Guitar lesson for
Folsom Prison Blues
PDF link for Patreon supporters
- Get the PDF here -- after clicking and logging in to Patreon, look for the file attached to the bottom of the post.
Supporting me on Patreon gives you access to the PDF for this as well as 130+ other lessons. One month minimum ($3, cancel anytime) gets you access to everything... here's a free sample. Thanks for supporting me and this project!
– 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
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 »
- Lookin' Out My Back Door by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Oct 12, 2019
- Issues by Julia Michaels (PDF)
Oct 9, 2019
- How to read & write strumming patterns
Oct 6, 2019
- Gloria by The Lumineers
Oct 2, 2019
- Creep (PDF) by Radiohead
Sept 23, 2019
- Riffin' on D-Cadd9-G with "Thank You" and "Can't You See"
Sept 21, 2019
- Meditative Fingerpicking (Practice Log #14)
Sept 15, 2019
- Wagon Wheel (PDF) by Old Crow Medicine Show / Darius Rucker
- Latin Bassline Groove (from "Señiorita" by Shawn Mendes & Camilla Cabello)
- Plush (acoustic) by Stone Temple Pilots
Sept 6, 2019
- The Wind by Cat Stevens
Aug 30, 2019
- E Major 4-Finger Warmup Riff
Aug 24, 2019
- Peace of Mind by Tyler Childers
Aug 23, 2019
- Angel Flight by Radney Foster
Aug 17, 2019
- The Year Clayton Delaney Died (PDF) by Tom T. Hall
Aug 16, 2019
- California Dreamin' by Jose Feliciano
Aug 10, 2019
- We Are The Champions (PDF) by Queen
Aug 8, 2019
- 2-finger chords in the key of C
Aug 2, 2019
- On the Road Again (PDF) by Willie Nelson
July 31, 2019
- Surf Rider (from "Pulp Fiction") by The Lively Ones
July 24, 2019
- Fingerpicking C-G-Am-F (Vampire Weekend's "Hold You Now")
July 16, 2019
- You've Got a Friend in Me (fingerstyle intro)
July 5, 2019
- Ring finger barre strength exercise
June 26, 2019