Analysis of “The Girl From Ipanema”
This tune is a great standard from the songbook of Antonio Carlos Jobim. I can remember that, when it was first popular, we often played it several times a night due to requests. I fear many musicians became burnt out on the tune because of that. If you ask a jazz player to play the tune, he may say something like, “Aw man, are you kidding? I’m sick of that!” My comment to some musicians would be, “Don’t bitch about it unless you can play the bridge!”
As a composer, Jobim is a master at doing the most with the least. Many of his pieces only utilize one or two melodic ideas that he masterfully develops into a complete melody. Also his use of harmonic and melodic sequences is wonderful. As improvisers, we can all learn something about melodic development from Jobim.
This tune is a common AABA form except that the bridge is sixteen measures long instead of eight.
First A section
The progression is: //Fma7 /Fma7 /G7 /G7 /Gmi7 /Gb7 /Fma7 /Gb7 //
To establish the sound of the key, an F major scale is called for at the beginning. Later in the solo, for variety, an F Lydian scale could be used.
The G7 is not altered and probably shouldn’t be. This is a dominant II chord that is only one note different from the key (B natural). The unaltered 9th and 13th of the chord are in the key of F and want to be in their natural state. You could use a Lydian, b7 scale which would add a C# to the sound if you want more color. The C# is the #11 of a G7 chord and is not an alteration but is the normal extension of the harmony. I find that, in general, dominant II chords sound better if left unaltered. There are exceptions, of course.
Gmi7 is the normal II chord of the key and calls for a Dorian (F major) scale.
Gb7 is an interesting chord that we often encounter in jazz compositions. It is a tritone substitution for the V chord C7. Both chords resolve to the key center of F major. But the bII chord (Gb7) requires a Lydian, b7 scale because we want to hear a C natural in the scale. This is because the Gb7 is a substitute for C7. It only hit me in the last several years that Jobim had used a tritone substitution in the composition of the tune!
Second A section
The progression is: //Fma7 /Fma7 /G7 /G7 /Gmi7 /Gb7 /Fma7 /Fma7 //
The only difference is that the progression stays on Fma7 to end the phrase.
Bridge – B section
The bridge of this tune is where the real harmonic interest occurs.
The progression is: //Gbma7 /Gbma7 /B7 /B7 /F#mi7 /F#mi7 /D7 /D7 /
/Gmi7 /Gmi7 /Eb7 /Eb7 /Ami7 /D7 /Gmi7/C7 //
The bridge is easier to make sense of if you keep in mind the context of each chord, specifically what sound occurred just before. Generally, if a note just heard in one chord can continue into the next, it sounds good to let it do so.
The first chord of the bridge, Gbma7, was preceded by Fma7. So a C natural (the 5th of the Fma7) has been recently heard and can continue into the Gbma7 as a #4 or Lydian sound. If you are skeptical, play the Fma7 scale and then play both Gb major and Gb Lydian. I think you will find that the Lydian scale sounds better.
When we arrive at the B7, we have recently heard F natural which would be a #4 in the B7 scale so that implies Lydian, b7. In the B7 scale we heard D# so that implies Dorian on the F#mi7. We hear G# in the F# Dorian scale so that implies a #4 in the D7, again a Lydian, b7 sound. Gmi7 is a II chord in F major and calls for Dorian but that is reinforced by the fact that we just heard an E natural in the D Lydian, b7 scale. The Eb7 also requires a Lydian, b7 because we just heard the #4, A natural in the G Dorian scale.
Read the previous paragraph over again slowly (several times) and possibly play the scales as you do to hear the interesting effect of context on our choices of colors. Extensive use of Lydian, b7 scales is required to make the bridge sound “normal.” I personally love any mode of melodic minor for its unique quality of a mixture of darkness and brightness!
The last four measures of the bridge are a III-VI-II-V turnaround. This is an extremely common progression with many variations. In this case, the melody implies an altered sound on the D7 and C7. There is a #4 in the melody on both chords. I like the altered scale (melodic minor a ½ step above the root). This is also consistent with the Lydian, b7 scale used on the Gb7 chords since that is the same as an altered scale on C7. The minor chords can simply be Dorian scales since they are II chords.
Last A section
This is old business since it is identical to the first A section.
It is recommended to look for guide tone motion in the progression, especially motion of ½ steps across the bar line. For example, here is a guide tone line for the first 8: Start on C on the Fma7, move to B on the G7, move to Bb on the Gmi7 and Gb7, move to A on the Fma7. Here’s another one: Start on E on the Fma7, move to F on the G7, repeat F on the Gmi7, move to Gb on the Gb7, move to G on the Fma7. Here’s one more: Start on A on the Fma7, stay on A for the G7and Gmi7, move to Ab on the Gb7, move to G on the Fma7. Building your melodic line around guide tones can give them a stronger forward motion!