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Rio Bound - A Bossa Nova fingerstyle guitar lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Advanced

Brass guitar slides

Rio Bound - The Lesson explained.

Here's another Bossa Nova-ish piece I came up with. I've had many requests for more lessons in this style and the other Bossa Nova lesson I did which I posted on YouTube -- 'Sugar Loaf' -- has had one and a half million views so far. Everyone loves the Bossa Nova!

This piece has a few parts to it, a step up from 'Sugar Loaf' which was just a chord progression. This one is in the key of D.

'Rio Bound' uses the same kind of chord flavors as Sugar Loaf and many other bossa novas -- Maj7, min6, 9ths -- and they're treated in the same way, namely twanged with the three-finger-pluck that makes this style so distinctive. The interplay between the thumb plunking out the bass line and the three-finger-plucking going on above is what makes the bossa nova. That interplay is a little more complex in this piece, with a few variations coming into play to keep the ear interested and the music lilting along. There's a little syncopation to the bass line in this.

In the Intro, I set up the feel with an interplay between a DM9 and D6add9 chord. The voicings of both are very close, it's really just that Maj7 note dropping down to the 6 and back again with that 9 on top throughout that keeps it moving along, while the bass note alternates between the root and fifth underneath it all. Notice how the index does a mini barre making that transition to the D6 nice and smooth. You can keep it clamped down for both chords and let the pinkie do the job. I suggest you spend a while just doing these two chords before moving up to that D#9. I threw that chord into really jolt the ear out of that comfortable D major sound. The intro ends with a nice V chord, the A7, which leads into ...

The Verse. You'll quickly see and hear how that A bass note drops chromatically down to an E note -- so A, G#, G, F#, F, E -- in the verses. That was the main thematic line I hear while composing this. After deciding that I wanted that bass line, I then went looking for some nice chords to add above it. That Bm/G# has a particularly sunny, tropical sound to it I reckon. It's a Bm6, with the 6 down below acting as bass note. Next comes a Gm6, same flavor but this time over the 1, then a Dmaj7 over its 3, the F# bass note; Next is a Fm6/+5 ... a weird sounding one when played on its own, but in this context (as passing chord) appropriate. It could also be called Dbadd-9 ... I think ... and a couple of other names. I think it's best to see that F as root though.

The Em7 is a good old ii chord. Then there's a melodic figure that occurs all using the three-finger-pluck. I call the chords in the tab/movie Em7 to Em/A, but each pluck could have its own name. It looks harder than it is as sets of open strings keep coming into play. The first half of the verse ends on a DMA7 > D9 turnaround, then the whole thing repeats but the second time round ends on a plain old D chord, the I chord.

Then comes a C#7 chord that acts as a V to the following F#m, so there's a key change there. I then came up with a figure I use over three different chords: I go from the minor to a minorMajor7th to a minor7/-5 in quick succession. Once again, descending lines but this time not in the bass line but in the chord itself. The first goes to a B7 which acts as the V to Em. Then the figure over it ... ends on a F#7 which acts as the V chord to Bm ... up the neck to do the figure in Bm, then E9, dropping to that D#9 from the Intro, then the A7 again leading back into verses.

This is where it gets a little tricky. Instead of just playing the three-finger-pluck over the verse chord, here I added a melody line which is woven into those chord shapes. You'll see and hear how I state the chord on the first beats and then add the lines in between. It's very much a feel thing, something you'll need to work out slowly at first and then build it into a seamless part. Once you do, you'll no doubt find it as enjoyable to play as I do. You'll hear that I do the next one a little different than the first. I didn't really mean to when I recorded/filmed this take, but I quite liked the slight variation and kept it.

After the repeat, I go back to the Intro figure and fade on it.

I hope you enjoy working this one out. As always, the aim is not to replicate my version but to work yours out so that it flows form A to Z in a nice musical way. I say it often in these lessons and I will again: the flow is the music, not the notes. All those little variations in my take are me adjusting to my own flow; allow yourself to adjust to yours and to change things if necessary.

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs well as putting together these fingerstyle guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.