Founded by lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in 1987 in Aberdeen, Washington, Nirvana, one of the most notorious American rock bands of all times as their music continues to influence and inspire the rock and roll world.
Established as a fundamental part of the Seattle Grunge scene, they developed their particular sound, which brings the contrast between quiet verses and loud, energetic choruses. It is a mixture of pop melodies and noise that accompany their punk aesthetic and their array of socially concerned themes such as social alienation and sexism.
The first single of their second album Nevermind Smells Like Teen Spirit, reached mainstream success after its launch in 1991 and became a massive phenomenon that led to the certification of the album as Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Having sold more than a 75million records worldwide, Nirvana is one of the best-selling bands of all time.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
One of the most recognizable songs of the rock genre, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana is the first single from their album Nevermind released in 1991. Considered as one of the anthems of the 90s music, the tune has a memorable riff that is pretty entertaining to play. It is a great example of Nirvana-style riffs, solos, and lyrics, making this song an iconic song that every Nirvana fan should master.
Mastering this riff will require learning some techniques such as palm mutes and power chords. It will also help your hands with strumming and quickly transiting between power chords. When you are comfortable with the rhythm, you can try playing the introductory solo of the song, which is an excellent solo for beginners with easy positions, basic techniques, and slow rhythm.
Written by Kurt Cobain, In Bloom is the second track in Nevermind; the song was written by Kurt Cobain and addressed the mainstream listeners of the underground rock scene as a critic. Cobain was never comfortable with the idea of being compared to the other bands of the grunge scene of Seattle. The music video directed by Kevin Kerslake is a parody of the musical shows of the music scene of the sixties.
Ironically, the tunes in this song are so catchy that many people worldwide sang along to them without understanding their real meaning.
To play this song, you will need to use slides, power chords, and mutes as well as some effects such as distortion in the verse parts. If you feel comfortable with the rest, you can try your chances with its easy solo.
If you like rock riffs and want to learn more of easy and famous guitar riffs, you should check out my list Top 45 Famous & Easy Guitar Riffs For Beginners – Tabs Included
The third single of Nevermind, released in July 1992, was also written by the lead voice of the band Kurt Cobain and its lyrics are about a man who searches religion as a solution for his pain when he’s struggling with suicidal impulses. Cobain considered religion as a necessary vice for some people to save themselves.
The song is played with single-note melodies and power chord partitions along with the techniques such as mutes and legatos. It is ultimately an easy song to learn and play. You can turn on the distortion on the chorus while the verses are played with a clean tone.
Come As You Are
Released as a single on the 3rd march of 1992, Come As You Are is the third track of their second album Nevermind, written by frontman Kurt Cobain. After some persuasion, the song was released as the second single of the album due to its great commercial potential. Cobain described the lyrics of this song as contradictory and said that they care about people and the way they are expected to act.
To play this song, you’ll need to learn techniques such as power chords and dead notes. If you feel this is easy for you, surely the easy solo won’t present any obstacles in your mastering of the song.
The Man Who Sold The World
Originally composed and written by English singer and songwriter David Bowie, The Man Who Sold The World is also the title track of his third album released in 1970. The 1993 MTV Unplugged version of the song by Nirvana became the most famous version of it and was included in the album MTV Unplugged New York in 1994.
Nirvana’s version received a considerable amount of airplay on the rock music stations. It was also placed on heavy rotation on MTV, which led to its great commercial success and placed it at number 3 on MTV’s most-played videos in 1995.
For this song, you will only need easy open chords such as C, Am, E, G, and barre chord G#, which can be problematic for absolute beginners, as well as simple strumming patterns. You can have a slight overdrive in your clean tone for the main melody.
If you like acoustic rock tunes, you should take a loot at my article to learn more of them 35 Famous & Easy Acoustic Guitar Rock Riffs For Beginners
The third track of Nirvana’s third and last studio album In Utero was released as the lead single of the album in august 1993. The song reached number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and hit the top 10 in several countries. Heart-Shaped Box was the last song Kurt Cobain played live with Nirvana in Munich, Germany, in March 1994.
This song starts with some arpeggios and moves on to the power chords and palm-muted verses during the chorus, and you can have some overdrive in your tone and there is a very easy solo, ideal for beginners. Try to make the bends properly on the chorus to make the melody sound nice.
About A Girl
About A Girl, originally written in 1988, first appears in the band’s debut album Bleach in 1989 despite the concerns Cobain had about including it in the album as the song is too pop for the large grunge public that followed them back then. The lyrics address his broken relationship with his back-then girlfriend, Tracy Marander.
The song primarily alternates between the open chords of Em and G in the verses and follows an easy chord progression during the refrain. A good clean tone will do the job for this one.
Territorial Pissings from Nirvana’s famous Nevermind album is a great song that is lesser-known yet shines with its amazing guitar riffs and melodies. The song is famous as its lyrics talk about how they used to destroy the instruments at the end of their shows, like during the famous incident in the Saturday Night Live show.
