Folsom Prison Blues: How to Play the Classic Song

If you’re a musician looking to add some folk flair to your repertoire, "Folsom Prison Blues" is a must-learn song. This classic tune has been covered by countless artists, including Johnny Cash and Chet Atkins, and its haunting melody and poignant lyrics have made it an enduring hit.

To play "Folsom Prison Blues," you’ll need a guitar, some chord knowledge, and a willingness to embrace the song’s raw emotion.

Here are the steps to get started:

  1. Choose Your Guitar
    The most common instrument for playing "Folsom Prison Blues" is the six-string acoustic guitar. You can use any size or type of guitar that you prefer, but a standard dreadnought or cutaway guitar will work well. If you’re new to playing, you might want to consider renting a guitar from a local music store until you decide if guitar playing is something you want to pursue long-term.
  2. Learn the Chords
    "Folsom Prison Blues" uses the following chord progression:

    Verse: G7 | C7 | Am7 | F7

    Chorus: D7 | G7 | C7 | D7

    Bridge: G7 | C7 | Am7 | F7

    To learn these chords, you can use online resources or consult a guitar teacher. Remember to practice regularly and gradually increase the speed of your strumming as you become more comfortable with the song.

  3. Understand the Lyrics
    The lyrics of "Folsom Prison Blues" tell the story of a man who has been wrongfully convicted and is now serving time in prison. The song’s haunting melody and somber lyrics make it a powerful statement about the injustice of the criminal justice system. As you practice playing the song, pay attention to the emotions conveyed by the lyrics and try to embody them in your performance.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice
    Like any song, "Folsom Prison Blues" requires practice to master. Start by learning the chord progression slowly and gradually increasing your speed as you become more comfortable with the song. Once you have the chords down, focus on your singing and try to capture the emotion of the lyrics. Remember that it takes time to perfect any skill, so be patient with yourself and keep practicing.
  5. Add Your Own Twist
    One way to make "Folsom Prison Blues" your own is by adding your own twist to the song. You could try experimenting with different chord voicings or adding additional instruments like a harmonica or mandolin. Don’t be afraid to get creative and find ways to express your own unique style within the framework of the song.

In conclusion, "Folsom Prison Blues" is a classic song that has stood the test of time. By learning the chords, understanding the lyrics, practicing regularly, and adding your own twist, you can become a skilled musician and share your love for this powerful tune with others.