1 Easy Bossa Nova Guitar Hack

In this beginner Bossa Nova Jazz Guitar lesson you will learn a simple approach to genuine Bossa Nova Guitar and Girl From Ipanema. Keep it light and remember to relax – Bossa Nova is a lot of fun to play.

First Step: Listen to Bossa Nova Guitar.

Seems obvious, right? But this step is often missed. Don’t listen to just any Bossa Nova (or Youtube approximation), go directly to THE guy: Antonio Carlos Jobim. I’m not Brazilian or an expert in this style but I have studied recordings and video of Jobim and developed an understanding of this style. Also, In my study I have discovered that are many, in my opinion, misdirected instructional videos on how to play this style. So let’s break down a few common myths.

Bossa Nova Guitar Myths

  • The Bass doesn’t go Root – Fifth, more often than not it stays on the root.
  • There is no set, magical Bossa nova guitar rhythm.

If you check out the great Bossa Nova album ‘Elis and Tom’, every song has a different guitar pattern. BUT, there are trends which we shall look at now.

Your Bossa Nova ‘Hack’

Check out the video to see how I demonstrate a really simple hand movement that will work for any chord. 


Bossa Nova Trends

  • Stay Relaxed. Bossa Nova is mellow music, stay relaxed, groove out, keep it even.
  • Use a nylon string acoustic guitar (If you have one, I didn’t when I made this video).
  • Use your fingers – (not pick)
  • Bass: feel it in two
  • Play lightly
  • Don’t ONLY play Root- 5th in bass. You can sometimes :)
  • Vary the rhythm according to the tempo of the tune. Also consider the melody.

Bossa Nova Chord Shapes

The following chords sound really great with the Hack. They also happen to be the chords to Girl From Ipanema.

This is the chord progression to the A section:

Fmaj7 | Fmaj7 | G9 | G9 |
Gm9 | C7b13 |Fmaj7 | Fmaj7 |


Use these chords with a F root note to create a F Maj7.

major chord voicing


Use this with a G root note (Place the white circle on a G note) to create a G9.
beginner jazz chord

Minor 9

Use this with a G root note to create a Gmin9. Notice how it is just one note different to the above dom9.
easy-minor-9 copy


beginner jazz chord


Feel it, stay relaxed and remember if you want to learn how to dance watch a Michael Jackson video, to learn Bossa Nova go check out Tom Jobim!


  1. Mark says

    I couldn’t agree more, Sam. Learning on a nylon-string classical is the best way to go! I currently practice on my Cordoba nylon-string Spanish classical guitar and it helps greatly. Keep it cool, keep it loose, is also another good piece of advice. Thanks for the website. I like what I see so far.

    • pickupjazzadmin says

      Cheers for stopping by Mark. Keep an eye out for the new site I’m about to launch in the coming few weeks.


  2. says

    How cool is this! ? ! ? a NON-Greedy musician, sharing what he or she loves most, on the web, for free. and why? Because, in this case, the man seems to know, that the spirit of music (the Muse, yes?) is the very Spirit of Freedom (and there’s that scary word again: Free). Will he be repaid? Is he being foolish? By every capitalist system of logic, yes, he is being foolish. And yet… and yet… Ah! Look closely: he has been paid already. He is in love with what has chosen him, as work, as a path, as a way of life. It is called Music. He lives with the Muse, or at least gets visits from Her; there is no better paycheck. Thank You, Maestro! Stay blessed, pancho

  3. andrelovato lovato says

    I’m really a nubie and want to start off with simple chords to learn a new method of knowledge

  4. Tom says

    Why do you call that chord a C7b13 instead of the more common C7#5 or C7augmented? There is no natural 5th to force using the b13 to describe the harmony.

    • Sam Blakelock says

      Hi Tom, there is a natural 5th and a b13 in the scale I would use (harmonic minor), so I call it a C7b13.

      C7#5 implies there is no natural 5.

  5. Michael says

    Sorry to say this Sam, but you’re completely missing the bossa nova rhythm and feel here. First you need to master the basic pattern, as you can hear Joao Gilberto playing in Insensatez here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW6agN1KH8o, or in the first part of the original recording of The Girl from Ipanema (in the second part of the song, there is a more complex variation on the pattern). Once you’ve got this basic pattern in your fingers, if you listen to a lot of bossa nova (and samba), the many variations will come naturally. I think you’re being confused by some of the variations you’re hearing on Elis & Tom. But what you’re playing here is just the off-beats – more like ska! That’s not the bossa nova feel at all.

    • Sam Blakelock says

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your thoughts, and I agree – I didn’t nail the bossa nova rhythm feel 100%. Since I made this video–two years ago–I’ve had the opportunity to study my masters in NYC, and perform with many phenomenal Brazilian musicians. So if I did the video again, there were be a lot I’d change.

      That being said, this video and my thoughts are a good step for beginners. My primary aim was to dispel the myth of the 1-5 root movement.

      Thanks again!

  6. Harry K says

    I have never been able to come to terms with the wide classical guitar neck. After spending so many years playing an archtop I found the classical neck just didn’t fit my fingers.
    Then I found the Martinez Slim Jim. This is a nylon strung guitar with a traditional width neck. Sure, it is not a concert quality guitar – you could probably pick one up new for about $200 – but if you are like me, an occasional Latin player, this might suit you.

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