Skip to content
Pinball Wizard - Th...
Clear all

Pinball Wizard - The Who

14 Posts
12 Users
0 Reactions
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 10264
Topic starter  

Pinball Wizard - The Who

At first sight - or should that be on first hearing? - this sounds a horrendously complicated song
with a lot of chords, but with a little forward planning, the changes really aren't that difficult.
With Pete Townshend, it's not so much which chords you play as where and how you play them - anyway,
in my opinion, this classic is well worth struggling with at first - when you finally get it right,
wow, what a buzz!

I'm going to split this into three sections...the intro, the verses and the main riff, and the
bridge and 4th verse - there's a key change there, which is a littly tricky at first, but with the
two P's - Practise and Patience - it'll all come me!!!

The intro is pretty much a study in partial chords...these are what you'll need. Don't be put off
by the fact there's quite a few of them, with some slightly exotic you'll see from
the order in which they're laid out, it's a very neat and logical progression.....
and it's played something like this........

Bm/F# Bm(add4)/F# F#7sus4 F#7

F#m7 Em/F# Em/G F#7 F#7 F#7sus4

The easiest way to play this is:

For the first bar (Bm/F#)put your 1st finger on the B&E strings at the 2nd fret, your 2nd finger on
the B string at the 3rd fret, your pinkie on the G string at the 4th fret, and your ring finger on
the D string, also at the fourth fret......

For the 2nd bar (Bm(add4)/F#) remove your 1st finger from the top E string.......

For the 3rd bar (F#7sus4) just lift your 2nd finger off the fretboard and place it on the 3rd fret
of the G string....

For the 4th bar (F#7) simply take your pinky off altogether.....

The 5th bar, F#m7 is slightly more tricky....and a bit of a stretch.....keep your ring finger where
it is (D string, 4th fret - it shouldn't have moved yet!) move your 1st finger from the B string,
2nd fret to the G string 2nd fret, at the same time moving your 2nd finger from the 3rd fret of the
G string to the 2nd fret of the B string......

6th bar (Em/F#) is much easier (isn't that true about all pub crawls!) - leave the ring finger where
it is, take the other two off - ring finger should now be the only finger in contact with the fret-

For the 7th bar (Em/G) you're going to move that ring finger for the first time...slide it up one
fret to the 5th, at the same time putting your 2nd finger on the 4th fret of the G string....and this
is where it gets a little trickier still, you play the top 4 strings here (the top 2 open)
the first chord with a downstrum, let it ring briefly, then the next 3 chords are dud dud dudd....

For the 8th bar (F#7) slide the two fingers you've already got on down a fret each, and put the 2nd
finger on the B string at the 2nd fret - the strumming's a little faster again here, I think it's
16ths instead of 8ths - I have mentioned before, I'm no expert on strumming patterns.....

The 9th bar (F#7) again may well be a continuation of the 8th bar it's all down to timing - but make
sure for the last strum of that bar you give the F#7sus4 a quick strum......

Well that's the intro finished - now this is where it gets really tricky!

The verses are bsed on a descending riff .........

Bsus4 and B, Asus4 & A, Gsus4 & G, Fsus4 and F - please don't ask me about strumming patterns, again
this is something beyond my capabilities to translate to'd take a Noteboat or a DHodge
to get this down accurately, and I'm a long way short of that class of playing......

From the "official" tab sheet, Townshend plays the riff something like this.......

Bsus4 B Asus4 A Gsus4 G F#sus4 F#

What he's doing is playing the top 4 strings, bringing the thumb round to the bottom E string for the
bass note, and muting the 5th (A) string with his thumb.......

However, if you play the sus4 with a half-barre, like this, you'll find you'll mute the B string and
still let the top E ring out, which you need.....

7 9 9 9 7 7

Full barre across the 7th fret, half barre across the 9th with your ring finger....if you bend the
ring finger down sharply from the top knuckle, you'll find what you play is this.......

