’t know what I’m talking about. :rofl:


Good points. I guess that’s why it’s called music theory right? haha! Lots of interpretations that could be considered correct. My theory professor in college always stressed to think how stuff is functioning which I think is what you’re getting at with the passing tone thing.

He’s the man, for sure. I doubt these are his transcriptions though. Are they @AndreasNasman?

Correct, none of them are Tommy’s own. I don’t have the book with me at the moment, but if I remember correctly all of the transcriptions are by Peter Pik – like Blue Moon is. In the opening chapter, there’s a note that both Pik and the main author of the book Paul Hedman have been in close contact with Tommy during the writing process and met him in person on several occasions. Furthermore, it’s stated that all the transcriptions have been shown and played to Tommy who has approved them, so they should be rather accurate. :slightly_smiling_face:

Cool, thanks for the response! We’ll have to chalk the choice to label the chords with slashes as academic. I’d assume in reviewing transcriptions Tommy would be more concerned with the ‘notes’ and overall tonality. Definitely an assumption that’s just presuming how I’d be reviewing things if someone ever transcribed my stuff and showed it to me. I’d probably only glance at the chord names and pay more attention that they got the notes correct. Not than anyone should ever care to honor my work in such a way, of course! lol! Tommy is such a great player and such an inspiration.


The “minor” part could maybe be justified insofar as letting you know what the implied harmony is. But my understanding is that a suspended chord, by definition, has no 3rd and is therefore UNDEFINED as to major/minor.

I think it’s something along these lines. You have to figure the chords are there as a guide to what “could” happen, also, not just a shorthand for what “is” there. So, in serving that purpose, the author could say “Dsus4” or “Dm (add 4)” – those are two different things. I interpret this as saying, “if you’re following the chart, Dsus4 OR Dm (maybe with a 4 added) are places the harmony could go, but IF you use a 3rd, it would be the minor one.” So to me it falls under the category of “note to self from author.”


I guess there are a lot of individual nuances in any notation. Chord naming could be tricky. For example, I call one and the same chord with one and the same voicing as 7b13 or 7#5. When people ask me why, I can’t really answer… That’s just how I feel these chords, even if it contradicts more ‘theoretical’ approach. Sometimes it’s a flat 13th for me, sometimes it’s sharp 5th, though sonically there’s no difference.

As for sus chords I notate them without minor/major, though they indeed may have some implied harmony. E.g. if you play descending progression: Bsus2, Gsus2, Esus2, F#m most people would hear it as: Bm, G, Em, F#m.

I think it really depends on what directly follows this. How does it function? If I played a chord that could be named G7#5 or G7b13, the altered note in question is either an D# or an Eb. Where does this altered note resolve on the next chord? If it goes up to an E (as would happen if the next chord were a C major), then we should call the chord a G7#5. If it goes down to a D natural, or stays on the same note (as it would it the next chord were a C minor), then we should call it a G7b13.

But again, it’s academic :slight_smile: A big reason theory and these conventions exist is so we can all talk about things and understand each other. If you call it a G7#5 even though it may function as a G7b13, I know what notes you want and I can play them :slight_smile: But if it were a theory class and I was the professor, I’d have to take points off if the context and function clearly indicated one over the other lol!

Yep. You can imagine how it was in my russian musical school. Thank heavens they do not allow teachers to use firearms against students. Though I clearly saw they wanted to do it sometimes )

Yeah, good ol’ theoretical approach. Look for resolution, look for ornaments, ignore everything if it’s Shoenberg etc. But I still call them my way )

Hahahahaha! That is pretty funny. Same with the Shoenberg comment lol

For fun’s sake, I sent a mail to Mr. Pik himself asking about the notation, although I doubt he has the time to answer or remembers what transcription decisions he made some 20-odd years ago. I guess we just have to wait and see! :wink:

1 Like