“Heart Shaped Box” by Nirvana

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Riff Rundown

Difficulty: Intermediate

Composer – Cobain

Where to find this song – In Utero track # 3

Release Date – September 1993

The Band:

Kurt Cobain – vocals, guitar
Krist Novoselic – bass
Dave Grohl – drums, vocals

The Bio:
Before Nirvana, alternative music was restricted to specialty sections
of record stores and major labels considered it to be, at the very
most, a tax write-off. After the band’s second album, 1991’s “Nevermind” ,
nothing was ever quite the same, for better and for worse. Nirvana
popularized punk, post-punk, and indie rock, unintentionally bringing
it into the American mainstream like no other band before it. (The
one thing that Kurt Cobain feared the most. )

Verse

Here’s what the verse sounds like with guitar
and bass:



The first, third, fifth, and seventh measures are identical. The verse
has a few hammer-ons in it. A hammer-on is when you go from a lower
note to a higher note, only striking the first note(s). Here, you will
begin with an A chord. Barre your 1st finger on the “D” string,
the “G” string, and the “B” string on the second
frets. Play the “A” string open with it. After you have done
that, simply move your 1st finger to the third frets on the “high
E” string, the “A” string, and the “D” string.
This was how Kurt Cobain played it. He was known for a minimalistic
approach to the guitar, and yet was able to produce a great sound.

The second measure is nothing more than open stringed notes. Play
accordingly and you will be fine. The fourth measure is a bit confusing.
What you will do here is play the “low E” string open once,
and then use your 1st finger to hammer-on from the third fret on the “D” string
to the fourth fret with your 2nd finger. Then, after you have played
the open notes, just barre your 1st finger a little more to get the
third fret on the “A” string.

For the sixth measure, notice that you are basically playing what
you did in the second measure, but at the end you will hammer-on with
your 1st finger on the “D” string and the “G” string,
thus, starting over at the next measure. The eighth measure is really
not much different than the fourth measure either. Here, you will be
doing the same thing at the beginning, but at the end you will need
to leave out the fourth fret on the “D” string.

Bass

The bass part is easy and fun to play, and there are a few slide to
get that thick sound for the bass. Here, you will be using one finger
the whole time, and you may want to play with a pick as Krist did in
the band. It sounds much better. Begin the riff by placing your 1st
finger on the seventh fret on the “E” string. Play accordingly,
and simply slide to the third fret. Play that a few times, and then
slide to the fifth fret. From there on out, you will just be playing
the fifth fret on the “A” string, including the open “E” string
notes.

Chorus

Here’s what the chorus sounds like with guitar and bass:

The chorus to this riff has a few bends in it. Notice though that
the first and third measures are identical, as are the second and fourth
measures. Also, in the chorus realize that you are just playing the
verse again, just not picked out. Knowing that, try to find a comfortable
finger to bend with. Kurt used his 4th finger when playing this, but
it MAY be easier to use your 3rd finger, as it is a little stronger
usually. Bend to the sound on the audio, which is equal to a half bend.

The second and fourth measures are just like the fourth measure of
the verse, but just as with above, you will be playing it in chord
patterning, and bending the fourth fret again on the “G” string.
Do that with your 2nd finger or 3rd finger this time as well.

Bass

The bass here also gives you some practice with bends. Really, you
can use any finger to do this, so you won’t have any trouble playing
the correct notes on the first or second measures. The end of the second
measure gives you a bit of a walking bass line, so you MAY want to
use your 1st AND 2nd finger for this if you have trouble with playing
speedy.

Guitar Solo

The first and third measures here are identical, as are the second
and fourth. Here you will be bending and playing pull-offs. A pull-off
is nothing more than polar opposite of a hammer-on. That means that
you will go from a higher note to a lower note, only striking the first
note(s). Play the solo by placing your 1st finger on the seventh fret
on the “D” string. Next, you will quickly play the eighth
fret on the “B” string, then bend one full step. After you
have done that, you will need to use your 2nd finger to play the seventh
fret. You should hear the note change for the pull-off if you are playing
it briskly enough. End the measure by moving your 1st finger to the
fifth fret on the “D” string again, and then use your 2nd
or 3rd finger to bend the sixth fret on the “B” string one
full step as well.

For the second measure, try using only your 1st finger and your 4th
finger for this. Place your 1st finger on the “D” string
on the third fret, allowing the “A” string to play open.
Next, place your 4th finger on the fifth fret on the “B” string,
and quickly bend it one-half of a step. You can then just move your
1st finger to the third fret on the “B” string, and then
move it to the first fret on the same string. End the measure by pulling-off
from the first fret to its open “B” string note.

Riff Resources

Complete Transcription To “Heart
Shaped Box” (PDF)

Complete Transcription To “Heart
Shaped Box” (Power Tab)