The Science of Learning to be Musical
On the eve of his fortieth birthday, Gary Marcus decided to fulfil a dream and learn to play the guitar. He had tried many times before – failing, miserably. This time, he decided to use the tools of his 'trade' as a cognitive scientist to see if he might succeed.
In a quest that takes him from Suzuki lessons to the feet of the guitar gods, Marcus discovers how to practise efficiently and how to find the right teacher, no matter what you’re learning; what middle-aged brains do better than teen-aged ones (witnessed through his first band, Rush Hour); how to manage stage fright; and much more. He also brings insight into the question, Is the pursuit of a passion reward enough?
A groundbreaking look at the allure of music, Marcus's journey is also an empowering tale of the mind's ability to grow throughout life.
"Both an entertaining account of the frustrations of a wannabe guitar hero and an intriguing enquiry into the science of learning… compelling."
"You can't teach an old dog new tricks, goes the saying, but psychologist Gary Marcus disagreed. Here, he shows how he used his scientific knowledge to… play the guitar like a musical genius (well, near enough)."
"Science and story are woven together with abnormal skill, and fascinating information comes non-stop … With a likeable narrator and beautifully precise writing, this is one of the best science books and best music books."
"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, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
"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 dreamt of becoming a musician, you simply must read this book."
Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, Yale University, and author of How Pleasure Works
"Smart and entertaining… Gary Marcus shuttles between being a humble student of music and a learned professor of psychology in this fascinating experiment. If you’ve denied yourself the experience of playing your own music because you didn’t think you could do it, this book just might nudge you on your musical way."
Terry Roche, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and member of The Roches and Afro-Jersey
"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 and author of Frontman: Surviving the Rock Star Myth
"Captivating and filled with insight, Guitar Zero is a look at the challenge of personal reinvention by 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."
Drew Pinsky, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of Southern California
"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 Namour, Kahn Distinguished Professor, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Analysis and Cognition of Basic Melodic Structures
Table of Contents:
Take Me to the River
Learning to Crawl
It Don’t Come Easy
Back to School
School of Rock
Into the Groove
The Worst Song in the World
Knowing Without Knowing
Take It to the Limit