When you listen to Johnny Cash songs, there is a unique Country sound. The second you hear it. You know it’s Johnny cash! After a lot of time invested hours in listening to Johnny Cash songs. Figuring out the chords, Strumming Patterns and Rhythm. Now I know and can explain how do you play guitar like Johnny Cash.
This is how you play guitar like Johnny Cash: Country Chords, Bass line Picking, Muting the strings. Picking Individual notes. And Keeping in time with a Country style strumming pattern.
If you want to know how to play your guitar like Johnny Cash. Then keep reading I will explain it so that you can play it. And I have 3 Bonus Video’s. Guitar lessons of Johnny Cash songs so that you too will know how to play guitar like Johnny Cash.
So lets get started.
Johnny Cash Strumming
The strumming pattern that is used in a lot of classic country songs. Is the same pattern that gives Johnny Cash songs that unique rhythm.
I call it bass line picking. This can be heard in a lot of the Johnny Cash songs. So lets learn how to play that Rhythm pattern. First we will need some country chords. These chords of course can be heard in all forms of music. But the way they are played are always heard in Country music.
We will start with chords E A and B7. What I will show you is how to play these three chords in Country style. Just like Johnny Cash would play the chord.
Next look at the chord diagrams. If you are not familiar with chord diagrams, take a look at this quick reference how to read chord charts.
In case your not familiar with these open chords. I will explain how to position your fingers to play the chords. If you already know how to play them look below for how to play the chords Johnny Cash style.
Playing the E chord Finger Position
- Place your first finger on the 3rd string. (G string). At the first fret.
- Your second finger is on the A string. (5th string). Also at the second fret.
- Then your third finger is on the D string. 4th string, second fret.
- When strumming the E chord you can strum all the strings.
How to Position Your Fingers to Play the A Chord
- Place Your first finger on the 4th string. The D string. At the second fret.
- Your second finger is on the 3rd string. Which is the G string. Also at the second fret.
- Then your third finger is on the B string. At the second fret. This is the 2nd string.
- When strumming don’t play the 5th or 6th strings.
B7 Finger Position
- Place your first finger on the 4th string at the 1st fret. The D string.
- Next place your second finger on the 5th string at the second fret. (A string).
- Your third finger is on the 3rd string at the 2nd fret. (G string).
- Then your Pinkie is on the 1st string at the second fret. (E string).
- Strum the first 5 strings only.
You can play the B7 chord without your pinkie. Which of course makes it easier to play. If you are not going to use that fourth finger. Then don’t play the high E string.
Play Guitar Like Johnny Cash – With the E Chord
When Playing the E chord. After setting up your fingers of your fretting hand in position. Then you are going to pick the E string. Which is the 6th string. Then strum the E chord. After that you want to pick the A string. Which is the 5th string.
Then you go back and forth. Picking the 6th string. And then strumming and picking the 5th string. Strumming again after that. Practice playing the E chord. Picking and strumming 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. Strumming on the “and”.
When practicing playing this way, be sure to count. In fact when practicing songs, strumming, playing notes. count. Not just count, but count out loud. I know that sounds funny. But you will see how easy things become. When you take it slow and count out loud. Then once you get it. Count in your head to yourself.
Now lets look at how to play the A chord this way.
Strumming the A chord Like Johnny Cash
After placing your fretting hand on the strings. To the A open position. Then you are going to pick the A string. Which is the 5th string. Then strum the A chord. After strumming the chord. Pick the E string. Which is the 6th string. Like when playing the E chord. You are going to pick and strum. And pick and strum. Remember counting to 4.
Practice playing the A chord like this. Then once you get good at strumming the A chord in this Country pattern. Then practice going from the E chord to the A chord.
Once you have that down then you can learn how to play the B7 chord.
How to Play the B7 Chord Johnny Cash Style
On your mark, get set, go! Place your hands in position to play the B7 chord. When playing this chord in the Country strumming pattern. You want to pick the A chord. And then strum the B7 chord. Then Pick the E chord. And strum the B7 chord.
But the trick to this is; When playing the E string. You want to take your second finger. And move it up to the 6th string. Pick the E string, strum the B chord. Move your finger back to the 5th string. Pick the A string. And strum again.
Practice playing these 3 chords. Once your ready, try playing them in this Johnny Cash song. How to Play Folsom Prison Blues.
Warning: It is a fast Tempo, But Just learn it and play at your Speed!
Individual Notes Also Made Johnny Cash Songs Unique
After hours of research its not just the strumming that made Johnny Cash songs Great. But the Picking of the notes are in almost all of his songs. I’m not going to get into the individual notes. Because I already have a lesson that shows the notes that are played.
Since you already know how to play the A chord and the E chord in the Johnny Cash Style. Take a look at How to Play Tennessee Flat Top Box on my YouTube Channel. Don’ forget to Subscribe!
Come back to get Part 2 of this video lesson: How to Play Tennessee Flat Top Box.
How do You Play Guitar Like Johnny Cash– Mute the Strings.
Do you agree? When you listen to Johnny Cash songs. I expect to see a train coming through the living room. That’s that sweet Rhythm pattern that sounds so good.
The next thing you want to do when playing. To get that Johnny Cash guitar sound. Mute the strings. Use your strumming hand to mute the strings. When you do this you get this chunky sound. That’s part of the overall sound you are hearing. When you are listening to Johnny Cash guitar playing.
How do you accomplish this? I’m glad you asked. First you want to use the fleshy part of your picking hand. For me that would be my right hand. But if you are left handed then it is your left hand.
Use that fatty part of your hand. And softly place it against the strings. If you are not used to right hand muting, this might be a little tricky. The reason being, is you want to place your hand hard enough to mute the strings. But to hard, and the strings will become completely muted.
So I recommend moving your hand in different areas on the strings. Until it sounds nice to your ears. That’s the sound that you want to capture.
Somewhere between the bridge and sound hole. You want to place your hand close to the Bridge of the guitar.
A perfect example of this. Is in the song Cry Cry Cry by Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash Guitar Lesson
There are so many Great Johnny Cash songs. But if you want a Johnny Cash guitar lesson. You need to see How to Play Tennessee Flat Top Box. On my YourGuitarGuide YouTube Channel. Don’t forget to like and Subscribe.
Johnny Cash Guitar Name
A lot of guitar players, especially famous guitar players. Name their guitars. Some of those you may of heard of before. One of the most famous BB King. He named his guitar Lucille. Then you have Eric Clapton’s guitar, named Blackie. Source
Then you have Johnny Cash. What is the name of Johnny Cash’s guitar? As far as I can see the name of his guitar is a D28 Martin. See this guitar on Guitar Center.
What’s a good name for a guitar?
10 good names for a guitar.
- Pearly Gates
- Betty Jean
- Old Black
- Red Special
Thanks for checking out this post. I hope you got some good information. That you will be able to use on your journey. You may also be interested in 15 Beginner Country Guitar songs. Or some of the posts listed below. Thanks, Catch you on the flip side.
- Remember When – Alan Jackson Guitar Lesson
- What Guitars are Good for the Blues
- Buddy Guy Guitar Lesson – Inspired (How to Play Licks & Riffs)
- Is it Hard to Learn Blues Guitar?
- How to Play Are the Good Times Really Over (Guitar Lesson)