We’re going to look at a classic bass line from the song Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division played by the legendary Peter Hook. This is a great bass line to play for players of any level. It’s instantly recognisable, it’s super melodic and it features a great use of open string drones to give that chordal sound. We’ll break it down and I’ll give you some tips on muting and fingering.

Playing with a pick

For this particular riff, you really need to use a pick. In this video lesson, I’m playing alternate picking on a Fender Precision to get that Peter Hook like tone and attack. Peter himself used a Yamaha BB 1200S, which has a split pick up like a precision, but in a reverse configuration. This riff is quite chordal sounding and uses a mixture of open string drones and power chords. To tighten up your picking technique, I recommend taking a look at my ‘How To Play Bass With A Pick – Essential Tips’ video in the link below.


Another tip for getting that signature ‘Hooky’ sound, is to use chorus. This adds extra warmth to the sound and gives your bass that classic 80’s vibe. When listening to the isolated track of the recording, I didn’t hear much chorus, but live you can very clearly hear it. Peter Hook used his signature Electro Harmonix Clone Theory pedal. I’m using a TC Electronic Corona pedal for this lesson.


In the picking hand, you can use alternate picking throughout the whole thing. You’ll need to be a little looser in the wrist as you will be playing two strings for the majority of the time. Think more like a guitarist strumming rather than the more rigid style of picking for single note bass playing. Pay special attention to where your down strokes and up strokes land when playing this piece to keep the tone consistent. There are some points in the main riff where it sounds like he is playing very aggressive downstrokes only, you can play this way if you choose to, however alternate picking will give you a more laid back sound and greater control. Try it both ways and see which you prefer, it’s entirely up to you.

When picking two notes at a time, you do need to be mindful of the residual noise from the remaining unplayed strings on your bass ringing out. This is where some muting is needed. Use the heel of the picking hand as a mute, by resting it across the upper E and A strings if you are not playing them. This stops these strings ringing out while playing the lower D and G strings.

Peter Hook

What I really like about Peter Hooks bass lines, is how melodic and creative they are. The line for ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ features the actual vocal line of the chorus alongside a drone to highlight the chord that’s payed underneath. You have everything in there, the Melody AND the Harmony. This makes it very recognisable and hooky (excuse the pun!), he was unusual in that he plays bass as more of a lead instrument rather that the traditional supporting role bass usually occupies.

He was the founding member of both Joy Division and New Order, these bands were huge on the New Wave scene in the late 70’s and 80’s with hits such as “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” “Blue Monday” and “Temptation.” Peter’s signature sound has been hugely influential to many bass players across the globe, with his lead guitar like playing and chorus drenched sound. He still tours to this day with his band “Peter Hook and the Light,” whom he is also the lead vocalist of. You can find out more via the link below.


Love Will Tear Us Apart Main Riff

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