What is beeswax?
Beeswax is a song by the American grunge band Nirvana. It was released in 1991 on their album Nevermind. The song was written by Nirvana’s frontman Kurt Cobain and features driving guitar riffs, cryptic lyrics, and a catchy chorus.
How do you play beeswax on guitar?
To play beeswax on guitar, you’ll need to tune your guitar to drop D tuning (D A D G B E). The song utilizes power chords, palm muting, and single note riffs. The main riff switches between playing the chords D5, A5, and G5 on the low strings. During the verses, Cobain plays a repetitive single note riff on the G string while palm muting the low strings. The chorus features fast downpicked power chords switching between G5 and A5. There are some quick little solos with sliding notes around the 12th fret of the G string. Mastering the rhythmic strumming of the chords and the timing of the muting is key to getting the right grungy sound.
- D5 – D A D
- A5 – A E A
- G5 – G D G
The song uses a driving 8th note strumming pattern for the chordal parts:
D – Downstroke
U – Upstroke
D D U DU UDUDU
How do you play beeswax on bass?
The bassline mirrors the guitar riff very closely. The bass plays the root notes of the chords, alternating between D, A, and G. Use alternate picking to match the fast 8th note rhythm. The bass sits low in the mix, doubling the guitar riff to thicken up the sound. In the chorus, the bass switches between playing octave G’s and A’s following the chord changes. There are some brief fills during the verses, but the bass mostly sticks to the repetitive root note riff pattern. Using a pick can help achieve the punchy attack.
D D D D A A A A G G G G
G G G G G G A A A A A A
How do you play beeswax on drums?
The drumbeat is fast and driving with a lot of snare drum on beats 2 and 4. Here are some tips for playing the drums on beeswax:
– The tempo is around 152 bpm
– Keep constant 16th notes going on the hi-hat
– Hit the snare drum on beats 2 and 4. In the choruses you can hit it on beats 2, 4, and the “&” of 4.
– Keep a driving kick drum pattern, alternating between kick hits on the downbeats and upbeats
– In the choruses, switch to driving 8th note kick drum patterns
– The choruses have crashing cymbals on the 1 of each bar
– Occasional fills around the toms help liven up the verses
– Maintaining the high-energy feel throughout is important
How do you play beeswax on other instruments?
For other instruments like keyboards or synths, the song is fairly straightforward as it centers around the main guitar riff. On keyboards, you can double the guitar part or play the chordal stabs that enter in the choruses. Add in some drones or textures with long sustained notes to fill out the sound.
The vocal melody follows the chord changes, with Kurt Cobain singing in his gritty, angsty vocal style. The lyrics are cryptic with lots of random imagery that reflects the chaotic grunge ethos. As a singer, matching Cobain’s timbre and delivery is key.
For additional percussion, the bee swarm sound effects that open and close the track can be recreated using shakers, tambourines, cowbells, and other percussion instruments. These help reinforce the song title and create an unsettling atmosphere.
What is the meaning of the lyrics?
Like many Nirvana songs, the lyrics seem absurdist and nonsensical at first glance. There are references to bees, honey, stinging pain, and also strange scenes involving wigs and minarets. Fans and critics have interpreted the lyrics as reflecting feelings of disillusionment, the desire to escape problems, and the contradictions of fame. There’s an emphasis on visceral sensation over concrete meaning. Cobain’s surreal wordplay captures the angst and unease of his generation. The cryptic lyrics allow for multiple personal interpretations, adding to the song’s mystique.
“Honey come to me, honey come to me”
“She said she’ll sting me dead, honey bee”
“Mosquito birth is easy, when skies are hazy”
“Fog machine on minaret, wig machine already upset”
When was beeswax recorded?
Beeswax was recorded in the spring of 1991 at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles, during the Nevermind recording sessions. Nirvana had signed to Geffen Records and was working with producer Butch Vig on their major label debut. Most of Nevermind was recorded live in the studio, with the band playing together to capture their raw energy.
Beeswax came together quickly in the studio. Kurt Cobain likely brought in a rough idea of the main riff, with the band fleshing out the chord changes and arranging collaboratively. The fuzzed out, metallic guitar tones were created using a Boss DS-1 distortion pedal into Mesa/Boogie amp rigs. Vig kept the production raw and muscular to preserve the band’s live appeal. The recording was completed in a few takes, keeping a loose, energetic feel.
How did the song impact Nirvana’s career?
While not released as a single, beeswax was an important track in establishing Nirvana’s songwriting and sound on Nevermind. It showed their talent for creating hooky choruses and marrying pop melodies with dissonant guitar.
Along with the hits like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” beeswax’s driving rhythm and abrasive textures defined the band’s influential grunge aesthetic. Nirvana’s melding of punk rock energy and grit with pop arrangements inspired countless alternative bands in the 1990s and beyond.
The song’s cryptic lyrics also exemplified Kurt Cobain’s poetic, avant-garde approach to words that resonated with Generation X. Fans and critics praised how Nirvana’s music gave voice to feelings of anger and discontent from young people.
Beeswax emerged from an incredibly fertile period of creativity for Nirvana. Its recording foreshadowed the success of Nevermind which transformed Nirvana from a regional indie band into one of the biggest rock acts in the world.
Where can you see Nirvana perform beeswax live?
Unfortunately, there is very little official live footage of Nirvana performing beeswax. The song was rarely included in the band’s setlists both before and after the release of Nevermind.
It’s likely the complex guitar riffs and multiple section changes made beeswax difficult to pull off reliably live. Songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are” were better suited for big concert crowds.
However, brief snippets of beeswax from early 1991 shows can be found online. There is footage preserved from tiny club gigs in Portland and Seattle earlier that year. Bootleg audio recordings also capture the song performed in fall 1991 around Nevermind’s release.
Live, the band took beeswax at blisteringly fast tempos accentuating its manic punk energy. It stands as an intriguing buried treasure in Nirvana’s catalog that they sadly never fully unveiled for concert audiences. The studio recording remains the definitive version of this eccentric deep cut.
How do you play beeswax on guitar?
Here is a recap of how to play beeswax on guitar:
– Tune to drop D tuning (D A D G B E)
– Use power chords D5, A5, and G5 played on the lower strings
– Alternate between chords for main riff
– Palm mute the riff and allow chords to ring open for accents
– Downpick through chord changes to keep rhythm driving
– Play single note riffs on G string during verses while palm muting
– Chorus is fast alternate picking on power chords G5 and A5
– Add slides and accents for brief solos around 12th fret
– Stay true to the rhythmic feel and abrasive tone of the original recording
Mastering the intricacies of beeswax requires patience and practice. But learning this iconic grunge deep cut can greatly improve guitar skills while providing insight into Nirvana’s genius songcraft. The song demonstrates how a simple chord progression brought to life with passion and attitude can become an impactful anthem.
Beeswax remains one of Nirvana’s most curiously overlooked tracks. Its frantic energy and surreal imagery showcase why the band became so vital. Learning to play the song properly pays tribute to Kurt Cobain’s brilliance and provides a blueprint for crafting memorable rock riffs.
Though seldom performed live, beeswax’s studio recording encapsulates Nirvana’s sound and spirit at a pivotal moment in the band’s career. The song proves how grunge didn’t have to sacrifice raw power for pop appeal. Decades later, beeswax still resonates with angst, absurdism, and anarchy.