Pete Townshend - Guitar Heroes A-Z

The Who’s stadium-rocking, windmill-strumming whiz kid Pete Townshend is well-known for his starring role in the evolution of the power chord, but the iconic British guitarist is also one of the all-time greats at using acoustic guitars in hard rocking tunes. The power and aggression that Townshend can achieve on a Gibson J-200 (his acoustic of choice for many years) is an amazing thing to behold. By comparison, when most players strum a steel-string, it sounds too delicate and, well, nowhere near as cool. This lesson offers all the tools necessary to inject a little bit of Pete Power into your acoustic playing. What you see before you is a new spin on the CAGED approach to chord fingerings (CAGED being an acronym for the five most common chord shapes).

The first chord, C5, is a true power chord—just roots and 5s. Letting your third finger rest lazily against the D string to mute it, strike the chord hard, and dig the consonance that occurs when there’s no 3 present. (Bonus: You can slide this shape to just about any fret on the neck and get a great sounding chord.) The next C fingering does contain a major third, but the combination of fretted and open notes makes it ring in a different and more satisfying way.

The A chords are simple but incredibly effective. In the recording studio, do one pass on one and overdub the other and hear what happens (clue: something bitchin’). They’re both portable as well.

The first G is a power chord that’s, well, just plain powerful. (Strum it as hard as you possibly can, and watch out for old strings that may snap in protest.) The next G offers a prettier, more delicate sound that is delightfully moveable.

The first E is heavy and chunky, the second simply massive—it doesn’t get any bigger or badder on a standard-tuned acoustic than this chord right here. Damn.

For the D grips, we have one power chord and one tinkly add9 voicing. These two sounds were born to be overdubbed—yum! Move them pretty much anywhere on the fretboard, and they’ll still rule.

Recording tip: Overdub a track of high-strung or Nashville-tuned guitar on top of any of these voicings, and only Pete Townshend will be a cooler acoustic player than you.