Bossa Nova - A starter to comp in the style

In the video lesson I´ll show a common Bossa Nova pattern.

Here´s the chord progression.

ll Cmaj9 l Am11 l Dm9 l G13 ll

Here are the chord tabs to the video lesson.

As you´ll see they are coloured with 9th, 11th and 13th tones which is common in the style.

You´ll play the bass with the thumb and it´s pending between 5th and 6th string. The chord tones are played with index, middle and ring finger on the 4th, 3rd and the 2nd string. On the 4th beat it´s a hit on the strings to get a rhythmic effect. Do the same here as in the exercise example that you start practice the bass and the chords separately before you putting them together. As in the exercise you can also split the bar in two pieces and practice the 1st half bar to start with and when you master that you´ll practice the 2nd half. before you putting them together.

Here are the rhythm pattern to the Am11, Dm9 and the G13 chords.

As you´ll see the bass differs to these chords otherwise it´s the same fingering and strings in the right hand as to the Cmaj9 chord. I´ll show everything how to playing it in the video lesson to the article. Play the bars twice.

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Bossa Nova is a Brazilian music style that mixing the Brazilian samba rhythms with the North American jazz music.

In the late 1950s the Bossa Nova movement, led by guitarist/vocalist João Gilberto and composer Antônio Carlos Jobim, brought innovations to ballad forms and to the samba in general. Bossa Nova did not replace the traditional samba but offered an alternative to it. Bossa Nova is literally means ”new trend” and it was in the 1650s and 1960s when the style started to develop. Bossa Nova altered several stylistic parameters, seeking dynamic integration of melody, harmony and rhythm while de-emphasizing the vocalist as the center of attention. Instead of the traditional binary samba beat, diversified syncopation was used, and standard drum set became the norm. Rhythmic foundations set by drums and bass were complemented by syncopated plucking of acoustic guitar chords. Bossa Nova introduced new patterns of harmony or chord progressions, frequently using the coloured chords associated with jazz. Melodic lines were often sparse and chromatic and a reserved, understated vocal delivery was characteristic. This approach contrasted sharply with the emphatic style of the samba-canção. Many of these new traits resembled those of the "cool jazz" of the West Coast of the United States, which many young Brazilian musicians admired. Gilberto’s 1959 recording of "A felicidade," from the film Orfeu Negro, is an excellent example of contrast because traditional carnival samba alternates with the new Bossa Nova style.

Bossa Nova became a permanent part of the jazz repertory, to judge by the number of compositions by Jobim in the "real book", the collection of lead sheets and charts professional musicians most often consult. There are 12 of Jobim’s songs in that book; only one North American composer has more in the same source.

The tune ”Girl from Ipanema” by Jobim which is in the ”real book” made the Bossa Nova well known over the world.

To get into the Bossa Nova style, listen to composers as:

Antônio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Luiz Bonfa

…and songs as The Girl from Ipanema, Desifinado, Corcovado.

João Gilberto was obsessed to find new ways of playing the guitar. To the Bossa Nova he took rhythms from the Brazilian samba and applied it to the guitar. The style is most commonly played with the nylon string guitar and finger pluck. It´s combining the bass with samba rhythms in patterns.

Before you start practice the chord progression in the video lesson and if you´ll find those chords and the rhythm difficult you can start with this exercise that´s built on the same chords but with easier chord shapes.

ll Cmaj7 l Am7 l Dm7 l G7 ll

Here are the easy exercise chord tabs:

Start to listen to the audio example of the easy exercise:

…and here´s the easy rhythm to Cmaj7:

As you´ll see the bass is on th 5th string and will keep the same rhythm through the progression. In Bossa Nova the rhythms are interacting each other and to the chords there is another rhythm. You´re playing the chords on the 1st, 2nd and the 3rd strings to the exercise.

Start practice the bass and chords separately before you putting these rhythms together. You can also split the bar in two pieces and practice the 1st half bar to start with and when you master that you´ll practice the 2nd half. Then you´ll putting them together.

Down below are the rhythms and chords to the easy Am7, Dm7 and G7 chord. The bass is on different strings but the chords are played on the same strings in the right hand through the progression. Play the bars twice.

Down below you´ll see the rhythm pattern to the Cmaj9 chord.


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To get into the Bossa Nova style, listen to composers as:

Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto


Luiz Bonfa.

…and songs as The Girl from Ipanema, Desifinado



Hope you´ll like the music and find this lesson useful.

Pdf files to the lesson available here.

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