Grunge Music on the Mandolin

Grunge music often gets a bad rap, but there are mandolin players out there keeping the genre alive. Check out our latest post to learn more!

What is Grunge Music?

Grunge music is a genre of alternative rock that emerged in the late 1980s. It was originally associated with the Seattle music scene and grunge bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. Grunge music is characterized by its heavy guitars and angsty lyrics. If you’re a fan of grunge music, then you’ll love playing it on the mandolin!

The Origins of Grunge

Grunge music is a type of rock that emerged in the mid-1980s in the Pacific Northwest U.S. state of Washington, particularly in the Seattle area. Grunge was a subgenre of alternative rock that Nirvana lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain once described as “a cross between Black Sabbath and the Pixies”.

The genre is generally characterized by heavily distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and vocals. Grunge also incorporates a strong DIY ethic; many bands self-produce their recordings and distribute them through independent record labels. The visual style of grunge typified by flannel shirts, distressed jeans, and long hair became popular among young people in the early 1990s.

Grunge was commercialized in 1992 when Nirvana’s Nevermind album broke into the mainstream, spawning a number of successful grunge bands such as Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden. By the late 1990s, however, grunge had largely fallen out of favor with the mainstream music industry, although some post-grunge bands such as Creed and Nickelback achieved great success.

The Sound of Grunge

Grunge music is a style of rock that emerged in the early 1990s. Grunge bands were characterized by their raw, angry, and often distorted sound. The lyrics of grunge songs often dealt with dark and depressing subjects, such as social alienation, apathy, and disaffection.

Grunge music became popular in the early 1990s, with bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden leading the way. Grunge quickly became the dominant style of rock music, displacing the more polished sound of hair metal and pop metal that had been popular in the 1980s.

Grunge music faded from the mainstream in the late 1990s, but many of the bands that pioneered the genre continue to enjoy success today. Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain is widely regarded as one of the most important musicians of his generation, and Pearl Jam remains one of the most popular rock bands in the world.

How to Play Grunge Music on the Mandolin

Grunge music can be a great way to show off your mandolin skills. It is a style of music that is usually played on the electric guitar, but the mandolin can also be used. Grunge music tends to be heavy and distorted, so it can be a bit challenging to play. However, with a little practice, you can definitely play grunge music on the mandolin. Let’s get started.


In order to play grunge music on the mandolin, you’ll need to tune your instrument to an alternate tuning. The most common grunge tuning is E-A-D-G-B-E, which is the same as standard guitar tuning except all strings are tuned down one step. You can also try other tunings, such as drop D or open G. Experiment and see what sounds best to you.

Once you have your mandolin tuned, you’ll need to learn some new chords. Grunge music often uses power chords, which are simply two notes played together. For example, a G power chord is played by fretting the low G string at the third fret and then plucking the open high E string. Other common power chords used in grunge music include A, D, and C.


Grunge music on the mandolin generally uses power chord shapes. A power chord is simply two notes played together, usually the root note and either the fifth or the octave. For example, a C power chord would be C and either G or C an octave higher.

To play a power chord shape, place your first finger on the root note. For a C power chord, this would be the third fret of the A string. Then, using either your second or third finger, place it on either the fifth or octave of the D string. strum both strings together.

You can move this power chord shape up and down the fretboard to create different chords. To create a D power chord, for example, you would simply move this shape up two frets to the fifth fret.

You can also use this same shape to create other chords such as major and minor chords. To create a C major chord, for example, you would place your first finger on the third fret of the A string and your second finger on the fifth fret of the E string and strum all strings together.


Learning how to play grunge music on the mandolin can be a great way to add a new dimension to your playing. Grunge music is known for its heavy, distorted sound, and the mandolin can be a great instrument to help create that sound.

The first thing you’ll need to do is to learn how to strum. Grunge music is typically played with a pick, but you can also use your fingers. When using a pick, hold it between your thumb and first finger, and use a quick up-and-down motion. When using your fingers, you’ll need to use more of an up-and-down chopping motion.

Next, you’ll need to learn some basic chords. A few of the most commonly used chords in grunge music are A, D, E, and G. To play these chords on the mandolin, simply place your fingers in the correct positions and strum away.

Once you’ve mastered some basic chords and strumming techniques, you’ll be ready to start playing some grunge tunes on the mandolin.

Grunge Songs to Play on the Mandolin

If you’re looking for some grunge songs to play on the mandolin, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll give you a list of some of the best grunge songs to play on the mandolin. We’ll also provide a brief history of grunge music and mandolin music.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a song by American rock band Nirvana. It is the opening track and lead single from the band’s second album, Nevermind (1991), released on DGC Records. The sudden success of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” led to grunge music’s mainstream popularity and allowed Nirvana to sign with major label DGC Records.

The lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” are based on a paper that Cobain wrote for his songwriting class at Olympia High School in which he decried the use of deodorant. The chorus sounds superficially optimistic, with Cobain singing “Here we are now / Entertain us”, but the rest of the song makes it clear that he is anything but content; in an interview, Cobain stated that the lyrics were meant to be ironic.

“Come as You Are” by Nirvana

“Come as You Are” is a song by Nirvana, first released on their 1991 album Nevermind. The song was written by Kurt Cobain and features a simple, catchy melody. It has been covered by many artists and is one of Nirvana’s most popular songs.

On the mandolin, the song is played in the key of A major. The main chord progression is A-B-C-D, with a few changes in the verses. The chorus is based around the chords E-F-G-A.

“Lithium” by Nirvana

Nirvana’s “Lithium” is a perfect song for the mandolin. The simple, unforgettable riff is easy to play, and the chorus is catchy and emotional. The verses are more challenging, but they’re still within the reach of most mandolinists. The song is also a great choice for beginners, because it’s one of the few Nirvana songs that doesn’t require a lot of distortion.


In conclusion, playing grunge music on the mandolin can be a great way to add a new dimension to your sound. With its unique timbre and aggressive picking style, the mandolin can really help you stand out from other bands in the genre. If you’re looking to add a little extra grit to your music, then give grunge mandolin a try!

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