Piano Solo Arrangement of the famous Brazilian song "The Girl From Ipanema" by Antonio Carlos Jobim.
If there is one song that comes to mind when thinking about Brazilian music, it is probably Jobim's "The Girl From Ipanema". For most Jazz musicians it is the ultimate bossa nova standard.
You can purchase the sheet music of my arrangement for only $5.99 (limited time offer) at SheetMusicDirect.
The Girl From Ipanema is such a beautiful song that I thought it would be nice to write a piano solo arrangement for it, so that non-jazz pianists can play it too. This said, I am convinced that many jazz musicians will find this arrangement interesting and maybe even challenging, when performed exactly as written. It could also serve them as a blueprint for how to arrange samba tunes for solo piano.
I truly hope you enjoy this arrangement! And should you be a piano teacher, this arrangement is a great way to introduce your students to Brazilian music, speaking from my own experience.
Below the video that shows you my performance along with the sheet music, you find some valuable practice tips.
This arrangement might not sound difficult or look technically challenging at first glance, but from my experience it requires some serious practicing from intermediate pianists, in order to play it exactly as written. Here are some of the chellenges.
The first challenge is to play the different voices in each hand as written. For example, in the example below you see that the red notes have to be sustained while other notes are being performed with a syncopated rhythm and different note lengths and articulations. This requires good finger independency and control. And this goes on in both hands simultaneously throughout the entire arrangement!
Rhythm and Articulations
To play the melody line exactly as written (rhythmically and with all the proper articulations) can be quite challenging in itself for less experienced pianists. (By the way, the rhythm I used was inspired by Astrud Gilberto's vocal performance of the song.) Make sure you also pay close attention to each note value and articulation. It will make a big difference in your performance, but it is also a great way to improve your musicality, touch and technique.
Rhythmic independence between both hands
The most common way of arranging samba music for solo piano is by giving the left hand figures similar to what a bass player would play, while the right hand plays the melody and/or syncopated rhythms that would usually be performed by a guitar player. That's exactly what i did here. To perform it well we have to have a great deal of independence between the two hands. Of course this is not unique to samba music.
Like with most popular music styles, good timing is very important in samba music. After all it is dance music. That's why I like to practice to a metronome beat or a percussion track!
Good fingering is the key to successfully mastering any song. This song has a lot of tricky passages that require us to make smart fingering choices. I already gave you a head start by writing my preferred fingering in the sheet music, but you might like other alternative fingerings better. Just make sure, you choose one that works best for your hands, especially at the correct tempo (120-130 BPM).
This tip is maybe the most important one. I recommend you not only listen to my recording, but also to the original recording. It is the best way to assure you get the feel right when playing this type of music!
Analyzing the harmony and melody
Like most jazz musicians I usually start learning a song by first analyzing its melody and harmony. To make this easier for you, I included the chord symbols with the sheet music.
Here is a quick analyses:
The [A] section of the song is rather straight forward, featuring one secondary dominant chord [G13 = V7/V] and a triton substitution of the dominant chord [Gb13(#11) = subV7] .
It gets however tricky when we look at the [Bridge].
Get this: I actually heard rumors, that some music theorists killed each other over this (ha-ha, just kidding, I think).
The BRIDGE starts with Gbma9, the major 9 chord whose tonic resides a half step above the tonic chord of the key (Fma7). You can try to relate it to the original key, for example you may think of it as the Phrygian bII, but I don't find this a very good approach for this song considering what follows.
Instead, I decided to look at the melody. What I found is very interesting. It features the same motive 3 times (each spanning over 4 bars). each repeat starts on a different note (as you can see in the sheet music below). The same is true for the chords, only that the first time, it uses the tonic in major of the temporary new key, while the following two times it starts with the relative minor chord (vi7).
This means we can think of it as a melodic and harmonic sequence moving through 3 temporary keys. This approach eliminates the need of trying to relate each of the chords of the bridge to the original key. I think this thinking also reflects more how we hear the song.
The last 4 bars of the bridge are best looked at as part of the original key again (vi7 V7/ii ii7 V7), with some note alterations (mainly the #11).