Astrud Gilberto sings “Quiet Night of Quiet Stars” in 1963 and the world is still at her feet today. Corcovado is the name of the famous mountain in Rio de Janeiro on which the statue of Christ the Redeemer stands. Tom Jobim put a monument to the monument and it remains one of the most recorded Bossa Nova songs until today. He wrote the song in 1960 and Joao Gilberto recorded it beautifully one year later:
Joao Gilberto - Bossa Nova Guitar CHords
Joao Gilberto played the song regularly and his chords are – as with many other bossa nova pieces – the ultimate reference point for every guitar player. Let’s have a look at the voicings:
The song is written in the key of A-Minor and starts out with a beautiful A-Minor6 Voicing. This Am6 chord is a jazz and bossa classic. Definitely have it “at hand”! The following diminished chord is one of the most distinctive chords in bossa nova music. Here it functions as a passing chord between the Am6 and the Gm7 chord. The G-Minor7 voicing belongs to the basic four-note chords and is part of the II-V cadence to F-Major.
The dominant of the cadence, C7, comes with the upper extension note of the ninth. A pretty common sound to make the otherwise very tense chord a bit more mellow. Interestingly, Joao Gilberto plays the chord with the fifth in the bass. We will see more of this in a second.
At the end of the II-V cadence the usual FMaj7 chord is mixed up with his brother, the F6 chord. A subtle detail!
In the following line, the F6 is changed to F Minor6. Since the tonality of the piece is A minor/C major, this chord can be interpreted as a minor subdominant to C Major.
Another II-V cadence follows. This E Minor7 chord is a beautiful alternative to the standard 1st position voicing.
The following dominant seventh chord comes with the upper extension F, i.e. the flat thirteen (b13). This is a common extension note for dominant chords resolving to minor. But Jobim delays the obvious for a bit and lingers on the secondary dominant of D7 for two bars. Joao Gilberto, again, plays it with the fifth in the bass.
At the end of the first part we are in II-V territory again. The Dm7-G7 chord progression seems to indicate the long awaited change to C-Major. Also note, how beautifully Joao Gilberto mixes the F/G with an Fminor/G. Both chords are basically G7sus4 sounds.
Where will it all end? You can find out in the interactive score at the end of the page – Joao Gilberto certainly has some more nice voicings to showcase the beautiful harmonies!
To make this song more accessible to guitarists of all levels I created a simplified version. You can find explanations and a demo track on Youtube, The PDF is available in the Shop!