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Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning Hardcover – January 19, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (January 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781594203176
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594203176
  • ASIN: 1594203172
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Guitar Zero is a refreshing alternation between the nitty-gritty details of learning rock-guitar licks and Mr. Marcus's survey of the relevant scientific literature on learning and the brain. For those who look forward, in 'retirement,' to honoring the lifelong yearnings they have neglected, Guitar Zero is good news.”
—Wall Street Journal


“[Guitar Zero] looks far more deeply into the ways our brains rewire themselves and find ways to compensate for certain gaps or deficits in our abilities. In the process of demonstrating these, Marcus sounds an encouraging note (pun intended) for older readers who have always wanted to do something but have never had time.”
— Los Angeles Times


"This enjoyable blend of music appreciation, science and personal exploration commands a new respect for how the brain and body responds to the promise, and shock, of the new."
Kirkus Reviews


"Jimi Hendrix meets Oliver Sacks in this great new science book."
Very Short List


"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, author of Frontman
(Richard Barone, musician, author of Frontman )

"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, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature

(Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature)

"Captivating and filled with insight, GUITAR ZERO is a look at the challenge of personal reinvention by Gary Marcus, 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."
—Dr. Drew Pinsky, host, Dr. Drew, Lifechangers, and Loveline
(Dr. Drew Pinsky, host, Dr. Drew, Lifechangers, and Loveline )

"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 dreamed of becoming a musician, you simply must read GUITAR ZERO."
—Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works
(Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works )

"I enjoyed GUITAR ZERO immensely. Marcus has not only intensified the process itself but simplified the definition of one's dedication to it. His elaborate illustration will certainly cause many of us to better appreciate the gifts we've been blessed with."
—Pat Martino, four-time Grammy nominee
(Pat Martino, four-time Grammy nominee)

About the Author

Gary Marcus studies evolution, language, and cognitive development at New York University, where he is a professor of psychology and the director of the NYU Center for Child Language. The editor of the Norton Psychology Reader and author of three books about the origins and development of mind and brain, Marcus has written articles for The New York Times, Wired, Discover, and The Wall Street Journal, and has appeared on radio and television programs around the globe.

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Customer Reviews

I'm enjoying this book a lot.
Fl!p Breskin
I learn how playing guitar really is totally different from playing the piano (which I had done in my time).
Caleb Hanson
The other criticism I have are specific points he makes that are endearingly misguided.
ARP

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting book. It's easy to read and tells a fairly compelling story about a 40 year old professor who always wanted to be a musician finally taking the plunge. This book is a story about human learning told through the perspective of music. The specifics are music and guitar, but that's really not what the book is about.

The Amazon description includes this sentence: "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."

Not so. The author specifically states he believes in innate musical talent and he counts himself as one is who lacking even normal levels. Part of what makes the book interesting his his struggle against this lack and ultimately the degree of progress he makes despite this obstacle.

I think this book will be of interest to those who are musically inclined but 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. Instead it is a rather inspiring story of someone who followed his heart fairly late in life and what he learned in the process.
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95 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Fl!p Breskin on January 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'm enjoying this book a lot. I've been teaching guitar to adult beginners for nearly 40 years which is a privilege, because it means I get to be in the presence of courage on a daily basis. Gary chronicles his personal journey as a adult beginner on guitar, but from the perspective of an expert on learning & language acquisition, with all the understandings his profession have given him. He encourages all learners to just KEEP GOING; keep trying. Guitar is complicated. So is music. Gary's understanding of the specifics of what's hard about it, and strategies for making the most of practice time, are well worth the time it takes to read. Practice doesn't make perfect; it makes permanent. If you can make each note beautiful, you can make a whole piece beautiful. On the other hand, you can't learn to ride a bicycle with it standing still. You've got to do a certain amount of falling down. And it's more fun with friends. And most of all, it's not too late!
Fl!p Breskin
co-founder, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop
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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Angie Boyter VINE VOICE on January 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book wasn't quite what I had expected, but I wasn't disappointed.
Cognitive psychologist Gary Marcus, who clearly has a history of being "challenged" musically, decides as he approaches the age of 40 to learn to play the guitar. A serendipitous sabbatical from his usual gig teaching at NYU gives him enough leisure that he takes on the project seriously. Guitar Zero (a pun on the popular video game Guitar Hero, for those like me who didn't get it)recounts his adventures, which include playing in a rock band with 11-year-olds at a music camp and MANY MANY hours of practice.
I had expected a memoir of a middle-aged scientist observing himself learning a new skill, which I got, but Marcus also explores many facets of the science of music, such as whether talent or practice is more important, what kinds of music people like and do not like (I was pleased to have my own preferences supported by finding out that the "most unwanted song" would be sung by an operatic soprano.), and how experts and novices differ when they listen to music.
No knowledge of music theory is necessary to enjoy this book. Marcus does a good job of explaining the theory needed along the way, but I do not believe he spends so much time on it that it would annoy a reader who does not need the explanation. As someone who is a contemporary of Marcus' father, I was a little at sea when it came to many of his references to musicians I genuinely had never heard of, and I would have appreciated definitions of pop music guitar terms like "riff" and "lick", but he does talk about Bob Dylan and even mentions the Andrews Sisters.
I picked up a lot of fascinating information from Guitar Hero and was incredibly impressed with what Marcus accomplished as a guitarist. Maybe I should pull out that guitar that has been sitting in the closet for the past 30 years....
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Tim Dawdy on February 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I am an experienced working professional musician. I am also a part-time music teacher.

After almost every band performance someone comes up and says, "I would love to able to play an instrument, but I don't have any musical talent".
I am always amused that people think we were born with the natural ability to play Palm Spring Stomp. The reality is that we were exposed to the song for the first time in August 2011. We learned the Palm Springs Stomp during our weekly practices in September. My band mate arranged the song in October.
We continued to practice Palm Springs Stomp and finally started playing it in public in December.
The process of refining Palm Springs Stomp involved countless of hours of group and personal practice. Adults can learn music, if they work at it.

Gary Marcus has hit the nail on the head with Guitar Zero. This is not a book on music theory. It is a study of skill how adults learn music. I have changed my primary instruments four times in my career. The last time was at the age of 45! My real world experiences confirms the theories expounded in Guitar Zero.

Professor Marcus explains that it is possible to learn an instrument as an adult. He clearly explains the methodology that can be used. Dr. Marcus also gives us the permission to give it a try. This is the kind of encouragement the world needs.

The fact that Gary Marcus plays the guitar like someone with only one years experience is not relevant to the value of the book. The review that said so eloquently that "his guitar playing sucks" demonstrates a major block to anyone learning to play an instrument. The unwarranted criticism of beginning students is damaging. Its OK to be a beginner!

Its OK for adults to struggle to learn to play an instrument. If they follow the advise of Gary Marcus, the journey will be less painful.
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