0:00 - It's Not Just the Perms
0:56 - Pedal Point Riff
2:30 - Melodic Runs
4:11 - Playing Over the Bar Line
6:33 - Solid Structure / Following Song Intensity
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“Livin’ On A Prayer” came out on Bon Jovi’s 1986 “Slippery When Wet” album - I’m assuming the album title referred to his huge 80’s permed hair?
This bass line was officially credited on the album to Alec John Such... but there’s a contingent of people who believe it may have actually been Hugh MacDonald, who is the band’s current bass player and played on many of Bon Jovi’s records.
Either way, it’s a killer bass line, and breaking it down might help you level up your bass playing.
The first reason this bass line is awesome is that distinctive riff that the bass starts with early in the song. It uses “pedal point” with the other instruments to create tension and release that grabs the listener. I’ll explain what pedal point is, how it works in this song, and what it would sound like without the pedal point.
Then we’ll go through some of the best bass runs (aka bass fills) in the song, and break down what makes them great. We’ll pay extra attention to the big run in the chorus where the bassist plays “over the bar line,” which is a really useful tool for making your rhythmic choices more interesting when playing fills.
Last we’ll talk structure - how the bass line follows the climbing intensity to best support the song, and how you can apply that to your own bass lines. But you’ll have to do it tastefully, otherwise you’ll sound like me in the outro.
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