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Learn How to Play Nirvana’s Iconic ‘Come as You Are’

The early-‘90s hit helped push grunge to the forefront and changed the face of music for a generation.

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz5GbLPhuRk&feature=youtu.be

When Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came out in 1991, was an immediate and forceful shot across the bow of ‘80s metal excess and bubblegum pop sensibilities, turning the music industry and those who consumed its wares upside down.

What was this new genre called “grunge?” And who was this mercurial frontman with the shaggy hair and impeccable choices in striped or plaid clothing?

With that one song, Kurt Cobain (the aforementioned frontman) and Nirvana became the standard-bearers of a new movement that came to define a generation. And with the release of the seminal album Nevermind a few months later causing the band to gain white-hot acclaim, it was a tough decision to deem a worthy follow-up single.

Cobain was initially hesitant about “Come as You Are” being the second single, as he feared it bore too much of a similarity to the English rock outfit Killing Joke’s 1984 track, “Eighties,” but it proved to be a wise choice. The song crossed over to the mainstream, doubling down on credibility for the burgeoning band from the Seattle area.

“Come as You Are” is instantly recognizable for the murky, ominous riff that runs through it. And if you want to play it, remember that tone is everything.

To dive deeper into “Come as You Are,” you’ll need to know simple chords like F#5, A, B5 and D5, along with techniques such as eighth-note strumming, alternate strumming, syncopated strumming and syncopated downpicking. If you’d rather focus on single notes, the solo on “Come As You Are” is fun to play, thanks to several dramatic slides and note-bending — which sounds mind-blowing when you layer on the effects.

The good news is that you can easily learn how to play “Come as You Are” with Fender Play. The lesson above breaks down the track into snack-sized bits to ensure you can master each piece before combining it all into a full picture.

This tutorial also covers techniques like eighth-note strumming, alternate strumming and syncopated strumming to channel the vibe of Cobain’s beloved Fender Jaguar, Mustang and iconic Jag-Stang.