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Bossa Nova

The best known syle of Brazian music popularized in the 1950s and 1960s.

PUBLISHED: Sep 19, 2018 UPDATED: Apr 13, 2020VIEWS: 361 • LESSON CODE: UL901

Instruments: ukulele music guitar Subjects:

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Bossa Nova

Bossa Nova is a genre of Brazilian music, which developed and was popularized in the 1950s and 1960s and is today one of the best-known Brazilian music genres abroad. The phrase bossa nova means literally “new trend”. A lyrical fusion of samba and jazz, bossa nova acquired a large following in the 1960s initially among young musicians and college students. Since its inception, it has remained a vital part of the standard jazz repertoire.

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Bossa Nova has typically been performed on nylon stringed classical guitars plucking With the finger as opposed to a pick. This is makes the ukulele a great instrument for performing Bossa Nova. In is purest form it is vocals and unaccompanied guitar.
At its core the Bossa Nova rhythm is based on Samba. Samba’s emphasis on the second beat carries through the bossa nova pattern and at times is often notated in 2/4. A samba, unlike the bossa nova has a distant dance pattern associated with the style.


As with a samba a bossa nova is a clave pattern. In particular a 3:2 pattern.


Exploring on Ukulele

We'll use this most famous Bossa Nova to explore the Bossa Nova style on ukulele.

The Girl From Ipanema

by Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim , also known as Tom Jobim

Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz - The Girl From Ipanema (Garota de Ipanema) (1964) LIVE

This is the original hit from 1964 that created the Bossa Nova craze worldwide. Garota de Ipanema won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and started Astrud Gilberto's career.

Bossa Nova is one of my favorite styles to play. First checkout the videos the get the feel of the song.

The Girl From Ipanema - Frank Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim | Concert Collection

Bossa Nova on Ukulele

The role of ukulele performing in the Bossa Nova style is the same as the guitar's role. The guitarist would typically play a nylon string classical guitar.

Bossa is a syncopated style with a bass note / chord approach. Very doable on a guitar and we'll have to simulate it on ukulele.

The bass is typically the root or fifth of the chords and the thumb plays that as the lowest note of the chord voicing. The index, middle, and ring fingers play the remaining part of the chord.

The rhythmic part of the style is a mixture of Levels I, II and IIR of the Modular Phonetic Rhythm System by Chuck Anderson. This is the sytstem I use with GREAT results.

Key of Db

As a jazz standard The Girl From Ipanema is typically performed in the Key of F as in the Sinatra and Jobim video. The original Getz/Gilberto recording is in the Key of Db .

Here I transposed to the Key of Db for the ukulele to take advantage of all four strings and get the same feeling of the original performance.

Leadsheet Key of Db.

Each major and minor keys conveys it's own characteristics and emotions. If doing a song instrumentally, i.e. no vocals, you can pick any key that gives you the characteristics and emotions you are trying to convey. I picked Db to keep the feeling of the original Astrud Gilberto's vocal recording.

German music theorist and composer John Mattheson laid these characteristics and emotions out in his writings in 1713. They were rediscovered and translated by Rita Steblin in her book A History of Key Characteristics in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries in 1983.

Background Chords on Ukulele

These are the chords I'm playing in the video.

The A chords are: Db6/9, Eb13, Ebm7, Ebb7(D7), Ebb7b5(D7b5). In the A section the Harmonic Analysis (HA) is: I II7 Im7 bII7 I bII7 , Hence the technically correct Ebb7 for the II chord. The Ebb7 (Ebb G Bbb Dbb) is same shape as D7 (D F# A C) and are Enharmonic Equivalents which you might already know.

The A Section Chords for Ukulele

Triple Flat

Triple Flats? – That can't be right. Well, yes Virginia theoretically it is. In the key of Db the second, the II chord is Eb. So the bII would be flatted for E double flat Ebb with the Bbb the fifth of the chord. And flatting the fifth results in a triple (bbb) flat. You have to keep the scale degree name / chord degree name in a full diatonic key. Now, granted not a lot of musicians, very few in fact would know this and might call it D7. You would get the right pitches – but the names of the pitches would be wrong for the the key of Db Major .

The triple flats show up in the chord tones for the Ebb7b5. E7 is E G# B D, Eb7 is Eb G Bb Db, Ebb7 is Ebb Gb Bbb Dbb, and Ebb7b5 is Ebb Gb Bbbb Dbb. These are the correct chord spellings for these chords.

