The Girl From Ipanema is a classic bossa nova (samba/jazz) recording from 1962, it was originally written by Antônio Carlos Jobim, while the lyrics were written by two other dudes. In 1964 the Brazillian guitarist João Gilberto – one of the pioneers of the bossa nova style – collaborated with his wife Astrid Gilberto, and jazz saxophonist Stan Getz on an album called Getz/Gilberto, which won a grammy in 1965, and is now considered to be one of the best selling jazz albums of all time. The Girl From Ipanema is enormously popular and has long been considered by many musicians to be a jazz standard – it should be in everyone’s repertoire, and now you can add it to your own bag of tricks. If you desire, you may download a print friendly word document version of this lesson.
There are two parts I’m going to show you, the verse, and the chorus.
The song is in F major, and is not played with a pick, instead use your thumb to pluck the bass/root note, then pluck the rest of the notes with your 1st, 2nd and 3rd finger respectively. You will obviously have to listen to the recording yourself in order to work out the rhythm and melody. Also, before I begin I should explain that a passing chord is a chord that is played in between two diatonic chords, as a way to bridge the two together and create movement. A few passing chords are found in this song – when I note them, you only play them once, then pass on to the next chord,
The first chord is an Fmaj7 (xx3210) – if you like you can use your pinky on the little e string, 3rd fret to add a 9th to the chord for a nice little melody (xx3213), you can hear this being done on Charlie Byrd’s version. After that you play a G7/6 (added 6th note, also called a G13) which is played like this (3x344x), then we play G7#5 (3x344x) as a passing chord, which resolves into Gm7 (3x333x). Play that for a little bit, keeping the groove of the song intact, then you pluck two more passing chords, a C9 (x3233x) followed by a Cdim9 (x3232x), and finally resolve to an Fmaj7 (xx3210).
The first chord of the chorus is an F#maj7 (2xx321), it is best to play this chord by fretting the F# root (2nd fret, 6th string) with your thumb, and then fretting the 321 with your respective finger (3rd finger plays 3 etc). If you like you may keep your thumb on the F# root for the next two chords, which are F#m7 (2x222x) and F#m6 (2x122x), but that is entirely up to you. The next chord is an Am7 (5x555x) and is followed by a D9 (x5455x) and a Ddim9 (x5454x), which resolves to a Gm7 (3x333x) then to a C9 (x3233x) and a Cdim9 (x3232x). If you’ve been playing along then you will have no doubt realised that only a few chord shapes are used throughout, and many are repeated, such as the minor 7th, dominant 9th and diminished 9th chords in that order.
Now for some pointers about how to fret these chords with your left hand (fingering positions will be in brackets) From your thumb to your pinky I will use T 1 2 3 4.
Gm7 & Am7 (1x234x)
C9 & D9 (x2134)
Cdim9 and Ddim9 – played directly after the dominant 9th chords, simply release your pinky and barre with your first finger (x2121x)
And there you have it, if you search in YouTube ‘how to play girl from ipanema” you will also get countless video tutorials which can help you refine the song. Every little bit helps. Here is a link to a very useful how to video. I hope you enjoyed this song lesson, if you want to be kept updated on any future lessons be sure to Subscribe to End of the Game by Email!
Finally here are some pictures of the real Girl From Ipanema, which the song was inspired by! Her name is Heloísa Pinheiro. Enjoy!
Be sure to check out the other guitar guides scattered throughout the site!
- Chord Guide: Pt I – Open Chords
- Chord Guide: Pt II – Barre Chords
- Chord Guide: Pt III – Chord Progressions
- The Mother of All Music Theory – The Major Scale
- Modes of the Major Scale
- Jazz Guitar – Bebop Scales
- Natural, Harmonic, and Melodic Minor Scales
- Modes of the Melodic Minor Scale