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3.5 – it seems easy, but it is impossible

Talking to Guinga, I come across the same pair Cartola-Nelson Cavaquinho. Referential composers for a stream of samba that feeds on the melodic-harmonic elaboration provided by the guitar, and that, thus, questions to a certain extent the usual compositional “norms” that spare the instrument during the creation act.


And the wish to make the music without having the guitar in the hand

has a little to do with the tradition imbedded in the song.

You had the chance to be with Cartola, Nelson Cavaquinho… [i]


00:00 composing without the instrument

With several composers, some of them composing with the instrument and others without.

Mauro Duarte, who was a close friend, did not play any instrument; he composed everything in the head [i]

João Nogueira could hardly play two chords on the guitar; he did everything in the head.

I’ve seen it my whole life.

00:52 getting framed in the “regional”


Then the thing has to happen in such a way

that will afterwards fit the accompaniment within that characteristic way of being “regional” when the melody gets to the guitar-player, the ukulele player.

Cartola and Nelson Cavaquinho, for example, who played the guitar,

would get to modulations and relations between tonalities that were already different.

Because it seems to me to be different to some extent,

how do you see it?


01:28 Cartola and Nelson Cavaquinho

You’re mentioning two guys who within their universe had a very solid formation.

Guitar and harmonic formation.

01:56 it seems easy, but it is impossible

So. how do you explain such a phenomenon?

But then you fall into the trap.

How are you going to explain Montgomery, who only played with the thumb? [i]

and who was the greatest jazz guitar-player.

And Django Reinhardt,

who played with the stump? [i]

Then you can’t talk about technique any longer, because one gets a way to express oneself.

The true artist will always find a way to express.

I studied with a guy who wrote with the neck. (he didn’t have the arms)


Guinga transposes the question asked about the harmonic implications to technical-mechanical implications, letting it noticeable that in practice he does not see barriers between “playing” and “composing”. In this way, the composer values the technical-mechanical originality in an analogous form to the compositional originality.

  1. LINK with the answer that finally achieves the melodic-harmonic aspect in – 4.2 – the idiom of the guitar – in Guinga’s statement about  Dois irmãos (song by Chico Buarque).

  2. LINK with the idea that constitutes the first category of the schematization presented at the beginning of this chapter.

  3. LINK with the mention of Wes Montgomery in the chapter – 1.1 – a guitar that sings – which also occurs to João Bosco.

  4. The feeling that “it seems easy, but it is impossible” is frequent in the Brazilian music, both “urban” and “rural”, as Ivan Vilela explains (2011, p. 49): “The rustic sound, scratched, strident, rough, imperfect – adjectives commonly attributed to the country music, are nothing else but differentiated sound resources. Those are sound tones and textures that the classic and popular music are, most of the times, incapable to produce.”