Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning

Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning

3.6 9
by Gary Marcus
     
 

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On the eve of his 40th birthday, Gary Marcus, a renowned scientist with no discernible musical talent, learns to play the guitar and investigates how anyone—of any age —can become musical. Do you have to be born musical to become musical? Do you have to start at the age of six?

Using the tools of his day job as a cognitive psychologist, Gary Marcus

Overview

On the eve of his 40th birthday, Gary Marcus, a renowned scientist with no discernible musical talent, learns to play the guitar and investigates how anyone—of any age —can become musical. Do you have to be born musical to become musical? Do you have to start at the age of six?

Using the tools of his day job as a cognitive psychologist, Gary Marcus becomes his own guinea pig as he takes up the guitar. In a powerful and incisive look at how both children and adults become musical, Guitar Zero traces Marcus’s journey, what he learned, and how anyone else can learn, too. A groundbreaking peek into the origins of music in the human brain, this musical journey is also an empowering tale of the mind’s enduring plasticity.

Marcus investigates the most effective ways to train body and brain to learn to play an instrument, in a quest that takes him from Suzuki classes to guitar gods. From deliberate and efficient practicing techniques to finding the right music teacher, Marcus translates his own experience—as well as reflections from world-renowned musicians—into practical advice for anyone hoping to become musical, or to learn a new skill.

Guitar Zero debunks the popular theory of an innate musical instinct while simultaneously challenging the idea that talent is only a myth. While standing the science of music on its head, Marcus brings new insight into humankind’s most basic question: what counts as a life well lived? Does one have to become the next Jimi Hendrix to make a passionate pursuit worthwhile, or can the journey itself bring the brain lasting satisfaction?

For all those who have ever set out to play an instrument—or wish that they could—Guitar Zero is an inspiring and fascinating look at the pursuit of music, the mechanics of the mind, and the surprising rewards that come from following one’s dreams.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Guitar Zero is a refreshing alternation between the nitty-gritty details of learning rock-guitar licks and Mr. Marcus's survey of the relevant scientific literature on learning and the brain. For those who look forward, in 'retirement,' to honoring the lifelong yearnings they have neglected, Guitar Zero is good news."
Wall Street Journal

"[Guitar Zero] looks far more deeply into the ways our brains rewire themselves and find ways to compensate for certain gaps or deficits in our abilities. In the process of demonstrating these, Marcus sounds an encouraging note (pun intended) for older readers who have always wanted to do something but have never had time."
Los Angeles Times

"This enjoyable blend of music appreciation, science and personal exploration commands a new respect for how the brain and body responds to the promise, and shock, of the new."
Kirkus Reviews

"Jimi Hendrix meets Oliver Sacks in this great new science book."
Very Short List

"A delightfully inspiring, charming, and detailed musical journey that explodes myths of human limitation, while revealing that the fountain of youth very well may be made of wood and played on six strings."
Richard Barone, musician, author of Frontman Richard Barone, musician, author of Frontman

"Gary Marcus, one of the deepest thinkers in cognitive science, has given us an entertaining and enlightening memoir, filled with insight about music, learning, and the human mind."
Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature

Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature

"Captivating and filled with insight, GUITAR-ZERO is a look at the challenge of personal reinvention by Gary Marcus, one of our leading psychologists. Whether you are a music lover or not, if you care about reaching your own potential, you should read this book."
Dr. Drew Pinsky, host, Dr. Drew, Lifechangers, and Loveline Dr. Drew Pinsky, host, Dr. Drew, Lifechangers, and Loveline

"Marcus is one of the smartest psychologists around, a deep thinker and an eloquent writer, and the story he tells is informed by the best science of perception and learning and evolution, talent and effort, genius and frustration and success. If you have ever dreamed of becoming a musician, you simply must read GUITAR-ZERO."
Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works

"I enjoyed GUITAR-ZERO immensely. Marcus has not only intensified the process itself but simplified the definition of one's dedication to it. His elaborate illustration will certainly cause many of us to better appreciate the gifts we've been blessed with."
Pat Martino, four-time Grammy nominee - Pat Martino, four-time Grammy nominee

