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Learn This Killer Samba & Bossa Nova Technique for Jazz Piano

Have you ever listened to bossa nova or samba tunes and wondered how to achieve that sound in your own playing?

I'm going to explain to you a technique that will immediately improve your ability to employ these feels in your own solo piano playing. This is a technique that I personally use all the time whenever I am playing a bossa or samba tune without a band.

There are a few different pieces to learning this concept:

  1. First, you'll want to solidify your left hand feel. I'm starting by alternating between two maj7 chords one half step apart (Fmaj7 to Gbmaj7). You can play this pattern in intervals of fifths or major sevenths, and the rhythm is explained in the following video.

  2. Secondly, you'll want to focus on the right hand pattern. This can be a bit trickier, so let's split our hand into two parts: the bottom three fingers (1, 2, 3) will be playing chords, while the top two fingers (4, 5) play melody notes. To practice this, try leaving out the chord fingers and playing a melody on top of your left hand pattern.

  3. Now, it's time to add in the middle chordal piece to this pattern. Essentially, what you want to do here is fill in some more of the chord tones depending on what notes your left hand is playing, and intersperse them with the bass line so that you achieve some syncopated rhythms. Feel free to get creative here!

I highly recommend you practice this technique with a metronome and slowly build up your tempo and control until both hands feel comfortable playing with each other.

Once you have a good grasp on the pattern with only two chords, try arranging one of your favorite bossa tunes in this style: keeping the melody in your upper fingers, comping with your inner right fingers, and keeping that bass groove in the left hand.

This is a really useful rhythmic pattern that you can apply to a lot of tunes, and is especially helpful to know when you are playing solo piano.


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