Lesson 2: Exploring “Take the A Train”


Aim: How can we sing the melody and short phrases of “Take the A Train” using scat?
Summary: Students explore scat singing with “Take the A Train.”
Materials: Musical Explorers CD or online audio
GA: MK-2GM.1, MK-2GM.2, MK-2GM.3, MK-2GM.4, MK-2GM.5, MK-2GM.6, MK-2GM.9
SC: MGK-2.1, MGK-2.2, MGK-2.3, MGK-2.4, MGK-2.5
Vocabulary: improvisation, scat


Learn “Take the A Train”

  • Learn and sing the chorus to “Take the A Train,” Track 23.

    • This song is about a subway line called the A train, which goes to neighborhoods in New York City like Sugar Hill in Harlem. Harlem was the neighborhood where many jazz legends lived and made their music.
  • Listen to “Take the A Train,”  Track 24, and sing along with the chorus.

Billy Strayhorn was an American jazz composer, pianist, lyricist, and arranger who was a primary collaborator of the legendary bandleader Duke Ellington. When Ellington first met Strayhorn, he wrote Strayhorn directions to his office in Harlem. These directions later became the lyrics for “Take the A Train.”


Create Your Own Lyrics

  • Using SG28, create new lyrics to “Take the A Train.” Have students add their own words based on landmarks in their neighborhoods or towns.
  • Sing your new lyrics over the melody, Track 25


Explore Improvisation and Scat Singing

  • Improvisation is when musicians sing or play something new and different from the original music on the spot. Improvised music is not written down, but is created in the moment.
  • Scat singing is when a singer improvises with her voice using wordless syllables.
  • Listen to Audrey scat, Track 26
  • Listen to Audrey scat the melody of “Take the A Train,” Track 27
  • Singers can also use scat singing to have a conversation with instrumentalists. Listen to Audrey have a scat conversation with the trumpet player, Track 28
  • Listen to the trumpet player’s phrases again and try to have your own conversation using scat, Track 29

Literacy Link

Ella Fitzgerald was considered to be one of the best scat singers in the history of jazz. Read more about Ella in Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald, written by Roxane Orgill and illustrator Sean Qualls. 


Musical Word Wall

Add the words improvisation and scat to the Musical Word Wall


PDF Downloads

SG28 ↓ Download File


Musical Explorers Audio Tracks