This song is mainly played with power chords with some single-note melodies. The bridge part is amazing with palm-muted single notes and open double stops.
If you are searching for more easy and famous electric guitar songs to play, this list might just be perfect for you Top 60 Famous & Easy Electric Guitar Songs – Tabs Included
You Know You’re Right
Released the 2 October 2002, You Know You’re Right was the last song recorded by the band in 1994 before Cobain’s suicide. The song is the first track of the self-named greatest hits album. The song became the center of a legal dispute between Courtney Love and Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl as they both wanted the song for different releases.
This short and easy song features single notes partitions along with power chords and palm mutes. There is a part where you should use the tremolo picking technique at the end of the chorus.
Released in 1990, the song wasn’t part of any album but was re-released in the compilation Incesticide by DGC in December 1992 with a new music video to promote the album. With the most literal lyrics ever written by Cobain, the song tells the story of a kid left to spend the day with his grandparents and having a hard time.
For this song, the chords you’ll need are C5, A5, and F5, along with some distortion for the chorus parts. You can also play the bass melody on your guitar which is very easy and fun to play.
Sliver Guitar Tabs
Where Did You Sleep Last Night
Also known as In The Pines, Hey Girl, and My Girl, Where Did You Sleep Last Night is an American folk song from around the 1870s and is believed to be from the south of the Apalachee. The song was occasionally played by the band during the 90s, but Nirvana’s version gained recognition, especially after their performance in the MTV Unplugged in 1993.
To play Where Did You Sleep Last Night, you’ll make use of open chords E, A, and G and barre chord B. You can use a nice clean tone with a bit of reverb for the tune or you can directly use an acoustic guitar. It is a nice song to play and sing along with.
If you are after easy and slow acoustic guitar tunes, you can find them here Top 40 Famous & Easy Slow Guitar Songs For Beginners – Tabs Included
Something In The Way
The 12th track of Nirvana’s second album Nevermind is the last song listed, even though most copies of Nevermind feature a hidden track after around 10 minutes of silence called “Endless, Nameless.” Written by Cobain in 1990, the first attempts of recording the song with the whole band were unsuccessful, so they ended up recording the song just starting with the guitar and vocals, as it sounded way better, according to Butch Vig.
The chords you’ll need for this song are Em and C/G, as well as a pretty simple strumming pattern that will allow you to master this track in no time. The original song is played with a capo on the 1st fret but you can adjust it depending on your vocal range.
Written by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain, Rape Me is the fourth song of their final studio album In Utero, released in September 1993. This was the last single released before Cobain committed suicide in 1994. Rape Me is an anti-rape song whose defiant tone led to the fact that Cobain had to frequently explain the meaning of the lyrics and how this song was actually a way of raising awareness against sexism.
This song features power chords and palm mutes, as well as an alternation between clean guitar notes and heavy distortion parts. The verses are played clean with single-note arpeggios and double stops while the choruses use a heavy distortion along with power chords.
Written by Cobain, Novoselic, and Grohl, this song first appeared in the side B of the single Smells Like Teen Spirit in 1991, and then a second studio version appeared in the compilation Incesticide in December 1992. This song was described as the first of a half dozen songs dedicated to Cobain’s break up with the musician Tobi Vail in 1990 and considered as an attempt to win her back.
Aneurysm is pretty much composed of single notes and power chords. The arrangement begins with an extended introduction, opening with an echoed, descending guitar riff. The bridges feature repetitive single notes while other parts are played with different kinds of power chords.
If you want more songs with power chords to play with heavy distortion and feel like a rock star, this article is full of them Top 45 Famous & Easy Power Chord Songs For Beginners – Tabs Included
Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam
Originally called Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam by the alternative rock Scottish band the Vaselines, Nirvana made a cover of it which was released during the MTV Unplugged in New York Album.
To play Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam, you’ll need to play the chords D, C, G, and Cadd9; the song has a pretty straightforward strumming pattern that doesn’t add any difficulty to the technique.
The 12th and final song of the third and final studio album by Nirvana In Utero, All Apologies, was written by frontman Kurt Cobain. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 1995 and was included in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame’s list of Songs That Shaped The Rock and Roll.
This song oscillates between simple single notes and some power chords but most of the song is played with the single-note main melody. It is a great melody to learn and master as it has many different techniques and great-sounding parts. You can add a bit of reverb and slight distortion to replicate the original sound.
Written by Cobain in 1989, this song was first called Imodium after an anti-diarrhea medicine used by his colleague in one of his European tours. Breed is the fourth song of their second album Nevermind released in September 1991.
The song follows a basic sequence of power chords with single-note repeated verses. You have to be comfortable on the fretboard with power chords to play this song as there are power chords all over the fretboard.
If you want some easy solos to play like the solos of Nirvana, this list might just be ideal for you Top 50 Famous&Easy Guitar Solos For Beginners – Tabs Included
Written by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain was first released as a hidden track in the AIDS-benefit compilation album No Alternative in October 1993, greatly contributing to the compilation’s popularity even though the song wasn’t listed for legal reasons.
