Ukulele Utopia

A Virtual Learning Experience

Learn to Play 3 Nirvana Songs on the Ukulele!

Come As You Are, All Apologies, Lithium

Even on their early albums that were quick and heavily distorted. It’s easy to pick out some fantastic guitar work by Kurt Cobain. He had a knack for writing great songs that had equally fantastic riffs. Let’s learn to play Come As You Are, All Apologies and Lithium on the ukulele.

What Are We Learning To Play?

The tabs are from a fun little video I made for my TikTok account recently. It’s pretty much showcasing the various levels of playing difficulty for this artist. It starts easy and ends on a super challenging riff. Scroll to give some of them a shot.

Ukulele Tabs

Easy - Come As You Are

A great song to start with as there’s a lot of open strings and the whole riff uses just 5 notes in total. To make it even easier on yourself, I recommend assigning each finger to a specific note. 

Use your first finger for the 1st fret on the E. Middle finger for the 2nd fret of the E and lastly, ring finger for the 2nd fret of the A string.

A|-----------0---0---------2-------2-|
E|-0-0-1-2-----2---2-2-1-0---0-0-----|
C|-----------------------------------|
G|-----------------------------------|

Medium - All Apologies

This is a slight step up from Come As You Are as we are incorporating a couple of extra techniques. Firstly, we have the two note chord at the beginning. It’s the easiest chord we could play as its just two open notes. However, if you are new to the ukulele it could be a new concept to you.

The next technique is the slide on the A string at the end of the riff. Use your ring finger on the 5th fret and pluck. Slide your finger up to the 7th without plucking again. This will create the next note.

A |-------------------------3-3-1-0-|
E |-0-0-1-0-3-3-1-0---0-1-0---------|
C |-0-------------------------------|
G |---------------------------------|

A |-------------------------7-7-5-3-|
E |-0-0-1-0-3-3-1-0---0-1-0---------|
C |-0-------------------------------|
G |---------------------------------|

Hard - Lithium

What makes this such a difficult song to play is the speed at which you need to fly up and down the fretboard. Getting from the 2nd to 9th fret is hard enough as it is. Let alone having to get back to the 2nd fret a moment later. Don’t let me discourage you though, with some slow practise, we can get there.

This riff is built around barring the bottom three strings on the 2nd fret. Hold your barre and use your ring finger to hit that 4th fret on the A. Next comes the first big stretch. We are going to use our pinky to quickly pluck that 9th fret on the A string. It’s important to use your pinky as it means the least amount of travel for your fingers.

For the next bit are losing the barre chord. Instead, create a chord using your first finger on the C string, middle on the E and your pinky on A. Keeping your pinky on the A string means you can slide it up to the 10th fret and then conveniently place your ring finger on the 10th fret of the E.

Lastly, we have some simple chords to strum through. Two of them are barre chords. If you are unfamiliar with them, have a read of this guide I wrote about how you can improve your technique with them.

A|----------4------2-9--------5/10----|
E|--------2-----------------3------10-|
C|-2----2--------2--------2-----------|
G|------------------------------------|

A|-1-1-1----3-3-3----0-0-0----3-3-3-|
E|-1-1-1----3-3-3----0-0-0----0-0-0-|
C|-2-2-2----4-4-4----1-1-1----0-0-0-|
G|-3-3-3----5-5-5----2-2-2----0-0-0-|

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested to see my ukulele arrangement of the Nevermind album.

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