Ring Of Fire By Johnny Cash – Guitar Lesson (Tabs, Chords)


Probably the first thing everyone will think of when they hear Ring of Fire is Johnny Cash. However, the song was written by his wife June Carter Cash with Merle Kilgore’s help. The song appeared on the 1963 album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash. 

Before that, it was recorded by Anita Carter (June’s sister), and it appeared on her album Folk Songs Old and New. While the name of the song might sound dangerous, it refers to falling in love. June wrote about her feelings for Johnny.

Johnny talked to Anita when the song was released, and he said that he will give her six months. If the song isn’t a hit by then, he would record his own version. In his version, Cash added horns, and both June and Anita sang harmonies in it. 

There have been numerous covers of Ring of Fire, and the most successful one was by Eric Burdon & the Animals. It was recorded in 1968 and managed to reach the top forty in four other countries. 

Today, Ring of Fire is considered one of the songs that perfectly summarize Johnny Cash’s career, and it is one of his biggest hits.

Tuning And Tempo

The song uses standard tuning. The tempo of the song is 105 bpm. The song is easy and well suited for beginners. The chord changes are easy but the strumming pattern is a bit fast-paced. Once you get the hang of the strumming pattern you pretty much mastered the song.

Guitar Chords

This song uses just three chords the entire song. All the chord in this is are open chords. Some guitarists prefer to use a regular C chord instead of the Cadd9 chord. But I think the Cadd9 chord makes chord changing so much easier, especially for beginners.

Once you got all the chords figured. The chord placement is current and sounds good without any muted strings. You can proceed to learn the strumming pattern.

Strumming Pattern

The strumming pattern is a bit tricky on this song. But this is the only challenging thing. There are a couple of different things in this song that make it a bit different and challenging in terms of the strumming.

The first thing is that song uses a nonstandard 4/4 time signature that you probably used to. The song uses 2/4 and 1/4 time signatures. The good thing is they are relatively similar to the 4/4 time signature. Unlike the four beats that are in the 4/4 time signature, the 2/4 has two beats in a bar, and the 1/4 has only one beat. That’s it, you just need to keep that in mind when counting the beats.

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However, If you don’t know how to count the beats check out the musical notation section in my theory lesson Guitar Music Theory In-Depth Basics

The 2nd thing is that the main strumming uses 16th notes. Sixteenth notes can be intimidating. But once you break down the strumming pattern into smaller steps it will be easier for you to play them. So, if you are having a hard time playing the strumming pattern you can follow the following steps:

  1. Slow down. It is important to strumming to a correct rhythm. Play the song at 3/4 or less of the original speed so you can play everything correctly. In this case, set your metronome to 70-80 bpm.
  2. Strum just the downbeats of the strumming pattern, not the downstrokes (downbeat is when you hit the floor with your foot). The downbeats of this strumming pattern are found only on the 1st beat.
  3. Add the upbeats of the strumming pattern, not the upstrokes (upbeat is when you raise your foot from the floor). The upbeats of this strumming pattern are; 1st &, 2nd &.
  4. Incorporate the in-between the downbeat and the upbeat (a.k.a the 16th notes) to the strumming pattern. The 16th notes in this strumming pattern are; 1st a, 2nd e.

If you are still not sure how to play those 16th notes. Just remember this. In each beat, there are four 16th notes. That means that you need to strum four times the guitar at an equal pace each time your foot hits the floor. Or, twice each time your foot moves from down to up (downbeat, upbeat)

Main Chord Progression & Strumming Pattern

Once you matered the chord and the strumming pattern it is time to combine them. The song have only two main parts. The Verse and the Chorus. They both use the same strumming pattern but there are some differences in chord changes between them. Each of the verse played once and the chorus come right after the verse and played twice.

You can click on the images to view them at full size.

Verse

Chorus

Ring Of Fire Tabs & Chords & Lyrics

Intro

        G           C   G     G           C   G
e|--------------------------|--------------------|
B|--------------------------|--------------------|
G|--------------------------|--------------------|
D|-------0--0-0-0-0--2---0--|--------------------|
A|-2-3-4---------------3----|--2--2-2-2-2--3-0-2-|
E|--------------------------|--------------------|

Verse

G         C       G
Love is a burnin' thing
        G      D      G
And it makes a firery ring
G        C    G
Bound by wild desire
G             D       G
I fell into a ring of fire

Chorus

D             C               G
I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
       D                       C           G
I went down down down, and the flames went higher
       G
And it burns burns burns
    C       G         D       G
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

Chorus

D             C               G
I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
       D                       C           G
I went down down down, and the flames went higher
       G
And it burns burns burns
    C       G         D       G
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

Verse

G         C       G
The Taste Of Love Is Sweet
        G      D      G
When Hearts Like Ours Meet
G        C    G
I Fell For You Like A Child
G             D       G
Ohh, But The Fire Went Wild

Chorus

D             C               G
I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
       D                       C           G
I went down down down, and the flames went higher
       G
And it burns burns burns
    C       G         D       G
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

Chorus

D             C               G
I fell into a burnin' ring of fire
       D                       C           G
I went down down down, and the flames went higher
       G
And it burns burns burns
    C       G         D       G
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

Outro

       G
And it burns burns burns
    C       G         D       G
The ring of fire, the ring of fire - repeat until fade

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Jacob

I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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