The Girl From Ipanema is probably the most famous bossa nova song. Not least because of the Netflix series of the same name, the song has been on everyone’s lips again. The middle part of the piece in particular is an excursion into the shifting of tonal centers. It is all the more impressive how easily Joao Gilberto adapts his chord voicings to the complex harmonies.
Joao Gilberto Bossa Nova Guitar Chords
PART I Tall and Tan and young and Lovely...
In the first part of the piece, four chords are enough for Joao Gilberto to play the song. For the tonic chord Db he uses a typical 6/9 voicing with a fifth in the bass.
The fifth is also the lowest note in the secondary dominant Eb7 voicing, while the ninth in the soprano stylishly provides color.
With an inconspicuous movement of the index finger, the third is lowered and we arrive at the subdominant-parallel chord Ebm9.
In the bass? The Fifth.
Shortly before the return to the tonic, it gets exciting again: As always, the dominant is the most impressive chord and provides the most colorful option tones: The b9 and the 13th – the b9 even in the bass. Spectacular!
PART II Oh, but I Love her So Sadly!
In the second part, the chords move away from the tonal center of Db and the harmonic rhythm picks up significantly. It starts with a simple inversion of the DMaj7 chord.
A long stretch of identical chord changes begins with this DMaj7 / G7 combination. Analyze the next four chords closely!
This G7 chord is an ordinary four-note chord and is fingered as a barre.
This FMaj7/A is structurally identical to the above DMaj7/F#. A very nice and useful alternative to a usual Major7-Voicing.
Also this Bb7 is similar to the G7 chord. It is also related to FMaj7 in the same way that G7 is related to DMaj7.
And one more step up from FMaj7. A principle becomes apparent: the interval shifts are part of the drama (the unrequited love…) of the second part and a clever compositional trick by Tom Jobim.
There are three Major7 Chords moving up from DMaj7 to GbMaj7 and three Dominant7 Chords (G7, Bb7 and now B7) that correspond to the Major-Voicings.
The second part is concluded with a jazz-typical iii-VI-ii-V cadence back to the original key of Db major. Fm7 is the chord on the third degree of Db-Major (Db – Eb – F).
A bulky-sounding #11 is added to the Bb7 chord, reflecting the melody at this point.
Bb7 is the secondary dominant on the 6th degree of the Db-Major scale:
Db – Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb.
The Fm7-Bb7 chord voicings are now repeated a wholetone lower. Ebm7 is the second chord of Db-Major…
…and Ab7 is the dominant chord which leads back to the first part. Here again reflecting the melody with a #11.