Guitar Zero | Gary Marcus

The cover of Marcus' Guitar ZeroMany people have told me, “I wish I followed through with my music lessons when I was a kid.” The prevailing understanding is that it’s much more difficult to learn a musical instrument when your teenage years are fading in the rear-view mirror. Marcus challenges this assumption in Guitar Zero.

When middle-aged Gary Marcus decided that he wanted to play music, he threw himself into the project. His training as a cognitive psychologist allowed him to only to learn, but to reflect intelligently on how he was learning. That’s what makes this book interesting. The chapters in Guitar Zero flow freely between Marcus’ attempt to stretch his fingers onto the proper frets and perceptive analysis on the nature of learning a new task.

Yes, it is easier to learn a new skill when you’re young—but with determination, you can follow in Marcus’ footsteps and take on new challenges regardless of your age.

I might not be picking up an instrument as quickly as an adept child might, but as an adult I still had some advantages. I had a greater capacity to understand the abstractions of music theory and a better sense of music composition as a whole. If practice, determination, and a greater conceptual understanding hadn’t entirely overcome the twin obstacles of age and lack of talent, they had at least made for an even match (192).

—Gary Marcus, Guitar Zero: The Science of Becoming Musical at Any Age (New York, NY: Penguin, 2012).

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