Bsus4 B Asus4 A Gsus4 G F#sus4 F#

(The small "m" stands for "muted note" could actually play it as

Bsus4 Asus4 Gsus4 F#sus4

but it really is better if you let the top E string ring out.........

anyway back to the song.........

after the F#sus7 in the intro, we move onto ....(the way I do it anyway......the "easy (hah!) way.....

Bsus4 B Bsus4 B

and here's where that famous powerchord comes in.....

it's basically an A chord, slide it up two frets quickly....


then repeat the Bsus4/B riff, and the powerchord, and we're into the verses......

Ever (Bsus4)since I was a young boy, I (B)played the silver ball,
From (Asus4)Soho down to Brighton, I (A)must've played 'em all,
But I (Gsus4)ain't seen nothing like him, in (G)any 'musement hall,
That (F#)deaf dumb and blind kid, (B)sure (A)plays (F#)a mean (A)pin(B)ball

(Where the B chord comes in the middle of "pin(B)ball", this is where the the other classic riff
comes in,,,,,,)

BB A D EE, BB A D EE(all full chords, barred - B at the 7th, A at the 5th, D at the 5th, and E at
the 7th......and repeat......

(Bsus4)Stands like a statue, becomes (B)part of the machine,
(Asus4)Feelin' all the bumpers, (A)always playin' clean,
(Gsus4)Plays by intuition, the (G)digit counters fall,
That (F#)deaf dumb and blind kid, (B)sure (A)plays (F#)a mean (A)pin(B)ball,

(Repeat the B chord in the middle of "pin(B)ball", this is where the the other classic riff
comes in,,,,,,)

BB A D EE, BB A D EE(all full chords, barred - B at the 7th, A at the 5th, D at the 5th, and E at
the 7th......and repeat......

Chorus (1):

(E)He's a pin(F#)ball (B)wizard, there (E)has (F#)to be a (B)twist,
A (E)pin(F#)ball (B)wizard's got (G)such a supple (D)wrist,(Dsus4)(D)

(These chords are played barred above, with G at the 3rd fret and D at the 5th...)

Then there's a short bridge before coming back for the 3rd verse....

How do you think he does it, (I don't know) What makes him so good,
D Csus2 G D Csus2 G


3rd Verse: played in a similar fashion to the first two.....

(Bsus4)Ain't got no distractions, can't (B)hear no buzzers and bells,
(Asus4)Don't see no lights a-flashing, (A)plays by sense of smell,
(Gsus4)Always gets the replay, (G)never seen him fall,
That (F#sus4)deaf dumb and blind kid, (F#)sure plays a mean pin(B)ball

Here's that riff again....

BB A D EE, BB A D EE(all full chords, barred - B at the 7th, A at the 5th, D at the 5th, and E at
the 7th......and repeat......

Chorus (2): this time play the D chord at the 10th fret....

I (E)thought (F#)I (B)was the (E)bally (F#)table (B)king,
But (E)I (F#)just (B)handed my (G)pinball crown to (D)him...

This is where the key changes for the last verse, which is preceded by a rapidly strummed sequence
of Dsus4 and D chords done at the 10th fret.....


Even (Dsus4)on my favourite table, (D)he can beat my best,
His dis(Csus4)ciples lead him in and (C)he just does the rest,
He's got (Bbsus4)crazy flipper fingers, (Bb)never seen him fall,
That (Asus4)deaf dumb and blind kid, (A)sure plays a mean pin(D)ball(C)(F)

(D chords at the 10th fret, C at the 8th, Bb at the 6th and A at the 5th...then back up to the 10th
for D, the 8th for C and F.....)

and then the outro is just Bbsus4 and B (at the 6th fret) until the fade....

Now PLEASE don't ask me about strumming patterns....this is one of those songs where you're just
going to have to listen to the record over and over again (like I did!) to work it out - it does
actually seem straightforward, though fast....anyone has any ideas, suggestions, feel free to chip

I hope you can make sense of this, there seems an awful lot of it - I broke it down into sections
and played them one at a time till I'd got the hang of it, then moved on to the next....first time
I managed to get all the way through it, I thought my face was going to be stuck in that dopey grin


:D :D :D


"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)

Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 397

Way cool! Thanks, Vic! 8)

Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 11

Vic, are you reading my mind???

