Johnny Cash – Hurt Guitar Lesson Video

In this video lesson we will take a look at Johnny Cash's version of the beautiful and haunting "Hurt".

Originally written by Trent Reznor and released on Nine Inch Nails' 1994 album The Downward Spiral, Johnny Cash's 2002 cover of the song has now become more well known than the original.

Johnny Cash simply stripped the entire original recording down to it's dark and stark basics in order to more closely relate it to his own life condition at the time of recording.

Johnny Cash was nearing the end of his life and in extremely frail health. If you watch the video for his version of "Hurt", you can see that is readily apparent. By the way, the video is incredible and was rated the greatest music video of all time by the NME. You should definitely check it out. 🙂

This stripped down version is acoustic based with mostly acoustic guitar and piano.

In this Hurt guitar lesson video I will show you how to play all of those acoustic guitar parts and in the pre-chorus and chorus I will combine the piano and guitar layers into one easy to play part.

The opening of the song acts as the verse throughout. It consists of some simple arpeggiated picking around three basic chords. From there we reach the pre-chorus where once again things remain pretty basic. The strumming pattern is very simple and the only difficulty you may have with my arrangement is that I use my thumb to play a note of the 6th string in both the pre-chorus and chorus. However, it isn't required for you to do the same, simply leave the thumb off and it will sound fine. I like using the thumb there since it creates a much fuller sound for that chord.

So there isn't much more to talk about from a technical standpoint in this Hurt guitar lesson video. It is a basic song that has a very dramatic and soul searching purpose and does so in an extremely moving fashion.

It is suitable for players beginner to advanced.

I hope my lesson does this incredible song justice! 🙂


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Hurt Guitar Lesson - Johnny Cash


  1. Axel Slottr on January 14, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Hey, Carl, thanks! Your lessons have helped me a bunch 🙂 I’m really keen on learning a popular Finnish song, I Will Stay by Hurriganes, any chance you’ve heard it and might want to make a lesson of it? It’s supposed to be quite easy but I can’t seem to get it right…

  2. Jason Fredensborg on February 18, 2019 at 11:02 am

    I know you aren’t the biggest country fan, but have you ever thought of doing some Willie Nelson? “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” has some nice nylon string in it. Same with “I Never Cared For You”

    • Carl Brown on February 18, 2019 at 11:27 am

      Hmmm… Yeah I don’t have a big country following by a long shot. Haha… But I’m down to do it if there is enough interest for it. 🙂

  3. Troy on May 22, 2021 at 11:48 am

    Originally this was a NIN song but I think I like Johnny Cash’s version. Thanks to you I was able to pick up this song pretty quick. Any chance you might do the vocal melody on guitar as well at some point?

  4. Anymonus on June 6, 2022 at 11:37 am

    You should really add the song I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash

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