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“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 - His Chord Voicings
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 Db he uses a typical 6/9 voicing with a fifth in the bass.
The fifth is also the lowest note in the double 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 key changes 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 chord grip.
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 semitone shifts are part of the drama (the unrequited love…) of the second part and a clever compositional trick by Tom Jobim.
It ends in a jazz-typical iii-VI-ii-V cadence back to the original key of Db major. Fm7 is the chord on the third degree.
A bulky-sounding #11 is added to the Bb7 chord, reflecting the melody at this point.
Again the chord progression is shifted…
…and finds its way back to the first part via Ab7(#11).