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Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning | [Gary Marcus]

Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning

Just about every human being knows how to listen to music, but what does it take to make music? Is musicality something we are born with? Or a skill that anyone can develop at any time? If you don't start piano at the age of six, is there any hope? Is skill learning best left to children or can anyone reinvent him-or herself at any time?
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Publisher's Summary

On the eve of his fortieth birthday, a professor of no discernible musical talent learns to play the guitar and investigates how anyone of any age might master a new skill.

Just about every human being knows how to listen to music, but what does it take to make music? Is musicality something we are born with? Or a skill that anyone can develop at any time? If you don't start piano at the age of six, is there any hope? Is skill learning best left to children or can anyone reinvent him-or herself at any time?

On the eve of his fortieth birthday, Gary Marcus, an internationally renowned scientist with no discernible musical talent, becomes his own guinea pig to look at how human beings become musical- and how anyone of any age can master something new. Guitar Zero traces his journey, what he learned, and how you can learn, too. In addition to being a groundbreaking look at the origins and allure of music, Marcus's journey is also an empowering tale of the mind's plasticity.

In a quest that takes him from Suzuki classes to guitar gods, Marcus investigates the most effective ways to train your brain and body to learn to play an instrument. How can you make your practice more deliberate and effective? How can you find the best music teacher for you or your child? Does talent really exist? Or is hard work all you need?

Guitar Zero stands the science of music on its head, debunking the popular theory of an innate musical instinct and many other commonly held fallacies. At the same time, it raises new questions about the science of human pleasure and 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 those who have ever set out to learn a musical instrument-or wishes that they could- Guitar Zero is an inspiring and fascinating look at music, learning, and the pursuit of a well-lived life.

©2012 Gary Marcus (P)2012 Penguin

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What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (88 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Alex United States 03-09-12
    Alex United States 03-09-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Entertaining if somewhat superficial"

    I'm basically a musical ignoramus, but I enjoyed listening to this book. Gary Marcus is an engaging writer, but I REALLY would have liked to hear music interspersed with the writing (so as to illustrate the points Marcus was trying to make, or to give examples of songs written by the musicians he was mentioning in the text). Still, that's asking a lot from an audio edition.

    The book covered a wide range of topics within music, so the coverage was necessarily superficial at times. But I'm now reading another, more-detailed book about music, so Marcus inspired me to read more.

    A note about the narrator: He isn't among the better readers I've encountered in audio books. His pronunciation and diction could be be better.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Williams Melbourne, Australia 07-13-12
    Peter Williams Melbourne, Australia 07-13-12 Listener Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A melodic journey through the learning experience."

    In a similar fashion to, Joshua Foer's Moonwalking With Einstein, I enjoyed the personal narrative this book goes through as the author discovers 'how to' learn to play the guitar.

    Not being a muscian, I found it harder to relate to the thread of the book at some points, then my guitar playing friends who also enjoyed (and related) to the book.

    I found this book more about the "journey of learning", with very little practical and transferable "how to learn" lessons.

    Enjoyable non-the-less

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Delano Philadelphia, PA, United States 04-06-12
    Delano Philadelphia, PA, United States 04-06-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Waste of time"

    Book is a mix of science and the author's personal experience. The science is unsurprising. Description of the author's personal experiences is vague and self-indulgent. And there is absolutely nothing that would help with learning the guitar.

    If you want to learn about the human mind, learning, and the role of practice, listen to _Moonwalking with Einstein_. If you want to learn the guitar, buy a guitar book and maybe some lessons. Either way, skip this book.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Urban Ottosson 02-20-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Somewhat disappointing"

    The book was enjoyable but lacked in substance. I kept waiting for it to start and come to some concrete conclusions and pointers but it never did really.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Walter Wilsonville, OR, USA 07-08-12
    Walter Wilsonville, OR, USA 07-08-12 Member Since 2006
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    "NOT a better way to learn guitar!"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    This book might be enjoyed more by a person seeking general information about learning.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The author's personal experiences about seeking to learn music were entertaining. But the book never really gets off the ground. It simply goes around and around about his seeking learning without telling you how to improve your guitar playing.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Gary Marcus’s performances?

    No.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I feel like I wasted my credit. I listen to detective mysteries or science fiction or a multitude of other choices for entertainment. What I wanted here was some tips on how to more effectively learn the guitar. This book provided neither to my satisfaction.


    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cal Vancouver, BC, Canada 02-19-14
    Cal Vancouver, BC, Canada 02-19-14 Member Since 2005
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    "Good idea - but didn't follow through on it."

