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Bossa Nova Harmony – Part 1

Bossa Nova Harmony – Part 1

Bossa Nova is known for its rich harmonies, melodic refinement and rhythmic swing. Learning to play this musical style thus requires studying its specific musical aesthetic qualities. In this post I talk about some characteristics of bossa nova harmony. I suggest some exercise and some ideas for the studies. At the end of this article you will find a song (called “A influência da bossa”) with a playback to play along. Hope you enjoy!

If we examine the scores of great Bossa Nova composers, we find that this musical style rarely uses triads and instead prefers chords that offer richer sonority. Bossa Nova harmony introduces notes like 9th, 11th, 13th that enrich the chords.

 

Beyond of its richness, chords sequences emphasize the movement of the melodic tensions in a characteristic way. We will observe it along the article.

 

Chords enrichment, however, is just one of the characteristics of Bossa Nova harmony. At a closer look we can pick up a bigger quantity of elements so interesting that worth a deep study.

In my Piano Bossa Nova: Progressive Method book I organize the study of the harmony into three “layers”:

1) Chord Types: each chord type has its characteristic sound and peculiarities;

2) Study of the Rhythmc-harmonic cliches;

3) Study of the Voicings that represent the Bossa Nova sound on piano.

Piano Bossa Nova método completo em DVD

What is a Voicing?

Regarding harmony, it is important to understand the concept of voicing, which refers to a specific chord structure, that is, a particular disposition of the notes. Take, for instance, the voicing 6-2-b3-5 in three different Keys:

A harmonia da bossa nova parte 1

As regards the Chord Types study, we can observe, for example, that Bossa Nova alternates the major 7th and major 6th on Xmaj7 chords in order to create harmonic richness. This is especially used when we have the same chord for more than one bar.

Another typical aspect is the use of clusters. With this term we usually indicate major second or minor second interval inside the chord. In the image below you can observe the cluster between the 9th and the 3rd of the chord:

A harmonia da bossa nova parte 1

Next we can observe the Xmaj7 chord category enriched with 6th and 9th notes. In the first line we have more “tradicional” voicings using 6th and 9th notes, while in the second line we have more interesting voicings:

A harmonia da bossa nova parte 1

In the book I suggest to study each voicing in each key. It can be done going up and down chromatically, for example, as follows (see the image and the video):

A harmonia da bossa nova parte 1

Now we can study, for example, the 7-2-3-5 voicing on each key, as follows:

A harmonia da bossa nova parte 1

I want to share with you a song from the Piano Bossa Nova book showing the chords we can use to comp. You can use the mp3 audio file to play along if you like (I strongly recommend this kind of practice).

A influência da bossa

A influência da bossa nova

The voicings I use in the book to comp this song:

A influência da bossa nova

CLICK HERE to read the second part of this article.

Turi Collura

Turi Collura é pianista, compositor, músico profissional. Atua como professor em Cursos de Pós-Graduação, em Conservatórios e Festivais de música pelo Brasil e no exterior. Formado na Itália em Disciplinas da Música (Bolonha) e na Escola de Jazz (Milão), é Mestre pela UFES, e Pós-graduado pela mesma Instituição. Turi é Coordenador Pedagógico do Terra da Música e Professor de alguns cursos online. É autor de métodos em livros e DVD (Improvisação, Piano Bossa Nova, Rítmica e Levadas Brasileiras para Piano), alguns dos quais publicados pela Editora Irmãos Vitale e com tradução em inglês. Ativo na cena musical como solista, músico de estúdio e arranjador, tem participado da gravação/produção de diversos discos. Em 2012, seu CD autoral “Interferências” ganhou uma versão japonesa. Seu segundo CD faz uma releitura moderna de algumas composições do sambista Noel Rosa.

3 Comentários
  • marlon

    Estou gostando muito de ler esses artigos, por favor, continuem publicando!

    11/03/2018 at 14:37

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