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.

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)


Chord Melody Jazz Guitar Course


Video & Guitar Tabs/Notation

Take The "A" Train - Jazz Guitar Lesson


Backing Track

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Listen & Play-Along

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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



Chord Melody Jazz Guitar Course


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45 thoughts on “Take The “A” Train”

  1. steve

    Haven’t heard a more musical version for guitar as of yet. Great work, thanks.

  2. orestes

    Muchas gracias por la aportación!

  3. Roberto Marquez

    Another great gift from you. Receive my big THANK YOU SO MUCH!.

  4. Anonymous

    Another great gift from you. Receive my THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!.

  5. Stefano Brenzini

    Ringrazio il maestro Dirk che ci regala sempre dell’ottimo materiale; complimenti per l’arrangiamento.

  6. Herman Pijnenburg

    Mooi arrangement zoals ook alle andere. Heb er veel plezier van. Mijn dank.

  7. Vinnie M

    I am so embarrassed with my self. I played til I was 30 years old I’m now 80 and I’ve forgotten how to read music. Finding it very difficult 😥 to pickup where I left off. B. T. W. I am playing a 1939 D’Angelico. Thank you for lessons. Regards Vinnie from NYC

    1. Anonymous

      Sorry to hear this Vinny,can you read tabs? the 6 lines represent the strings (6,5,4,3,2,1/E,A,D,G,B,E) and the numbers represent the frets. I hope this helps.

    2. Michael Lowe

      Hang in there Vinny, it’ll eventually come back to you… maybe you could buy a couple books or check online for some free tutorials, etc? If it’s in your heart, you’ll figure it out somehow… all the best wishes for you buddy!!

    3. Calvin

      Hey Vinnie, don’t think twice, just because we only go round once in this life you’ll be surprised what human perseverance and determination can do.
      My mom is 95 and when when she picks up a guitar it all comes back!

  8. Deb

    Hi Dirk, am I missing something here, I can not see in the score a D note in any of your labelled D chords??

    1. Nikita Rain

      Hi Deb, you don’t need to put the root in the chords if you are playing with a bass, as they lay down the roots very clearly.

      1. Deb

        Thanks Nikita, am pretty new to this

    2. Thanks! Everything I need to learn this song!
      Makes me sound better!

    3. Alan

      Rootless chords – such as 13579 – you only voice 3579

  9. Stuart Arnold

    This was brilliant Dirk, I only got to hear this song a couple of months ago and loved it since. Now I can learn to play it, thanks very much.
    All the best

  10. Tony Esqueda

    Excellent performance, nice arrangement..so fine!! Thanks!!

  11. sam

    Great lesson, easy to follow and having the master play it gives you the inflections. Thanks so much, Sam.

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Thanks for the kind feedback, Sam!

  12. 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.

    1. sore fingers

      Youngster! I’m 88 and still at least trying to play.
      Good days….. bad days.
      Dirk gives a lot to the community!

      1. Anonymous

        Old man! I am 83 and have only a thumb available right hand. Left hand fingers OK. Thanks Dirk, you really give a lot! (Baie dankie!)

  13. 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.

  14. jay

    Nice guitar arrangement Mr. Dirk.

  15. KP Witt

    Great tune. Thanks for sharing all these lessons

  16. G GETIN

    Thanks a lot for all the tabs you share !

  17. Stephen

    Thanks again, great song and lesson.

  18. Walter

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

  19. 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.

  20. giovanni fusto

    ottimo lavoro grazie di cuore.

  21. Philip Senior

    Epic … thank you once again … x

  22. davebassx2@gmail.com

    Really appreciate you making these available – big thanks

  23. Rob

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

  24. David

    I will use this immediately!

  25. Marco

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

  26. Colin

    Great and really smooth playing

  27. Adolfo

    Excelente interpretación, transcripción y didáctica, muchas gracias.

  28. Salvador

    Maravilloso standard y perfecta interpretación. Muchas gracias.

  29. Aidan

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

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