This was the next song I planned to try to learn! First Band on the Run and now this??

Vic- I owe you and Matt about a week at the pub!

This is great!

Prominent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 715

Staggers back in amazement Vic!!!!!

This is an awesome peice of work. Must have taken you ages. "Whats that Vic" !!! Of coarse I'll give it a try but its gonna take me longer to learn to play it than you took to tab it out.

Thank you from all of us.

I can still see Elton in his massive stacked heels belting this out on that huge pinball machine with Pete Townsend leaping about playing the lead riffs in the Tommy film. What a piece of rock history.

Chris :D :D :D

The guitar is all right John but you'll never make a living out of it! (John Lennon's Aunt Mimi)

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 10264
Topic starter  

Cheers Chris - I actually love Elton's version of this almost as much as the original, and I like the sneaky way they throw the riff from "I can't Explain" into the mix.....

And for my next trick - well the last few have been mostly acoustic songs, I think it's time for a real old rocker.....4 powerchords and two hammeron/pull offs.....I fancy something easier next time....

:D :D :D


"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 10264
Topic starter  

By the way - one added benefit of tabbing songs out in great detail - you really get to know the song.....I can now play this and Band on the Run virtually in my sleep!

Wanna learn a song? Start from scratch and tab it out! The only thing is, you may be so sick of it by the time you've finished you'll never want to hear it again, much less play it....

:D :D :D


"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)

Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 879

this is soooo weird. This was going to be my next song on here.

Nice one Vic, boy you've saved me some hassle! :lol:

Very well laid out and explained, looking forward to having a stab at this later tonight.

thanks a lot!


Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1086

Well Victor, all I can say is............ Yet again.

Do you think you could put a little more effort into your next posting... :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Sorry Vic :wink:

Just getting my own back over the avatar joke.

But seriously a very very good mini lesson to follow, should make learning this one a sinch to learn.

Thanks mate

Be excellent to each other & party on dudes!

Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 908

Hey Vic

Excellent transcription - with this and the song it's coming along really well

Thanks Mate

Bob :wink:

My Soundclick Page

You are what you eat, eat well

Reputable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 168

Wow Vic! This post is awesome! Let me also say that the effort you put into your posts is GREATLY appreciated. There are numerous sites where one can get tabs. However, one of the things that makes GN so special, is people like you that take the time to give tips on how to fret; who tab that extra riff, fill or run; who give strumming suggestions; etc. To you, and others who do likewise (I would mention you by name, but I dont' want to risk leaving someone out) - THANK YOU!!!

"Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak."

Famed Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 4113

Vic, i appreciate this more than you'll ever know.


Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2801

Another thanks Vic. My guitar teacher was going to teach me this last week. I think I'll practice this the next week or two and suprise him. :D


“The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn” - David Russell (Scottish classical Guitarist. b.1942)

Honorable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 453

Vic just writing to tell you how much I have appreciated this song and all the tips you posted on how to play it. I almost have that dopey grin you refer to just a little more work on getting to the D 10th fret in time. This has been a real good tune to practice barre chords with, I had never really explored any chords past the 7th fret before. Once again thanx and hope you are well on the mend. Selfishly speaking I get so much out of your posts. Paint it Black was another great one.

Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4

I have long joked that anyone who strums this cleanly the way Townshend does has spent some time down at the crossroads. I know it, I just can't do it. It's a classic 3 on 4 rhythm. Straight sixteenths accented every third note, which means alternate directions with a straight strum. Beat four is straight eighths. If each set of four below is a set of sixteenths and the O's are accents and x's are light strokes

OxxO xxOx xOxx OxOx

is the basic pattern.

A cheater way which is much easier...use the same code except . is a sixteenth left silent

O.xO .xO. xO.x O.O.

which sound like swing eighths, but more importantly all the accents are downstrokes.

My little bit. If anyone has secrets to getting the rhythm right, please add.