Five Grunge Riffs

Excellent news on the Eddie Vedder front. Not only is the new video out but there’s a a ukulele songbook on the way (thanks to Ric Jo for the info). Which means I don’t have to bother tabbing it up. Instead, I can transfer a few grunge riffs to uke.

The usual riff rules apply: they’re not necesarrily in the same key as the original and all requests for the rest of the song will be pelted with cabbage, tied to a donkey and driven out of town.

Soundgarden – Spoonman

With all the focus on Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden got a bit overlooked. I think they were as good as either of them. This riff is easily one of the best that came out of the scene. I’ve adjusted it a lot for the uke, giving it a C chord drone. It’s also two frets lower than the original (unless you’re using D-tuning or have a capo on the second fret).

The time signature for the main riff is, frankly, I have no idea. I went and looked around at other people’s tabs and they seem to have copped out a bit too. So I just did the same.

The verse riff is similar to the opening riff:

And the chorus riff is a bit like this:

All together they sound like this:


Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box

I’ve moved the riffs in this song down a fret to make it more ukeable. Otherwise it sounds pretty good on uke.


The chorus riff, being all distorted, doesn’t transfer quite so well. But it’s still playable. The open A-string here is optional – I added because I like how nasty it sounds.


Pearl Jam – Alive

This fits pretty well on the ukulele in the original key.

Here’s the uke version:


Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike

Little known fact: my name when I was born was Andrew Wood like the guy from Underworld and the guy from Mother Love Bone (who inspired this song). Then my name was changed so I shared it with the leader of a ceilidh band and all hopes of rock and roll stardom were dashed before I was a week old.

This one is in the original key.


Alice In Chains – Them Bones

Another one in the original key and another one with an awkward time signature. But once you’ve got the hang of that it’s fairly easy to play.


More Grunge Riffs

Nirvana – Come As You Are
Pearl Jam – Jeremy
– Smells Like Teen Spirit

Pearl Jam – Can’t Keep

View Comments


  1. Howlin' Hobbit May 5th, 2011 7:24 pm

    cool. the spoon man is a friend of mine.

  2. Woodshed May 6th, 2011 8:15 am

    Hobbit: That is cool. Is he still busking?

  3. Howlin' Hobbit May 6th, 2011 8:40 am

    haven’t seen him busking lately. he hasn’t been in the greatest of health or circumstances of late. (but like me, he’s recently done the whole teeth fix thing.)

    I saw him about a month back and we chatted a bit. despite his situ right now, he’s the same ol’ Artis. that’s a good thing. some things should never change.

  4. cardboardfrog May 6th, 2011 12:08 pm

    excellent work woodshed, especially like heart shaped box,
    Thanks for doing alive, it’s one of my favourite songs because it’s part of the mamasan triology and is actually about an incestuous relationship between mother and son.
    Not as life affirming as it initally seems…

  5. Narciso Lobo May 6th, 2011 2:48 pm

    These sound great, man!

  6. pepamahina May 7th, 2011 5:06 am

    I do love it when you feel like riffing…these are great, thanks! And I learned a new word too,

    past participle;?busked
    past tense;?busked
    present participle;?busking
    3rd person singular present; busks

    1) Play music or otherwise perform for voluntary donations in the street or in subways
    2) Improvise

    P.S. I like Alistair best.

  7. Woodshed May 7th, 2011 8:19 am

    cbf: Thanks. I thought it was about Vedder being raised by a guy who wasn’t his father without knowing it. I’ll have to listen again.

    Narciso: Thanks very much!

    pepamahina: I don’t like ‘Alistair’ at all. I’d have much preferred ‘Andrew’.

  8. Michi May 7th, 2011 11:00 am

    Hmm :( Unfortunately Youtube says: “This video is not available in your country” for all of the above videos. Do you have parts of the original song in there or are they censoring by name only now?

  9. Michi May 7th, 2011 11:03 am

    Ah now I get it: These are the original videos and you put your version in these sound-only flash player.. Sorry, too early in the morning :)

  10. Chainsaw Kung Fu May 7th, 2011 3:11 pm

    Very cool, man. Of all the books I’ve read, of all the sites I’ve ventured to, of all the time I’ve spent messing around on my uke, you’ve been the most help.

  11. Woodshed May 8th, 2011 9:16 am

    Michi: Yes, they’re the original videos. YouTube can be a real pain with this sort of thing. Sorry about that.

    Chainsaw: Thanks very much! I’m really glad you’ve found it helpful.

  12. RVT May 8th, 2011 6:59 pm

    These songs are the reason I got into music. In celebration of meeting Mike McCready in Hawaii I bought my first Uke! It’s all coming together. Thank you Woodshed and “grunge”! P.S. I think Yellow Ledbetter would be phenomenal on the uke…

  13. Snojimbo May 9th, 2011 9:54 am

    Awesome, just awesome. Thanks Woodshed. Have a great, well deserved break.

  14. Woodshed May 15th, 2011 12:14 pm

    RVT: You’re welcome.

    Snojimbo: Thanks very much.

  15. PCO May 18th, 2011 4:23 pm

    forever in debt to your priceless advice!

  16. Woodshed May 19th, 2011 6:29 am

    PCO: Ahahaha!

  17. Ames May 22nd, 2011 10:16 am

    Woodshed thank you so much, this kicks arse. Eddie rocks my world.

  18. Woodshed May 22nd, 2011 12:55 pm

    Ames: You’re welcome!

  19. John October 19th, 2014 8:43 pm

    What does the 1/2 on the tab for the chorus of heart shaped box represent?

  20. Woodshed October 19th, 2014 9:28 pm

    John: It’s a bend of half a step (i.e. one fret).

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