Bossa Nova music is famous for its soft and warm-sounding chords. They are often four-part chords with an extension tone that gives the chords additional color. Popular are the ninth (9) and eleventh (11) for minor and major four-note chords, as well as the thirteenth (13) for diminished and dominant seventh chords.

In order not to get too lost in theory, here are ten of the most popular, well-known and beautiful bossa nova chords.

You can find a PDF with all of these chords as well as suggested practice patterns and lots of examples in the shop!

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1

The Major SEVENTH Chord With 9

The first chord of Girl from Ipanema and many other pieces. The ninth adds extra warmth to the major triad with a major seventh!

More recommended Songs with Major7(9) chords:

  • Só Danço samba
  • Summer Samba
  • Wave

2

The Minor SEVENTH Chord with 9

The little sister of the Major9 chord – a bit more mellow and at least as beautiful! The jazz bossa Blue Bossa makes extensive use of this chord.

More recommended Songs with Minor7(9) chords:

  • Estate
  • É Preciso Perdoar
  • Wave

3

The Minor SIXTH Chord

The minor 6th chord is the darker alternative to the minor 7th chord. It is almost always suitable as a tonic chord in minor pieces such as Corcovado.

More recommended Songs with Minor6 chords:

  • How Insensitve
  • Chega de Saudade
  • Dindi

4

The Dominant Seventh chord with 13

A complicated name for a simple chord: in this case a G7 chord with an E (the sixth note from G or, an octave up, the thirteenth note) in place of the D (the fifth). In combination with the minor 9th chord (see #2) this chord is often used in a typical chord progression for Latin tunes. The intro to the Jobim song Wave is a perfect example:

More recommended Songs with Dom7(13) chords:

  • Só danço samba
  • Once I Loved
  • A Felicidade

5

The Half Diminished Chord

As part of a II-V-I cadence in minor, the half diminished chord is an important part of many bossa nova and jazz songs.  In Manha de Carnaval the chord is often times used in this way instead of the original D minor chord.

More recommended Songs with Half-diminished chords:

  • The Gentle Rain
  • Chega de Saudade
  • Dindi

6

The Dominant Seventh Chord with a Flat Nine

Along with the half-diminished chord, the dom7b9 chord forms the “minor cadence” team. In the above example, you can enrich the E7 chord with a small ninth and expand the timbre. Only in connection with the resolution to the A minor chord do these “ugly beauties” show their true potential.

More recommended Songs with Dom7(b9) chords:

  • Desafinado
  • O Barquinho
  • Triste

7

The Diminished Seventh Chord

The Secret Weapon of Bossa Nova! Tom Jobim uses the diminished chord in numerous songs. These chords, which often occur as passing chords, can be used in many ways due to their ambiguity. Once I Loved features several key changes and makes extensive use of the diminished chord:

More recommended Songs with Diminished chords:

  • Desafinado
  • Chega de Saudade
  • Once I Loved

8

THE DOMINANT SEVENTH CHORD WITH 9

Dominant Seventh chords are vital to chord progressions of any music genre. No wonder there are a total of four different chords of this type in the list. The Dom7(9) chord is probably the most common and it is also a typical sound in blues and funk music. Here is the famous intro riff to the classic Latin-song Oye Como Va.

More recommended Songs with Dom7(9) chords:

  • The Girl From Ipanema
  • Só danço samba
  • Summer Samba

9

The Diminished Chord With FLAT 13

In order to make the diminished chord a little softer, you can give the voicing an option tone. Especially the diminished chord with extension b13 is often played by Joao Gilberto. For example in Corcovado:

More recommended Songs with Dim7(b13) chords:

  • Samba do Avião
  • Chega de Saudade
  • Desafinado

10

THE DOMINANT SEVENTH CHORD WITH Flat 13

This chord structure is identical to #4 but with a flattened thirteenth. In theory this chord resolves to a minor chord, usually the tonic chord. In Jazz & Bossa Nova music this type of chord is also used to create a strong tension/resolution effect to a major chord. Here is an excerpt from How Insensitive.

More recommended Songs with Dom7(b13) chords:

  • Caminhos Cruzados
  • Vivo Sonhando
  • Triste
You can find a PDF with all of these chords as well as suggested practice patterns and lots of examples in the shop!

Get The TOP10 Chords!

Here is a Spotify-Playlist where you can listen to all of these wonderful songs: 

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