Guitar lesson for
Folsom Prison Blues
by Johnny Cash • Lesson #72
Get the PDF chord sheet (2 pages)
- Support me on Patreon.com to get access to this and 200+ other PDF chord sheets I've made, plus new PDFs I make going forward (1-2 added each week).
- The cost is $3/month (one month minimum, cancel anytime). Here's a free sample if you're on the fence. Thanks for supporting me & this project!
After clicking the button and logging in to Patreon, look for the PDF attached to the bottom of the post.
Learn how to play “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash! Chords, strumming pattern, tabs for the intro, and even how to strum with alternating bass notes. I’ll show it all. Note, this song will need a capo on the 1st fret if you want to play along w/ the Cash album version. Otherwise, you can leave the capo behind and play it in the key of E. Best of luck, let me know what questions you have in the comments!
- 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 »
- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
Oct 23, 2020 • Lesson #65
- Father and Son by Cat Stevens
Oct 18, 2020 • Lesson #333
- Layla by Eric Clapton (acoustic)
Oct 11, 2020 • Lesson #103
- Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton
Oct 9, 2020 • Lesson #331
- Norwegian Wood by The Beatles
Oct 4, 2020 • Lesson #169
- Sultans of Swing (chorus lick) by Dire Straits
Oct 3, 2020 • Lesson #174
- Surrender (acoustic) by Cheap Trick
Sep 27, 2020 • Lesson #330
- Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
Sep 25, 2020 • Lesson #134
- Welcome to Paradise by Tyler Childers / Green Day
Sep 19, 2020 • Lesson #322
- Betty by Taylor Swift
Sep 17, 2020 • Lesson #321
- Rapid-fire Q&A: Up-strums, tricky rhythms, muting with your thumb, and more
Sep 13, 2020 • Lesson #329
- Old Man by Neil Young
Sep 12, 2020 • Lesson #328
- 2-finger Blues in Drop-D Tuning
Sep 6, 2020 • Lesson #163
- Learning the intro riff to "Old Man" by Neil Young
Sep 5, 2020 • Lesson #326
- Learnin' to Fly by Tom Petty
Aug 29, 2020 • Lesson #108