This book is designed for intermediate and advanced keyboard players who want to improve their ability to play Brazilian music. The original compositions, composed and performed by Alfredo Cardim, are featured in the playalong CD, along with additional exercises I produced.

Like many other keyboard players, my introduction to Brazilian music began with recordings of songs such as “The Girl From Ipanema,” and from playing the same fourteen tunes by Tom Jobim and Luiz Bonfa from The Real Book on countless casual gigs. Living in Brazil for two years later opened a window to the rich musical world behind those beautiful songs. Back in the United States I began to study Jobim’s chord progressions from the five-volume Cancioneiro Jobim series (The Jobim Songbook), a complete record of his published works. I contacted some of its arrangers in order to find out how the chord symbols had been decided upon in order to make the information in the database as consistent as possible.

In the introduction to the Cancioneiro series, Paulo Jobim explained their approach to making the transcriptions of the songs playable as piano arrangements: "With 'Chega de saudade' we discovered that all the rhythmic divisions of samba, combined with the melody, the guitar and piano accompaniment, were making reading the score almost impossible. So we decided to simplify the rhythm, leaving it up to the pianist to intuitively add the samba beat." I decided to write a book for people who might not know how to do that, and asked Alfredo Cardim, one of the Cancioneiro's arrangers to help.

Alfredo's teaching method begins with developing a rhythmic foundation by having the student begin with the steady 1/16th motion of the ganzá shaker, followed by the two-beat feel of the surdo, and finally adding the syncopations typical of tamborim. The same accented rhythms are adapted to the piano once the groove has been internalized. This seemed like a good approach, combined with his strategy of having students start with solo versions of each song in order to develop a solid melodic and harmonic foundation, after which they play them as if in a trio or quartet. We decided to take this same approach in the order of written arrangements and play-along CD tracks, so that students hear how one might work with bass and drums, and then adapt when adding guitar, and then a trombone. We maxed out the number of tracks allowed on a CD with the exercises and complete songs, and so we used the CD's data session for mp3 mixes, so that one may play along with stereo versions of the bass and drums instead of having to adjust the balance of a stereo system to listen to just one speaker or the other. Lead sheets appear in the back of the book to make it easy to play the songs with live musicians.

Four musicians are interviewed for the project, providing additional perspective, and value for anyone interested in Brazilian music. João Donato came to the U.S. before the bossa nova wave hit, and became a leader of the Brazilian Latin style. Highlights of the interview include the similarity of his technique with playing hand percussion, and the value of simplicity. The notated examples in the text do not pretend to fully capture the complexity of his swinging style. Readers are directed to watch, listen, and read source material cited in the discography and bibliography. The second interview is with master arranger and session player Clare Fischer, who relates how he absorbed the culture by working with Cuban and Brazilian musicians, and how arranging enlarged his keyboard vocabulary. Having begun their careers in the 1960s as pioneers of the Brazilian instrumental movement, César Camargo Mariano and Dom Salvador lend additional musical and historical authority to the collection, and talk about their work with the early trios, what it's like to play solo, how to accompany, and work with drummers and guitarists. Mariano was the producer and played electric piano on the landmark album Elis & Tom. Salvador has been playing in the U.S. since 1973 and gives foreigners suggestions on how to learn to play Brazilian music.

—Robert Willey

Robert Willey is a pianist, improviser, and composer. He teaches music media at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he is involved with Creole/zydeco and Cajun music, Disklavier, and the compositions of Conlon Nancarrow.


My idea for this book was to translate my experience playing Brazilian music into music notation, and to expose the student to some styles of music related to the samba rhythm. I recommend that you begin your study by playing ganzá or some other shaker along with the batucada CD tracks. Once you can play 16th notes evenly, the next step is to count out loud two beats in each bar. The count on the second beat should be emphasized, with each beat divided into four straight (un-swung) 16th notes. Work on this until it is comfortable for you. It’s very important to internalize this rhythm before you play the exercises and songs on the piano.

The next step when I teach piano lessons is to work on tunes. We took the same approach in this book, by first learning them as piano solos in order to develop a solid harmonic and rhythmic foundation. After mastering the chord progressions, melody, and form of a song in a solo setting, you will be ready to move on to playing it in an arrangement for duo or trio. As the size of the group grows you can turn over the role of playing chord roots and some of the rhythm to the other players. We have included lead sheets of the songs at the end of the book in case you would like to play them with other musicians.

—Alfredo Cardim

Alfredo Cardim lives in Rio de Janeiro, and has over forty years of recording and performing experience with musicians such as Edison Machado, Astrud Gilberto, Milton Banana, Gonzaguinha, Emilio Santiago, and Duduka da Fonseca.