The song follows a basic sequence of Dm–B♭–G–A–B♭–C in the verses as its power chord progression. It is a straightforward song to learn and play. Also, the solo is very elementary, perfect for absolute beginners.
Dumb is a song written by the lead musician of Nirvana Kurt Cobain, and it is the sixth song of their final album In Utero. This song has been described as Beatlesque and also as a beautiful, low-key pop song from the beginning to the end.
Dumb features the following notes Em, A, G, C, E5, and barre chord B, which can be hard for absolute beginners. However, it is an easy song to learn, and with some patience and training, you can easily get the hang of the barring technique.
The first son of Nirvana’s debut album Bleach, Blew was written by Kurt Cobain and was released in June 1989. Re-released in a four-song Nirvana EP in the UK, the song made the charts in number 15 on the UK Indie Singles Chart.
This song is composed of power chords in the intro and chorus and single notes in verse. You’ll also need techniques such as slides and hammer-ons.
If you like playing grunge tunes, here are some famous-and-easy grunge songs to learn and play Top 40 Famous&Easy Grunge Guitar Songs/Riffs – Tabs Included
A lesser-known song by Nirvana, School, is the fourth song of Nirvana’s first album Bleach. This song was written about Sub Pop and the grunge scene of Seattle, known as the Seattle Sound. The lyrics consist of only 15 words.
The intro and verse of this song consist of single notes whilst the chorus of power chords with few dead notes.
Written by vocalist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic the track was released as the B-side of the band’s second single Sliver in September 1991.
To play this song, you’ll need C, Am, barre F, G, and Em Chords along with a strum pattern with triplets and muted strums. The intro is kind of enjoyable with single-picked bass notes followed by chords and mutes.
Released in June 1989, this song is the seventh song on their debut album, Bleach. It is the only son in the album that finishes with an extended fade-out giving it a 1960’s psychedelic vibe. Negative Creep is an example of Seattle’s grunge sound.
To play this song, you’ll need to tune your guitar to Drop D tuning. For the rest, it is mostly two notes power chords with slides. A great example of Nirvana-style riffs.
Originally by the Dutch rock band Shocking Blue, Love Buzz, the song was released by Nirvana in their debut single in 1988. It was the first single in the Sub Pop Singles Club and was limited to 1000 numbered copies.
Love Buzz consists mainly of single notes and some power chords in the chorus. The solo is easy and is a typical Nirvana solo with bends and legatos, replicating the vocal lines.
Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
From their third studio album, In Utero, Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle is a song about the Seattle actress Frances Farmer who was accused of being an atheist, alcoholic and communist. She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and severe depression and was secluded by a psychiatrist, where according to her autobiography, she was raped and had an illegal lobotomy.
In this song, you’ll need power chords and techniques such as slides, palm mutes, and hammer-ons while playing the power chords.
Written by Cobain, Grohl, and Novoselic, this song is the second track of their third studio album In Utero, released in September 1993. This is one of the few songs credited to the three band members of Nirvana as the guitar Riff was written by Grohl and not by Kurt Cobain, who instead added a descending guitar riff over the main riff while Novoselic helped compose the second part of the song.
For Scentless Apprentice, you’ll need to tune your guitar half step-down. Even if it’s not a hard tune, absolute beginners might have some trouble with the speed of the power chords.
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
The 10th song of Nirvana’s last studio album In Utero, Radio Friendly Unit Shifter was written in 1990 and was the song used to open almost all of Nirvana’s concerts of their In Utero Tour.
This song features lots of distortion and bends along with slides, palm mutes, and of course, distorted power chords.
Serve The Servants
The first song of their last studio album, In Utero, Serve The Servants, talks about Kurt Cobain’s parents’ divorce, the negative press given to his wife Courtney Love, his problematic relationship with his father, and the success of his previous song, Smells Like Teen Spirit.
This lesser-known song by Nirvana is nonetheless easy to play with basic arpeggios and chords as riffs.
Included like the side B of their single Heart-Shaped Box, Milk It treats both the relationship between fans and artist and themes referring to the female body as he had done in other songs too. This song was apparently described by Kurt Cobain as the new Nirvana.
Featuring lots of power chords, this song requires lots of techniques such as bends, hammer-ons, slides, and vibratos. It is a great song to learn by novice musicians to progress with their techniques.
The seventh song of Nirvana’s album In Utero, written by Kurt Cobain, talks mainly about the toxic masculinity and stereotypical machismo that Cobain hated so much and that he criticized as well in other songs such as In Bloom and Territorial Pissings.
MAinly composed by power chords, Very Ape requires techniques such as slides, hammer-ons, and dead notes. The power chord melodies are excellent to practice some techniques while playing the three-note chords.
Mastering and learning these great songs by Nirvana will make you progress a lot with your technique, especially regarding power chords, palm mutes, slides, and hammer-ons.
Many of Nirvana’s songs have almost a mythical character that will enrich your repertoire while you have fun perfecting your playing skills.
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