Bossa Nova Lesson


LESSON NOTES                                       

CHORD VOICINGS: Bossa nova is based on the same jazz harmony that’s been discussed in this book so far – after all it’s still jazz. Chords, scales, voicings, ii – V – I’s, circle of fifth progressions, changing scale at every opportunity – all apply to bossa nova with no significant changes. So you can use all the same voicings, scales and licks you’ve learnt previously when playing a bossa nova. As far as voicings go I’ll usually play rootless chord voicings in the right hand over a bassline in the left:                               

BASSLINE: The next most noticeable difference of bossa nova is its bassline. A bossa nova bassline alternates between 2 notes – the root and 5th of whichever chord is being played, and these notes are played to a specific rhythm. The root is played on beat 1 and the 5th on beat 3 (as notated in half-time). But most importantly each beat is anticipated with an eighth-note just before. Beats 1 and 3 are played sustained, and the anticipation note is played ‘staccato’ (very short), creating contrast between the two.

PIANO ARRANGEMENT: When playing a bossa nova on solo piano, there are 3 elements you’re trying to play – bassline, chords, and melody. Most of the time you’ll only be able to play 2 at a time which means you’ll need to juggle the 3.

The bassline stays playing fairly constantly throughout, but in the right hand you can alternate between melody and chords. I’ll prioritize playing the melody, but anytime the melody takes a rest or is sustained, I’ll attend to the chords and switch to playing the chord voicing to a bossa nova rhythm.