24 February, 2012  |   5 Comments

Guitar Zero, Indeed

Guitar Zero Book CoverJames bought me a guitar ten years ago for my birthday.

And, (embarassedface) I still haven’t learned how to play.

I love to listen to guitar, playing is on my life list, it just hasn’t been a priority. SO MANY OTHER PRIORITIES.

So when I had the chance to read Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning, about a guy who decided to master guitar at, um, very close to my age, I expected to find some inspiration and tips for FINALLY learning the guitar this “late” in my life.

What I didn’t expect, was all the other learning.
There was research contradicting some recent pop psychological “facts.”
There was research on raising small brains into a musical practice.
There was inspiration for simply working at a craft.

Written by Gary Marcus, professor of psychology and director of the NYU Center for Language And Music (CLAM!!!), an expert in evolution, language, and cognitive development, it takes more time to get through than you expect, but will educate you a little more about brain functionality and music history.

Musical skill comes from all over your brain, your genetic makeup, your focus and your ability to practice. It’s something that makes us uniquely human. It’s something that’s virtually free, fun to try and helps you be better at all kind of other things in your life.

I want more of it.
(And I want to make James proud.)


Taking inspiration from Maggie’s book reviews, some excerpts:

“In the few direct comparisons of “procedural” learning in children and college-aged adults, adults actually tend to be quicker learners than children.”

“There is ample evidence… that individual variation in genes affects memory efficiency (vital, obviously, in learning songs). Variation in other genes can modulate curiosity (which can mediate how much effort people put into learning music), and still a third modulates sensitivity to absolute pitch.”

“People who score high on openness, for example, tend to like music that is reflective and complex, while extroverts have a greater tendency than introverts to like music that is engertic and rhythmic.”

“If I had to sum up human music for intergalactic travelers in a single concise phrase, it might be this: “Repetition, with variation.”

Thoroughly enjoyable, this book made me smarter about raising little musicians as well as picking up an axe myself. (People still say axe, right?). Jury’s still out on whether I’ll find some of Gary’s commitment, but at least I know it’s possible.

Do you have any tips for me as I consider picking up a guitar?

5 thoughts on “Guitar Zero, Indeed

  1. 1
    Sarah says:

    You have a very busy life and it is going to be hard to find the time, so the impulse is to try to make your practice time “really worth it.” ANY time with the guitar is worth it.

    So, my advice is to remember that no time playing the guitar is wasted time. Even when you don’t know what you are doing, just holding the instrument and messing around makes you more comfortable. You don’t have to be playing a song for it to be productive learning time.

  2. 2

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  3. 3

    I’m so glad you found inspiration in this book! Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  4. 4
    Wendi says:

    I’ll be getting this the moment I have time to actually use it. It seems like it’d be incredibly helpful…


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