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Bossa Nova Help

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by bassmonkey144, Nov 2, 2005.

  1. I was asked by my director to write a bossa nova line to a very small chord chart today. Here's what I did. I wanted to know if it was any good. My few thoughts are that maybe I have a few too many transition notes, and that it doesn't quite click as bossa nova. Thanks for any input.

  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    That reads just fine to my eyes. The one thing I've found about playing bossas is that less is more... much more. If you have the pleasure of playing a bossa with a great guitarist who really knows his/her stuff, you can just play big, fat, puffy half notes, and it sounds fantastic.
  3. awesome. this is my first attempt at writing seriously for anything bass. thanks for that awesome advice.
  4. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    Looks just fine.

    One comment I would make is that the rhythmic pattern for the "transition notes" that you use is always the same. This becomes very predictable, which Mr. Johnson has already said can be a good thing on Bossas. To me, when I sing through your line the rhythm you have chosen sounds a little square. Maybe the same approach (transition) notes would be better suited in the dotted quarter, eighth groove?

    Maybe not. Just some thoughts. Hope this made some sense and hope it helped.
  5. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    One quite useful way to approach bossas is to forget about the "Song For My Father"/"Rikki, Don't Lose That Number" bassline example--you know, the dotted-quarter/eighth-note, dotted-quarter/eighth-note, root-fifth(up) thing that everyone equates with bossa nova. The strong bass beat in samba (the root style from which bossa nova stems) is beat three; I just last week had a famous Brazilian pianist tell me to almost think of beat "one" and the and of "two" as ghosted pick-ups to a beat "three" that lands with a big thud (along with the bass drum) and nothing else in the bar, and to play the fifth of the chord below the root rather than above it (i.e., C down to G rather than up to G). This can seem quite counter-intuitive to jazz bassists (like me) with no real background in Brazilian rhythms, but one listen to an "authentic" Brazilian example can confirm this. I find it helps to think of the bass as a big fat drum when playing this kind of stuff.

    Otherwise, your bass line looks pretty cool. I would say that, if you choose to stick to the standard jazz interpretation of the bossa bass line, don't feel that it's necessary to place so many eighth-notes on beats "four" and the "and" of "four" as connecting devices to the next chord; it's almost impossible to be too simple in this groove, like Marcus said.
  6. ToR-Tu-Ra


    Oct 15, 2005
    Mexico City
    The bass line looks good, and everybody's given very good advice. I'd just like to add one little thing:

    I'd need to listen to the melody, but maybe you could try some anticipations on the chord changes? I will not always fit, but when it does, it gives a nice feel.
  7. awesome guys. thanks for all those tips. they helped a lot.
  8. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA

    I'm no expert on bossa nova playing but did notice something with your line that's different than what I would normally play on a jazz/bossa type tune like "Little Sunflower" or "Song For My Father", etc. I would play the root on the first dotted quarter note, the fifth on the next 1/8 ("&" of 2) then the fifth on 3 and the root on the "&" of 4, etc. I don't think the way you've writte is incorrect but to me it feels more natuaral to play it with the 1/8 note sort of anticipating the dotter quarter, particularly when the chord changes.

    I think Johono5 and Marcus also make great points. The thing about the emphasis on the 3 is huge to me and alot of times I'll play the dotted quarter on beat one very staccato and the one on 3 legato because it seems to give an authentic vibe to my ears. This is more of a feeling thing than a notation thing, though. I think this ties in to the way the marching band drummer plays the bass drum - sort of a "dut...duuummmm...dut....dummmm" thing. Also along the lines of what Marcus was saying, I've heard Brazillian cats say that non-Brazillians often make the bassline too syncopated whereas it's the top of the guitar part that's supposed to have the syncopation. Half notes work great.

    Again, I'm no expert. :) Just some things I've noticed in trying to play bossas.
  9. whoa, thanks for that awesome advice scot.

    I showed this to my director yesterday. He said it would work, but he wanted me to use more 8ths with neighboring tones to "spice it up a little more." I asked him what was wrong with just a simpler bossa nova. He had an entirely different opinion on the subject. He wanted it to be more, for lack of a better word, fancy. I will probably end up doing it his way, just so he won't be unhappy with me. oh well, at least I know how I could really play it. :rolleyes:
  10. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Forgot to mention that the A# in bar 7 should be a Bb.

