A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Meditation,” by Antonio Carlos Jobim, is one of the bossa nova songs that jazz musicians tend to play the most. If you ever play jazzy background music at cocktail parties or wedding receptions, you’ll definitely want to know “Meditation.” It’s played at these kinds of events a lot!

Jobim, along with Newton Mendonca and Norman Gimble, composed the song in 1962. If you’ve never heard Jobim himself play piano, be sure to listen to his playing on the recordings I’ve linked to below. He had a gentle, understated style that lends itself to the bossa style very well. If you ever tend to “overplay” on bossa novas, you would be well-advised to follow his lead in this respect. We can all learn a lot from him!

Recommended videos/recordings:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)

Antonio Carlos Jobim: The Composer of Desafinado, Plays

Astrud Gilberto: The Astrud Gilberto Album

Laurindo Almeida’s Bossa Nova All Stars: Brazilian Bossa Nova Meets American Jazz

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Meditation” has a beautiful, lyrical melody, but I think it’s a “jazz musician favorite bossa” more because of its chord progression, which has a lot of ii-V’s and some jazz chromatic harmony. In many ways, it’s one of the easier Real Book tunes to learn. The chords are very logical, it’s in the key of ‘C,’ and the melody has a lot of repeated notes.

The musical form is the standard AABA, but the ‘A’ sections are 16 bars long, twice the “usual” length. In this context, the standard-length 8-measure bridge seems pretty short!

When you’re soloing over “Meditation,” don’t feel like you have to play something very “jazzy.” While that can work well, simple, melodic lines sound great on bossas as well. In fact, they often sound better than playing a lot of notes! The tune’s composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim, played these songs very beautifully, and his solos were very simple!

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Bossa Nova: Wikipedia

Transcription of guitarist Pat Metheny’s solo on “Meditation”

Tania Maria on Piano Jazz
The Brazilian pianist Tania Maria, interviewed by radio host Marian McPartland. Includes a piano performance of “Meditation.”

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