Take The “A” Train

Take the “A” Train, composed by Billy Strayhorn in 1939 and first recorded in 1941, was the signature tune of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The title refers to the then recently opened A subway line that ran from Brooklyn to Northern Manhattan.

Take the A Train

The chord progression of Take the “A” Train is loosely based on another song called Exactly Like You (1930).

The standard is in the key of C major and has an AABA structure. The Duke Ellington version modulates to Eb in the second chorus.

Take the “A” Train starts with two bars of C major (on bar 5 in the sheet music below, after the 4-bar intro), before going to two bars of D7#11 (the #11 is in the melody), which functions as a II7.

For improvisation, use the D Lydian dominant scale over the D7, the fourth mode of the A melodic minor scale, which is closely related to C major.

It is said that the first two melody notes over the D7 sound like a train horn…

The B section begins on the IV (Fmaj7) which is very common for swing-era jazz standards (see Stompin’ at the Savoy and Don’t Get Around Much Anymore).

The ending of the arrangement is very recognizable and is known as the “Take the A Train” ending.

Recommended listening:

  • Duke Ellington – Hollywood (1941)
  • Dave Brubeck – Jazz Goes to College (1954)
  • Ella Fitzgerald – Ella in Hollywood (1961)
  • Kenny Burrell – Ellington is Forever Volume 2 (1975)
  • Joe Henderson – Lush Life – The Music of Billy Strayhorn (1991)


The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary


Download now and learn 244 chord shapes!

Video & Guitar Tabs/Notation



Backing Track


Take The A Train Page 1

Take The A Train Page 2

Take The A Train Page 3


Take The “A” Train Guitar Pro FileGuitar Pro File

23 thoughts on “Take The “A” Train”

  1. Aidan

    Another classic arrangement. Well done. Lovely quality backing track. Many thanks for these high quality lessons.

  2. Salvador

    Maravilloso standard y perfecta interpretación. Muchas gracias.

  3. Adolfo

    Excelente interpretación, transcripción y didáctica, muchas gracias.

  4. Colin

    Great and really smooth playing

  5. Marco

    I think you are The best. The lessons are vero well done. Many thanks

  6. Rob

    Another really great lesson. Thank you for your hard work and for your generosity in sharing this piece.

  7. davebassx2@gmail.com

    Really appreciate you making these available – big thanks

  8. Philip Senior

    Epic … thank you once again … x

  9. giovanni fusto

    ottimo lavoro grazie di cuore.

  10. Rob

    Thanks greatly for this, at this moment this gem is even more precious and so well presented it’s easy to get to grips with.

  11. Walter

    I am just working on this piece. This great lesson helps me a lot with chords. Thanks very much.

  12. Stephen

    Thanks again, great song and lesson.

  13. G GETIN

    Thanks a lot for all the tabs you share !

  14. KP Witt

    Great tune. Thanks for sharing all these lessons

  15. jay

    Nice guitar arrangement Mr. Dirk.

  16. John Slattery

    Thank you for this fantastic Ellington A-Train Arrangement….its superbly played by your good self,Great video ,and Tabs too! Whats not to like! Thank you Dirk…and stay safe.

  17. Tom Scharf

    Great lessons! Unfortunately, like a lot of us I’m sure, I haven’t got Guitar Pro 7, only Guitar Pro 6 and 5. I understand you could save your files in the earlier formats? GP6 or GP5 would be great!

  18. Bix

    Wow !! Really hip. Thanks ever so much. Jazz guitar players will always give that “man, that was cool” smile when they hear this ! Thanks so much for the sheet music. I’ll probably spend the rest of my life ( I just turned 74 ) trying to play it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top