    Good luck with the rearrangement and you're wise to do it his way. :)
  11. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    That's probably the wisest thing to do; just play the "good student game" with this guy. I personally disagree with him, but he's the one dispensing your grade. At least you know the difference. I've always thought that one can learn as much from a bad example as from a good one.

    Alternatively, you could drop off some authentic bossa tracks in his office, and let him hear how well it really works with minimal bass movement. Teachers need to be students sometimes.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree with what you're saying - but a lot of the best Bossa tracks I have heard, have also had very minimal instrumentation - like Acoustic Guitar, DB and hand percussion - maybe just a triangle - as well as voice.

    But I suppose with a bigger band, you might as well go for a more danceable and heavier line, as any chance of subtelty is already lost? ;)
  13. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Check out some of the original Jobim recordings and performances. You'll find that the bass parts are nothing more than half notes on 1 and 3 (if you're grokking the tune in 4, not 2.) No ornamentation at all to speak of.

    It's how it all fits together with the drums, the guitar, everything. Everything. Fitting together.

    A busy bass part will wreck what would otherwise be a nice bossa. It's tempting -- believe me, I know -- but it's not a nice bossa with the bass trying to be a conga drum.
  14. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Exactly. Hand in the chart with the filigrees and bells and whistles for the grade, and then hand the teacher a Jobim album and a printout of Damon's post.
  15. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Banned

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
    I own many, many brazilian CD's, Bossa nova being probably my favorite style. On each and every Jobim or Sergio Mendes album, the bass parts are minimum. That's why they are so effective. In fact, it is the breathing between the notes that makes it so effective. As soon as you start playing too many notes, you end up sounding like the bass player from Sade on "smooth operator". And at that point, you might as well switch to a nice, nasal sounding Spector 5 string electric bass....eeeshhhh! :crying:
  16. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Yes! Yes!! Breathing!
  17. dex68

    dex68 Guest

    May 5, 2005
    I find that how I play on a bossa depends entirely on what the drummer and guitar/piano player is doing. I the sound feels really authentic, I find a line based on mostly dotted 1/2s and 1/4 notes, with the odd syncopation (ie, dotted 1/4 + 1/8th) here and there is just right. I think this is what a reall bossa feel is. It's not samba. However, when it's more "jazzy", that is more freely interpreted, then I can work in "fancier" stuff and it works - even a triplet figure here and there. All depends on the situation. Brazilian music is quite open, I think.

    I guess this is not advise so much, since plenty has been given already, but just making conversation.
  18. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    It completely is. After spending a couple of years playing in a Brazilian Bateria I've been told and really believe it now that there are really no rules. The only rule is that the entire rhythm section has to groove.

    I mean, look at the changes on most Bossa's - they go all over the place. I think Jobin almost singlehandedly created the style in the 50's. I've heard that Samba is not all that old either and was created in the 20's or 30's.

    The beat for the bossa bassline comes from the Surdo. In samba, it's normally played with only one mallet and the other hand is used as a mute. That ghosted beat you guys hear is a muted note. The "dah" in "dah DUUUMM.... dah DUUUMM....". Surdo players will also 4 eighth notes to break up the monotony. Sometimes they'll syncopate it too.

    I've been trying to work the rhythmic variations work in a bossa bassline but it just kills the groove. I think it's due to the fact that in the jazz styles, there's not enough rhythm section - not enough percussion. Samba swings so good because there's someone who plays a really strong "ride" rhythm. If you have a good ride, then I think the bassline gets freed up to do other things. No ride means no more fundamental playing for the bassist. In a jazz quintet, there's really nobody playing this ride. If anyone, I've only seen the the drummer riding the hi-hat and then they'll call it a samba for whatever reason. IMO, Bossa is just a jazz version of samba and they're virtually the same.

    Here's what I've been trying that seems to work:
    1) Play softer or mute that ghost note.
    2) The downbeat should have an UP feel. Upbeat, not downbeat. Brazilian music is different. When the sambista's dance, you'll see them jump UP on the downbeat. When the groove gets going, it feels like everybody's just floating on a carpet. A good analogy is like this: Imagine holding a soccerball underwater. There's the tension and release. The tension is that what comes before the downbeat. The release is the downbeat where the ball pops out of the water.

    I love the feeling when I get the rhythmic feel right. After a while the downbeats just kinda fade into this beautiful laid back feeling.

    EDIT: Check out this link on Surdo's (pronounced "Suurdu"). There's a sound sample of what the rhythm is like.