Guitar Zero–A Review

by Stephen Mills on February 12, 2012

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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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Karylle February 13, 2012 at 3:45 am

Thanks for the great review here…I hope this can help a lot…
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raenze February 13, 2012 at 6:11 am

Playing guitar is not easy but if you are interested with this you can easily learned. Like me I know how to play guitar and i also know how sing. I reaaly love music.
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Nea | Self Improvement Saga February 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Interesting review. I think it is important for people to know that natural talent isn’t necessary in order to have success in an area. If you want to be a good guitar player, singer or whatever…work your butt off and get there. You may not become the next Whitney Houston, but you’ll be great and you can have success on your own terms. In other words, lack of talent is a pitiful excuse. If you feel truly inspired to do something, it is absolutely doable.

Thanks for sharing this book review with us.
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Jennicah February 15, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Playing guitar is awesome especially when you have passion with it…
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Brent February 16, 2012 at 3:10 am

Thanks for sharing this review..I really like this because I want to learn play guitar..
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karla February 17, 2012 at 4:19 am

Guitar one of the instruments i want to learn more. And I think this book inspire me to continue my passion in playing guitar. Thanks for for the review.
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Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours February 17, 2012 at 11:07 am

I agree that there is something inborn in certain people, that amazing ability to exceed the norm in one (or more) specific areas, but I also like knowing that the rest of us CAN learn something new in spite of our age. Sounds like this would be a great read for anyone looking for inspiration to try something new!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.


Greg Johansen February 19, 2012 at 2:45 am

This is a wonderful review. Playing guitar is very very tough.
I think I may develop a interest for guitars from now on.

Thanks for sharing.

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Ms.Taylor February 27, 2012 at 11:47 am

Thanks for sharing this kind of review, playing guitar is my lovable hobby that I spent more than 5 hours a day in my free time…
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Dianne February 29, 2012 at 8:13 am

What a great review, playing guitar is really interesting… Eventually I am learning playing on it…
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Francinne March 3, 2012 at 3:24 am

Thanks for sharing this kind of reviews I really appreciate it..
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Ellen Howell August 15, 2012 at 4:52 am

I have problem in playing a guitar. I really don’t know whatever I am going to do so I stop learning on how to play a guitar.
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