What's the easiest was for a beginner to learn to read music?

That’s my question. Also, is it something that I even need to concern myself with?

I’ve only been at this for a couple of months and I’m wondering if I’m jumping the gun on the theory aspect of it learning to play the bass.


I’d start left to right.

Seriously though.
Yes it’s very worthwhile.
Mark Smith’s course is good. Perfect if you know nothing at all. Worth it.
Can’t speak for other methods.


@John_E Mark Smith has so much content and seems excellent but also seems very advanced to me…or maybe I am super dense LOL


Depends on course.
Better to nail B2B first but sight reading starts very elementary.


@John_E oh for sure I am doing one lesson per day with B2B and want to get through that and then go back to a few lessons I have earmarked then go through both final quizzes the Badass and the Super Badass and then look at what will be my next steps in my bass journey…I will be good until Septish


Reasons to learn to read music.

  • If you want to read music
  • If you want to write music
  • If you want the pride of having learned that skill
  • If you plan to get a job that requires it

Of those, the only reason I would do it would be for reading music that I couldn’t get bass tab. I’m sure others will chime in with even better reasons.


I highly recommend the Jeff Berlin bass sight reading book. It’s all in the key of C no sharps or flats. One lesson builds to next one. IMO best for beginners. Book is around $30.00. Marks lessons are great also. But I think that like a step up. There’s so much material in Mark’s lesson all good. But may be little overwhelming to some.

My 2 🪙 🪙 cents. There’s a lot of apps that can help too on your down time.


Of your reasons, only the first appeals to me and even then it’s not a necessity. If I can get by playing the bass by only being able to read tabs, that works for me.


Here’s a review from Bass Musician Magazine. That just came out. Too funny.


For where you are now, makes sense.
I still can’t read bass clef, but now want to a year and a half in…


@Steve_A Easiest way to read music - If you find one let us all know :slightly_smiling_face:

With only a few month’s under your belt I would say you should put this on your to-do list for now.
I find reading is closely related to theory so would suggest the following if you want to continue.

I am a lifetime all access member of Blues Guitar Unleashed community.
Here is a link to a theory course on that site. https://guitartheorymadeuseful.com/
Although this is a 6 string site, that really does not matter when it comes to theory because music theory is applicable to all instruments IMHO.

Griff Hamlins approach to teaching is very similiar to @JoshFossgreen and I believe the course also has a money back guarantee.


Reading music is a very valuable skill.

Reading won’t directly make you a better bass player in any way. If you are looking at it as a means to directly improve your bass playing skill it is a waste of time.

What it will do is facilitate learning songs from sheet music (which conveys more information than most tabs, though there are tabs with timing info as well). In other words, it has strong indirect benefits.

It will also help you communicate your musical ideas to others.

Music Theory is different. Music Theory will help in understanding music and thus directly help in composing. I would say music theory is valuable no matter what.

The weird bit is that learning theory without learning to read music is more challenging. You also might pick up the fundamentals of reading music while learning theory. The basics are not difficult.

You do not need to sight read at full speed to get value out of being able to read music. It’s great for lots of things around learning songs and so on.

I don’t see much point in learning to sight read at speed unless you want to, or want to be a professional (session or gigging), or go to music school. I’ve played several instruments and have only been able to sight read at full tempo (barely) on one of them. It’s a nice skill to have but is in no way holding you back if you don’t get there, at least compared to other fundamental skills.

Eventually with most instruments I find that you get to a mode where you can learn the song from the sheet music, and then use the sheet music as a reference while playing, even if you aren’t sight reading at full speed. It’s like speed reading in that sense where you’re more just recognising overall shapes of the music and the rest comes from memory from learning and practicing it. Is it full-speed sight reading? Well, no. Is it good enough? It was for me :slight_smile:


Based on what you guys are telling me, I may be putting the cart before the horse. :thinking:


For sure. Learn the basics of how to play first, then learn to read and worry about theory later.

I would say there is no reason whatsoever for you to worry about theory, or reading, at all, until Josh introduces them in the course, and then go at that pace he provides it at, until finishing the course. Then learn more theory and reading after finishing.


I find this also. He has a special method that according to him differs from other ways, and is called SIMPLE STEPS to sight reading.
I have completed 1/2 of the first volume, and there are 3, beginner, intermediate and advanced.

As others have said, it might be a bit early to make this decision for you, but I will say that when I started Marks Simple Steps, that within the first 6-8 lessons, there were about 10 A-ha moments that came from everything to learning the fretboard, to applying timing to tabs that can be a bit confusing if you don’t learn at least some of the notation.

Even with the A-ha moments, I don’t think they would have been valuable, or even would have sunk in to be A-ha moments if I did it while in B2B.
I started it After B2B, and after Mark’s Scales Essentials, and after having some private lessons with Josh, and WHILE I was working thru the Chord tones class.
I think after all that I had done, it was the right time, and it was about 9-10 months in for me.
Also at that 10 months, I got a serious infection in my leg and was hospitalized for 20 days, and then unable to play bass for a total of about 2.5 months. that put a stop to both Chord Tones and Sight Reading courses.

After 2.5 months, coming back to playing, I was amazed at all that I had retained from B2B and all of Mark’s courses and Josh’s lessons, even after a stagnant 2.5 months of not even thinking about bass. That says alot about Josh and Mark as teachers.
I was on Mark’s all access pass, and it was discontinued on June1st. I was given a couple months advanced notice it was ending, and I decided then not to complete the Sight Reading course, and to take advantage of some of the other classes while I could.
As it turns out, after being a subscriber, Mark gave me some lessons free via a coupon after the All Access ended, so I am able to complete those classes now, and others, AND have access for a lifetime, just like I do B2B and the 50 songs.


Funny thing is bass and guitar are some of the few instruments where you don’t have to learn to read music to play. Everything else you are learning to read as you go, as each note is introduced.

To me this makes learning Bass MUCH easier when starting out BUT gives you an extra step later to catch up. I haven’t seen any beginner bass teachers that start with music notation only out of the gate.


I wonder what percentage of guitarists use sheet music at all. Probably low. Then again it would make sense for some styles like classical, flamenco, etc.


so @T_dub is it fair to deduce that you will be gone in a day or two?


You are probably right.

I use sheet music primarily to correct the online lead sheets for the ukulele groups I run and supply the music for. Like online bass tab sources, some of the lead sheets online are just plain wrong.

I also find sheet music invaluable for times when someone wants a lead sheet for a song that I do not know. I find that sheet music provides the missing element of rhythm that tabs and lead sheets do not usually provide. Also, if you want to write your own improv solo(s) for a song sheet music is helpful.


Thanks to all of you! I’m really encouraged by what you’ve had to say. I’m going to put learning to read music on the back burner for now. To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled about it anyway, I just thought it was something I had to do.

You’ve all made my day! :blush: