Take the A Train Jazz Guitar Chord Study

The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords


When learning how to comp over ii V I chord progressions, many of us struggle when taking exercises and chord shapes that we’ve learned in our technical workout and apply these ideas to a practical, tune-based situation.

One of the best tunes that you can use when transplanting chords and comping concepts from the technical to comping side or your playing is Take the A Train.

With long chord changes, mostly one or more bar long each, and a focus on only a few keys throughout the song, Take the A Train provides a nice bridge progression to connect your technical and practical comping exercises in the woodshed.

In order to provide an example of how you could apply common chord shapes and comping concepts to this tune, below you will find a one-chorus chord study over the chord changes to Take the A Train.

This chord study features common shapes such as Drop 2, Drop 3 and 4th voicings, as well as popular comping concepts such as diatonic chord subs and chromatic approach notes.

Dig in to this chord study and when you have it under your fingers, try working out your own etude using the concepts found in the example below as you explore these ideas further in your own comping workout.

What’s in This Take the A Train Jazz Guitar Chord Study

As you will see when you begin studying the chord etude below, there is text written under every chord in the tune. These labels are in reference to common chord shapes and harmonic substitutions being used to build this Take the A Train jazz guitar chord study.

To help you translate these labels, here are short definitions for each of the text labels in the chord study at the end of this lesson. Check them out and feel free to come back and reference them as you work through the chord study in your woodshedding.


4th Chords: These chord shapes are built by stacking two fourth intervals on top of each other, such as C-F-Bb, rather than traditional 3rds, such as C-E-G.

Drop 2 Chords: Built with the interval structure R-5-7-3, with the inversions derived from that starting point, Drop 2 shapes are some of the most commonly used chords in jazz.

3 to 9 Chords: In these four-note jazz guitar chords, the root has been replaced by the 9th, forming the interval structure 3-5-7-9, allowing you to outline the changes without playing the root at the same time.

13#11 Chords: In these shapes, the 13th and/or 9th have been added to the original 7#11 chord shapes. This is a common chord color that you can add to any 7 or 7#11 shape in your playing.

Approach Chords (App.): These are chords which approach the next diatonic chord in the tune by either a half step below or half step above that resolution chord.

b7 Sub Chords: With these shapes, used over Dominant 7th chords, you are playing a maj7#11 voicing from the b7 of the chord, such as Bbmaj7#11 over C7. When doing so, you are outlining the 3rd, b7th, 9th and 13th of the underlying C7 sound.

So What Chords: These are four-note fourth chords based on the 5-note shapes that Bill Evans used for the melody of So What.

Freddie Green Chords: Three –note chord shapes that often feature the Root, 3rd and either the 6th or 7th of the underlying chord, often used by Freddie Green in his work with the Count Basie Orchestra.

Chord Subs: These chord subs are either taken from the diatonic key, such as walking up Fmaj7 to Gm7 and Am7 over a static Fmaj7 chord, or half step approaches to the next chord such a Gm7-Db7-C7. These shapes are labelled as their chord name only in the study to save space on the page.

Drop 3 Chords: Along with Drop 2 chords, Drop 3 shapes are some of the most commonly learned and applied shapes in jazz guitar. Built from the interval structure Root-7-3-5 and its inversions, these shapes work well when focusing on bass notes in your playing.

Take the A Train Jazz Guitar Chord Study

Take the A Train Guitar Chord Study_0001 (2)



Take the A Train Guitar Chord Study_0001 (3)


Take the A Train Backing Track

To help you work this chord study and tune in the woodshed, here is a short backing track using only Bass and Drums that you can play this chord study with, as well as go over your Take the A Train chord and single-note ideas in the practice room.

Further Reading

Summertime Jazz Guitar Chord Study


Do you have any questions about this Summertime Guitar Chord Study? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.


The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords

  1. chkFeb 28, 2014 at 1:20 am

    Keep them coming. These are so helpful. I learn much. Thanks.

    • huynjunlimFeb 28, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      thank you so much

  2. DennisFeb 28, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Thank-you so much for this useful information.

  3. GregFeb 28, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Thank you very much for this great lesson and for the backing track!

  4. PierreFeb 28, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Hi, Very good chord study. A quick question : do you play with a pick or with fingers ? I guess it is a pick.

    I like the sound that you get with such an attack – any hints here ?



    • Matt WarnockFeb 28, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Thanks, I actually play with my fingers only.

