Bossa nova chords

Bossa nova is a quite difficult style to learn, mostly because of the rhythmic practice that make use of syncopated patterns. This is an introduction that mainly focuses on chords you can use to begin play in the Bossa nova style.

There are some specific chord groups you can use and combine with fitting rhythms to instantly make your guitar sound Bossa nova. One of these chords is the 6/9 (sixth with an added ninth). It's movable and therefore you only need to learn one shape. A tip for better remember the chord, compare C6/9 to C6 (X3221X) and C9 (X3233X). Here are som diagrams for bossa, which are close chords that you can move up or down the fretboard:


  • C6/9 chord diagram X3223X


  • D9 chord diagram X5455X


  • Em9 chord diagram X7577X


  • Em7b5 chord diagram XX2333


  • A7b13 chord diagram X02021

You could strum the chord, but should as well try plucking which is more congenial to the style. A tip is to sometimes include the bass note on the string above the root (see and listen to the following examples with tabs and sounds below).

Bossa nova rhythm

A Bossa nova rhythm commonly consists of syncopated patterns which means that the accents are not lying on the typical beats. To put it more concretely: you are strumming “between the beats”.

Tab Bossa nova
Tab Bossa nova
Tab Bossa nova

Positioning the fingers

The 6/9 shape can be a little difficult because you need to press down two strings with one finger. The long finger is pressing down the root (second string), the index finger pressing down both third and fourth strings, the middle finger pressing down the fifth and the little finger pressing down the sixth.

Other chords

There are of course more than one sort of chord used in Bossa nova. If you are familiar with jazz guitar you will have a big advantage; otherwise, you should try to learn minor 9th, dominant 9th and 7/b9 chords.


Examples of progressions in the style of Bossa nova:

C6/9 - Dmaj7 - Am7

F#m7 - E6/9 - B13

C6/9 - D9 - Dm9 - Db7b5 (X5657X) - C6/9

D6/9 - Emaj7 - A6/9 - F#m9 (see tab)

tab chord progression

As said before, this is just an introduction to the style, for more in-depth lessons is a recommended site.

Learn from video

Bossa nova guitarists

Listen to bossa music to get more familiar with the style. Here are some great guitarists listed:

  • João Gilberto
  • Charlie Byrd
  • Rosinha de Valença
  • Luiz Bonfá

Drum tracks

Here are sound tracks with only drums to jam with in bossa style.

Jam track 1
Jam track 2
Jam track 3

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