Kirkus Reviews
To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, can a 38-year-old tone-deaf professor of cognitive psychology get a guitar and learn how to make it talk? That's the question Marcus (Psychology/New York Univ.; Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind, 2008, etc.) asked himself a few years ago, and this intelligent, educational and exuberant book is his answer. Marcus approached his lifelong dream from both a personal and professional level; he wanted to play, but he also wanted to challenge the "critical periods" theory of learning, which suggests that you should learn music early or not at all. The author threw himself into mastering his ax, pushing the limits to see just how far a new trick could take an old dog. In the process, he explores how the senses reorganize to adapt to new information and investigates where music comes from, what evolutionary function (if any) it serves and why some people have rhythm and others don't. Marcus asks eternal questions on which the jury is still out: Where does talent come from? How far will sheer hard work take you? Why are there countless obsessive, 24/7 guitarists, but there's only been one Jimi Hendrix? Why do the most dedicated composers of rock and pop songs fall far short of what Bob Dylan or the Beatles accomplished in their 20s? Is it genetic? Nature or nurture? The author sought opinions and advice from people across the music world--e.g., jazz impresario Pat Metheny and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine--and even attended rock-band camp, humbling himself to audition for a band of 11-year-olds who needed someone on bass. Whether or not readers (aging or otherwise) will profit by the author's example, this enjoyable blend of music appreciation, science and personal exploration commands a new respect for how the brain and body responds to the promise, and shock, of the new.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594203176
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/19/2012
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Richard Barone
"A delightfully inspiring, charming, and detailed musical journey that explodes myths of human limitation, while revealing that the fountain of youth very well may be made of wood and played on six strings."
—Richard Barone, musician, author of Frontman
Terre Roche
In the smart and entertaining Guitar Zero, Gary Marcus shuttles between being a humble student of music and a learned professor of psychology in this fascinating experiment. I laughed out loud at many of his observations about people and music. If you've denied yourself the experience of playing your own music because you didn't think you could do it, Guitar Zero just might nudge you on your musical way. (Terre Roche, singer, songwriter, guitarist and member of The Roches and Afro-Jersey)
Paul Bloom
"Marcus is one of the smartest psychologists around, a deep thinker and an eloquent writer, and the story he tells is informed by the best science of perception and learning and evolution, talent and effort, genius and frustration and success. If you have ever dreamed of becoming a musician, you simply must read GUITAR ZERO."
—Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works
Pat Martino
"I enjoyed GUITAR ZERO immensely. Marcus has not only intensified the process itself but simplified the definition of one's dedication to it. His elaborate illustration will certainly cause many of us to better appreciate the gifts we've been blessed with."
—Pat Martino, four-time Grammy nominee
Dr. Drew Pinsky
"Captivating and filled with insight, GUITAR ZERO is a look at the challenge of personal reinvention by Gary Marcus, one of our leading psychologists. Whether you are a music lover or not, if you care about reaching your own potential, you should read this book."
—Dr. Drew Pinsky, host, Dr. Drew, Lifechangers, and Loveline
From the Publisher
"Jimi Hendrix meets Oliver Sacks in this great new science book."
Very Short List
Eugene Narmour
Gary Marcus, the eminent cognitive psychologist, has written a fascinating autobiographical case study. He explores the common spaces inhabited by music and language, the evolution of the musical mind, the varieties of expert music teaching, and the deep pleasures of achieving musical competence. (Eugene Narmour, Kahn Distinguished Professor, University of Pennsylvania; author of The Analysis and Cognition of Basic Melodic Structures)
Steven Pinker
"Gary Marcus, one of the deepest thinkers in cognitive science, has given us an entertaining and enlightening memoir, filled with insight about music, learning, and the human mind."
—Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature

Drew Pinsky
Captivating and filled with insight, Guitar Zero is a look at the challenge of personal reinvention by Gary Marcus, one of our leading psychologists. Whether you are a music lover or not, if you care about reaching your own potential, you should read this book. (Dr. Drew Pinsky, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, USC; Host, Dr. Drew, Life-Changers, Loveline, and Celebrity Rehab)
Joseph LeDoux
A fascinating journey. I wish I didn't already play guitar so I could rediscover it through Gary Marcus's meditation on the quest to find his inner guitarist. (Joseph LeDoux, author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self; singer and guitarist, The Amygdaloids)

Meet the Author

Gary Marcus studies evolution, language, and cognitive development at New York University, where he is a professor of psychology and the director of the NYU Center for Child Language. The editor of the Norton Psychology Reader and author of three books about the origins and development of mind and brain, Marcus has written articles for The New York Times, Wired, Discover, and The Wall Street Journal, and has appeared on radio and television programs around the globe.

