For those of you who are aware of it, I'm using the Hal Leonard bass method. I've been working on it for several months by myself and got to exercise 75 or so. However, everything feels so disconnected from actually playing music. In addition, I find myself making mistakes when I occasionally go through previous exercises.

I'm not sure why that is nor how long I should spend on working on an exercise. Should I start from the beginning? Also, is there a better method book? Sometimes it feels like these exercises are arbitrary and there is no logical order to it. It's quite frustrating and makes me want to give up learning to sight read.

Could I please get some advice? A number of people have recommended learning to sight read so I'd like to give it an honest try even if my goals are predominantly to play along with songs I enjoy as well as may be jamming with friends.

3 Answers 3


I'm about halfway through the second volume after half a year. I already knew how to read music.

Personally, I commit to spending about 10 minutes on it every day. Often it's fun and I'll go longer. But if it's not fun I'll stop and do something else. This seems to be enough to keep me going without burning out.

I play each example until I can play it all the way through correctly, at tempo, without feeling too tense. If that means getting stuck on the same exercise for a week that's OK.

After I got maybe halfway through the first volume I started another bookmark at the beginning. After practicing the new stuff I periodically also go back to that bookmark and do the exercise there. Like you, I find I'm usually rusty. It's easier than it was the first time through, but it's still not perfect on the first try.

Based on previous experience on piano, actual sight reading--playing through something cold correctly on the first try--is a long-term struggle. It's something I've gotten better at only gradually over a long time, and the level of music I can sight read is still much much easier than the level I play otherwise.

They seem like great books to me. But I'd definitely be unhappy if they were my only (or even most of) my practice. I also spend time ear training, transcribing from recordings, playing with other people, etc.

Like you I'm mostly self-taught. But a teacher might help put the exercises in context and make sure you're practicing the right things.

You might also want to try some searches on talkbass.com: a number of people have posted there about their experiences working through those books, and the author has commented on how he expected the books to be used.

  • Thank you for your insight, that was very helpful. I am a member of the talkbass forum. However, I find that this forum is much more helpful.
    – tapir435
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 20:53

If your goal is to jam with friends, then do that! While theory is important, I think that learning to play with other people and keep consistent rhythm (especially as a bass guitarist, since you're in the rhythm section) is invaluable. Don't get too caught up in running through the entire book unless you're required to do it for school or something. Theory, sight reading, and running through exercises are all very good things, but make sure you can still have fun while learning.

I would suggest looking for tutorials on YouTube. That is how I learned to play bass guitar, and they often have an emphasis on playing familiar songs. Once you have a bit of the theory down (and you really don't need much), you can learn to play off of chord charts that let you fill in notes around the root to play your own take on a given song. Try to replicate cool riffs you've heard other people play, or invent your own.

Depending on what your style is, you may not have to read a single page of music to enjoy your instrument. Personally, I dislike reading music and avoid it when possible. Other than chord charts, I prefer playing by ear or improvising, which are also great skills to have as a musician in general.


despite the fact that i'm not familiar with the Hal Leonard methond i found these too books very helpful in terms of practicing and reading:

Bass Aerobics by Jon Liebman (gives you 52 exercises to work on, 1 per week)

The Working Bassist's Tool Kit by Ed Friedland (helps you be more prepared for jams and also gives you some exercises)

One of them i don't really recal wich, gives you some fill-in-the-blanks sheet music so you can actually make up you own bass lines or re-write the exercise as you wish. Both of them have music sheet and tab. Hope that's helpful in any way.

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