It would be difficult to understate the effect Nirvana’s seemingly overnight success had on the music industry at the time. With the release of Smells Like Teen Spirit, the hair-rock/metal scene that had ruled since the late seventies was summarily discarded and left for dead.
Nirvana’s success was driven, in large part, by the strength of their songs and the band’s huge sonic presence. Fortunately for beginner guitarists, these often bigger-than-life sounding songs are actually quite simple to play and easy to learn, most use basic distorted power chords and relatively simple strumming patterns.
We’ve compiled thirteen easy Nirvana songs that are perfect for beginner guitarists to learn and included links to relevant tabs and tutorials. So, whatever your skill-level, give them a try and don’t be discouraged if you can’t mimic Kurt Cobain’s guitar tone; he’s known to have strung at least some of his guitars with piano wire to get his deep, signature sound.
Easy Nirvana Songs To Learn On Guitar
Now that you have some background on Nirvana and their guitar style, let’s dive into some of their easiest songs to learn on guitar. Ready to rock? Let’s go!
1. Smells Like Teen Spirit
Rumor has it Kurt Cobain wrote Smells Like Teen Spirit because he wanted a song with an infectious, toe-tapping guitar riff reminiscent of Boston’s More Than a Feeling. He was also rumored to have forced bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl to play the main riff over and over until they were about ready to mutiny.
Fortunately, guitarist Kurt Cobain won this battle of the wills, and the rest, as they say, is music history. The track went on to win several accolades, including the best alternative video award.
Nirvana’s breakout anthem is deceptively easy to play; check out the tabs and tutorial below.
2. About A Girl
One of the easiest Nirvana songs to learn is About a Girl. Originally a track off the band’s Bleach album, the song enjoyed renewed success thanks to Nirvana’s iconic MTV Unplugged performance.
The more popular version isn’t as fast as the album cut, but both are relatively easy and extremely fun to play.
3. Something In The Way
There are plenty of Nirvana songs you might want on your cardio playlist; Something in the Way is not one of them. Easily the most lethargic song ever recorded by the band (maybe any band) the track off Nevermind is as moving as it is unsettling and requires only two chords to play.
When it comes to Nirvana’s discography, brimming with adrenaline-fueled anthems, the easiest song to tackle on the acoustic guitar would undoubtedly be Something in the Way. For those embarking on their guitar lessons, this easy song serves as a gateway to Nirvana’s evocative repertoire, offering an accessible entry point into their musical landscape.
4. In Bloom
Next on our list of easy Nirvana guitar songs is In Bloom.
Played in standard tuning, In Bloom is a moderately-paced song that utilizes eleven chords–even better, they’re all simple power chords, giving beginner guitarists an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the notes of the low E and A strings.
5. Come As You Are
When Nirvana released Come as You Are, you couldn’t scan your FM dial (I know, I’m old) without finding the song playing on at least one, and often two or more stations. The song was ubiquitous then and has enjoyed steady play even as it made the inevitable transition to “classic rock” stations.
To play Come As You Are, beginners will have to learn a guitar line, as opposed to a chord progression or riff. This is a great exercise for beginner players, though learning this song may prove more challenging than some of the other easy Nirvana songs on our list.
6. All Apologies
The closing track of the album In Utero, All Apologies is another Nirvana song that enjoyed a boost in popularity following Nirvana’s Unplugged performance.
All Apologies may not be the easiest Nirvana song to play–it requires learning a relatively simple guitar line as opposed to merely a chord progression–but it’s good practice and a fun riff to play along to.
7. Drain You
“It’s now my duty to completely drain you:” so read the lyrics of another Nirvana hit, the in-you-face Nevermind offering, “Drain You.”
Fortunately for beginner guitarists and Nirvana fans, learning to play this huge-sounding song shouldn’t drain you at all. Nine basic chords and a relatively straightforward strumming pattern are all you’ll need to nail down this Nirvana classic.
