Basic Bossa Nova Rhythmic Phrases

In this section we will describe basic bossa nova rhythmic phrases. A rhythmic phrase in bossa nova consists of two measures, but sometimes a part of the phrase may be played as anacrusis or in cadences, as well as in transitions. Sometimes both measures use the same combination of rhythmic patterns. While phrases are often mixed within a song, we will analyse only the most salient phrases in this section. We'll call such a phrase a basic phrase,

We will show that all basic rhythmic phrases may be constructed as a combination of polyrhythms composed of additive rhythms in the form of 3(2) + 3(2) + ... + 3(2) and simple 2/4 divisive rhythm, as explained in previous section. The same rhythmic phrase is showed below with the rests indicating those beats of the additive component that are not played.

Additionally, the last beat of one or more rhythmic patterns within a phrase may be deliberately syncopated, creating a syncopated variation of the basic phrase. In the example below the last 16th beat of the second measure may be regarded as syncopated since the following beat (first of the first measure) is not played:

Sometimes a phrase may be played in reverse, i.e. starting from second measure. This will be regarded as a reversed variation of the basic phrase. Syncopated variation can also be played in reverse, therefore creating a syncopated reversed variation as showed below:

Phrase descriptions are followed by video lessons where particular phrase is first played in half speed, then in normal tempo as found in the song where the phrase has been taken from and finally a complete song containing the phrase is played in tempo.

Sometimes in video lessons you will hear the last 16th note of the phrase being sustained after the measure end. It happens because that last 16th note is usually syncopated and often tied to the first beat of the following phrase. Therefore it should be be muted at some time in the next measure, depending on the duration of the tied note. After the last phrase repetition is finished there's nothing to mute that last note so we just let it fade out. In normal playing it never happens as that last note is always muted in the first measure of the following phrase.




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