Nirvana was at the forefront of the Seattle grunge scene in the late 1980s and into the 90s. Their sound grew out of punk, pop and rock, and Kurt Cobain’s guitar style could almost be considered minimalist in that he mostly used power chords and mixed them with driving riffs.
Guitar players have long loved playing their songs as the parts are generally not too challenging and are very accessible to intermediate players.
This electric set of lessons, all done by Max Rich, includes acoustic versions of three of the songs as bonuses.
Lesson 1: Smells Like Teen Spirit
Smells Like Teen Spirit is probably Nirvana's most famous and recognizable song, released on their album "Nevermind" in 1991. It's got that great iconic intro riff that almost every guitar player learns at some point in their playing career. It's basically just power chords and dead notes, and is a really good example of how you can keep a groove going with rhythmic elements without adding to the melodic cluster of sound. Aside from that there's just two single notes that you play before going back into the riff, making this a really good song for beginners to get under theirs fingers and practice playing in the pocket.
Lesson 2: Heart Shaped Box
Heart-Shaped Box was released as a single on Nirvana's album "In Utero" in 1993. This song's in drop D tuning which is always interesting to play in. It has some cool arpeggiated riffs, which is atypical of Nirvana's usual power chord centric guitar parts. Even though you still play power chords in the verses, they're arpeggiated which gives them a bit more movement and keeps things interesting. In the chorus, you switch from arpeggios to block chords with a high pitched bend that sounds almost like two guitar parts. This song uses a lot of bending, palm muting, and down picking techniques, as well as slurs and pulloffs, so there's a lot to practice in this one.
Lesson 3: Drain You
Drain You is a great song from Nirvana's album "Nevermind" released in 1996. This is an intense song, consisting of almost all power chords that play in a driving straight forward rhythm. The bridge has a single string descending melodic line that gives you a great chance to practice your clean picking and vibrato techniques. This song's mostly about playing in the pocket and laying down a solid foundation for the vocals to sing over. Try practicing this song with a metronome to get your phrasing down solid while training your sense of time.
Lesson 4: Come As You Are
Come As Your Are is an iconic Nirvana song off of their 1992 release "Nevermind". It has a crazy phaser and delay effect that gives its relatively simple riff a really interesting, almost haunting quality. After the riff you'll mostly be playing three note chords that are broken up by power chords that are interspersed throughout the song. This one's pretty beginner friendly and a great song to practice your overall guitar playing because it separates the chords, single string riffs, and lead melodies into separate sections, so there's something for everyone to work on.
Lesson 5: All Apologies
All Apologies is a great single from Nirvana's third album "In Utero" released in 1993. This song is in drop D tuning and has a really cool droning type effect that comes from hitting the low D string an letting it ring out while you play a single note melody on the A string. This song actually features a cello as well, but it's also arranged for guitar so you can mimic its parts from the original track. It goes into an intense and distorted power chord 8th note pattern that's easier to play than it sounds . Nirvana's music was less about technicality and more about the emotion and structure of the music, so it's more about playing with a good musical sense rather than shredding. The rhythm guitar in particular has this cool metal influenced riff where you play a palm muted open D with a sharp staccato melody on the fifth string.
Lesson 6: Heart Shaped Box - Nirvana - Guitar Lesson
Starting off with a clean, dropped-D arpeggio lick and blasting into a raging chorus, Heart Shaped Box runs the gamut of a Nirvana song.
In this lesson you’ll learn all the parts to this hit, and how to make the most out your technique while jamming on a grunge classic!
Lesson 7: Drain You by Nirvana - Guitar Lesson
This hard-hitting Nirvana jam is a power chord workout for guitar players. With a dark and foreboding interlude that culminates in a shrieking guitar lick, Drain You is sure to quench any Nirvana fan’s thirst for guitar knowledge.
Lesson 8: All Apologies - Nirvana - Guitar Lesson
Nirvana is a band with depth, energy and raw emotion, and this song exemplifies all of the above.
All Apologies is a tune that utilizes a drop-D tuning and floats from a haunting clean riff with a dark drone to a crunchy and raging chorus filled with driving guitar.
No matter what part of the song, or your playing level, with this lesson you will have this Nirvana hit under your fingertips in no time!