How Insensitive Chords and Chord Melody for Jazz Guitar

AKA Insensatez – by A.C. Jobim

How Insensitive (aka Insensatez in portuguese) is one of the most played and recorded latin tune in jazz history. It has a long form resembling, believe it or not, a Chopin piece somehow… English lyrics by Norman Gimbel. Its popularity is probably due to the mood it creates: dark yet has some brilliant passages within.

I must admit, I enjoy playing this piece so much that it’s on the setlist at virtually every gig I play! Whether it’d be solo guitar, in a duo, trio or quartet, we always find a place to squeeze this one in.

The rather long (32-bar) form makes it really fun to improvise over, especially because the two last sections are very similar in a few interesting ways.

To summarize the harmony, How Insensitive chords are pretty interesting: the start is in the general vicinity of D minor with a little momentary twitch on a C minor chord. Then it moves to bVI and bII major chords (Bb and Eb) only to ‘fall back’ down to a D minor tonality.

The two last sections both start on a Cm7, and you got to watch out not to confuse them (i.e. getting lost in the form!) So the first time around you get a descending root motion with passing diminished … only to wind back on Dm! And the second time a nice parallel motion on Cm7-F7, Bm7-E7 that also gravitates to Dm for the ending.

How Insensitive: Chord Melody

Here’s the chord melody. Since there’s a lot of chords going in this form and since the melody is often based on extensions (13th, 9ths, etc.), this arrangement is mostly suited for intermediate players:

The PDF includes the leadsheet (standard notation), the chord melody arrangement (in TABS) and a last sheet with basic chord shapes for comping. Enjoy!

Suggested Listening

It’s funny, every time I think of this tune, Pat Metheny comes to mind. I believe he has played and recorded it many times … I’ve seen some “live” versions on Youtube that are worth checking out! All time favorite: We Live Here DVD. Neat rendition of the melody by uncle Pat, plus some nice arranged punches by Antonio Sanchez:

Pat Metheny DVD - plays How Insensitive beautifully

1 thought on “How Insensitive Chords and Chord Melody for Jazz Guitar

Was this page helpful? Let us know!