When Did Kurt Cobain Start Playing Guitar – The Surprising Answer! 

Published Categorized as Acoustic Guitarist Bios

Have you caught yourself listening to Nirvana and found yourself wondering about the musical journey of Cobain? Do you wonder where he came up with his plethora of guitar innovations? Are you curious about his seemingly boundless curiosity up and down the fretboard?

Well, the answer to at least some of these questions will be explored in due course, for today we elucidate for you the answer to the question of when did Kurt Cobain start playing guitar, dropping in and out of commentary on his guitar playing style.

when did kurt cobain start playing guitar

Table of Contents

Well, when did he start to play guitar?

Kurt Donald Cobain was born in 1967, though he started playing guitar at the age of 14 in 1988 when he received his first guitar. Seven years later in 1988 he formed his magnum opus Nirvana, at this point playing the electric guitar. The following year Kurt Cobain’s guitar playing was exhibited in a public forum for the first time on their debut album Bleach. At this point he was 22, and so he would have been 24 when they released their era defining sophomore album Nevermind.

That is what it looks like in numbers, but how were these numbers spent?

Cobain himself claims that he only took a month’s worth of guitar lessons, learning the basic cowboy chords – the open position chords that almost beginners are called upon to learn as a matter of progression. Following this, little is known, though we can presume that he experimented very much at his own behest, composing his own songs.

It is his compositional sense that marks Kurt Cobain’s guitars from others of the era, a constant foresight with the eventual Nirvana songs always considered throughout the process.

What was his playing style like?

His playing, like many other guitarists, can be split up into two categories: rhythm and lead.

The former is marked by his innovative and full frontal use of power chords, a staple easily heard on hits such as ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. His rhythm style in this regard was powerful and aggressive, and yet exhibited an accurate and rapid change between these power chords. The more astute will note his use of the Fender Mustang and the index and ring fingers when he plays power chords, eliding the use of the pinky altogether, an act which sometimes barred onto the G string, creating a characteristic suspended 4th chord.

Often, his lead playing would mimic various vocal lines throughout, especially on Nevermind, exhibiting a keen melodic and compositional sense even through the veritable intensity of it all. Cobain as Nirvana frontman is equally well known for acoustic songs as he for his extended noisy freak outs, where dissonance is called upon to ambassador the proceedings, relying upon the raw sound of the guitar and the textural aspects of the amp and pedals it was being fed through rather than any notes or chords in particular.

Final Tones

So, there you have it! Hopefully your own curiosity about Kurt Cobain’s playing style and musical journey has been satiated.

Remember, though we do not have all the answers here listed, do not be afraid to do some of your own research on the subject. True enough, Cobain was a tough cookie to crack and would often eschew the entire interview format, but when he was available he was extremely candid about his own personal life, his preferences on a whole bunch of things, and especially on what drives him to make music and play the guitar.

FAQs When Did Kurt Cobain Start Playing Guitar

Did Kurt Cobain do guitar lessons?

Yes, though allegedly only for one month. During this month of guitar lessons, Cobain asserts that he only learned the basic ‘Louie Louie chords’ – i.e. the open chords that almost every beginner at some point finds themselves learning. From this point, little is specifically known about Cobain’s journey with the guitar, though it can safely be surmised that he spent the ensuring years between the age of 14 (when he first started) and the age of 22 (when Nirvana released their debut album) tinkering and experimenting with the guitar in his own way.

Did Cobain play guitar?

Indeed, he did. If watching a live performance of Nirvana, Cobain is rarely seen without a guitar. Nirvana were a three piece band from the 90s which reinvented what rock could mean, bridging the gap between the alternative and commercial through their own brand of grunge music. The fact that they were a three piece meant that there was little room for Cobain not to play guitar, certainly not for the whole length of a song or a whole set. He was thus, like many rhythm guitarists in rock music, called upon to play power chords while he sang and / or screamed along.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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