Practice method

So I have been picking songs I really like & looking at the bass lines when they’re available. Typically limited to things like Songster, etc.
So I’ll try to play the bass of that song & then to become proficient I’ll play along with the actual song until I’m satisfied I have it. Usually have a family member critique it for me while playing with the song.
Would this be considered a proper way to improve at bass or am I doing myself a big disservice by practicing this way & will regret it somehow?
I enjoy it and it’s fun when I finally ace the tempo, the notes, nuances, mutes, holds & slides & it’s really satisfying & motivating.


I don’t see anything wrong with that, ultimately it’s about what your goals are and what you enjoy… so since you enjoy doing this, keep doing it… if you’d like other practice recommendations that’d depend on your bass goals


Thanks for the reply. Since I’m a perfectionist & seldom completely satisfied with my performance with anything, I’m always open to any & all practice methods that will help with improvement. Finger dexterity & placement, speed & not looking at the fretboard are things I would love to improve.


Learning songs and getting feedback is a great way to practice and develop. Don’t limit yourself to just that, but do include it in your routine.


It’s almost all I have ever done. I don’t really practice much per se, I mostly just work on playing songs. YMMV.

That said, I know theory, reading music, and so on from sources other than bass so I don’t count those as part of my bass practice.


I think playing along with your favorite songs is one of the best ways to improve all of those things. Especially the not looking, part. If I am learning a song I’ve barely paid attention to or never heard before, I end up doing a lot more looking at my fingers. With songs I know well, I get them faster and the playing becomes automatic in a much quicker fashion.

Dexterity and speed go hand-in-hand. I find I’m way more interested in correct finger placement than I was when I started learning the bass. Maybe it’s a carryover from playing guitar (which was a foundation I built mostly on rhythm guitarist stuff like chords and not things like sweep-picking or anything sexy), but for the longest time, I kept the attitude that if I was only playing one string at a time, I could go with whatever felt comfortable. Once you want to get into some really fast stuff, it’s a good idea to get a video of whoever it is you’re trying to emulate, so you can see what fingers are where. There’s just a huge leap in efficiency when you do.


I wasn’t clear if playing covers is all you do or just the bit you wanted to ask about. Note, practicing is a very personal thing and what might be right for others might not be right for you. For me personally, I try to break my practice into three elements:

  1. Theory/Technique - Scales, Finger Exercises, Music Notation Practice, etc.

  2. Covers - As it says on the tin

  3. Improv/Song-Writing - I try to finish each session by messing around or working on a song I’m developing

On the whole I do about a third of each, but not necessarily in every session, just overall in a year lets say. For me personally, this works for me and I can see the value in all of these elements. However, for you, it may be different, so don’t take this as gospel.

The other thing I’d mention is that if you are up for it, I think you’d get a lot of value in getting feedback from forum members here in addition to your family members. I’m assuming your family members aren’t bassists, so they might not pick up on things that we would. Video recording would be better than audio as some issues (like finger placement) can only be seen and not heard. Also perfectly fine to do a headless video if you don’t want people to see you. Or if you have a serial killer bass face (wife’s words) like me. :slight_smile:


EDIT: Since I’m interested in a lot of 70’s stuff and there’s little or no tabs for that music, I’ve been focusing on learning songs by ear, and have made a little bit of progress here and there, but it’s difficult.

Like @JT , I also just try to go off and make up my own bass lines.

I don’t work on music theory or scales, etc. but that’s just me . . . :slight_smile:



Also, do you know anyone else that plays music? Playing along with someone else is a very good way to improve rhythm, plus it then opens up new ideas and encourages making your own stuff.


The talking bass sight reading course also is about placement and not looking at the fretboard. It is awesome for this a big side benefit to the course. I work all exercises until i can play them correctly and without looking at the fretboard.


Any time your bass is in your hands or you are listening to music critically is practice. The question is, how do you optimize for your own goals (which makes it the truly personal experience as @JT points out). It’s been my experience on sax that until you connect with an actual live instructor you are really doing quite a bit hunting and pecking at practicing the ‘right stuff’. Most of us have time as our enemy with learning an instrument, and efficient, maximized practice for our individual goals is something that’s hard to do on your own. You don’t need lessons every week, but a connection with a live (or zoomed) instructor who knows how to work with you for your goals (btw, this is not easy, takes some searching, almost like dating) is really key.

All that said, if you are happy learning some covers and having a good time, that is great. But most of us, including me, don’t know what we don’t know, and a live instructor knows how to steer a student into areas to improve against their goals best.

I look at online lessons as a ‘foundation’. It gives you enough baseline data to be able to tell you what you want to do, what you can’t do well, etc. and allows you to communicate to an instructor what you want to work on. If you have never taken 1:1 lessons, you will be shocked at how much value they add. I did find it hard finding the right instructor for sax, stumbling through quite a few, feeling bad for moving on from some. But if you know your goals, you know how to tell yourself “this isn’t right”.

For bass, I’ve got an instructor locally in my back pocket to connect with, and am going to pull the trigger very soon. I wanted enough foundation so i wasn’t paying to learn the super basics, and to know enough to tell him ‘this is what i want to do or improve’.

With bass, there is a huge amount you can do online, which is great, much more so than sax, and you can forego the instructor all together and do great, depending on goals. But, if you really want to maximize your time and effort, I highly recommend live lessons at the point where you know what you want and what you want to improve.


There are very few things I worry less about than looking at the fretboard.

I like looking at the fretboard.

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This is a super good use of “practice” time that I need to increase myself. As is transcribing.


Thanks for all the advice. I agree with getting some “real live” instruction which has not been able to happen since the beginning of covid. Bassbuzz itself has been invaluable.
It seems I’ve become possessed with the desire to become as good at playing the bass as I possibly can. :blush:


A lot of top bass players look at the fretboard. I don’t worry about it. Playing on my Aerodyne, which doesn’t have fret markers, I don’t think I’m looking to see where to fret the notes anymore.

I think I’m visualizing what I’m playing. I don’t see it as a crutch


I’m not looking to never look at the fretboard again, I just want to be able to look up once in a while and keep on going without issue.


Rocksmith broke me of that habit actually. It’s something that will come in time