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Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning Audiobook, by Gary Marcus Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Gary Marcus Narrator: Gary Marcus Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2012 ISBN: 9781101538715
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (400 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • [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
  • 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 WorksPaul 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
  • "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
  • 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

Listener Reviews

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  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Luiz | 2/16/2014

    " Interesting book, though not quite what I wanted to read. Gary Marcus is a PhD in cognitive psychology who decides to pick up the guitar (and to learn music) later in life. The part of learning music and learning to play an instrument late in life is what drew me to this, since it's pretty much my own story. Marcus writes precious little about his personal journey and much more about the scholarly, cognitive aspects of the endeavour, which were interesting to read about. I got to understand better how humans are (or rather, how they are not) wired with a music instinct, how our brains evolve as we are trying to learn an instrument, how one can be an expert musician without knowing how to read music, and many other interesting points on cognition. Although all this material made for a very interesting intellectual read, I fear that the lasting lessons for my journey as a musician wannabe can be summarized in few words. In short, it's an interesting work in making psychology more accessible to the masses, but not terribly helpful to a guitar student. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin | 2/15/2014

    " Warning: if you ever wanted to play an instrument, or if you played one as a kid and wonder if you could do it again, this book will make you want to ditch everything else and devote your life to music. Or at least have the happy fantasy of embarking on a musical journey as unexpectedly fulfilling as the author's. Gary Marcus is a pretty well known cognitive psychologist, a dude at the top of his field, who decides at the age of 38 to try to learn to play the guitar. He approaches his subject both like a scientist -- there's plenty of research in here about how the brain responds to music, and how our bodies actually change through learning an instrument -- and like an unabashedly gleeful kid. Along the way he interviews musicians like Pat Metheny and Tom Morello, sits in on a variety of music lessons, from Suzuki to rock camp, and writes his first song. A fun read that satisfies the itch for story with the desire for intellectual inquiry, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning to play (or in helping someone else learn to play) any instrument, but especially the guitar. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alex | 2/5/2014

    " Ok. Some interesting research on pedagogy presented, but ultimately this was a lightweight book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark | 1/26/2014

    " This was in informative book, but did not fulfill the implied promise of the subtitle. I'd hoped to find cognitive strategies to apply to my lifelong study of the guitar, but not much of use in that area, just background info. As an experienced musician, I found 5 or 6 valuable insights, but nothing Earth-shattering. For example, he spends a page providing an alternative insight to Gladwell's Outliers, indicating that talent does exist. To be fair, much of the information in the book I've read elsewhere, such as in Outliers, and the book would likely be more valuable for beginner musicians. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jim | 1/23/2014

    " Well, it's 5 stars if you're interested in learning guitar as an adult, cognitive psychology, or both. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 John | 1/16/2014

    " I'm not much into psychology books, but this jumped out to me based on the fact I am in the exact same condition. I was left with the same question I started out with when I finished. Good history lesson, but not a lot of the science of learning I was expecting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vicki | 1/16/2014

    " If I wasn't trying to learn to play an instrument, I wouldn't have given this book four stars. I wanted more of the author's personal story, which he wrote in an amusing way. The information about learning was valuable, too, and I hope will help me as I try to learn to play the ukulele. I think all of this could have been condensed, though. My mind started wandering sometimes... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Troy | 12/26/2013

    " Really makes you want to pick up an instrument again. Maybe the bass, already learn the harmonica. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Dave | 6/22/2013

    " As someone learning to play the guitar, I expected more... Because I know there's a lot more than described in this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aric | 4/20/2013

    " Very good book. Informative about music and how we learn things. Reccomend. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ruth | 3/6/2013

    " Favorite quote (p. 86): "Why does practice matter as much as it does? ... [W]hen we master any domain, be it guitar or algebra or squash, our brains get better at two things: recognizing what the pieces are (known as chunking) and knowing where to look (known as attention)." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kerry | 3/3/2013

    " A fascinating blend of memoir and psychology. A fast, enjoyable and informative read, even for someone who doesn't play the guitar! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 2/15/2013

    " I enjoyed the more science orientated sections but overall it was hard for me to really get into this book because while I love music and tend to break into song often, I don't have a passion for creating music. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Salrivas | 9/7/2012

    " Interesting read; especially for a academics "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ed | 8/30/2012

    " Interesting account of a psychologist learning to be a guitar player in mid life and studying himself as he did it to learn more about how we learn to be musical. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Brett | 4/21/2012

    " Some guy learned guitar, and wrote a nearly entirely unrelated book. Nothing really to be learned here, move along. "

About the Author

Gary Marcus is a professor of psychology at New York University and director of the NYU Infant Language Learning Center. A high school dropout, Marcus received his PhD at age twenty-three from MIT, where he was mentored by Steven Pinker. He was a tenured professor by age thirty. The author of the Norton Psychology Reader, he has been a fellow at the prestigious Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, and other major publications.