8. Son Of A Gun
Son of a Gun may not be one of Nirvana’s most famous tracks, but it’s a fan favorite and a great song for beginner guitarists to tackle. Originally written and recorded by The Vasolines, Nirvana included a version of the song on their compilation album Incesticide.
Five basic chords are all it takes to play this short and easy song, which has a bouncy strumming pattern that’s loads of fun to play.
As is the case with the song About a Girl, there are two iterations of Nirvana’s Polly. Originally appearing as track six on Nevermind, a faster, electric version was later included on the compilation album Incesticide.
Five basic chords are all a beginner will need to have mastered to play this Nirvana favorite, so turn up your amp or processor and have a go at the tabs and lesson below.
10. Rape Me
Despite an unfortunate title laden with shock-value, one could argue Rape Me is one of Nirvana’s most savagely insightful songs. A track with a great hook and a lot of punch, Rape Me is nonetheless an easy Nirvana song to tackle.
Eight basic chords are the foundation of this heavy-hitting track. It’s also great practice for switching between basic chords–not to mention switching between clean and distorted guitar tones.
The musicality of the song, with the electric guitar taking center stage as a driving force, showcases the brilliance of Nirvana’s simplicity and rawness, while also revealing its versatility as it can be adapted to an acoustic guitar.
11. Molly’s Lips
Originally written and recorded by The Vasolines, Nirvana covered the song Molly’s Lips and included it as tack six on their Incesticide compilation album.
Molly’s Lips may be the easiest Nirvana song to play; it’s literally two chords, G and C, and is played in standard tuning. Even absolute beginners should be able to play along with this fun punk offering, and it’s great practice switching between two of the most basic, oft-used chords.
12. Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam
If you want to play songs by Nirvana (known for their influential contributions to rock music), one of the easiest and most beloved tracks to start is Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam.
This song, originally a cover of a Scottish band called The Vaselines, stands out as one of their easiest to play, making it an ideal choice for budding guitarists.
With its simple guitar chords (E, D, A, and A4) and melodic structure, it showcases Nirvana’s ability to infuse their signature grunge sound into both their original tracks and covers. The catchy hooks of the song and raw emotion make it a must-play for fans of Nirvana’s discography and those looking to explore their music.
13. Heart Shaped Box
In Utero was Nirvana’s highly anticipated follow-up to the insanely successful Nevermind album. The first offering from this effort was the very popular Heart Shaped Box, a brooding, yet explosive song that reminded us (as though anyone needed a reminder) why we loved the band.
Though perhaps a bit more challenging than some of the other offerings on our list of easy Nirvana guitar songs, Heart Shaped Box is not at all difficult to play. But, Hey! Wait–don’t forget to tune your guitar properly before trying to tackle this one–it’s a drop D tuning that is then lowered one-half step.
Check out the tutorial below, where the tuning is broken down in greater detail.
Related Articles: If you enjoyed learning these easy Nirvana songs, you might also like some of our other articles on easy Green Day songs and easy Tom Petty guitar songs for more fun and simple tunes to play.
Nirvana was a band that revolutionized the music scene with their grunge sound and raw emotion. Their songs are not only catchy and powerful, but also easy to play on guitar.
Nirvana’s songs are easier for beginner guitar players because they often use power chords, which are chords that only require two or three fingers to play. They also use a lot of distortion and feedback, which can mask any mistakes or imperfections in your playing.
These songs are also great for practicing your strumming, picking, and soloing skills. You can also experiment with different tunings, effects, and distortion to create your own sound. I hope you enjoy playing them and discover the joy of playing guitar.
About the Author
Thomas M., the founder of Guitar Top Review, boasts 15+ years of guitar experience and was a church band member in L.A. Transitioning from piano to acoustic guitar, his first love remains his Taylor GS Mini. Alongside like-minded hobbyist friends, he launched the site, driven by a deep love for music that transcends professional boundaries.