Advanced Bossa Nova Rhythmic Phrases

In the previous section we described basic bossa nova phrase as a polyrhythmic combination of two separate additive and divisive rhythmic components, both having length of exactly 2 measures (16 beats).

In this section we will move further and show that a rhythmic phrase can be built by cutting and pasting individual measures from basic phrases. Such a combination may not be described by a simple superposition of additive and divisive components as in most of the cases after cutting the measure out of the polyrhythmic phrase it's boundaries will not be aligned with beat groups. Furthermore, the cutting and pasting of the beats may go even down to the 4-beat patterns that we showed in Introduction.

Since for advanced phrases simple polyrhythmic description is not possible we will drop out additive 2(3) + ... phrase descriptions and stick to Bossa Nova Guitar numbering scheme. We will introduce here a slight change in the nomenclature, that is whenever it is possible to replace a single 4-beat pattern without disturbing overall rhythmic structure of the phrase we will describe it using letter 'x'. For example, as explained in previous sections, patterns 2 and 3 may be considered related in the sense that pattern 3 may be produced from pattern 2 by syncopating the first beat of the following 4-beat pattern, in which case we will not use 2 or 3 but x instead. So phrases 4244 and 4344 will be considered the same and will be labelled 4x44. Furthermore we will consider phrases played in reverse to be the same and will not treat them separately, e.g. phrases 4x44 and 444x will be considered the same phrase.

We will also show some examples from instrumental songs where various bossa nova phrases appear as well as some rhythmic patterns not covered so far, such as for example a pattern with all 16 notes played which is very common in samba music. As the matter of fact in many bossa nova songs when we combine all the notes played by various instruments and voices to a composite rhythm, very often we get all 16 notes being played. There is a remark from Gerry Mulligan from the famous video with Jobim where they play Samba de Uma Nota So in which he says that 'the rhythm section is playing all 8 notes' (he was probably confused by the fact that sometimes bossa nova and samba rhythms were transcribed in 4/4 instead of 2/4 time signature, therefore he mentioned 8 instead of 16 notes, leaving Jobim confused for few seconds as well). On another occasion Jobim compared samba to an ocean where all the space (the silence) is occupied by beats until the sound (of beats) becomes continuous, just like the sea.

That 'all 16 notes' paradigm becomes especially important when singing in bossa nova is involved. We have already seen how some singers filled in missing beats, that is beats that were not played by guitar accompaniment. We will also show how filling in those beats with vocals plays important role in some of the most popular bossa nova songs.

Yet before we move on we must take into consideration one important fact that can greatly influence the rhythmic phrase and that is musical articulation. Depending on the type of articulation being used a particular phrase may feel more or less syncopated, more on this in the next lesson.

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