John Proulx
Quick Tip

Learning Focus
  • Chords
  • Groove
  • Rhythm
Music Style
  • Latin Jazz
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It is rightly said that Antonio Carlos Jobim (1927–1994) represents for Brazilian culture what George Gershwin represents to America. Often dubbed the “Father of Bossa Nova,” Jobim’s international fame exploded in 1964 with the Getz/Gilberto album that introduced the world to “Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema).” In fact, the album secured 4 Grammy awards marking the first time a jazz album won Album of the Year. In today’s Quick Tip, PWJ teacher John Proulx walks us through The Jobim Chord Progression. This bossa nova chord progression represents one of Jobim’s favorite underpinnings for his enchanting melodies, including “Desafinado” and “So Danco Samba.” You’ll learn:

  • 5 7th Chords
  • 1 Bossa Nova Chord Progression
  • Guide Tones and Inverted Guide Tones
  • 1 Bossa Nova Piano Groove

The impact of Jobim’s music cannot be overstated. In fact, you’ll scarcely find a professional jazz performance that doesn’t include at least one bossa nova selection. Therefore, you’ll definitely want to get this bossa nova chord progression in your ears and hands.

Jobim Piano Chords

Let’s begin by covering the 5 chords that you’ll need to know to play Jobim’s bossa nova chord progression. Chances are you already know several of them. We’ll be in the key of C Major for today’s lesson.

The Jobim chord progression includes 3 diatonic 7th chords and 2 chromatic 7th chords. Chromatic chords is a broad term for non-diatonic chords that includes secondary dominants, modal interchange and tritone substitutions. Generally speaking, accidentals are your clue that some form of chromaticism is at work. As you gain experience, try to understand the harmonic function of each chromatic chord. In other words, what makes the chords with accidentals work in a way that sounds pleasing to the ear? That way, you can use your understanding of harmonic function to reharmonize other tunes with chromaticism. Now, here are the 5 chords you need to know for the Jobim progression.

The 5 Jobim Chords
Jobim’s bossa nova chord progression uses 3 diatonic chords and 2 chromatic chords.

Did you notice that the diatonic chords in this progression are simply the 2-5-1 chords (ii-V-I) in C Major? The 2-5-1 chord progression constitutes the single most common chord progression used in jazz repertoire. As such, familiarity with this progression in all 12 keys is among the most essential of jazz piano skills. In fact, you can master all twelve 2-5-1 progressions in our 2-5-1 7th Chord Exercises (Level 2) course. Furthermore, intermediate and advanced piano students will also love our Minor 2-5-1 7th Chord Exercises (Level 2) course. In the next section, we’ll address the 2 chromatic chords found in today’s lesson.

The Bossa Nova Chord Progression

In this section, we’ll apply the 5 piano chords above into Jobim’s bossa nova chord progression. This progression is used on “Girl from Ipanema” and “So Danco Samba.” This progression is also used on Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train” and Jimmy McHugh’s “Exactly Like You.” Here is the progression shown with root position chords and harmonic analysis.

Jobim Bossa Nova Chord Progression w analysis
Jobim’s bossa nova chord progression with harmonic analysis.

Harmonic Analysis of the Bossa Nova Chord Progression

The most intriguing aspect of this progression is the prolonged usage of the dominant 2-chord (II7) in measures 3 and 4. Typically, the 2-chord in a major key is a minor ii7. For example, in C Major, the diatonic 2-chord is Dm7. However, Jobim chooses to use a D7 instead which adds a brightness to the overall texture.

A particularly interesting question is what is the function of the D7 chord? Since the quality is dominant, many musicians choose to analyze this chord as a secondary dominant. In that case, the D7 would function as a V7 of V. However, the D7 does not resolve directly to G. Instead, it resolves to a Dm7 first before heading to the G7 in measure 6. Is this simply a V7 of V with delayed resolution? Many musicians accept this analysis. However, others will contend that the prolonged usage of the II7 weakens the case for a secondary dominant function. After all, the D7 lasts for two full measures—secondary dominants typically function as passing chords with shorter durations. Therefore, it is preferable to analyze the D7 as a 2-chord borrowed from the C Lydian mode. This analysis best explains the dominant quality, the prolonged usage and the resolution.

Now, let’s briefly look at the rest of this chord progression. Measure 5 begins a 2-5-1 progression in the primary key of C Major. This is followed by a 1-6-2-5 turnaround progression in measures 7 and 8. Note that Jobim uses an A7 in measure 7 for the 6-chord instead of the diatonic 6-chord (Am7). This is an example of a secondary dominant. A7 is the 5-chord in D minor. Thus, A7 can be analyzed as the V7 of ii.

Next, we’ll learn some more preferable piano chord voicings for this progression.

Bossa Nova Chord Progression with Guide Tones

In this section, we’ll swap out the root position chords shown above for some more preferable piano voicings. Specifically, we’ll be using guide tones in our right hand. The term guide tones refers to the 3rd and 7th of a 7th chord. This jazz piano voicing technique offers beginners a simple voicing solution that is both accessible and appealing in sound. Check it out.

Jobim Bossa Nova Chord Progression w Guide Tones
The Jobim Bossa Nova Chord Progression with Guide Tones.

Let’s look the G7 in measure 6 above. The right hand voicing has the 3rd on bottom and the 7th on top. This is comparable to a root position G7 with the root and 5th omitted. This is the essence of the guide tone technique.  However, now let’s look at the C Major 7 in measure 1. In this example, the 3rd is above the 7th. This is still considered a guide tone voicing, but the term inverted guide tones refers to specifically to this context. A combination of guide tones and inverted guide tones enables us to play through the progression with strong voicing leading. In other words, we want smooth transitions from chord to chord that minimizes leaps.

Next, we’ll learn to apply a bossa nova piano groove with these voicings.

Bossa Nova Piano Groove

The final step in playing the Jobim progression is to add the bossa nova stylization. If necessary, be sure to review John Proulx’s breakdown of each hand individually in the Quick Tip video. In general, the left hand features the root and 5th of each chord with a typical Brazilian bass line. However, the 5th of the chord is not needed when the chords change more quickly as in measures 15 and 16 below. The right hand, by contrast, features a syncopated bossa nova rhythm pattern that lasts two measures before repeating. Be sure to notice that the bossa pattern in measures 13 anticipates the arrival of the G7 of measure 14. Similarly, the Dm7 in measure 16 is anticipated in the bossa pattern at the end of measure 15. Here is the complete bossa nova piano groove over the entire chord progression.

Bossa Nova Piano Groove w Anticipation Brazilian Jazz
Bossa nova piano accompaniment groove over the Jobim chord progression.

Congratulations! You are well on your way to playing with a Brazilian jazz piano sound. Be sure to download the lesson sheet and backing tracks which appear at the bottom of this page after logging in with your membership. You can also easily transpose this lesson to any key using our Smart Sheet Music.

The Girl from Ipanema: Fact or Fiction

Perhaps you’ve always assumed that “The Girl from Ipanema” was a fictional character. However, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Jobim’s enchanting musical tapestry was inspired by an encounter with an actual woman of equally enchanting beauty. In 1962, Helo Pinheiro caught the eyes of Antonio Carlos Jobim and lyricist Vinicius De Moraes as she passed by on the beach of Rio de Janeiro, becoming the inspiration for the timeless song. Check out Helo Pinheiro’s interview with TODAY’s Hoda Kotb over 50 years after the song was written.

Want to learn even more about the Brazilian jazz sound? Check out the following courses:

Thanks for learning with us today! We’ll see you next time.


Blog written by Michael LaDisa / Quick Tip by John Proulx

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