Fourth Basic Bossa Nova Phrase Variation Reversed

By reversing first and second measure this phrase becomes 3113 in which form it was used extensively by João Gilberto throughout his career as well as by many other players.


As this phrase is reversed, here the offbeat sequence starts in the second measure and continues through the first half of the first measure. It contains 4 beats, while the onbeat sequence, that is in the middle of the phrase, contains 3 beats.

The score below shows this phrase as it was used by João Gilberto in Aquarela do Brasil that he recorded together with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Maria Bethânia on album Brasil in 1981.


This phrase has been used very often in later recordings by João Gilberto such as Aguas de Março, Falsa Baiana, Eu Vim da Bahia and Izaura on album João Gilberto from 1973 and in most songs from album Brasil from 1981. It has also been used often by Caetano Veloso, for example in Chega de Saudade from Circulado Vivo, in Lealdade from Totalmente Demais and in Chora tua Tristeza from Omaggio a Federico e Giulietta to name a few.

Video Lesson: Aquarela do Brasil

Guitar accompaniment is almost entirely based on two variations of the fourth basic (Partido Alto) phrase: 2113 and 3113. Please pay attention to string muting in 3113 phrase, where all beats except beats 4 and 10 are played with staccato. At the other hand the phrase 2113 is played entirely with legato.

Playing legato in combination with relatively fast tempo makes chords changes quite challenging. In this situation it makes sense to revise usual chord fingering to prepare for chord transitions. There are multiple such fingerings in this video, those are indicated in subtitles.

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