I Got Rhythm Guitar 4 - Bossa Study

by Joe Kataldo

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  • Bossa Nova is at its core a rhythm based on samba. Samba combines the rhythmic patterns and feel originating in former African slave communities with elements of European march music. Samba's emphasis on the first beat carries through to Bossa Nova (to the degree that it is often notated in 2/4 time).

    When played on the guitar, in a simple one-bar pattern the thumb plays the bass notes on 1 and 2, alternating between Root and Fifth while the fingers pluck the chords in unison on the two eighth notes of beat one, followed by the second sixteenth note of beat two.

    Two-measure patterns usually contain a syncopation into the second measure. Overall, the rhythm has a swaying rather than swinging (as in jazz) feel.

    In terms of harmonic structure, Bossa Nova has a great deal in common with jazz, in its sophisticated use of seventh and extended chords. Bossa Nova is most commonly performed on the nylon-string classical guitar, played with the fingers rather than with a pick.

    Though not as prominent as the guitar, the piano is another important instrument of bossa nova, a bridge between Bossa Nova and jazz. Bossa Nova drumming style is characterized by continuous eighths on the high-hat and tapping of the rim or "rim clicks" in a clave pattern. The bass drum usually mimics the string bass by playing on "1-&3-&1" as the string bass and Bass Guitar usually do.

    This Lesson Will Improve

    Fingerstyle dexterity

    Chords Knowledge

    Bossa Study

    Today study on Bossa Nova is a series of common progression in a more "Latin Jazz" fashion. The voicing used are full of extensions and root alternation between the root and the 5th of the chords. Easy for the average player, may be complex to beginner, so here my strategy to master this piece:

    1) Learn all the voicing you don’t know, and practice them chromatically all over the neck.

    2) Practice the root fifth of chord movement played with the thumb (note: all the stems down are meant to be played with thumb and vice versa).

    3) Practice in block of two chords, once you mastered the transition, apply the notated rhythm, then move on the next block.

    Start slow and build up your technique, see you next lesson!

    Recommended Listening

    There's so much music in Brazil, where do you start?
    Jazz Samba Encore! - Luiz Bonfa, an amazing guitarist that could make
    the strings make sounds I didn't think possible. :-D

    Theory Focus

    The "Root" is the first note of a chord ex. Cm root = C note.
    To find other chords degree simply count the chord/scale up to desired "number" ex. Cm 5th = G note (one C, two D, three Eb, four F, five G).

    Pro Tips

    It's a general fault to apply too much force when playing chords, more often when long sustained. Try to add only the sufficient pressure to make notes ring clearly.

    Joe Kataldo
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