How to Play Bass Like Peter Hook


For all the prattling in rock 'n' roll about "being yourself," few artists have actually done it. That's not a problem for Peter Hook, whose gliding "lead bass" lines--primarily with Joy Division and New Order--established him among rock's most readily identifiable voices. Not content to plunk out speed-of-light licks, Hook consistently creates melodic basslines that are supportive yet stand on their own. Indeed, much of modern rock's canon would be empty and bland without him--as one listen to classic songs like "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Joy Division) or "Temptation" (New Order) will attest.

Things You'll Need

  • Alembic or Roland pre-amplifier
  • Ampeg SVT
  • Chorus pedal
  • Eccleshall bass
  • Crown DC-300A amplifier
  • Heavy strings (Elite Bass Sensors, strung from .060, .065, .080, and .105)
  • Joy Division and New Order albums, live recording sand videos
  • Shergold Marathon bass
  • Two 15-inch Gauss 5460 speakers
  • Yamaha BB1200 bass
  • Seek out the high end--in this case, the top two strings (D and G)--and keep your hands positioned up the neck, preferably past the ninth fret. As Hook has frequently told interviewers, this sonic strategy began during his late '70s tenure with Joy Division, when he often had to use bass cabinets with a poor bottom end, and thus could not hear himself properly.

  • Pay close attention to Hook's playing and phrasing. On a typical Joy Division or New Order track, he tends to hold back throughout the verses, only to reassert his presence during the instrumental tracks and double the chorus lines whenever the mood strikes him. See "Love Will Tear Us Apart" for a relevant example. This approach allowed him to play a second lead role behind New Order's singer-guitarist, Bernard Sumner, on hit songs like "Blue Monday," "True Faith" and "Regret."

  • Use heavy gauge strings--from 060, .065, .080, and .105 on the E, A, D, and G strings, respectively--to capture the bright, ringing tone that characterizes Hook's style. Because these string gauges are so much thicker and heavier than the average, playing with a pick will likely be a necessity, not an option. So count on putting in some additional practice to get used to the feeling.

  • Turn your instrument's bass and treble control knobs all the way up, while leaving the midrange alone. For the finishing touch, run your bass through a chorus pedal--Hook's preferred model being an Electro-Harmonix Clone Theory--to get the bright, shimmering sound that characterizes his groundbreaking Joy Division and New Order work.

  • Complete your setup with an Alembic or Roland pre-amplifier to route the sound through Crown or Ampeg SVT tube amplifiers, which allows the player to exert greater control over the sound--without compromising the crunchy, biting tone Hook prefers.

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