  5. S. CarterFeb 28, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Great stuff. Keep up the good work.

  6. Paul GerardsFeb 28, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Prima en goed materiaal om die kwarten akkoorden te leren en te leren toepassen!
    In dAnk!!

  7. robFeb 28, 2014 at 11:48 am

    This is a great site and lots of lessons Thanks ROB !

  8. FloFeb 28, 2014 at 11:55 am

    A great help to build the chord repertoire. Thanks!

  9. donald k wilsonFeb 28, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    wonderful. The dialogue under the chords is very helpful. I’s nice to see the theory broken down on the fly.

    I’m sure this is an extra layer of work but more of this please…

  10. nolimoreFeb 28, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks for dropping your knowledge here, useful terms, study example, no BS. As always good job.

  11. JohnFeb 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    I love this site. Having come to the study of jazz guitar relatively late in life I’m learning so much every day from the material presented. The hitherto foreign language of jazz is becoming clearer . . . maybe one day I’ll be fluent!!! Many thanks and keep up the good work.

  12. Steve BhowaneeFeb 28, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    This site is great, it’s a wealth of material for the Jazz guitar player. Thank you for this etude Dirk.

  13. Ian WilkinsonFeb 28, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks so much. I really appreciate your lessons and in particular, this series on chords. I’m looking forward to the next study.

  14. JacintoFeb 28, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Mr. Mat Warnock,you are a great and generous guitar player and an excellent teacher.I learned a lot from your website and your free lessons! Peace and Happiness to you….thank you brother….

  15. Mark RhodesFeb 28, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Nice work! Great tune to know and there’s a lot of creative stuff in here without getting too busy or losing the groove. Love the Freddie Green workout in the bridge—tasteful and swinging.

  16. Eddy GermainFeb 28, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I have been introduced and have been playing jazz for 10 years. However, I have been playing the same things over and over with no substantial progress. Now, with this site, I have learned so much in such a short time. I cannot thank you enough. I am looking forward to the time when I will be able to improvise fluently. Any suggestions?

  17. gerhard gereFeb 28, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks, that gives me a good idea of how to comp jazz chords.

  18. SkipFeb 28, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Thanks for the music. Will give it a try over the week end. Thanks for giving back.

  19. MarcinFeb 28, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Very usefull information. thanx

  20. JoeFeb 28, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Hi – I’m a trumpet player and I teach public school. I play a little guitar (very little) and have the occassional guitar player in jazz band. I have a question if someone can help…why are they called “Drop 2” and “Drop 3” chords? What are you dropping?

    • K-DarthFeb 28, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      Hi Joe,

      Drop 2 is the 2nd note from the top to “drop-off” from it’s original position and replacing it somewhere else. This is because guitar is different to handle compared to piano. Drop 3 is the 3rd note from the top. All this is pretty nicely explained here: http://www.camilovelandia.com/drop-2-voicings.html

      – K

    • Dennis SFeb 28, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      Hey Joe (sounds like a song),

      Here’s a page where Prof. Matt gives detailed intro to Drop 2’s and 3’s, among other chordal guitar mysteries. Just scroll down to “Beginner’s Guide to Jazz Guitar Index”, and you’ll see the links.


  21. LouFeb 28, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Good stuff! This type of lesson is what helps me expand my ability in this style of music. Thanks!

  22. danFeb 28, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Matt, great subs and lesson – always enjoying your articles!
    How are you making such great sounding backing tracks – a program, a ready file or hungry basement-prisoned musicians? Thanks for a short answer.

    • Matt WarnockFeb 28, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      Hey, I use Band in a Box, great program!

      • danMar 1, 2014 at 1:53 pm

        thanks Matt, I will check it out. Have a nice weekend!

  23. KennyFeb 28, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Hey Matt,

    As I mentioned elsewhere I love this lesson (and all the materials you provide online. I use them regularly). I would love more lessons like this, especially the first 2 lines which has really opened my world to new inversions to use for comping.

    In the last A section, the drop 3 chord with the #11 on the high e string seems very difficult to finger, especially when the tempo is even moderately fast. Is this a voicing you use often? Any trick to it that I’m missing?

    (and just to be the annoying pedant guy, the last chord in that line I think you meant to label Eb7, not Ebm7, unless I’m missing something obvious which is entirely possible).

