Guitar lesson for

Ring of Fire

by Johnny Cash  β€’  Lesson #134

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

Hey friends – here’s a guitar lesson teaching you how to play the Johnny Cash song β€œRing of Fire” from 1963 (orig. written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore). In this tutorial I’ll teach you how to play the chords, strumming, and explain how to mimic that Mariachi horn sound with your acoustic guitar (tab included). Typically, Johnny Cash played this with his full band, benefiting from their drum / bass / electric guitar – but this lesson will teach you how to play the distinctive lead riff while strumming at the same time – which roughly approximates the sound of multiple instruments. Check it out and enjoy!

Timestamps:

Lyrics w/ chords

INTRO

    e ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    B ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    G ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    D ––––––––0––0–0––0–0––2–––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    A ––2–3–4–––––––––––––––––3––––––––2––2–2––2–2––3––0––2–––
    E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
              G            C     G     G            D7    G    

VERSE

G         C       G               G       D     G
Love is a burning thing... and it makes a fiery ring
G        C      G       G              D       G
Bound by wild desire... I fell in to a ring of fire

CHORUS

    D             C               G
    I fell into a burning ring of fire
           D                           C           G
    I went down, down, down... and the flames went higher
           G                    
    And it burns, burns, burns
    G      C       G           D       G       
    ...The ring of fire... the ring of fire

    G        C       G             G           D    G
The taste of love is sweet... when hearts like ours meet
G              C      G        G           D         G
I fell for you like a child... oh, but the fire went wild


    D             C               G
    I fell into a burning ring of fire
           D                           C           G
    I went down, down, down... and the flames went higher
           G                    
    And it burns, burns, burns
    G      C       G           D       G       
    ...The ring of fire... the ring of fire

    [ repeat chorus ]

ENDING

           G                    
    And it burns, burns, burns
    G      C       G           D       G       
    ...The ring of fire... the ring of fire

Chords needed

The whole song can be played with standard G, C, and D chords:

e –––3––––0––––2––––
B –––0––––1––––3––––
G –––0––––0––––2––––
D –––0––––2––––0––––
A –––2––––3–––––––––
E –––3––––––––––––––
     G    C    D

If you want, you can use a D7 in place of any D chord (it looks like Johnny Cash did this when he played the song):

e –––2––––
B –––1––––
G –––2––––
D –––0––––
A ––––––––
E ––––––––
     D7

Likewise, an easy way to approach these chords is as follows. Note how your ring finger is on the same note (3rd fret of the second string) for all the chords. This makes switching easy.

e –––3––––3––––2––––
B –––3––––3––––3––––
G –––0––––0––––2––––
D –––0––––2––––0––––
A –––2––––3–––––––––
E –––3––––––––––––––
     G    C    D

Strumming pattern

For simple starters, do all down strums… one per each count… and accent the 2 and 4 counts.

d = light down strum
D = heavy down strum

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
d   D   d   D        down DOWN down DOWN...
    >       >

From there, you can fill things out a bit by doing this. If you can, accent the 2 and the 4 if you can - but that becomes less important here.

D = down strum
U = up strum

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D   D U   U D U      down, down up... up down up
    >       >

Mariachi riff on guitar

Here’s the main melody notes for the distinctive mariachi riff. Start by learning these notes and hearing the riff in your head.

e ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––––––0––0–0––0–0––2–––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A ––2–3–4–––––––––––––––––3––––––––2––2–2––2–2––3––0––2–––
E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
          G            C     G     G           (D7)   G    

From here, I recommend keeping your hands in the G and C chord shapes - and if you wish, feel free to strum notes from those chords. See my video lesson for context here.

e ––––––––3––––––––––––3–––––3–––––3––––––––––––––––––3–––
B ––––––––3––––––––––––3–––––3–––––3––––––––––––––––––0–––
G ––––––––0––––––––––––0–––––0–––––0––––––––––––––––––0–––
D ––––––––0––0–0––0–0––2–––––0–––––0––––––––––––––––––0–––
A ––2–3–4–0––––––––––––3––3––2–––––2––2–2––2–2––3––0––2–––
E ––––––––3––––––––––––––––––3–––––3––––––––––––––––––3–––
          G            C     G     G           (D7)   G   

My other Johnny Cash guitar lessons

I’ve got plenty others, all of which have PDF chord sheets available – here they are!

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