Guitar lesson for

Hurt

by Johnny Cash

Video lesson

Intro & verse chords

To play the intro and verse riff, you’ll need to know these fundamental chords:

e-|---0----0----2----
B-|---1----1----3----
G-|---2----0----2----
D-|---2----2----0----
A-|---0----3---------
E-|------------------
      Am   C    D

Intro & verse riff

Once you know the chords, follow this tab in order to play the riff. The great news: your chord hand doesn’t need to add any notes aside from the core chord shape. The magic is simply in how you pick the strings: you’ll play the bottom two strings of each chord individually, and then strum the remaining strings all at once.

See the notes in parentheses? They are optional and by no means required to pull this off.

E |––––––––0–––––––––––––––––|––––––––0–––––––––––2––––––|
B |––––––––1–––––––––––––––––|––––––––1–––––––––––3––––––|
G |––––––––2–––––––––––––––––|––––––––0––––––––2––––(2)––|
D |–––––2––––––––––––––––––––|–––––2––––––––0––––––––––––|
A |––0–––––––––––––––––––––––|––3–––––––(3)––––––––––––––|
E |––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––|
     Am                         C           D
     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +   

If you want, you can get a bit creative and play the D as a Dsus2 instead (or, maybe only do this sometimes). It sounds like this is what you hear for the album version by Johnny Cash, at least some of the time. To do this, simply leave the high E string open.

E |––––––––0–––––––––––––––––|––––––––0–––––––––––0––––––|
B |––––––––1–––––––––––––––––|––––––––1–––––––––––3––––––|
G |––––––––2–––––––––––––––––|––––––––0––––––––2––––(2)––|
D |–––––2––––––––––––––––––––|–––––2––––––––0––––––––––––|
A |––0–––––––––––––––––––––––|––3–––––––(3)––––––––––––––|
E |––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––|
     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +   
     Am                         C           Dsus2

Chorus chord progression

For the chorus, you’ll use these two very similar progressions. Note the final chord is all that changes.

"What have I become, my sweetest friend..."
G . . . Am . . . F . . . C . . .   x2

"You can have it all, my empire of dirt..."
G . . . Am . . . F . . . G . . .   x2

To play the chords needed here, use this tab:

e-|---3----0----0----1----
B-|---0----1----1----1----
G-|---0----2----0----2----
D-|---0----2----2----3----
A-|---2----0----3----3----
E-|---3--------------1----
      G    Am   C    F

If the F is giving you a hard time, you can play an abbreviated version. Here’s some ways I recommend making it easier to play:

Alternate chord voicings for the chorus

In the second half of each chorus, I like to play the chords as follows. The key distinction here is that I have my pinky on the high E-string, 3rd fret, for each chord I play. This mimics the sustaining piano note you hear in the Cash version of the song.

e-|---3----3----3----3----
B-|---0----1----1----1----
G-|---0----2----0----2----
D-|---0----2----2----3----
A-|---2----0----3---------
E-|---3-------------------
      G    Am   C    F

Try it out! It also makes the F way easier to play, in my opinion.

Chorus lyrics w/ chords

For reference, here you go:

(G)   Am            F     C               G
......What have I become..... my sweetest friend
Am          F         C          G
Everyone I know goes away in the end
    Am                 F     G
And you could have it all... my empire of dirt
Am             F       G               Am
I will let you down... I will make you hurt

                (start intro/verse riff on "hurt")

Good luck!

Let me know if you have questions. I hope this was helpful. Be sure to check out my other Johnny Cash lessons, I have a bunch!

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