68 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Music and the middle-aged brain,
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This review is from: Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning (Hardcover)
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....