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Harmonica Lessons: "Take the A Train"

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[MUSIC]
Hi, we're gonna study
the great Duke Ellington
composition Take the A Train.
The first thing you should know about
it is that Duke didn't write it.
Even though it was his theme song for
many years.
It was written by Billy Strayhorn
[MUSIC]
who got directions to Duke's apartment on
the phone, and he asked him,
how do I get to your place?
And Duke said, take the A train,
it's the quickest way to get to Harlem.
And Billy Strayhorn rode
the subway up to Duke's apartment.
And that little statement that
Duke said to him resonated in
his head as a musical melody.
[MUSIC]
Like that,
he just wrote the tune.
Now, the thing about this tune is,
it's in C major.
[MUSIC]
The second chord is a C augmented chord,
C, E, and G sharp.
[MUSIC]
This is one of the basic triads, major,
minor, diminished and augmented.
It's a major chord with a sharp fifth and
the basic scale that goes along
with it is a whole tone scale.
[MUSIC]
It's very vague.
And it's a hard thing to play.
If you play it on a C harmonica it's C, D,
E, F sharp, G sharp,
A sharp which is B flat, and then C.
It goes,
[MUSIC]
you don't need any over
blows in the first octave to play it.
So it's something you can do, and
I have a lesson on the whole tone
scale in another part of the website.
So, this is the second chord,
and then it goes two, five, one.
[MUSIC]
So it's C, C augmented.
D minor 7, G7, C7, it does that twice.
And then the bridge goes to the four,
to the F major 7.
[MUSIC]
and then to the two,
[MUSIC]
to the D7 to two five and then to the C
again, C augmented, two, five, one.
Very, very simple song, but you've got
to play that augmented arpeggio or
this whole tone scale there for
that second chord change.
So the melody sounds like this.
[MUSIC]
And a lotta
people play.
[MUSIC]
That has become
the correct way of playing it but
the original melody was
[MUSIC]
which is a hip bebop.
[MUSIC]
It's called the flat five.
It's the D flat, it's the flat fifth of G.
[MUSIC]
Okay, and
then the melody goes.
[MUSIC]
It's an F
major 7,
[MUSIC]
and then,
[MUSIC]
that's a D9.
[MUSIC]
That's
the stock
ending.
There's all sorts of different
things in the arrangement.
The track that I'm gonna play with has
the standard things that everyone plays in
this arrangement.
There's a break that goes like this,
[MUSIC]
goes the major scale up.
[MUSIC]
And then a chromatic scale from D.
[MUSIC]
To A flat.
So if you ever play this with anybody
who knows the song, the tune,
who really knows it, this is what
they'll do to you when they play it.
Everyone plays these breaks.
It was Ellington's theme song.
It got so famous, the actual arrangement
of it got just as famous as the song.
So we're gonna play it now with the track.
And I'm gonna play parts
of it on the C harp.
Then I'm gonna switch to the G harp.
Maybe even play it on an F harp.
It works really well on
a bunch of different harps.
G is actually my favorite to play it on.
[MUSIC]
This is Duke's [SOUND]
[MUSIC]
introduction.
[MUSIC]
Sorry.
[MUSIC]
Now I'm
gonna play
the solo on a G.
[MUSIC]
Here
comes the
break,
I'll go
back to
C harp.
[MUSIC]
And then usually a bass player
solos, I'll switch to an F.
[MUSIC]
So
that's how
the tune goes,
and so I played
little bits
of snatches
of it for
you on three
different harps.
I actually like probably playing
it on a G harp the most.
[MUSIC]