Bossa Nova chords

Bossa Nova is a relative hard style to learn, mostly because of the rhythmic practice that make use of syncopated patterns. This is an introduction that mainly focuses on chords you can use to begin play in the Bossa Nova style.

There is a specific chord you can use to instantly make your guitar sound Bossa Nova. The name of the chord is 6/9 (sixth with an added ninth) and it is moveable, in other words: you only need to learn one shape.

Here is a diagram of C6/9 chord followed by D6/9 chord:

C6/9

C6/9

 

D6/9
D6/9

 

As you can see, you use the same shape for both chords and only move it two steps up the fretboard to get from C top D. Therefore it no need to show all 6/9 chords by diagrams. Instead we will focus on the moveable shape:


6/9 chord shape

You could strum the chord, but should as well try fingerpicking. A tip is to sometimes include the bass note on the string above the root.

Positioning the fingers

The shape can be a little difficult because you need to press down two strings with one finger. The long finger is pressing down the root (second string), the index finger pressing down both third and fourth strings, the middle finger pressing down the fifth and the little finger pressing down the sixth.

There is also possible to play a simplified version of the chord:

6/9 chord shape alternative

Bossa Nova rhythm

A Bossa Nova rhythm is commonly consisting of syncopated patterns which means that the accents are not lying on the typical notes. To put it more concretely: you are strumming “between the beats”. Listen to artists like João Gilberto and Luíz Bonfá to get a feel for it.

Tips for more in-depth readings:


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