Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

How to Play Wave on Guitar

How to Play Wave on Guitar

Learning licks, chords and theory it’s all great but we need to be applying them to tunes that we are working on so that we can get the full use of them, so today we’ll be checking out how to play wave on guitar.

I have started this new series is to provide an in depth analysis of standards throughout the jazz repertoire to help you in your jazz guitar journey.

Before we start you need to get yourself in the right mood; picture yourself on a beach in Brazil, drinking a cold beer with lots of attractive women dancing.

Ok now back to reality, it’s near the end of June, there’s been countless weeks of rain, and you need to learn a new standard so let’s begin.


Structure & Harmony


When learning how to play Wave on guitar, we must know the structure on harmony of the tune. Wave follows the standard AABA song form, but instead of being 32 bars it’s all together an unusual 44 bars.

Each ‘A’ section is 12 bars long giving the tune quite a bluesy feeling; the structure could even be considered some sort of a blues with a bridge.

While not strictly following the standard blues form there is a modulation to the IV chord in bar 5 (G Major 7) and a turnaround to the I-7 chord in bars 9 and 10.

Wave is quite a harmonically dense tune, but all the harmony has smooth direction and is great fun to play over.



Many guitarist’s often neglect working on their comping skills when learning a new tune.

It’s always a safe bet to place a solid bossa nova groove when you are comping over Wave.The following example works well in a duo situation without bass, if you’re playing with a bassist you just need to omit the roots from the chords.

Play Wave on GuitarAs with all bossa nova style comping, remember it’s all about keeping a solid groove. Keep the grove strong by sticking to the same rhythmic pattern and keeping a constant bass line.
Certain voiceings permit a nice root — fourth bass line, but other inversions are suited to just playing the root twice on beats one and three.
Notice the slight rhythmic variation on the last two bars of the A section as well as the A7 on the last bar of the B section.

For a more detailed explanation of bossa nova comping be sure to check back next month for a detailed lesson as part of the ’30 Days to Better Jazz Guitar Comping’ series.




The harmonic movement of this tune presents great opportunity for simple melodic guide tone lines to sound very effective.

Check out the following example for smooth 3rd to 7th voice leading guide tones.

Play Wave on Guitar

These guide tones can be used as a basis for single line improvisation.

You can also minorize the dominant chords so you get a lot of cool dominant — minor possibilities.  Even just outlining thirds can be effective here

Play Wave on Guitar

Another cool trick that you can do is superimpose the II-7 over the dominant chords in the A section giving you the option to use II-V lines.

Play Wave on Guitar

The trickiest part to blow over this tune is probably the first few opening bars. Below I have written out a cool lick Barney Kessel uses over this tune. Notice the cool voice leading of the quater notes and smooth resolution of the line.

Also note that he mostly thinks D major over the first two bars, showing that if an idea if strong enough like in this case the line can over ride the harmony.

Play Wave on Guitar

Another great exercise to do is limit yourself to using just the thumb to improvise. Most of us won’t be able to play too fast just using our thumbs so we’re forced to play slower melodic ideas using the guide tones.


Recommended Takes


Barney Kessel & Red Mitchell — Two Way Conversation

Martin Taylor & Ike Issacs — After Hours

Johnny Smith – Phase 2

Ahmad Jamal — The Awakening

Paul Desmond – Pure Desmond


Don’t forget to check out the original version also for Jobim’s beautiful simple and melodic playing. I hope this artlce on how to play wave on guitar has bought some new ideas and will help you learn this great standard. Do you have any tips or concepts you use when you play over Wave? Share your thoughts in the comments

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Robert Moehle

Hi Jamie. Good lesson especially for us rank beginners - very clear.

Odd question maybe. I recently started looking at drums. For a basic drum pattern to go with the comping here, would a simple rock rhythm with brushes work?

Jamie Holroyd

Hey Robert, glad you enjoyed the lesson! Sadly I don't have any experience playing drums so I don't know, but you could always try it and see.

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rick bourne

such a cool tune

Jamie Holroyd

For sure... never get tired of it!

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music cover version copyright

Latino music advanced in Latin America, i.e., South and Central America,
and the Caribbean.

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Tom Freeland

Exactly the song I'm working on now, thanks for a very timely lesson! Excellent as always. I'm also working on Four Brothers, a tune that couldn't be more different from Wave.

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