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How to Play Come As You Are On Guitar
In this Guitar Control lesson videos instructor Jon McLennan, is going to show you how to play “Come As You Are” on guitar by Nirvana. Nirvana is such a good band. There is no band like them and they literally took the world by storm and turned it upside down. Kurt Cobain is the definition of playing with feeling. Everything he does is jam packed with emotion and is extremely genuine. He was a very rare artist. One of the few guitarists considered to be a guitar hero that probably didn’t care and didn’t try to be, he just is. He had this way of playing with so much emotion that even players that may be more technically proficient than him, just cant deliver the riff the same way. Just isn’t the same when somebody else plays it.
Click on the Tabs button to follow the chords and tabs.
Step 1: The Tuning
The first step to learning is realizing that if you want to play along with the original record, that they are actually tuned down a whole step, which makes them in D tuning. To do that simply just do exactly what it sounds like, tune all your strings down one whole step, so they will all be two steps, or one note name lower than what they originally were.
In standard tuning your 6th string is an E, your 5th is a A, your 4th is a D, your 3rd is a G, your 2nd is a B, and your 1st is also an E. In D tuning, your 6th strings becomes a D, your 5th is a G, your 4th is now a C, your 3rd is now an F, your 2nd is an A, and your 1st is now a D. Jon is in standard for this lesson though unless you’re planning along with the recording, it’s best to stay in standard to easily play along with Jon. He is in standard for teaching purposes to make it easier for the majority of students. He also added to his tone a chorus pedal to give it that watery sound that is classic riff has, if you have a chorus pedal easily accessible to you, feel free to do the same.
Step 2: The Riff
Jon starts by picking the 6th string open twice. Then puts his first finger on the 6th string 1st fret and picks this note once. Then he puts his second finger on the 2nd fret on the 6th string as well and also picks this note only once. So you walk in with these notes. Then you play the 5th string open, then go back to the 2nd fret 6th string with your second finger, back to the open 5th sting. So you are alternating between the 6th string 2nd fret and the open 5th string.
These strings are right next to one another so you need to make sure that your middle finger is arched and up on it’s tip so that the open 5th string will ring out and you won’t accidentally mute it. If you let it kinda rest and don’t exaggerate the arch, you most likely will get a muting sound that deadens the string, and in this riff, would really not sound good. Sometimes you want to mute, but this is not one of those times.
This riff calls for that open 5th string, so really make sure that your middle finger is arched so it will ring out loud and clear, so keep your fingers all on the tips. Then you’re going to play the 6th string 2nd fret, holding it down with your middle finger, twice. So 2, 2. Then you are going to walk it back down, picking the 6th string 1st fret and holding it down with your pointer, then picking the open 6th string. Now go to the 5th string 2nd fret holding this note down with your middle finger.
To keep this riff really clean he’s using a finger per fret. So every time he uses the 1st fret he actually also uses his first finger, on the 2nd fret he uses his second finger, and on the 3rd fret he uses his 3rd finger. If he used the 4th fret in this riff he would use his pinky. So they are all lined up and all have a set place to be. This lessens confusion and makes for a much cleaner sounding riff. If you are enjoying learning this classic Nirvana song, be sure to check out our other lesson for how to play Smells Like Teen Spirit to master another Nirvana classic!
Let get back to the riff, so we were on the 5th string 2nd fret with your middle finger, just pick this note once. Then pick the 6th string open twice. Then go back to the 5th string 2nd fret with your middle finger and pick this note once, then walk back up this time, starting with the open 6th string, to the 6th string 1st fret with your pointer finger, to the 6th string 2nd fret with your middle finger. Then start all over! See the video at the 2:22 minute mark to watch John play the entire riff slowly.
Recap: How to Play Come As You Are On Guitar
I hope you enjoyed learning how to play “Come As You Are” on guitar! This song is so cool and fun to play. Kurt Cobain mastered simplicity with his riffs that also are just jam packed with creativity and emotion. Remember, when learning this songs from guitar heroes and famous songwriters, these aren’t just lessons in how to learn a riff, they are also lesson in why these people stick out, what they do to make their songs or guitar riffs or licks stick out among the rest.
Use their songs and licks to inspire you and ignite your own creativity. Take elements from their playing that you like and mix them with other players specialties that you like or have learned from other video lesson we have up. This is how you can find your own voice on the guitar.