    I feel like the author started out with a fascinating premise - the story of a him analyzing his journey of learning the guitar. While the story was about that, I loved it, every detail, and struggle was interesting. Unfortunately, it felt like half of the book was about music in general, and players of other instruments, other stories etc. Almost like he didn't trust that his personal journey would be interesting enough. The author has a unique journey to talk about and has incredible insight. It would have been terrific if he stuck to that story, the one which only he was qualified to tell.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ilouis Lake Mathews, CA, United States 12-05-13
    ilouis Lake Mathews, CA, United States 12-05-13
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    "Helpful for adults seeking to learn music"
    If you could sum up Guitar Zero in three words, what would they be?

    encouraging story about an adult man who managed to learn music in the second half of his life


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    some details are kinda boring/trivial. He could have skipped these with no impact to the message.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris alameda, ca 05-27-13
    Chris alameda, ca 05-27-13 Member Since 2004
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    "Enjoyable account of our relationship to music"

    This is a short but enjoyable account of how and why people play music. Centered around the author's quest to learn guitar as an adult, it touches on many aspects of learning and playing music. The author was an excellent reader. A couple of reviews complained that it didn't give them tips on improving their playing; that is no reason for a negative review, as the book doesn't promise that any more than it promises to teach you to ride a bike. I plan to read more books on this interesting topic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    becausetheyaredead los angeles, ca usa 04-18-12
    becausetheyaredead los angeles, ca usa 04-18-12 Member Since 2010
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    "interesting look into the science of making music"
    Any additional comments?

    one of the best books about how we learn to make music. great descriptions on recent research and lets the air out of much "conventional wisdom" of what "talent" is and whether music is innate or learned

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KHarrang 03-21-12
    KHarrang 03-21-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Enjoyably Informative"
    Would you listen to Guitar Zero again? Why?

    I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the intersection of neuroscience and music.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Guitar Zero?

    The author does a good job of weaving in interesting summaries of the current state of the science of things like language acquisition and musical talent vs. practice.


    What about Gary Marcus???s performance did you like?

    The author is a good narrator, which is not always the case.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    This book delivers a number of ah-ha moments, such as debunking the myth of 10,000 hours.


    Any additional comments?

    This audio book not terribly long, and some will probably complain that it's not technical enough, but it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable tour through the science of musicality. The author is good humored, and tells entertaining stories about his visit to music camp (for kids because he is such a lousy guitarist). If you've ever wondered whether music is somehow innate in humans, this book does a good job of walking you through the answers from a neuroscientist.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 10 results
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  • Jim
    Twickenham, United Kingdom
    7/25/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Music and Education Theory - what's not to like?"

    My interest in this may be a little niche; I'm studying adult learning and I'm an enthusiastic if untalented guitar player. So this book ticks a couple of boxes for me and the fact that the author reads it himself also adds something in terms of conveying a sense of immediacy in how the tale is told. It's possible that for other readers this may be too much of a minority interest but the central messages about how, as adults, we can still master skills that might be considered challenging once we're past childhood are clearly and helpfully spelled out. Marcus also strikes a nice balance between the theory; which he knows well from his day job as an academic; and the practice of sticking his neck out and trying to learn an instrument. The section where he has to audition in front of a bunch of 11 year olds to see if they'll let him into their band at "band camp" is a great example of the latter quality.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    UK
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Painless and informative."

    A biographical narrative moves this book along as the author relates his expert knowledge of neuroscience to the joy and pain of learning to play the guitar. He comes across as a likeable chap although I found his voice is a bit irritating to listen to at length. Worth the effort if you have a passing interest in music or the science of learning a new skill from scratch in middle age. I have now decided not to attempt guitar. Thanks for that Gary.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • MARK
    Birmingham, United Kingdom
    12/15/12
    Overall
    "So disappointing"

    As a musician and a student of brain mapping, neuro-plasticity and the like, I thought this book could be very interesting. It turned out to be an almighty effort to get to the end. I stuck at it diligently but can honestly say that my life has not been enriched by listening to it. The book basically alternates between two areas.

    One: the author describes his efforts to learn the guitar. I am not sure who would find this interesting. As a musician I can remember those early days. I think one's learning experience is a very personal thing but trying make that into a great read/listen takes a great story and equally great skill. I'm not sure even listening to Keith Richards learn his first G chord would actually be that riveting.

    Two: The science behind learning, practicing, listening etc. The author does mention a few other books along the way, e.g. 'the Talent Code' amongst others. Simply I would just say that those other books do the job of explaining the hows and whys of practice superbly. This book just doesn't do it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mr
    Hatfield, United Kingdom
    8/19/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not sure who this book is pitched at..."
    What would have made Guitar Zero better?

    Having started playing the guitar just before my 40th birthday I thought this might be an interesting and motivational read. However, author started his guitar playing with a 1 year sabbatical so no common ground for somebody like me with a day job and family struggling to fit in 30 minutes of practice a day. Title is misleading, it implies popular content for an aspiring guitarist starting late in life but in reality it's a long scientific ramble. Author's rambling, monotonal style and geeky Bill Gates voice made for a difficult listen. I stuck it out to the end but couldn't recommend this book.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Gary Marcus again?

    No


    What didn’t you like about Gary Marcus’s performance?

    Geeky Bill Gates voice and rambling academic style.


    You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Yes, author's application and dedication for learning the guitar was impressive as was his musical and scientific knowledge. Incredibly bright guy.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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