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How to Play Smells Like Teen Spirit By Nirvana

Updated on September 5, 2012

Smells like teen spirit is the song that changed everything for me I first started learning guitar at 12 years old. I struggled for a year to grasp anything. Being left handed also made it harder to read anything, the majority of guitar books are catered to rgiht handed people. I started to get somewhere after constant practise and bleeding fingers, learning Jimi Hendrix Purple Haze. Yes, that was the first song I learned to play. There was nothing I wanted to learn other than Hendrix, but Hendrix stuff was so hard to learn and made my practising suffer, there wasn't any current bands at the time playing anything worth learning. I only knew about the realy old stuff. I started to take my guitar to school and show off my blues licks and Hendrix riffs I had a taste for it all,now. I remember a girl in my class telling me to listen to Nirvana. I hardly knew who they were at the time, I could remember my neighbor crying when Kurt Cobain killed himself but I had never heard any of their songs before. She said I'll bring the album in to school tomorrow. I felt a little awkward, thinking I'm gonna have to listen to this now I might not like it. So next day she brings in Nevermind in for me ( On cassette tape! This is how long ago this was, wow I feel old ) got home that night and stuck it on. BAM! I was hooked! First Song, Smells like teen spirit, the hook, the riff, got me! Big time. I rewound that tape the whole night listening to it over and over and over. My brother got hooked to it too. I had to learn this song!

Me Some years ago now.
Me Some years ago now.

All this, was a time before Youtube, the internet wasn't that great, you didn't know any websites back then, you didn't ever know what to put in Yahoo. It was nowhere like what it is now. The only way I could learn how to play this was buying the TAB book. The reason why I could play Purple haze, Hey joe, Foxy lady was because I had saved my car washing money to buy the Jimi Hendrix Experience TAB book. A TAB book details everything, there's little things in a song that will drastically change the way it sounds. Hendrix songs are a prime example of this. These are the little things that online tutorials will miss out. You end up sounding average, rather than great. So I went to my Local Music shop and foundthe Nervermind TAB Book me excited, is an understatement! I rushed home. I found that the riff started with the dreaded F chord.

How to play Smells Like teen spirit

Now this what will make or break you. The F chord is such a hard chord to play as a beginner and you will try to avoid it. I can't stress this enough that you need to learn this chord shape. Practise it a couple of frets down if you want to get your hand used to it. This chord shape alone is GOLD. This shape is also known as the "power chord" shape. Get this chord down and you can play it anywhere in on the fret board, you'll notice this in Smells like teen spirit. This is lesson one on learning how to play Smells like teen spirit. You must be able to confidently and comfortably play the F Chord cleanly. Lesson two in playing Smells like teen spirit is, SLOW DOWN. There are too many covers on the net of people playing this way to fast which will make you play the main riff completely different. Listen to the song. The first part is F, practise it over and over again. Get this right and you will sound a million times better than anyone else you can then play the rest of the riff. The full riff progression is F, Bb, G#,C#. All this is, is the F Chord/Power Chord shape starting with your first finger on the 1st fret E string ( F ) Then First finger and the first fret A string ( Bb ) then first Finger at 4th fret E string (G#) then finishing on with same shape starting with your first finger on the 4th fret on the A string (C#).

The verse is very simple. It's just two notes played with your first finger, holding down the high B and E string on the first fret. play this downward which will = C, F.

There we go, simples. I strongly recommend the Nevermind TAB book because will show you everything. You won't just learn Smells Like teen spirit, you'll have all the other songs on the album. Smells like teen spirit became our signature song in my band at school and we used to play it in the smallest of rooms packed full of people! Ahhhh the good ol days!! I hope you get just as much enjoyment out of the hub and TAB book as I did. Infact I still have nearly 15 years later! I have to post a pic.


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    • JP993 profile image

      JP993 5 years ago from England

      Thanks for the comment Jimmar,

      If you're a new learner then I can't stress enough practising the F chord shape. Its tough learning a new instrument and keeping enthusiasm and this is why Im saying to persist with the F chord shape once you are happy with this you can play it anywhere on the fret board and becomes every other note, an A B C D E F G so if you know a song that is A F G D you can then play it with just that power chord shape. This will encourage you to keep playing and continuing to learn the harder stuff.

    • jimmar profile image

      jimmar 5 years ago from Michigan

      A little over a year now since I picked up a guitar. I still prefer my accoustics. I'starting to get comfortable with the "cheaty" F and trying to get into power chords, learning the song "Baggage Claim" (trying to anyway) You are right, I shy away from the F or any bar chords. Thanks for the inspiration.