Guitar Latin Jazz Chords

Updated on April 24, 2016

Guitar chords for Latin and Jazz tunes

This hub is about learning some new jazz chords that can be used for many Latin or Bossa Nova tunes, a style of music that was developed in Brazil, but then influenced pop and jazz music worldwide. The most influential composers and guitar players in this style were probably Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luis Bonfa and Joao Gilberto, with great songs such as

  • Girl from Ipanema
  • Desafinado
  • One-Note Samba
  • How Insensitive
  • A Day in the Life of a Fool.

Brazilian music like this uses complex and interesting harmony, with jazz style chords. You can see how much this influenced James Taylor in many of his best songs. There is a video of JT linked below.

You can also enrich your chord vocabulary with these chords, as they can be applied to a lot of pop and jazz guitar styles. Typically, many chords have flat or sharp 9 notes, flat or sharp 5 notes, or various combinations of both chord types. Some of these chords can sound strange or even discordant at first, but when you get used to them they can really enhance the harmony of songs and make them sound much less predictable - which can happen when harmony is relentlessly diatonic.


Jazz Bossa Nova chords

Reading jazz guitar chords

Many of the chord shapes shown above use a partial barre - this is shown as a loop symbol.

The 6 vertical lines are the strings, the horizontal lines are the frets.

Many of these chords are used in Desafinado, so you could use that song as a context. As ever, you want to know how the chords are used in context, as they often don't sound best in isolation.

The original Brazilian versions are the best, and often in a different key to the sheet music. Desafinado is a case in point - played in the video in a different key, with the chord shapes shown on the video.

Most of the time you can use a thumb-round-the- neck technique to play the bass note. With your right hand try playing the bass note with your thumb, and the other notes with three fingers making contact and joined together. Then just pull up on the strings. This is an all-purpose technique that usually works for any style of playing chords.

Desafinado lesson, Brazilian style

Jazz Chord progressions

The two lines that are numbered show a very common jazz chord progression.

  • The first one is in the key of A, with the root notes on string 6.
  • The next one is the same harmony idea, but now its root notes are on string 5. This is in the key of C.
  • As this is such a common chord sequence in all types of jazz it's worth memorizing it in all the common keys, such as F, Bb, Eb, C.

Last line of chords

The last line of chords shows the same chords in a ii V I chord sequence. Now the three - note version is shown, as that is usually easier and also better sounding than the standard barre chord forms. Again, try to remember this sequence in the common jazz keys:

  • Dm7 G7 C in the key of C
  • Fm7 Bb7 Eb in the key of Eb
  • Gm7 C7 F in the key of F
  • Cm7 F7 Bb in the key of Bb

James Taylor, Latin style

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