Guitar lesson for
Folsom Prison Blues
– 0:00 Playthrough – 0:44 Chords needed – 1:41 Verse structure w/ simple strum – 2:50 Intro riff – 3:40 Strumming w/ alternating bass notes – 5:43 Farewell
Print-friendly PDF of lyrics/tabs/chords available!
Support me on Patreon to get access to a print-friendly PDF chord sheet (w/ lyrics, tabs, etc) for this song. This will also give you access to future chord sheets I make.
Lyrics with chords
* Capo 1st fret to play along with Johnny Cash's album version INTRO e –––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–0–––––0–0––––0–0–––––0–0––– B –––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–0–––––0–0––––0–0–––––0–0––– G –––––––––––––––––––––––––––1–1–––––1–1––––1–1–––––1–1––– D –––––––––1–––1–––––––––––––2–2–––––2–2––––2–2–––––2–2––– ...etc. A –––2–2–2––––––––2––––––––––2–2–––2––––––––2–2–––2––––––– E –––––––––––––––––––2~~–––0––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––– B7 E VERSE E I hear the train a coming, it's rolling around the bend E E7 And I ain't seen the sunshine, since... I don't know when A E I'm stuck in Folsom Prison, and time keeps dragging on B7 E But that train keeps a-rolling, on down to San Antone E When I was just a baby, my Mama told me, "Son" E E7 "Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns" A E But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die B7 E When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry (instrumental verse with solo) E I bet there's rich folks eating in a fancy dining car E E7 They're probably drinking coffee and smoking big cigars A E But I know I had it coming, I know I can't be free B7 E But those people keep a-moving, and that's what tortures me (instrumental verse with solo) E Well, if they freed me from this prison, if that railroad train was mine E E7 I bet I'd move it on a little farther down the line A E Far from Folsom Prison, that's where I want to stay B7 E And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away (intro riff x1, end on final E chord)
Capo 1st Fret (optional)
If you want to play along with the Johnny Cash recorded versions of this song, you’ll need to add a capo to the 1st fret (and use the chords shown above). Otherwise, this is by no means required! You can play without a capo using the notation above and it will sound just fine – you’ll simply in a different key (which is fine).
Here are the guitar chords used during this song. If you haven’t learned the B7 shown below, it is a good introductory version of the B chord that will get you a lot of mileage. Don’t let it scare you away if you’re just learning it for the first time – it will open the doors to other songs in the key of E.
e –––0––––0––––2–––– –––0––– B –––0––––2––––0–––– –––3––– G –––1––––2––––2–––– –––1––– D –––2––––2––––1–––– –––2––– A –––2––––0––––2–––– –––2––– E –––0–––––––––––––– –––0––– E A B7 E7
Here is how you can play the riff heard at the beginning of the song, as well as in in between some of the verses and at the end (as you switch from the B7 to the E). I’ve included two ways to play it – one in open position, and another an octave up the fretboard (which frees you up for a bit of soloing, if you please).
e –––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–0–––––0–0––––0–0–––––0–0––– B –––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–0–––––0–0––––0–0–––––0–0––– G –––––––––––––––––––––––––––1–1–––––1–1––––1–1–––––1–1––– D –––––––––1–––1–––––––––––––2–2–––––2–2––––2–2–––––2–2––– ...etc. A –––2–2–2––––––––2––––––––––2–2–––2––––––––2–2–––2––––––– E –––––––––––––––––––2~~–––0––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––– B7 E
To achieve the alternating bass note (boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom-chicka) that Johnny Cash is known for, use the following tab as a reference. This said, I strongly recommend viewing the video linked below to watch a demonstration of this. If you can, use your thumb to mute the lower E string on the alternating beats when it is not played – this will help accentuate the bass line. Also, note that the B7 chord position ties directly into the riff you use in the intro.
e –––––––0–0––––––0–0––––0–0–––––0–0–––– B –––––––0–0––––––0–0––––0–0–––––0–0–––– G –––––––1–1––––––1–1––––1–1–––––1–1–––– D –––––––2–2––––––2–2––––2–2–––––2–2–––– ...etc. A –––––––2–2––––2––––––––2–2–––2–––––––– E –––––0––––––––x––––––0–––––––x–––––––– E e –––––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–0–––– B –––––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––– G –––––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––– D –––––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––– ...etc. A –––––0–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––– E –––––x–––––––0–––––––x–––––––0–––––––– A e –––––––2–2–––––0–0–––––2–2–––––2–2–––– B –––––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–0–––– G –––––––2–2–––––2–2–––––1–1–––––1–1–––– D –––––––1–1–––––1–1–––––2–2–––––2–2–––– ...etc. A –––––2–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––– E –––––x–––––––2–––––––x–––––––2–––––––– B7
Check out my other Johnny Cash lessons!
Enjoy my lessons? Buy me a beer!
If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider making a one-time donation to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it).
Subscribe to my YouTube channel
Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!
Recent video lessons:
📝 Print-friendly PDFs now available for all new lessons I make, including all those listed below. Get a free sample »
- Jenny of Oldstones from Game of Thrones
Apr 23, 2019
- Wildflowers by Tom Petty
Apr 20, 2019
- Breezy strumming on E-Bsus4-Asus2 (Warm Up #18)
Apr 18, 2019
- How I composed a fingerstyle guitar arrangement (Practice Log #12)
Apr 13, 2019
- If I Had a Boat by Lyle Lovett
Apr 10, 2019
- Triad exercises w/ A, D, & E (Warm Up #17)
Mar 30, 2019
- Travis picking finger technique (Practice Log #11)
Mar 22, 2019
- Let Him Roll by Guy Clark
Mar 17, 2019
- Plush by Stone Temple Pilots
Mar 15, 2019
- Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Mar 9, 2019
- Adding flourish to C-F-G-Am
Mar 7, 2019
- The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
Mar 3, 2019
- Always Remember Us This Way from A Star is Born
Feb 28, 2019
- Cowboy chords & walking bass lines (Warm Up #16)
Feb 23, 2019
- Improv blues guitar in A-minor
Feb 21, 2019
- St James Infirmary Blues
Feb 16, 2019
- Barre chord strength & Smells Like Teen Spirit (Warm Up #15)
Feb 14, 2019
- Faking open chords in key of D w/ major & minor triads (Warm Up #14)
Feb 10, 2019
Monthly email updates
If you want to keep posted of new lessons over email, sign up for my newsletter. I'll email once a month with a digest of all my new videos. I promise: no spam.