Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

How to Play Bossa Nova Guitar

How to Play Bossa Nova Guitar

In today’s instalment of 30 days to Better Jazz Guitar Comping I am going to be showing you how to play bossa nova guitar. Bossa tunes are great fun to play on guitar as the comping techniques fit nicely on the instrument and are fairly easy to play.

Bossa tunes are great fun to play on guitar as the comping techniques fit nicely on the instrument and are fairly easy to play.

Some common bossa tunes you can apply the techniques from this lesson to are ‘Blue Bossa’, ‘How Insensitive’, ‘Black Orpheus’, ‘Girl From Ipanema’ and ‘Wave’.

Bossa Nova guitar, like other jazz styles is about keeping a groove the audience can tap their foot to which means that we need to keep a solid rhythm throughout the piece.

Think of it like playing a funk tune where you keep playing the same 16th note type rhythms throughout the song over and over again. Even though there’s a lot of repetition, some funk tunes only consistent of one or two chords and no one ever gets bored of it because the music has a strong and catchy groove.


Bossa Nova Guitar Video Lesson



The first step is playing bossa nova guitar is learning a common bossa nova rhythm that the chords to a tune can be applied to.

When I have taught this rhythm to my student’s they sometimes find it hard to play on guitar straight away so I recommend putting the guitar down first, and either tapping your foot on four or putting a metronome on all 4 beats, then clapping the rhythm until it feels comfortable.

This rhythm should be memorized so it’s integrated within you playing so you know what you’re playing.

Usually the second bar is a trickier because it starts on the off beat so isolate it and keeping looping it and when you feel comfortable play both bars together.


Bossa Nova Guitar


Once you feel comfortable with this rhythm the next step is to add some chords. In this exercise I’ve used the same rhythms from the first example and added a C-9 chord for you to play the rhythms with.


Bossa Nova Guitar


Once you feel comfortable with the chords, the next step is to add a bass line.

Bossa Nova bass lines are quite simple and are usually just on beats one and three of the bar. Harmonically the notes tend to be a root descending to a fifth below, almost like a country bass line.

This bass line might sound simple by itself but provides a solid foundation when mixed with the more syncopated comping patterns.



Bossa Nova Guitar

Bossa Nova Guitar


Practice on one chord for as long it takes for the rhythm to feel completely solid then start to apply these rhythms, chords and bass lines to a full bossa nova progression.


Bossa Nova Guitar Right Hand Technique


Every guitarist has their own right hand techniqiues, but most play bossa nova with their fingers or pick and fingers. The good news is that you don’t have to be a master finger style player to use your fingers for bossa nova comping.

To use your fingers, play the bass notes with your thumb and hit the three chord notes with your three fingers. I hit the ‘D’ string with my first finger, ‘G’ string with the 2nd finger and ‘B’ string with the 3rd.

You will also find that you sometimes need to make big jumps across the neck to keep bass lines going.

Keeping a solid bass line is more important than smooth voice leading. For example it’s more important to keep a bass line constantly going using simple chords rather than trying to find the hippest chords you know

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Did you find this lesson on Bossa Nova comping useful? Share your comments in the section below.

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That's a nice Bossa rhythm pattern. I'm a piano player, but I can use it too. It's slightly different than the bossa rhythms I usually use so I'm going to try it. Thanks!

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Dan W.

Used it on 3 tunes at a vocal,flute,guitar gig tonight....

Jamie Holroyd

Great stuff Dan, hope you're enjoying the new lesson!

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beginner guitar notes

Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is
truly informative. I am going to watch out for brussels.
I will appreciate if you continue this in future.

Lots of people will be benefited from your writing.


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Evan Oxhorn

I've always loved the sound of a bossa nova on an electric guitar. Any thoughts on the best type to use?

Jamie Holroyd

I like hollow bodys for bossa nova but any will work!

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Jon Weston

I would like to understand the chord and finger playing of the bosses nova,and songs.

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