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Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning [Hardcover]

Gary Marcus
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 24 2012

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.

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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)

About 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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but .... May 26 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book was interesting but if you are looking for that aha moment on becoming musical at any age take a pass on this book, you won't find the answer between the its covers.

The book is more of a psychology paper on why it is possible but nothing on how the author actually succeeded. I was so disappointed when I came to the epilogue and realized - oops - this book isn' t what I was expecting.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ok but no revelations here May 4 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A good read and somewhat informative. I was expecting a few more Eureka moments. Sad to see it hit the bargain bins at Chapters so quickly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My newest favourite book Jan. 19 2014
By susan
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Gary Marcus writes in a way that reflects the thoughts I have had, being an older, first time guitar player; as well as a teacher of young children. I totally related to the learning/brain theories and how this related to learning an instrument for the first time. I found myself making notations on every page as I read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Just okay Sept. 17 2013
By PMac
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps I just expected something else. I had hoped that this book would provide some insight into my own learning, and especially some insight into how to learn better or easier--as a fifty-year-old who has recently taken up guitar after years of wishing I could play. Marcus tells us that learning an instrument is hard work. And of course, that's true, but I already knew it.

I guess it's my fault for hoping for a magic pill, when I should know by now that there is no magic pill. The book is a readable account of an older learner's journey towards becoming a musician, interspersed with some music theory and learning theory. I that's what you want, maybe you'll rate it more highly.
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