Now, knowing all this is would most likely use an Enharmonic Equivalent spelling that would that a majority of musicians would have a changes of playing vs. the theoretical correct spelling. The goal is to get the music played.

This music theory stuff is wild. - Curt

The B Section Chords for Ukulele

The B section of the song is rich in harmonic movement, is actually not that hard to navigate.

The B chords are: D6/9, G9, Dm9, Bb9, Ebm9, Cb9, Fm7, Bb7#11b9, Ebm7, Ab7#11b9,. In the A section the Harmonic Analysis (HA) is: I II7 Im7 bII7 I bII7, Hence the technically correct Ebbb7 ( E triple flat 7 ) for the II chord. The same shape as a D7 which you might already know.

No Vanilla Seventh Chords

Notice that I didn't play many plain vanilla chords. There is an un-written rule in "jazz" that you don't play a simple straight-ahead seventh chord, plain vanilla seventh chords. Add upper partials / chord extensions and/or alter the chord. The extensions and alteration depend on what the resolution of the seventh chord is.

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Related Lessons

Related Lessons for Bossa Nova at this time.

Modular Phonetic Rhythm • Updated: Aug 1, 2018

"Modular Phonetic Rhythm" by Chuck Anderson represents a significant advance in the teaching and application of rhythm. Eliminating many inefficient aspects of rhythm education, Modular Phonetic Rhythm streamlines the traditional educational approach, resulting in a reflexive reaction to rhythm. This approach is applicable to all ages and to all styles of music.

Related Books

Related Books for Bossa Nova at this time.

A Guide to Ukulele Strums
Updated: Apr 11, 2019

Learn a variety of strums and rhythmic patterns in wide range of musical styles. One of the first skills a ukulele player learns is the art and craft of strumming, playing rhythm. This refers to an accompaniment technique suitable for the singer, singer - songwriter or someone who plays a support role for another instrument.

Modular Phonetic Rhythm, The Foundation and Workbook 1
Updated: Nov 9, 2015

Modular Phonetic Rhythm represents a significant advance in the teaching and application of rhythm. Eliminating many inefficient aspects of rhythm education, Modular Phonetic Rhythm streamlines the traditional educational approach, resulting in a reflexive reaction to rhythm.

Related Songs

Related Songs for Bossa Nova at this time.

Any Song Will Do Updated: Dec 7, 2015

This is not really a song, but simply saying that for the purposes of a lot of the lessons and lesson series on this site ANY song will do for exploring the lesson's material and concepts presented in the lesson.

Black Orpheus Updated: Dec 9, 2019

Black Orpheus (Portuguese: Orfeu Negro) is a 1959 film made in Brazil by French director Marcel Camus and starring Marpessa Dawn and Breno Mello. It is based on the play Orfeu da Conceição by Vinicius de Moraes, which is an adaptation of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in the modern context of a favela in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval.

Blue Bossa Updated: Feb 9, 2016

Blue Bossa is an instrumental jazz composition by Kenny Dorham (August 30, 1924 - December 5, 1972). It was introduced on Joe Henderson's 1963 album Page One. A blend of hard bop and bossa nova, the tune was possibly influenced by Dorham's visit to the Rio de Janeiro Jazz Festival in 1961. The tune has since been recorded numerous times by different artists, making it a jazz standard.

Desafinado Updated: Apr 25, 2018

Desafinado, a Portuguese word (usually rendered into English as "Out of Tune", or as "Off Key"), is the title of a bossa nova song composed by Antônio Carlos Jobim with lyrics (in Portuguese) by Newton Mendonça.. The English language lyrics were written by Jon Hendricks and "Jessie Cavanaugh" (a pseudonym used by The Richmond Organisation). Another English lyric, more closely based on the original Portuguese lyric (but not a translation) was written by Gene Lees, and appears on some recordings as well.

Girl From Ipanema Updated: Mar 19, 2021

The Girl from Ipanema (Garota de Ipanema) is an essential jazz standard that every jazz musician should know. The A sections chord progression, basically a I II7 II V is functionally the same as Take the A Train, Jersey Bounce, Desafinado and a few others.

Related Lesson Series

Related Lessons Series for Bossa Nova at this time.

Modular Phonetic Rhythm by Chuck Anderson Updated: Jan 1, 2003

Modular Phonetic Rhythm represents a significant advance in the teaching and application of rhythm. Eliminating many inefficient aspects of rhythm education, Modular Phonetic Rhythm streamlines the traditional educational approach, resulting in a reflexive reaction to rhythm.

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