The Man Who Sold the World

by Nirvana • Lesson #395 • Oct 11, 2021

Video lesson and sheet music

Print-Friendly Song Sheet 4 pages

Follow along with my print-friendly guide for this song! It’s available for purchase at, the web’s leading provider of licensed sheet music.

On the fence? Here's a guide I made showing the purchase & print process, including answers to common questions about my song sheets.

Buy at

Save 50% on this song sheet by applying the September 2023 code at Musicnotes checkout: WRKGBMXP7Y (click to copy). Thanks for being a Premium supporter!

Song Notes Premium includes a 50% discount code you can use when buying any of my licensed song sheets. For the current month's code, upgrade to premium or log in.

Editor’s notes

Today I’m excited to show you how to play The Man Who Sold The World, as covered by Nirvana on their 1994 album MTV Unplugged. This song is originally written & recorded by David Bowie (1970), but this lesson will work perfectly well for his version too. This song is a blast to play. In addition to being one you can strum & sing in a straightforward manner, there’s (1) the distinctive one-string riff, (2) the chorus scale riff, and (3) the ending solo – which also uses only one string – which altogether make for a true delight to play around with. No matter which of these you want to tackle, this tutorial has you covered.

Video timestamps:

  • 0:00 Preview & Lesson Summary
  • 2:16 Tuning Notes (Standard vs. E-flat)
  • 2:46 Intro Riff Basics
  • 5:33 Intro Riff, While Strumming
  • 7:25 Chord Shapes
  • 10:27 Strumming the Verse
  • 15:04 Strumming the Chorus
  • 17:30 Chorus Scale Riff
  • 24:15 Ending Solo w/ Tab

Full Play-along Cover

Based on popular demand, I’ve created a separate video showing TWO play-through covers of this song. The first is in standard tuning (using a simple strum, and no backing guitar tracks) while the second uses E-flat tuning (using a percussive strum, along with the chorus scale riff played over a backing rhythm track). Taken together, I feel you’ll be in very good in hands in seeing the different ways you can approach this song.

Only available to Premium members

Upgrade to Premium

Playing A-major with One Finger (Lesson #46)

Watch my video »

Percussive Slap Strum Technique (Lesson #197)

Watch my video & get PDF »

F Chord Cheat Sheet (Lesson #392)

Watch my video & get PDF »

Browse Related Lessons

Click any tag below to view other lessons I've made in that category:

About Song Notes

Hey there! My name is David Potsiadlo, and I'm the creator of the 400+ weekly lessons here at Song Notes, going back to 2013. Here’s my guitar story »

Get Free Lessons Each Week!

Join the 20,000+ readers who get my new lessons dropped in their inbox each week. I teach a fun mix of songs, weekly riffs, practice ideas, and more!

Enjoy my lessons? Buy me a beer!

If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider making a one-time donation to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it).

Fun & Helpful Tools I've Made

Fret Monster

Interactive fretboard map! See the patterns behind every scale in any key.


Capo Captain

An easy way to calculate key & chord combinations, for any capo location!


Subscribe to my YouTube channel

Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!

Recent Lessons

Browse All Recent Lessons →

Browse All My Lessons

By lesson type

By technique

By musical genre

By decade

By musical key

By popular artist

← back to homepage