Get Their Sound: Peter Hook Bass Tone On A Budget
Recreating influential bass tone without breaking the bank
As a founder member of two of the most influential bands in recent history, Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook is a bassist who boasts a unique playing style and tone. By his own admission, his recognisable sound resulted from the low-end tone produced by his bass and amp at the time being a muddy mess, which led to him playing higher up the neck just to be heard. When Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis encouraged him to maintain that playing style – along with Hook’s dislike of simply following the root notes of the guitar chords – a legend was born.
Admittedly, there’s reams of information across the internet and in Hook’s book, “Substance: Inside New Order” about what gear the man has used.
For those who want to know what Hook uses it is something like this:
- Yamaha BB1200S bass that has been with him for longer than I’ve been on the Earth
- Eccleshall 335-style bass, which is a custom-built work of art
- Shergold Marathon 6-String, which can be sought out via resale sites but are
- Hiwatt 200
- Trace Elliot 2×15
- JOYO D-Seed Delay
- Electro-Harmonix “The Clone Theory” Chorus
As you can see it is delightfully simple: bass, amp, chorus pedal, delay pedal, and strings with a thicker G string for a fuller sound when playing in the higher frets (105, 85, 65, 60 to be exact). Rather than relying on his tone coming from a dizzyingly complicated effects setup, Hook instead relies on his playing ability to generate those infectious basslines.
Let’s see what gear we can use to get as close to his tone as possible on a budget, and then your fingers will have to do the rest.
Yamaha BB434 Bass Guitar
Sticking with Yamaha as the bass of choice, we’ve gone with the Yamaha BB434 Bass Guitar for several reasons. Though it doesn’t have the reverse P-style pickup arrangement that features on the BB1200S, it does have a setup previously used by the man himself on another popular Yamaha bass. The BB434’s combination of Alnico-V powered split single-coil and single-coil pickups in the middle and bridge positions allow you to tailor and tweak the tonal character with a high degree of flexibility. Each pickup has an independent volume pot along with a master tone pot to home in on your ideal tone with exceptional accuracy.
Thanks to the generous 34-inch scale length and 21 fret rosewood fingerboard, you have every bit the playground to roam around in to pick out those deft lines.
Oh, and you’ll definitely want to be using a pick to get the same defined attack – preferably 1mm ones too. Some Jazz III XLs should do the trick.
Home Use and Practise
For those starting out or simply looking to go through chops at home, the Redwood B-15 Bass Guitar Amp Pack offers excellent value for money. Alongside a master volume knob there’s a four-band EQ for further tone tweaking to focus the mid-range to within an inch of its life.
Gigging, Jamming, Recording
Taking things up a notch or two is the Blackstar Unity 30, which is home to a raft of features that make it perfect for virtually anything you can think of. Lightweight and easy to transport, you can take it anywhere the music takes you.
There are three built-in voicing modes for classic, modern and overdriven tones. To get the aggressive edge to Hook’s tone the Unity allows you to crank up the sound and include just the right amount of grit without falling into distortion. The 3-band EQ with semi-parametric mid-section for smooth tone-shaping is perfect for getting that bright and punchy character in the upper mids. There’s even built-in chorus and compression to pull out that classic Joy Division inspired sparkle a la “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.
Yeah, we know it’s not an exact replica of the classic 70s’ EHX Clone Theory, but the BOSS CEB-3 does a fantastic job of applying singing chorus to the mid to high frequencies. If your rig expands then you there are stereo outputs to connect to two amps simultaneously. But for straight up chime-y goodness it is absolutely perfect plus like every BOSS pedal it is built like a tank and will last for years.
Again, another offering from BOSS in the form of the DD-7 Digital Delay, which not only offers stereo connectivity but boasts a selection of delay times, tap tempo and hold mode with up to 40 seconds on tap!