Folsom Prison Blues
by Johnny Cash • Lesson #72 • May 28, 2017
Let’s learn how to play Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash! In video lesson I’ll teach the chords, strumming pattern, tabs for the intro, and even how to strum with alternating bass notes. 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!
Free Video Lesson
- 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
Print-Friendly Song Sheet 2 pages
Follow along with my print-friendly guide for this song! It’s available for purchase at Musicnotes.com, the web’s leading provider of licensed sheet music.
On the fence? Here's a guide I made showing the purchase & print process, including answers to common questions about my song sheets.Buy at Musicnotes.com
Save 50% on this song sheet by applying the September 2023 code at Musicnotes checkout: WRKGBMXP7Y (click to copy). Thanks for being a Premium supporter!
Lyrics with chords
Capo 1st fret to play along with Johnny Cash’s album version
See my sheet music for the lyrics with chords.
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).
See my sheet music for intro tab.
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.
See my sheet music for strumming pattern diagrams.
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).
Fun & Helpful Tools I've Made
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!
September 15, 2023
September 11, 2023
September 8, 2023
September 1, 2023
August 31, 2023
August 29, 2023
August 18, 2023
August 17, 2023
August 12, 2023
August 8, 2023
Browse All My Lessons
By lesson type
- Strumming & Rhythm
- Walk-Ups & Walk-Downs
- Learning Barre Chords
- Travis Picking
- Learning Chords
By musical genre
By musical key
By popular artist
- Johnny Cash
- Tyler Childers
- Tom Petty
- Neil Young
- Chris Stapleton
- Willie Nelson
- Guy Clark
- John Prine