Today we’re kicking off a new series on bossa nova, which I’m very excited about because I adore singing bossa novas. It’s also one of my favourite genres in which to write original songs.

Brasil is the birthplace of bossa nova. It evolved from samba rhythms taken at a slower tempo.  In the video below, I talk a bit more about the origins of bossa nova, and how important it is to listen to a lot of different musicians so you can get a broader grasp of it and the variety of comping styles that exist as well.   

If you spend a bit of time learning some of the basic rhythmic patterns of the bossa nova, you will learn to phrase more freely in your singing and gain a deeper understanding of the rhythms involved. In this series, we’ll gain deeper insights into:

  • How to listen in an active way and learn to comp by playing along to classic recordings.
  • How to simplify comping while still sounding stylistically authentic.
  • How patterns can be adapted to a song’s harmonic structure and to the emotional ups and downs of the song.

Finally, I’ve compiled a playlist below of 10 classic Brazilian bossa novas which I encourage you to listen to carefully. There are so many superstars of Brazilian music that it was very hard to whittle this down to only 10. You’ll notice that João Gilberto appears twice in the playlist. First off is the classic, Girl From Ipanema, with Astrud Gilberto joining him, Stan Getz on tenor sax, and Antônio Carlos (Tom) Jobim on piano. But I also wanted you to hear him performing solo about 30 years later on “Você vai ver”, just him and his guitar. You’ve also got a gorgeous version recorded by Miúcha (incidentally, she was Gilberto’s second wife and mother of Bebel). Listen to the different ways they approach the same song. The difference in phrasing and emotional emphasis.

Also on this list is the infectiously joyful ‘Águas de Março’ with Elis Regina and Tom Jobim. I’ve included tracks by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil where they are playing guitar while they sing, so you can listen to their different comping styles. There is the wonderful Nara Leão singing ‘O Barquinho’ (My Little Boat) and I’ve also included a video of Nelson Faria, one of Brazil’s foremost guitarists, playing with Edu Lobo. Nelson Faria hosts a fabulous weekly series on YouTube called “Um Café Lá Em Casa” (‘a coffee at home’) where he interviews different Brasilian musicians. Bebel Gilberto’s dreamy ‘Samba da Benção’ is also included, and we finish off with Adriana Calcanhotto doing a funky voice-guitar original about how she’d live it up if she were a sailor.

I compiled this list with a specific aim of ensuring you could hear the differences in approach on guitar comping, since we’re aiming to borrow as much as we can from these rhythms for the ukulele. For now, just sit back and listen. If you feel like it, leave a comment below about your impressions.