Hurt | fingerstyle guitar
Photo by Nathan Mullet | Unsplash


Free download of this performance on SoundCloud.

Hurt was originally written and performed by Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor). It was actually a pivotal NIN song long before the seminal Johnny Cash cover. [The dissonant note in my intro is an ode to the NIN original.]

In a similar but reverse concept, Jimi Hendrix covered and electrified Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and it became a top 20 hit in 1968. Dylan has said, “I took license with the song from (Jimi’s) version, actually, and continue to do it to this day. Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.”

The vulnerable and fragile performance of Johnny Cash really extrapolated Reznor’s themes of self-harm, addiction, and depression. Cash’s version of Hurt completely took over the cultural consciousness of the song. So much so, that if you polled music fans ages 35 and under — most have no idea that Hurt is actually a Nine Inch Nails song.

Trent Reznor has praised the Cash version, going so far as to say “that song isn’t mine anymore.”

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Gear used

For this arrangement, I used my Cordoba C7 guitar. It has a cedar top which makes the guitar sound darker and warmer. This guitar was the right choice for Hurt. You can find a current list of my gear here.

How to play Hurt | fingerstyle guitar

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This arrangement is easy to play, and beautifully written across 3 pages. I recommend this piece for beginner to intermediate guitar players . Enjoy the guitar tab is available below:

The chord shapes for this song are basic and very easy to play. The Intro and Verse consist of just 3 basic chords: Am, C, and F. It doesn’t get much easier than that. My order of play looks like this, in accordance with he guitar tab:

Intro 2x, Verse 2x, Chorus

Intro 1x, Verse 2x, Chorus

Intro 2x

Hurt | fingerstyle guitar

This arrangement is played one whole step down, from low to high: D G C F A D. However, the original performance by NIN and Cash is played in standard tuning. Given Johnny Cash’s voice, the deeper guitar seemed like a better fit.

Written by:

Matthew's dad, Jennifer's husband, bass player - New Invisible Joy, YouTuber, short-film composer, creator of modern content for guitar.