Guitar lesson for

When the Man Comes Around

by Johnny Cash

Video lesson

Lesson contents:

Lyrics and chords

          C (muted strum)
There's a man going 'round taking names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won't be treated all the same
There'll be a golden ladder...

    (walk down) Am     F            G          C
    ...Reaching down...... when the man comes around

        C                                  Cadd5
        Hear the trumpets hear the pipers
            C                              Cadd5
        One hundred million angels singing
        C                              F   C      G
        Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum
        G
        Voices calling, voices crying
        G
        Some are born and some are dying
             G                         C
        It's alpha and omega's kingdom come

                        F                   C
                And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
                C (muted strum)
                The virgins are all trimming their wicks
                    F                   C
                The whirlwind is in the thorn tree
                     C (muted strum)
                It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks
                   C (muted strum)                 
                In measured hundred weight...
                (walk down) Am      F            G         C       
                And  penny  pound...... when the man comes around

         C (muted strum)
'Til armageddon no shalam, no shalom
Then the father hen will call his chickens home
The wise man will bow down before the throne
And at his feet they'll...

          (walk down) Am       F            G          C   
    Cast their golden crowns...... when the man comes around

   C (muted strum)
Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still
Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still
Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still
Listen to the words...

     (walk down) Am     F            G          C
    Long written down...... when the man comes around

        C                                   Cadd5
        Hear the trumpets hear the pipers
            C                               Cadd5
        One hundred million angels singing
        C                              F   C      G
        Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum
        G
        Voices calling, voices crying
        G
        Some are born and some are dying
             G                         C
        It's alpha and omega's kingdom come

                    F                   C
            And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
                C (muted strum)
            The virgins are all trimming their wicks
                F                   C
            The whirlwind is in the thorn trees
                 C (muted strum)
            It's hard for thee to kick against the prick
               C (muted strum)                 
            In measured hundred weight...
            (walk down) Am      F            G         C       
            And  penny  pound...... when the man comes around

Chords needed

E –––0––––0––––1––––3––––3––––
B –––1––––1––––1––––0––––1––––
G –––0––––2––––2––––0––––0––––
D –––2––––2––––3––––0––––2––––
A –––3––––0––––3––––2––––3––––
E –––––––––––––1––––3–––––––––
     C    Am   F    G  Cadd5

Strum patterns

Main pattern used for entire song:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
d   D   d u D u
    >       >

When playing the Cadd5 or G during the chorus:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
d   D u   u D u
    >       >

When walking down from F to C to G:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
d   D u d   D u
    >       >

Transition riffs:

Walking down from C to A-minor:

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

Walking up from C to F:

E ––––––0–0–––––––––––––1–1–––––0–0–––––3–––3–3–3–3––
B ––––––1–1–––––––––––––1–1–––––1–1–––––0–––0–0–0–0––
G ––––––0–0–––––––––––––2–2–––––0–0–––––0–––0–0–0–0––
D ––––––2–2–0–––2–––3–––3–3–2–––2–2–––––0–––0–0–0–0––
A ––3–––––––-–––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––2–2–2–2––
E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––––––3–3–3–3––
    C               F       C       G
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Walking from G to C:

E ––––––3–3–––––––––––––0–––0–0–0–0–––
B ––––––0–0–––––––––––––1–––1–1–1–1–––
G ––––––0–0–––––––––––––0–––0–0–0–0–––
D ––––––0–0–––––––––––––2–––2–2–2–2–––
A ––––––2–2–0–––2–––3–––––––3–3–3–3–––
E ––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    G               C
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Understanding the muted strum

The verses of this song uses a muted strum of the C-major chord, which also has alternating bass notes between C and G. It’s admittedly pretty tricky to play this exactly like Cash does on the album version, so I’ve included a simple version to help out.

Simplified muted strum

Simply put your hand in a C-major shape, and move your left ring finger between the C and G notes (5th and 6th string, respectively).

