4 Grunge Riffs You Need to Learn

by Alec Plowman, Mar 1, 2019 . 3 min read

4 Grunge Riffs You Need to Learn

Grunge is not dead! It’s been almost three decades since the heyday of ‘90s grunge. But, grunge bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains still have a massive impact on the rock landscape.

The likes of Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell shaped music for a generation, and their music continues to resonate with aspiring guitarists today.

With that in mind, we thought it’d be fun to assemble a list of some of our favorite grunge riffs – the ones we think you should learn on guitar.

So grab your flannel shirt, your Super Fuzz pedal and your pawnshop Fender Mustang. Today, we’re riffing Seattle style!

Nirvana – “School”

There are plenty of great Nirvana riffs across their back catalogue. But, for our money, it’s “School,” the opener from debut album “Bleach,” that takes the top spot.

Thrashed out by Kurt Cobain on a Univox Hi Flier, it’s simple, effective, and heavy as hell. If you got into the Aberdeen power trio back in 1989, this monster was likely your first introduction to the band. And what an introduction it was!

Alice in Chains – “Man in the Box”

Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell is a certified riff master. And indeed, many of the band’s classic cuts – “Them Bones,” “Dam that River,” “Angry Chair,” could have made the list.

But, for our money, breakout Alice in Chains single “Man in the Box” is the one you need to learn when it comes to flexing your grunge guitar muscles. It’s got grit, it’s got stomp, it’s got that grungiest of grunge staples… a talk box…

Ok, the talk box is a bit of a grunge oddity, but we’ll be damned if it doesn’t work.

Soundgarden – “Outshined”

Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil and Chris Cornell always had a knack for coming up with end-of-the-world riffs. Y’know, the kind of thing that makes you feel like your brain is melting when you hear it.

“Outshined” – taken from the band’s classic “Badmotorfinger” album is that in effect and then some. Sounding like Sabbath being played at half-speed, it’s heavy, groovy and a perfect foil to Cornell’s soaring rasp.

 Melvins – “Honey Bucket”

The Melvins may never have broken through to the commercial mainstream like many of their peers, but they’re one of the most influential grunge acts nonetheless.

And, never let it be said that frontman King Buzzo didn’t know how to write a face-melting riff. This relentless barrage – taken from the band’s “Houdini” album – is about as close as the Melvins came to a making a commercial sounding record. That it hits like a sledgehammer to the face tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the Aberdeen cult heroes.

What’s your favorite riff of the grunge era? And who is your favorite grunge band? Share your stories in the comments!

(Main Photo credit to Theresa Azradon-Labajo)



Get our free Alternate Tunings Guide!
Submit

Check out some other similar articles

Take advantage of our biggest backer-exclusive discounts and get your hands on this next-generation automatic tuner. Back the Kickstarter campaign today and be the first to receive the Roadie 3.

John Lennon was one of the most beloved songwriters of his generation and was taken from us way too soon. Lennon is well-remembered to this day, not only as a musician but as an activist and a counter-culture icon.

Frederik Nielsen
Jun 19, 2020 . 3 min read

Why should you change your guitar strings? They’re not even broken!

Frederik Nielsen
May 8, 2020 . 3 min read

Picking the greatest musical moments in guitar history is almost impossible. Where do you even start? With the invention of the guitar?

Frederik Nielsen
May 5, 2020 . 4 min read

Many of you gearheads out there have probably wondered when we’ll get down to some pedal-talk. That’s what we’re going to do in this article, where we’ll focus on some iconic songs with distortion from the 60s and 70s.

Frederik Nielsen
May 1, 2020 . 4 min read

Multitasking. For some people, doing more than one thing on an expert level is nothing more than a myth. However, multitasking does exist, although you need hours and hours of practice to become good at it.

Frederik Nielsen
Mar 16, 2020 . 3 min read

Although women by no means are under-represented in the music industry, female instrumentalists are not quite as common as we’d like them to be –

Frederik Nielsen
Mar 8, 2020 . 4 min read

A list of musicians who died before the age of 30 would be too long to write. Even going through all of the members of the infamous “27 Club” would take ages.

Frederik Nielsen
Mar 4, 2020 . 3 min read

While most people are not sure if they have one genuine talent, some people are much luckier. 

Tamara Habchi
Mar 3, 2020 . 4 min read

In most cases, parents are proud when their kids reach a developmental milestone ahead of their peers.

Tamara Habchi
Mar 2, 2020 . 4 min read

There are enough obstacles to making it in the music industry. Succeeding with a disability is nothing short of a miracle. But it’s not impossible.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 25, 2020 . 4 min read

People who speak more than one language are impressive to all of us. And musicians that play more than one instrument are even more impressive.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 25, 2020 . 4 min read

Despite what many people will tell you, you can earn more than decent money as a relatively unknown, professional guitarist. There are many ways to make money:

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 24, 2020 . 3 min read

When you think of the ukulele, you probably think about a tropical, Hawaiian beach with lots of sunlight. But people from all over the world have fallen in love with ukulele.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 18, 2020 . 5 min read

The second month of the year comes with a lot of celebrations. We have the Presidents’ Day, there’s also Valentine’s Day, plus all of the birthdays of amazing people we look up to.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 17, 2020 . 3 min read

We’ve rounded up the most expensive guitars in history. Part of their value lies in the fact that they were used by some of the most famous rockstars around.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 14, 2020 . 3 min read

Guitars come in all sizes and shapes, but they’re all equally beautiful. That said, it helps to know the difference between them if you’re looking for your next instrument.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 10, 2020 . 3 min read

So you’ve been splashing the cash at the local music store and want to know how to set up a new guitar? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 10, 2020 . 3 min read

A while back I wrote a blog post about songwriting habits. Most of what I found during my research

Frederik Nielsen
Jan 28, 2020 . 4 min read

New year, New reviews? But wait, before we officially welcome 2020, let’s look back at some of our favorite reviews of 2019.

Tamara Habchi
Jan 8, 2020 . 4 min read

In this edition of Roadie Spotlight, we’re checking out the Japanese guitar virtuoso ichika [sic] who has taken the Internet by storm with his amazing skills.

Frederik Nielsen
Dec 31, 2019 . 3 min read
We'll be bringing you recommended tabs and plenty of interesting quotes from guitar legends along the way!