Introduction: Bossa Nova

What IS Bossa Nova?

Bossa-Nova music is the fusion of South American rhythm elements with North American jazz harmonies. The originator of the genre is Antonio Carlos Jobim, a Brazilian pianist who worked as a bar pianist in Rio de Janeiro when he was young. He appropriated the light music that was common at the time – American jazz – and fused it with the music of his childhood and youth – Brazilian samba, choro and similar styles.

(A) Style Conquers the World

The Bossa Nova was born. Joao Gilberto adapted many of Jobim’s songs for the guitar and developed the typical accompaniment style. It was he who recorded the album “Getz/Gilberto” with the American jazz saxophonist Stan Getz in 1963, which made bossa nova famous in America – and thus worldwide.

BOSSA NOVA How Does it Sound?

Listen to The Girl from Ipanema from the above mentioned recording with Joao Gilberto. It is one of the most famous Bossa Nova pieces:

The style-defining elements of the Bossa Nova music are:

  • four-note chords and chord extensions adapted from jazz music
  • a constantly flowing basic pulse in 2/4 meter (often also notated in 4/4 time)
  • rhythmic subdivisions in melody and chord accompaniment are often heavily syncopated

If many of these terms are new to you, be sure to check out an introduction to music theory.


If you’re ready to take your first steps, here are some materials to prepare you to play Bossa Nova on the guitar.


Keeping the bossa nova rhythm flowing while navigating complicated left-hand chords is one of the greatest challenges. These introductionary chords build on the well-known basic guitar chords are a useful introduction.


Even if the ear-flattering, soft chords are very appealing – being able to play the bossa nova rhythm fluently and easily is the most important basis. Joao Gilberto often played a simple basic rhythm. Learn it here!


Antonio Carlos Jobim has shaped the repertoire, but there are also many simple songs from Latin American folklore that are suitable for learning the interplay of chords and rhythm.

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