This is not actually a Gospel song. It is about the hope of finding love. My excuse for publishing it here is that it one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and it has very easy chords. Of the thirteen chords used, nine are two-finger chords, and the rest-- Am, E, Dm, and C-- are super easy chords you probably already know. A few right hand techniques in the second verse are easily mastered with a bit of practice.
The song comes from the movie Black Orpheus, under the tiltle “Manha de Carnaval” (Portugese for "Carnival Morning"). The Portugese lyrics have been translated into many languages, and the song has been published under several titles, including “Mañana de Carnaval”, “A Day in the Life of a Fool”, “Theme from Black Orpheus,” etc. The Guiness Book of World Records lists this song as one of the top ten standards played worldwide. It’s a favorite in both vocal and instrumental versions.
This version includes both. The first verse includes the lyrics as recorded by Perry Como, the most popular Internet lyrics, but I have included alternate words for the last line, from Oscar Brown, Jr.’s cover of the song. The second, instrumental verse includes a right-hand finger-damp common in fingerstyle guitar. It sounds (and looks) complex, but is not actually difficult. Once I figured out the technique, it took me only a couple of hours to master, and I am not a fast learner.
Bossa Nova rhythm
There are three basic parts to this piece: the introduction/refrain, the first verse, which is intended as an accompaniment to a vocalist, and the second verse, which is a long, instrumental solo. The second refrain, which is also instrumental, is a repeat of the introduction, with the addition of a finale. The three parts are quite different. The introduction/refrain has a different time signature from the rest of the song. It’s in 6/8 time, with each measure divided into two groups of three eighth-notes each. Each group is accented on the first note of the group, and the two accents are equal. This is shown at the top of the first page of the tab as “6/8 parts = 1 2 3 4 5 6".
A rhythm in which beats or stresses are placed where they wouldn’t normally occur is said to be syncopated. There is no actual syncopation in these measures, but the music sounds syncopated because the melody begins with a partial measure, consisting of two unaccented eighth-notes, like this: 5 6 / 1 2 3 4 5 6 / 1 2 3 4 5 6 etc.
The verses, on the other hand, are indeed syncopated. They are in 8/8 tempo, which is normally counted 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, with minor accents (not shown) on beats 3 and 7. In Bossa Nova rhythm, the accents are placed differently: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. There are three major accented beats, instead of the usual two, and no minor accents. This approximates the rhythm of the phrase, “I like my pa-stra-mi.” If you say that phrase, you may notice that the last two syllables are held longer than any of the others. That’s the basic rhythm of the song, and with few exceptions, all the 8/8 measures contain beats on those notes. The only exceptions are measures in which there is a pause on the fifth note of the measure, which is a kind of “backhand” way of stressing that note. But hey, it’s jazz, right?
The whole introduction is played based on the Am chord, lifting the left index finger, replacing it, or fretting the 2nd string in the 3rd space as needed. It’s actually very easy, even played at speed. That’s a good thing, because the tempo is FAST and steady, except for the hold. This riff is repeated twice later in the song, but is played exactly the same all three times, except for the tremolos, which we’ll cover later.
In between measures  and , you switch to 8/8 time, and pick up the pattern pick, which continues throughout the first verse. The pattern consists of a bass note, followed by two pinched chords plucked with the index, middle and ring fingers of the right hand, then another chord which is sometimes pinched, but more often is played as a broken chord, using the same fingers. If you can play one of these measures, you can play them all. The basic chord progression is Am - Dm6 - E7, all drop-dead easy chords to play. Occasionally there’s a G7, a C, or a Dm-- no big deal.
A7 is a fairly common chord, but there are several ways to play it, and only one will work in measure . It’s fretted by barring the first four strings in the 2nd space, while fretting the first string in the 3rd space. The easiest way to do this is to do the barre with the index finger, while fretting the first string with the ring finger. You have to do something with the middle finger, so most guitarists place it on top of the barring finger, which helps to make the barre. Having done this, all you have to do to make the Amaj6 chord is lift up the ring finger. Nearly every time you play A7, you’re going to follow it with Amaj6, so you might as well get used to it.
In , there’s a Cmaj7 chord made by just lifting up the left index finger. Easy, but it sounds really nice. Then you return to the basic chord progression again, until you reach another A7 in . This time it’s followed by a strange chord called C9. This is basically like the A7, except instead of just playing the first string with the ring finger, lay it across the first three strings. This is actually easier to do than it looks, and the harmony it produces isn’t much different from A7, but don’t leave it out. The close harmonies in the chord progression are what gives it its amazing beauty. Then, just as before, you’ll follow with the Amaj6, but instead of going to Dm6, you play a straight Dm for two verses, then the Dm6. This mini-chord sequence of A7 - C9 - Dm - Dm6 lasts only five measures, but will be one of the most musically memorable parts of the song. It gives you a chance to shine, even while the vocalist has “center stage”. If you are the vocalist, it will be absolutely mind-blowing for the audience, even if they are not musicians. They won’t know why it sounds so cool, but they certainly will know that it does.
