Learn to play guitar like Pete Townshend in five minutes

The Who’s guitar icon is one of the most influential and important players ever, with rhythm chops that have stood the test of time.

Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend. Image: Monitor Picture Library / Photoshot / Getty Images

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Get your windmilling arm revved up, because this month we’re going to take a look at the guitar style of a true living legend of the guitar world: The Who’s Pete Townshend.

Townshend is undoubtedly more famous for his on-stage gear-destroying antics than any lead part he ever played, but his genius has always been his driving rhythm style, which laid the bedrock for almost everything that came after it in terms of rock ‘n’ roll guitar, but especially punk. So turn up your full stack as loud as it’ll go, and don’t forget to hit those strings hard!

Impact chords

Learn to play like Pete Townshend in five minutes - Impact Chords

This is a simple trick you can put into your rhythm playing to channel some Townshend vibes. If you’re going to be hitting a chord on the first beat of the bar, you can set it up by quickly strumming a pair of 16th notes at the end of the bar before. Count this as  “& a 1”.

Chord inversions and drones

Learn to play like Pete Townshend in five minutes - Chord Inversions and Drones

A classic rhythmic trick from many The Who tracks is Townshend’s use of chord inversions and a droning note to create melodic rhythmic movements. This example uses inversions of D, A and G chords.

Suspended chords

Learn to play like Pete Townshend in five minutes - Suspended Chords

This is another melodic chord movement that uses sus2 and sus4 chords. Rhythmically, this shares some similarities from the first example, but there are some additional hits in the bar.

Suspended picking

Learn to play like Pete Townshend in five minutes - Suspended Picking

The Who were officially recognised as the loudest band on earth at one point but it wasn’t all aggression all the time. In some of the softer moments, Townshend would often lean on his favourite suspended chords to give some interesting textures. This example uses an Esus4, Dsus4 and Asus2.

About the Author

Leigh Fuge is a guitar teacher and professional musician from Swansea in the UK. He has taught hundreds of students face to face and via the MGR Music platform. He has over 10 years’ experience working in the industry as a touring musician, session guitarist and teacher.

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