How To Sing Like Kurt Cobain (Explained)

Published Categorized as Singing

Kurt Cobain was the frontman for punk group Nirvana which revolutionized the rock scene in their few years of existence. Kurt Cobain disdained healthy singing techniques and instead brought raw emotions to the fore. This helped to endear him to his audience. 

Due to his early tragic death, Cobain achieved a legendary status and although there have been controversies on whether he was really a great singer. Despite this, he has continued to attract a following and many upcoming rock artists have asked how to sing like Kurt Cobain.

We will explore Kurt Cobains’ legacy in this article and discuss the needed steps to sing like him. 

What Are The Steps Needed To Sing Like Kurt Cobain?

How To Sing Like Kurt Cobain

1. Prepare your voice

Kurt Cobain had a singing technique which many considered unhealthy and which in the long run can lead to break in the vocal cords as a result of strain.

Now, you need to exercise your vocal muscles regularly and do warm ups before any strong singing session. 

2. Work on Building Vocal Fry

Using vocal fry was the main method Kurt Cobain employed in sounding different. The vocal fry makes your voice sound broken and comes across as scratchy. 

3. Build Up Your Voice Base

If you have a weak lower register, it might be difficult for you to employ vocal fry.

You have to be strong at the lower parts to successfully distort your voice at the top. Once your base is strong enough, then you are good to go. 

4. Sing With Feeling

Have it in mind that Kurt Cobain was not only popular for his vocal technique but also for the emotions that came with his voice. Let your feelings reflect strongly in your voice like Kurt did. 

What Voice Type Does Kurt Cobain Have?

Kurt Cobain can be placed as a baritenor which means he can either be a high baritone or a low tenor with about a 4 octave range.

The amazing thing about Kurt Cobains’ voice is the fact that, despite not being into voice health and technique, he could hit some high notes.

Kurt Cobain as a punk singer just did his own thing while singing, he wasn’t big on things with which singers were judged such as pitch, range, power, control etc. 

He believed punk singers should come across as raw as they could and he practicalised that in most of his performances as some of his screaming could come across as uncomfortable.

What Makes Kurt Cobain’s Voice So Unique?

The scratchiness that is relatively on top of Kurt’s voice is what is most admired by his audience.

Also when singing more laid back and from the chest voice, he still comes across as creaky with a quality that makes it seem broken.

He used the technique of vocal frying which is trying to create a distortion at the top of your singing voice which of course makes the vocals sound different.

This was a different technique as most vocal coaches of the era were not fans of it.

Another important aspect of Kurts’ voice was the raw emotion and passion which he infused into his voice and this helped to pass him across as a powerful vocalist. 

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Can Kurt Cobain Actually Sing?

Kurt Cobain had a different view about singing than most vocal experts of that period.

As the poster boy and lead vocalist for Nirvana, he had the job of pushing out punk music and making it acceptable to the audience.

He wanted to come across as sincere and is believed to have not had voice or singing lessons. As a vocalist, he was messy but he was able to create a new style which was good for the genre of music he was into. 

He used his raw emotions to connect with his audience and we can see that in some of his songs like ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. 

There are arguments that if he had been alive, his voice would have gone over time because of his unhealthy habits such as excessive smoking and the strain he placed on his vocal cords. 

How Did Kurt Cobain Start Singing?

Kurt Cobain was born in Aberdeen, Washington in 1967 and was musically inclined from a young age.

He was involved with the Melvins who as at then were still a local sludge group. He went into music seriously when Krist Novoselic, a local bassist heard his mixtape. 

They later went on to form Nirvana in 1987 and with other group members began their pathway to fame.

They were signed by Sub Pop records in 1988 and released their first album ‘Bleach’ in 1989. In 1991, they released ‘Nevermind’ which featured ‘Smells Like a Teen’ and which skyrocketed their popularity.

The album went on to become the first alternative rock album which got widespread popularity and acclaim with the mainstream audience.

The group released ‘In Utero’ in 1993 and was their last album before his death in 1994.

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana created a grunge movement and has since become an icon for the rock movement and ultimately upcoming rock stars.

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What Is Kurt Cobain’s Vocal Range?

Kurt Cobain had an extensive vocal range from F1 – C6 and his high notes were instrumental in classifying him as a tenor as opposed to being a baritone.

The impressive part about his vocal range was his 4 octave and 4 note range. 

He had an extensive vocal range which he most often took advantage of while he was performing. 

Kurt was quite popular for screaming into the microphone while performing and basically this was his way of passing his message to the audience. 

A lot of experts have classified his voice and vocal technique as unhealthy. However, Kurt Cobain moved his intended audiences with his performance and that was the most important for him. 

What Is The Highest Note Kurt Cobain Can Sing?

Kurt Cobain’s highest pitch is in the C6 range which can be heard in songs like ‘Spank Thru’ and Tourette’s.

Despite not having any formal voice training that we know of, Kurt Cobain made the best of his voice.

Kurt is one of those singers who did not have to be bold with a four-octave range to impress his audience.

He just did his thing and carried everyone along in his performances.

He was a decent singer for his music type, however due to his early death and the new movement he started with Nirvana, he has gotten a god-like status in rock music.  

What Are Some Classic Kurt Cobain Songs To Practice?

  • Heart Shaped Box: Released in 1991 as part of the band’s final album ‘In Utero’, ‘Heart Shaped Box’ shows the raw power of Kurt Cobain’s voice as he rails against his celebrity status.
  • All Apologies: Another song which shows Kurts’ anguish and pain, the 1990 song is one that has endeared itself to many all across the world.
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit: ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is Kurt Cobain and Nirvana’s biggest hit song and practically put them in the limelight. It is still a favorite till today and is reputed to be a tough one to reproduce. 


Having had a troubled childhood, Kurt Cobain turned to music as a way of soothing himself but in the end the fame he got from it destroyed him.

Kurt Cobain introduced his own form of music within rock music and is legendary for his voice and his mode of singing.

As the lead vocalist for Nirvana, he had a decent voice and an extensive vocal range. As a baritenor with an amazing 4 octave range, Kurt Cobain regularly gave clear high notes.

Many experts are of the opinion that it would be tough to recreate his voice and it would be unhealthy in that case.

However, this should not stop anyone who is willing to follow the needed steps required to sing like Kurt Cobain. 

By Sophie Collins

Hi my name is Sophie, I am a Singer, Producer and Instrumentalist. I also love to bake and get creative with my hands. When I am not strumming my guitar, you can find me reading a good book with a glass of wine in my hands.

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