How to Play Folsom Prison Blues Guitar: A Step-by-Step Guide

how to play folsom prison blues guitar

If you’ve ever been captivated by the soulful strums of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and have an itch to play it yourself, you’re in the right place. This well-known song may be learned on the guitar; learning to play it is a pleasant and fun experience. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the process step by step, from tuning your guitar to mastering the distinctive sound of this classic tune.

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” These iconic words kickstart one of the greatest songs in country music history. 

“Folsom Prison Blues” is known for its rhythmic simplicity and heartfelt lyrics, making it an ideal starting point for aspiring guitarists.

Getting the Right Guitar

Before you begin your journey to master this song, having the right tool is crucial. A standard acoustic guitar is your best bet, preferably with a warm and resonant tone.

Tuning Your Guitar

It would help if you tuned your guitar to match his style to replicate Johnny Cash’s signature sound. We’ll walk you through tuning your guitar to achieve that authentic “Folsom Prison Blues” sound.

Understanding the Chords

Every great song starts with a solid foundation of chords. In this section, we’ll break down the chords used in the song and help you get comfortable with them.

Basic Fingerpicking Technique

Basic Fingerpicking Technique

The magic of “Folsom Prison Blues” lies in its fingerpicking style. We’ll teach you the fundamentals of fingerpicking to get you started on the right track.

The Intro Riff

We will, therefore, select this note three times, beginning on the second fret of the fifth string with our second finger. Next, pluck this note twice with your pointer finger on the fourth string’s first fret.

Then, use your middle finger to return to the fifth string’s second fret once, and then return to the fourth string’s first fret with your pointer finger again. Next, extend your reach to the second fret of the sixth string, pluck it once, and bend it slightly by half a step.

Pick the sixth string open to play an E chord. The five-chord B7 is the foundation of this introduction. 

The Famous Intro Riff

The iconic guitar riff that opens the song is instantly recognizable. We’ll guide you through the steps to nail this essential part of the song.

Verse Progression

As we delve deeper into the song, you’ll learn how to play the verses and keep the rhythm flowing.

Transitioning to the Chorus

Smooth transitions are key to a polished performance. We’ll show you how to seamlessly move from the verses to the chorus.

Folsom Prison Blues: The Background

The Background

As everyone knows, Cash’s most notorious incident was a night in prison or setting his camper on fire in 1965.

Nevertheless, he had a natural empathy for people, and his struggles won him the position of their spokesman.

In 1953, Folsom Prison Blues was performed in 1968 in Folsom Prison, a California state prison still in use. He won a Grammy for the song.

In Folsom Prison Blues, the main character is portrayed as being somewhat sinister. According to Cash, he sat around pondering the most heinous excuse for murder before incorporating it into the song.

Cash said, “That’s poetic license!” in response to why the guy murdered Reno, Nevada, then completed his jail term in California.

Playing the Chorus

The song shines in the chorus. We’ll help you play it with emotion and style, just like the Man in Black himself.

Adding Emotion to Your Playing

Johnny Cash was a master at infusing his music with raw emotion. We’ll share tips on conveying the song’s depth through your playing.

Speed and Timing

Achieving the right tempo and timing is crucial for a captivating performance. We’ll work on getting your timing spot on.

Putting It All Together

Now that you’ve mastered the individual components, it’s time to combine everything and play “Folsom Prison Blues” from start to finish.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Even the pros make mistakes. We’ll highlight common errors and show you how to sidestep them. folsom prison blues guitar solo.

How To Play Folsom Prison Blues On Guitar

How To Play Folsom Prison Blues On Guitar

I hope you had fun learning how to play the guitar song “Folsom Prison Blues”! Additionally, the riff of this song is very lively, and it’s a lot of fun to play. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that you can be more precise with the rhythm section.

As long as you’re alternating the bass note, you may either play the single string that follows or the chord voicing that comes in on the ends. On the downbeat, we switch up the bass notes and finish with a chord strike. 

Practicing and Perfecting

As with anything worthwhile, practice is key to perfection. We’ll offer guidance on effective practice routines to help you hone your skills. folsom prison blues guitar lesson.


Congratulations! You’ve now embarked on a musical journey to master “Folsom Prison Blues” on the guitar. With dedication and practice, you’ll soon be playing this iconic song with confidence and flair.

Can I play “Folsom Prison Blues” on an electric guitar?

While the song is traditionally played on an acoustic guitar, you can adapt it to an electric guitar if you prefer that sound.

How long will it take to learn the song?

The time it takes to learn the song varies from person to person. You can expect to make progress within a few weeks with consistent practice. folsom prison blues guitar tabs.

Are there any recommended video tutorials for learning this song?

Yes, numerous video tutorials are available online that break down the song step by step. These can be a helpful supplement to written instructions.

What if I struggle with fingerpicking?

Fingerpicking can be challenging, especially for beginners. Take your time and practice fingerpicking exercises to improve your skills. folsom prison blues guitar tab.

Where can I find the official “Folsom Prison Blues” sheet music?

Where can I find the official Folsom Prison Blues sheet music

Official sheet music is often available for purchase online or at music stores. You can also find free tablature versions on various guitar websites.

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge to play “Folsom Prison Blues” on your guitar, it’s time to start practicing and embrace the rich musical heritage of Johnny Cash.

So grab your guitar, follow the steps, and soon enough, you’ll be strumming your way to a memorable rendition of this timeless classic.

Main Riff:




D|—–2–2-2-2-|—–2–2-2-2-|—–2–2-2-2-|—–2–2-2-2-| A|–2–0–0-0-0-|–2–0–0-0-0-|–2–0–0-0-0-|–2–0–0-0-0-| 


Play this riff twice, forming the song’s signature intro. After that, you can play the chords along with the lyrics.


What are Folsom Prison Blues chords?

The Folsom Prison Blues chords will initially be difficult for a novice guitarist, but we’ve got you covered. The Folsom Prison Blues chords will initially be difficult for a novice guitarist, but we’ve got you covered. You can get through the entire song without a problem with some chord-change hacks and some practice. The three chords you’ll use are E major, A major, and B7. Here’s what they look like. folsom prison blues guitar chords.

What Key is Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash?

Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. Key of G (G, G7, C, Hawaiian D7). Note: This is in a higher key than the original song (see the version for the Key of F if you are interested in singing at the original pitch). I apologize that this makes Johnny’s voice sound a little fun. Show more For educational use—Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash.

Is Folsom Prison Blues Legit?

The blues song “Folsom Prison Blues” is a legitimate 12-bar blues. Furthermore, the chords to “Folsom Prison Blues” are a pure rendition of the 12-bar blues, which is a 12-measure standard chord progression that has inspired music worldwide for the past century. The progression is as follows:

Did Dean Get a Mugshot on ‘Folsom Prison Blues’?

The mugshot of Dean in this episode can be seen several times in future episodes. Moreover, the most recent instance was the image that appeared on a wanted poster for Dean in a different timeline in 14.13 Lebanon. In the episode “Folsom Prison Blues” from Season 2, Episode 19, as noted by Bond, Silvia in 2008.

1 thoughts on “How to Play Folsom Prison Blues Guitar: A Step-by-Step Guide

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