    • Matt WarnockFeb 28, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      HEy, yep just a typo in the tab, fixed it up. I use that voicing sometimes, but more often I use Drop 2 for those chords.

  24. Valeria GomesFeb 28, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Thank you! Very nice!

  25. oeblioMar 1, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Thanks for putting this up. Especially like the acoustic bass backup track.

  26. DEON PAULMar 1, 2014 at 8:42 am


  27. JeromeMar 1, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Really interesting
    Thank you so much

  28. Denis YONMar 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Voici de longues heures de travail en vue… ! Merci Matt !

  29. bigbillieMar 1, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    this article contains very interesting, and usable detail! being a lifetime guitarist
    (59yrs) there is ALWAYS a different approach to comping, chord progs, substitutions,etc. that makes my guitar experience still interesting and endless!
    love it! great stuff. thank’s

  30. nocturnal_nMar 2, 2014 at 12:45 am

    Lovin’ everyone of these gems! Audio trax rawk! Please consider for future study – Night in Tunisia, Autumn Leaves, ‘Round Midnite, etc!!!

    Thx N

  31. LorenMar 2, 2014 at 6:18 am

    Are the 7#11 chords (where the #11 is on the first string) – are these “cross-barre” chords? My fingers are short and I can’t easily grab some of them otherwise. The Maj7#11 – X35452 – I see no way except a cross-barre for this one. A D7#11 – x5x574 – I can cross-barre, *or* if I’m playing fingerstyle, I can retroflex the fist joint of my middle finger, barring x555xx, but not picking the G note on the 4th string. This leaves enough fingers to easily grab the other notes.

    Any comments or thoughts guys? Help Monk.

  32. philMar 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Ok so how do you download the A train music track

    phil ( getting hooked)

    Still does anyone have the chords to teh BBC hit comedy ” Dads Army”..It’s tricky.

    • Matt WarnockMar 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      Hey Phil, the audio is streaming only, listening online, thanks!

  33. markMar 6, 2014 at 12:12 am

    hi matt ,great tuition

  34. IvanJun 3, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Hey Matt, quick question… Are you playing the first set of drop 2 chords off of the cmaj7 thinking of the 6th (Am7) as the first set of 4th chords are played off the Cmaj7’s 3rd. Does that make sense? It’s how I was visualizing it.

    • Matt WarnockJun 3, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      Hey yeah for me Cmaj7 and Am7 and pretty much the same chord sound, depending on what the bass note is doing at the time. So if I have C in the bass I would move between Cmaj7 and Am7 to get some variety over that change. Hope that helps.

  35. Miguel HernandezOct 24, 2014 at 4:07 am

    Hi im having trouble understanding the b7sub chord can anyone explain how does it work naybe some examples please and thank you!!

  36. Miguel HernandezOct 24, 2014 at 4:22 am

    Does anyone know the difference between 4th chords and so what chords because in measure 9 there is a so what chord which also has the description of a 4th chord so how are we suppose to know if is a 4th chord or a so what chord?

    • Matt WarnockOct 24, 2014 at 10:18 am

      Hey, the b7 sub is when you have a 7th chord, like G7, and you play a maj7#11 chord from the b7, F, of that chord. So if you see G7 you play Fmaj7#11, or if you see C7 you play Bbmaj7#11. That’s all.

    • Matt WarnockOct 24, 2014 at 10:19 am

      Hey, both chords are built the same way here, in 4ths, but it’s the movement that matters for the label. 4th chords can be used anywhere from the scale, but So What chords are specifically from the 3rd and 2nd scale degree of the key, moving down by a tone like the opening chords to the song. So here they are Em7-Dm7 in 4ths. Hope that helps.

  37. Miguel HernandezOct 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Thank you very much Matt Warnock you rock!

  38. milkmannnvMar 9, 2015 at 2:42 am

    I continue to improve in this style, thanks to you.After working on various chord scales and inversions up and down the fretboard & such for the last year,these etudes came at just the right time for me and have really helped my comping over jazz standards,and have given me lots of jazz rhythmic comping ideas and opened my ears a little more to diatonic,4th’s and altered chord substitution.Great job,thank you.

  39. Vincent ParrellaOct 25, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Matt,I love the way you teach and play,I have learned so much from you over the past year,I havent been this excited over music in the longest time,I have playing for 30 years,But only Jazz for about 10 years,without your teaching i dont know if i would have the excitement that I have GOD BLESS.

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