August 22

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The Girl From Ipanema

By Thomas Gunther

August 22, 2023

Thomas Gunther's Piano Solo Arrangement of the famous Brazilian song "The Girl From Ipanema" composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim

You can now purchase the sheet music of my solo piano arrangement The Girl From Ipanema (transcribed note for note, chord symbols included) 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 arrange it for solo piano. It was important to me to arrange it in the authentic Brazilian Bossa Nova Samba style.

Who is this arrangement suited for

This solo piano arrangement is first of all for all you wonderful pianists who love authentic Brazilian music. I notated it in great detail with plenty of articulations so that non-jazz pianists can play it too. So if you are a classically trained pianist who is interested in adding Brazilian music to your repertory, this arrangement might be for you.

But it is also great for jazz pianists as it may serve them as a blueprint for how to arrange and play Brazilian music for solo piano. That's why I included jazz chord symbols.

Spoiler Alert! Further down in this post I give a brief harmonic analyses of the song! 

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!).

The following video shows me performing the song with a closeup view of my hands along with the sheet music.
Below the video you find some valuable practice tips.

Fun fact: Jobim's song "The Girl From Ipanema" is probably the first song jazz musicians in the USA and Europe think of when asked to play Brazilian music.

A common misconception about Bossa Nova

 Although most jazz musicians think that The Girl From Ipanema is a Bossa Nova, Brazilian musicians consider the song to be a subcategory of Samba and call it Bossa Nova Samba or Samba Bossa Nova! In other words, Bossa Nova is characteristic of a samba style rather than an autonomous genre. 


Practice Tips

This arrangement might not sound difficult, but from my experience as a privat lesson teacher it may require some serious practicing from intermediate and even advanced pianists in order to get all the nuances right. 

I also recommend playing it to a steady drum/percussion beat or a metronome once in a while. This type of music has to be played in perfect time in order for it to sound authentic.

Things you might find challenges

Polyphony 

The first challenge is the polyphony that is going on in each hand.
In the example below you see that the red notes are sustained while other notes create a syncopated rhythm against it, with different note lengths and articulations. This requires good finger independency. To top it all, this goes on in both hands simultaneously throughout the entire arrangement!

Rhythm and articulations


To play the melody line exactly as written (with the proper rhythm and 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 pay close attention to each note value and articulation. It will make a big difference in your performance, and it is also a great way to develop a better "touch" and technique.

Rhythmic independence between both hands

The most common way of playing samba music on the piano is by playing the left hand similar to what bass players play, while the right hand plays the melody and the harmony with syncopated rhythm (similar to what a guitar player would play). This require a great deal of independence between the two hands.

Timing

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 or a percussion track!

Fingering

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 prefer to come up with fingering that works better for your hands. Just make sure that you choose one that works also when playing at the correct tempo (120-130 BPM).

Listening

This tip is maybe the most important one. I recommend that you not only listen to my recording several times, but also to the original one. Listening 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 the tritone substitution chord of the dominant chord [Gb13(#11) = subV7] . 

The Bridge ( the B-section, also called middle part) is a lot more tricky.
(I heard rumors, that some music theorists got into a fist fight over this.)

The bridge starts with Gbma9, the major 9 chord whose tonic resides a half step above the tonic chord of the key (Fma7). Some 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 repetition starts on a different note relating to a different temporary key (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 Gb (or some prefer thinking of it as F#), while the other two repetitions of the motive start with the relative minor chord (vi7) instead.

In short we can think of it as a melodic and harmonic sequence moving through 3 temporary keys; an approach that is much more reflective of how we hear the song. 

The last 4 bars of the bridge are gently leading our ear back to the original key (vi7  V7/ii  ii7  V7), with some note alterations (mainly the #11).

 The Girl From Ipanema arranged for solo piano (transcribed note for note, chord symbols included) for only $5.99 (limited time offer) at SheetMusicDirect

Thomas Gunther

About the author

Thomas Gunther (Thommy Günther) is a versatile internationally active jazz pianist and keyboardist, music producer, and music educator. Born in Germany, Thomas moved to Chicago after receiving his masters in teaching and performing popular music and jazz piano (from the State University of Arts & Music Stuttgart/Germany) to become the principle pianist with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. Soon he formed his own bands playing piano and keyboards all over town and touring Europe regularly. Today, Thomas is a well respected member of the Chicago music scene. For many years he has also worked as an instructor at Columbia College Chicago where he still designs and teaches courses for its Contemporary Urban Music Program (CUP) such as Pop-Jazz Keyboards & Theory, Applied Music Production with Logic Pro, Contemporary Arranging and Orchestration, Harmony & Rhythm, etc.. Thomas is also the creator and owner of several educational websites such as popjazzkeys.com and MusicTrainingOnline.
Visit http://www.ThomasGunther.com for more info.

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