Real Guitar Adventure for Grownups

Learn Cool Suspended Chords While Playing Pinball Wizard by The Who

in Guitar Chords, Guitar Songs to Learn | 2 comments

Blog Graphic - Pinball Wizard

I did get a request for a lesson on some of the guitar licks of guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who…

And I do think there's some cool chords that you could use in here …

I even think this lesson could be a good exercise to strengthen your fingers and improve your dexterity…

But I'm going to let you in on a secret.

The Who is my all-time favorite music group.

There I said it.  I may delete this post in the future.



I'm best known (and have 5 CDs) for my own original Spanish/Flamenco style of music.  I really enjoy the music by artist like the Gipsy Kings and Ottmar Liebert. It conjures the images and feelings of being in an exotic place… away from the stresses of everyday life In the US.

But I grew up a rocker.

First there was a short teenage pop phase (as in Tommy James and the Shondells, don’t laugh… you were a teenager once)

Then I heard rock music… and I’ve never been the same.

I remember hearing Santana…  Kind of like a first love, I'll never forget Santana.

Then came Led Zeppelin. I think it was their most well-known song that first awakened my desire to play the guitar when I heard it drift over the radio waves in my room during one of my “moody teenage” days.  How could you not want to play guitar after hearing “Stairway to Heaven” as a teenager?


Then... I heard The Who.

It wasn't they’re really early stuff. I jumped in right around the time they released “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won't Get Fooled Again”. The music really spoke to my teenage soul.

I actually didn't try to play their songs for a long time. Pete Townshend was totally amazing to me. He sounded like two guitar players playing at the same time. Such a BIG sound… with melody and chords. I’d never heard anything like it.

I found the Tommy album (actually released before Whos Next). I listened to this album over and over, probably in part trying to figure out what they were talking about. I'm still not sure.

But “Pinball Wizard” was indelibly stamped in my brain for the rest of my life.


Notes To Get The Most From This Lesson

In this lesson I've chosen to teach (in my humble opinion) the most useful part, and the most difficult part, of “Pinball Wizard” by The Who.

Here's some notes that will help you:

  • Fingering the chord with the thumb around the neck will be easier for some people than others.  Even though this is the way Pete Townshend plays the chords it's really fine to use one of two alternate forms.
  • Alternative Form #1: The easiest form involves leaving out the thumb and playing the top strings only. I show in the video how to deaden out the 5th string and the 1st  string. A good strategy is to try this first and then try adding the thumb for the bass no later.
  • Alternative Form #2: Another way to do this is to play it as a bar chord (see cheat sheet for fingering). It does sound slightly different, but it’s not likely anyone will hear the difference (except diehard Who fans that play guitar and are fanatics about playing things the way the original artist played it. I'm kinda over that).
  • The chords you'll actually be playing are suspended fourth chords (sus4) resolving to the major chord. I wasn't sure if I got this across clearly in the video. For example: the first chord is a Bsus4 that resolves (as in take the pinky off) to a B major chord. For those interested in theory that means the 4th becomes the 3rd of the chord once it resolves.
  • The progression is: Bsus4 to B; Asus4 to A; Gsus4 to G; F#sus4 to F#.
  • I don't recommend trying to do the original version on a nylon string guitar. I've tried it. It's really hard to get the thumb around the neck 🙂 If you're using a nylon string guitar just stick with one of the other two versions I've talked about here.

The Perfect Bar Chord Solution

Well... That's all I know for now.

I wasn't sure if many people would be interested in this kind of lesson but I'm curious what you think. Let me know something in the comments section below.  Good or bad … I read every single comment.

By the way… If you're interested in learning the entire song I found a video on YouTube that does a really good job of teaching it:

Pinball Wizard Guitar Lesson - The Who - Complete Song - Pete Townshend Acoustic

Download the Lesson Cheatsheet Here:



Recommended Resources:

How To Play Suspended Chords: Asus4, Esus4 and Dsus4


Tell Us What You Think - Please Comment Below!

We would love to hear your comments and questions. What specific things are you struggling with while learning guitar?



Tomas Michaud

Author - Tomas Michaud at Real Guitar Success
Tomas Michaud is an American born guitarist and music educator with a French Canadian heritage. He first developed the Starland Guitar System in 1982 when his 9 year old daughter asked him to teach her guitar. Since then he’s founded the Starland School of Music in the SF Bay Area, and

When he's not making guitar instruction videos or creating more music to record (currently 7 CDs including Beauty and Fire) he's riding his bike along the beach with his dog Marco Polo or traveling to interesting places with his lovely wife Pui.
Tomas Michaud


  1. Cool lesson, and I too am a Who fan. I’ll have fun learning this. Thanks!


    May 23, 2016

    • You’re welcome Vic. -Tomas


      June 8, 2016

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