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Rhythm Rules: Brazilian Guitar 101


The second variation of the samba groove we’ll check out is called a partido alto. In Fig. 5 I’ve written out two different ways that the rhythm is commonly interpreted.

Fig. 6 is a bit more complex because the bass part is syncopated too. It will take a little practice to get it under your fingers, so start slow with a very deliberate tempo. This chord progression is from an original composition of mine called “Psycho Samba,” and once again we use the tritone sub in the last measure.

This second example of a samba groove is called the baião. It originated in the northeast area of Brazil in the 1940s as a dance and then evolved into a musical style. You can see the basic rhythm in Fig. 7.

The baião does not usually have an alternating bass line. The defining characteristic of this rhythm is that the bass is syncopated while the chords on top are not. In this example (Fig. 8), I keep one chord shape throughout and just change the bass note.

Take these rhythms and memorize them, internalize them. Try them out on your favorite Brazilian songs. And don’t feel limited—use these rhythms as a springboard for doing your own tunes in the Brazilian style!

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