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Tone Deaf and All Thumbs Hardcover – April 30, 1986


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (April 30, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670808423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670808427
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,930,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Convinced that everyone has an inborn ability to make music (a "biological guarantee of musicianship"), California neurologist Wilson, who came late to piano playing, here presents a picture of the brain and muscular system to help nonmusicians to understand that the human body is a "natural learner." He describes, in admirably untechnical language, the biology of rhythm and tempo, how we hear and see, the intricacies of musical notation; he tells what it's like to perform in public. Drawing comparisons between music-making and athletic skills, Wilson also tries to clarify such mysteries as tone deafness, perfect ptich, sight reading, memorization and "pumping ivory."
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Frank Wilson is a neurologist/writer who resides in Portland, Oregon. Now retired from active clinical practice, he was a founder of the Health Program for Performing Artists at the University of California San Francisco, and its medical director from 1996-2000. He was Visiting Professor of Neurology at the University of Dusseldorf in 1989-1990, Associate Clinical Professor of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco until 2000, and Clinical Professor of Neurology at Stanford University Medical Center until 2004. He has long been interested in the neurology of skilled hand movement, and is a widely respected authority on the neurology of acquired hand disorders. He is the author of two monographs on the hand: Tone Deaf and All Thumbs: an invitation to music-making for late bloomers and non-prodigies (Viking-Penguin, 1986) and The Hand: how its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture (Pantheon Books, 1998). He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Big Picture Learning, a nonprofit corporation that has established and administers over 80 alternative inner city urban high schools in the United States and several other countries. He is an avid motorcyclist. Dr. Wilson's website is http://www.handoc.com/

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By GD on November 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Let me start with what this book is not: this is not a book containing music instruction and this book does not deal with specific techniques. This book does intend to quell anxiety of adult learners and to dispel rumours about what the adult learner needs to bring to the table, in order to fruitfully attempt to learn music-making. To that end, the author, more or less, succeeds.

The author approaches music performance as the physical activity it is. He deals with the various aspects of music performance, such as dexterity, sight-reading, rhythm, as neurophysiological skills. He explores auditory perception of music, dealing with the issues of being 'tone-deaf' and 'time-deaf'(unable to keep rhythm) and shows that the actual incidence of these debilitating conditions is quite rare. He also shows that stage-fright and anxiety is quite pervasive among professional musicians as well, as evidenced by the spread of the use of beta-blocker drugs like Propranolol.

The biggest anxiety-quelling advice he gives is that learning music-making need not be focused on performing pieces from the established repertoire. In other words, don't learn music just so you can, one day, play Beethoven's 21st Piano Sonata, although that is fine as a secondary goal. Learn music-making, so you can explore the magic of music on your own and free yourself from thinking of music performance as a competitive goal where pressures of accuracy overwhelm the primary purpose of enjoyment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Quite impressed with the author's comprehensive explanations of relationships of the human and music, from early learning and the way our brains and sensory organs perceive sound to the sensory receptors and motor controls in producing music. Also, found quite valuable the discussions of esthetics of music and our psychological reactions to music and teaching and to the processes of "learning music" from both the listening and production aspects. He walks the reader easily through very complex anatomical and neurological processes in a very understandable manner and treats his readers with subtle humor along the way. He includes a candid discussion of selection of music teachers and student-teacher compatibility. An enjoyable book highly recommended for all adults wishing to learn about music and a "must" for any music teacher. - HHJ
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K. L. Bauer on October 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read this book many years ago, and found some very interesting information in it. I teach classes to those who think they are tone deaf, proving to them that they are not. I quote this book at the beginning of my classes.

Besides offering a wealth of information about the research done in the area of music making, Frank is a personable storyteller, and his journey as an adult student of music is of interest. I am a professional musician myself, and am always learning new skills, new instruments, and new art forms outside of music. This book will encourage anyone who wants to find a way to express themselves even though they feel they are too old to begin.

A delightful and informative book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
...I really enjoyed the author's take on music and performing. Heemphasizes the joy that the study and performance of music can bringto anyone's life, once the pressure of "I'm not professionalmaterial" is stripped away. END
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By GD on November 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Let me start with what this book is not: this is not a book containing music instruction and this book does not deal with specific techniques. This book does intend to quell anxiety of adult learners and to dispel rumours about what the adult learner needs to bring to the table, in order to fruitfully attempt to learn music-making. To that end, the author, more or less, succeeds.

The author approaches music performance as the physical activity it is. He deals with the various aspects of music performance, such as dexterity, sight-reading, rhythm, as neurophysiological skills. He explores auditory perception of music, dealing with the issues of being 'tone-deaf' and 'time-deaf'(unable to keep rhythm) and shows that the actual incidence of these debilitating conditions is quite rare. He also shows that stage-fright and anxiety is quite pervasive among professional musicians as well, as evidenced by the spread of the use of beta-blockers like Propranolol.

The, to my mind, biggest anxiety-quelling advice he gives is that learning music-making need not be focused on performing pieces from the established repertoire. In other words, don't learn music just so you can, one day, play Beethoven's 21st Piano Sonata, although that is fine as a secondary goal. Learn music-making, so you can explore the magic of music on your own and free yourself from thinking of music performance as a competitive goal where pressures of accuracy overwhelm the primary purpose of enjoyment.
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