E ––––––––0––0––––––––0––0––––
B ––––––––1––1––––––––1––1––––
G ––––––––0––0––––––––0––0––––
D ––––––––2––2––––––––2––2––––
A ––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  
    D     d  u  D     d  u  

Advanced muted strum

This is what Cash plays. If you want to learn this, see my video lesson and refer to the step-by-step directions below. Understand that you’re actually going to start this riff on the “+” count following the “4”.

E ––––––––x––––––––x––x–––––––
B ––––––––x––––––––x––x–––––––
G ––5–––––x––––––––x––x––5––––
D ––5–––––x–––––x––x––x––5––––
A ––3–––––x–––––x––––––––3––––
E ––––––––x–––––3–––––––––––––
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  
    D     D     D  U  D  U

Learning the advanced strum, step by step

Step 1 of 7

First, play these alternating bass notes – but be sure to use your left index finger to play both these notes. This will set the foundation for what you’ll need to learn the full advanced strum.

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A ––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  
    D           D

Step 2 of 7

Next, add these down-up muted strums on the “2 +” and “4 +” counts. Continue to use your left index finger to play these alternating bass notes!

E ––––––––x––x––––––––x––x––––
B ––––––––x––x––––––––x––x––––
G ––––––––x––x––––––––x––x––––
D ––––––––x––x––––––––x––x––––
A ––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  
    D     d  u  D     d  u  

Step 3 of 7

Next, bring in the C power chord for the “1” count only.

E ––––––––x––x––––––––x––x––––
B ––––––––x––x––––––––x––x––––
G ––5–––––x––x––––––––x––x––––
D ––5–––––x––x––––––––x––x––––
A ––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  
    D     d  u  D     d  u

Step 4 of 7

Here, let’s switch over to the proper strumming pattern that we’ll need. Remember that we’re accenting the 2 and 4 counts. Note, this is the same pattern the rest of the song is based off of – so it’s worth learning and learning well. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to learn this well, first, before expecting to become fluent in this song.

E ––––––––x–––––––––––x–––––––
B ––––––––x–––––––––––x–––––––
G ––––––––x–––––––––––x–––––––
D ––x–––––x–––––x––x––x––x––––
A ––x–––––x–––––x––x––x––x––––
E ––x–––––x–––––x––x––x––x––––
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  
    d     D     d  u  D  u

Step 5 of 7

Same as before, but this time bring in the C power chord shape we learned a few steps ago. Do this on the 1 count only. Keep everything else muted.

E ––––––––x–––––––––––x–––––––
B ––––––––x–––––––––––x–––––––
G ––5–––––x–––––––––––x–––––––
D ––5–––––x–––––x––x––x––x––––
A ––3–––––x–––––x––x––x––x––––
E ––––––––x–––––x––x––x––x––––
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  
    d     D     d  u  D  u

Step 6 of 7

Then, add the C-power chord shape on the “+” count following the “4”.

E ––––––––x–––––––––––x–––––––
B ––––––––x–––––––––––x–––––––
G ––5–––––x–––––––––––x––5––––
D ––5–––––x–––––x––x––x––5––––
A ––3–––––x–––––x––x––x––3––––
E ––––––––x–––––x––x––x–––––––
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  
    d     D     d  u  D  u

Step 7 of 7

Finally, add the G bass note on the “3” count (with your left index finger). This harkens back to what I showed in steps 2 and 3 directly above. This is what Cash is playing!

E ––––––––x––––––––x––x–––––––
B ––––––––x––––––––x––x–––––––
G ––5–––––x––––––––x––x––5––––
D ––5–––––x–––––x––x––x––5––––
A ––3–––––x–––––x––––––––3––––
E ––––––––x–––––3–––––––––––––
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  
    d     D     d  u  D  u

Best of luck!

I hope this helped you learn this song. Feel free to send any feedback my way. If this was super incredibly life-changing helpful, please consider tossing a few bucks my way in the tip jar! Thanks and all the best.

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