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Guitar Zero: On Becoming Musical 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
j_adore More than 1 year ago
As a beginning guitar player, long-time music lover and armchair psychologist, I found this book a fun, interesting read. The book is a bit of an oddball blend of history, sociology, psychology and memoir -- I almost think it would have served Marcus better to go further in one of these directions to make the narrative a little less hodgepodge. It didn't quite offer an in depth look of any aspect and instead served as an overview of the topic. Personally, I found the anecdotes about Marcus actually learning the instrument to be the most engaging and his attempts to delve into whether music is an evolutional step for humanity a little underdeveloped. But overall, I recommend this book to any adult embarking on learning a new musical instrument. Overall, the book is encouraging -- particularly for this grownup who worried that I was lagging far behind the younguns in terms of how slow I was improving my skill. Endnote: I was lucky enough to see the author play in NYC after a book reading -- he didn't embarrass himself when he accompanied some seasoned musicians. Bravo, Mr. Marcus!
LauraFabiani More than 1 year ago
Almost 40 year-old professor of psychology Gary Marcus decides to learn to play the guitar even though he had been previously told he has no sense of rhythm whatsoever. Marcus really desires to play guitar, and so he embarks on a quest to find out if he could learn to play even at his age and with no previous or innate musical talent. He sets out to explore the questions of whether music is built into the brain and how we learn to become musical. I am always fascinated with the topic of the science of learning and this book was right up my alley. I really liked the fact that Marcus not only shares with us the latest studies on the human brain with regards to music, meets with and relates the views of scientists, teachers, famous musicians and other experts, but he also applies this knowledge to himself as a new musician. This personal aspect of the book prevented it from being a dry account of scientific literature. His fun experience of attending DayJams, a rock-and-roll summer camp for kids where he got to play in a band with 11 year-olds made me smile as Marcus relates his innermost and honest feelings about it. I especially liked reading 1) about the differences in the way children and adults learn music and that one is not necessarily better than the other, 2) why learning music is hard–it has to do with our memory, 3) that music taps into two different brain reward systems at the same time rendering music as cocaine for the brain–explains the rush musicians get, 4) that both talent and practice matter, and finally, 5) that learning a new skill such as music makes us happy. Having said all this, Marcus explores man's physical and mental nature in relation to music, which I found thought-provoking and insightful, but fails to acknowledge the spiritual nature of man in relation to it. The closest he comes to expressing it is when he talks about the pleasure we get from music that can be derived from a single note. He states, “...in the right circumstance, that resonance can bring a sublime, almost unearthly sense of connectedness to the universe.” (p.130) Essentially, though, Marcus' theories stem from the belief that man has evolved. From my experience in reading scientific literature, evolutionists are baffled by the fact that man has a consciousness, pursues music and art, and has moral values. The book Life Ascending, while favoring a mere biological explanation admits: “When we ask how a process [evolution] that resembles a game of chance with dreaded penalties for the losers, could have generated such qualities as love of beauty and truth, compassion, freedom, and above all, the expansiveness of the human spirit, we are perplexed. The more we ponder our spiritual resources, the more our wonder deepens.” Indeed. When it comes to music and man's love of everything it encompasses—composing, playing an instrument, and deriving pleasure and awe that makes our spirits soar from listening to it—it seems logical to me that this awareness and attraction to music is placed in humans by an intelligent Creator in whose image we are created and who wants us to worship him with music and song as understood in Ephesians 5:19. I couldn't help thinking of this as I read this book. However, even though I don't know much about the mechanics of music, I was impressed by how much Marcus learned in such a short time and how well he told it all in his new book. I sometimes struggled to understand the technical guitar jargon but it did
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a 41year old who played guitar as a teenager and recently decided to pick it up again, i found this book fascinating and inspiring. Exactly what i was looking for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt it was lacking. I was expecting more motivational, but it was more of a history of music and less of how an adult learned guitar.
JAMBB More than 1 year ago
I have found this book to be pretty engaging, but it can skip around a lot. One moment you are learning about the authors personal experiences and the next you are off on some notes(no pun intended) about how music has been associated with this or builds the brain in that way. Its all very informative but the structure seems a bit odd. Learning about the authors experience though is pretty interesting and I enjoy the stories about his successes and failures. I would definitely recommend this book if you want to read about the authors experience along with learning about scientific studies done around music and people. For all the people giving negative reviews due to the research side, it IS in the title "the Science of Learning". Not sure why you didn't expect this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guitar Zero was not what I expected. There were some references to books used to learn guitar, but a little too much on the scientific side.