March 3rd is our next jam and the tune of the week is Jobim’s, “Wave.” Chord chart pdfs and a playalong can be found here. Following the usual approach to learning a tune, it’s best to memorize the sound of the melody by singing it, and do the same with the chord roots. Practice embellishing the melody. When that feels good it’s time to analyze the chord progression.

I have to warn you the rest of this article is technical. If it seems like gibberish I recommend Jerry Coker’s, “Hearing the Changes,”a good resource for understanding and learning to spot common progressions.

Wave is usually done in D. The form is AABA, but the A section has 12 bars rather than 16. While it doesn’t sound like a blues, an easy way to think of it is as a blues with substitutions. Like a blues, Wave starts on the l chord, moves to the 4 in bar 5 and in the last 4 bars has a turnaround back to the l.

Let’s break it down in 4 bar chunks. You’ll need the chord chart in front of you.

Bars 1-4: Starts on the 1. Bars 3&4 are a 2-5 to the 4 (Am-D7-G). The Bbdim in bar 2 can be understood in several ways. Bbdim can be found within both Em7b5 and A7b9 so either works. Choosing Em7b9 you get a 6-2-5 to the 4 or choosing A7b9 you have the A dom to Amin progression, which is common. Here are the variations:
| Dmaj | Em7b5 | Am | D7 |
| Dmaj | Em7b5 A7b9 | Am | D7 |
| Dmaj | A7b9| Am | D7 |

  • Bars 5-8: 4 maj to 4 min to 1 is sometimes called a minor plagal cadence. It is a common progression. Here a dominant 3 chord (F#7) has been substituted for the 1. This begins a cycle back to 1. These subs can be used over a blues. We saw this same progression in the last 8 bars of, “All of Me.”
  • Bars 9-12: this is a 2-5-1 (leading to the minor instead of major) with a little spice thrown in, a b6 dominant preceding the 5.  The b6-5-1 progression is a basic minor blues turnaround so you can get bluesy here or ignore the b6 if it’s too much to think about. The last 2 bars are a 1-4 vamp, same as the intro.

The bridge is a pair of 2-5-1’s beginning on the 4 chord and making it’s way back to the 2 to set up a 2-5 turnaround to the A section. “Road Song” has this same bridge in a different key.

Here’s Stan Getz: [youtube=]

The original sounds like elevator music but a close listen reveals good stuff in there: [youtube=]