One Magic Shape for All Chords – Take the “A” Train



One Magic Shape for All Chords – Take the “A” Train

Take the A Train with One Magic Shape for All Chords

In this lesson, we’ll learn one magic shape that you can use to improvise over any chord and over any song.

The Magic Shape

This is basically a minor triad that we can use as a substitute for any Dom7  or M6 chord:
Here is the basic shape:

You can use it over three different chords. The following charts show the appropriate degrees for each of the chords:

Lets see the same shapes over Dm, G7 and F6:

Take the A Train

First learn to see these magic shapes over each one of the chords in any song that you play. Let’s use Take the A Train as an example for this lesson: It’s an A-A-B-A song. Let’s look at the A part with the magic shape above the chords.

You will see that we have only one shape in two positions: one position for C6 and D7 and one for Dm7, F6 and G7.

Adding Notes

For each of the chords, there are two notes we can add to make them more interesting. This looks the same for the minor and Dom7/9 chords, but a little bit different for the Major6.

For the Dom7/9 and minor6, just add the pinky on your first string and your ring finger on the second string as shown below:

For the Mj6 just add the ring finger on your 1st string and the pinky on the second string:

Playing the basic shapes (4:52 in the video lesson):

Adding Chromatics

For the minor and D7 shapes you can also add a lower note on the 4th string. It will be the 3rd degree for the Dom7/9 and the 6th degree for the minor6.
Here are the shapes:

And here is how it sounds over the song (7:18 in the video):

Get Creative

Now it’s your turn to get creative.

Get to know the shapes firmly and try to come up with different ways to play them each time.
You can:

  • Change the order of the notes
  • Change the rhythm
  • Add chromatics
  • Add enclosures and half tone approaches
  • Play each idea you come up with ascending and descending
  • Just change the ending of your phrase and you have a new one
  • And so much more….

Spend time with this. This is a treasure. But as with any treasure, you need to dig deeply to get it 🙂


Here are a few ideas to get you started:

From 09:53 in the video – add half- tone approach:

From 10:31 in the video – simple phrase, different ending:

From 11:20 in the video – adding chromatics: 

Now practice improvisation with these magical shapes over other songs. Planning your improvisation in this way always sounds good.  Once it becomes second nature to you, you can play beautiful solos, rather than just coming to each chord and wondering what to do with it.
Please leave your comments below and share your progress with me and your fellow students!