This is a review of Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning. It comes from my reading of a copy of the book prior to its release date. My review on Amazon is the first one and listed under “Book Fanatic”. Some parts of that review are also included here.
Guitar Zero is a sometimes inspiring story of Gary Marcus, a 40 year-old psychology professor, who followed his musical heart (not talent) fairly late in life. After playing Guitar Hero he decided he wanted to learn to play the guitar, something he had wanted to do all his life. During a sabbatical he decided to immerse himself and see if he could do it and what he could discover about adult learning.
I found the story quite interesting. It is a story about human learning told through the perspective of music. The specifics are music but I think the message is much broader. Its about the science of adult learning and the plasticity of the human brain. The author managed to interview and otherwise interact with some talented musicians and others in the field and you get some fascinating insights from them.
I do have a quibble with a part of the description of the book on Amazon: “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.” This is very misleading because while the author indeed does not believe that music itself is an “instinct”, he implies he believes in inborn characteristics that make us more or less talented musically. In fact the author specifically mentions musical prodigies and repeatedly says he himself is lacking any musical talent. As I write this I have just finished watching Dateline’s tribute to Whitney Houston. I’m pretty sure she was born with something very few others are ever blessed with. Anyway, part of what makes the book interesting is his struggle against his lack of talent and ultimately the degree of progress he makes despite his obstacle.
I think this book will be of interest to those who are musically inclined. It will also be of interest to those who are interested the science of learning or just someone who wants to following a passion later in life. I definitely enjoyed it. Please be aware that this is most certainly not in any respect a how-to book. This book does not teach you how to play the guitar or any other musical instrument.
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