Measures  and  depart from the previous pattern in two ways: you’ll play an E instead of an E7, and the pattern pick ceases, being replaced by a strummed chords, even eliminating the broken chord entirely in . The last two notes of  lead into a repition of the refrain, taking the place of the partial measure that began the introduction. This refrain is exactly the same as the intro, except for the two tremolos. They are not played the same. The first tremolo note is played by vibrating the index fingertip at right angles to the second string while fretting the string normally. To do this, you have to bend and release the index finger rapidly, alternately stretching the string sideways. Do not actually release the string. It must remain in contact with the fretboard at all times, or you will get separate notes instead of a tremolo.
The second tremolo is done by vibrating the ring finger along the 2nd string in the 3rd space. To produce a strong tremolo, you will need to release all the other fingers from their strings and press the 2nd string into the fretboard quite hard. The best way I know to do this is to stiffen the ring finger and move the whole hand back and forth along the string. You could make the first tremolo this way too, but for frets below the 3rd, across the string works best, while above the 3rd, along the string works best. At the 3rd fret, it’s your choice. On my guitars, it sounds better as I’ve described. However you do it, make the first tremolo brief, but emphasize the second one by lengthening it into a hold.
Measure  begins the second verse, which is played quite differently, because there is no vocalist to carry the melody. This is where you get to SHINE.
This verse includes a right-hand finger-damp common in fingerstyle playing. Strum a chord, then tap some of the strings with the fingers of the right hand. The strings to be damped are noted with stars in front of the notes, like this: --*2--. If you tap too hard, you will hammer-on instead of damping. If you tap too gently, you will just mute the strings, without making the damping sound. The trick is to almost miss the strings. As the fingers slide between the strings, the finger tips contact the fretboard, making a slight thump, while the sides of the fingers damp the strings simultaneously. The little finger can be allowed to tap on the guitar top at the same time, if desired. It is not hard to learn; it just requires practice. Whatever you do, don’t just mute the strings. You need to make a sound here, or it’ll mess up the rhythm. If you can’t do the damp, pluck the strings instead. It won’t sound as cool, but at least the rhythm will be right.
The rhythm of the second verse appears slightly different from the first. Where the first verse has three or four notes in the broken chords, the second has two or three, sometimes leaving out the broken chords altogether, or replacing them with a multiple hammer-on riff. Don’t let it throw you! The Bossa Nova rhythm remains the same, with the accents in the same place. Or, to put it another way, if a note appears in the 1,5, or 7 spot, accent it; if not, don’t let it bother you.
This verse uses both strummed and pinched chords. Please strum the marked chords and pluck the rest. The strings sound very different when plucked. If you wish, you can emphasize the difference by strumming near the center of the strings, and plucking closer to the bridge, for a twangy effect.
The chord progression in the second verse is nearly identical to the first, except that the Cmaj7 in  has been replaced with Am in . The refrain at the end of the second verse, in , , and  is played exactly like the previous refrain in , , and . The only difference is the finale on the end of it.
Play the finale slow, stretching out the chords. The last chord gives you a choice. The easy way to play it is to simply slide the hand one fret up the guitar neck from C#9 to D9. This is a beautiful chord, and a dead easy transition, but it only uses four strings, a bit “thin” to resolve the whole song. You may wish to substitute Amv. It’s very similar, though not quite as pretty, but does use all six strings. After playing it both ways for an hour on three separate occasions, I still don’t know which I like best; please yourself.
Which ever you use, include the whole-chord tremolo. Strum the chord normally, then cup the right hand and vibrate it over the sound hole, about an inch away from the strings, exactly as if using an invisible whammy bar. This makes a distinct “wah-wah-wah-wah” sound, similar to that produced by a real whammy bar. In fact, the whammy bar was invented to compensate for a solid body guitar’s lack of a sound hole, and was originally meant to imitate this sound. You may get better results by vibrating the hand toward and away from the guitar directly over the sound hole, or by moving the hand parallel to the guitar top, covering and uncovering the sound hole. There will be a particular vibration speed that works best for your guitar.
Which ever way you do it, your audience will think you are a fretboard master-- and they’ll be right! Prepare for thunderous applause.
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