Can someone with no musical talent learn to play guitar as an adult? That’s what New York University psychology professor Gary Marcus wanted to find out when he turned 40. Along the way, he discovered that the struggle to learn was as rewarding as playing music itself.
In honor of national Wanna Play Music Week, Healthland spoke with Marcus, author of Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning.
Why did you start this project?
I always wanted to make music but at the same time, thought it was completely out of my reach. I had several very disappointing experiences as a child trying to learn.
I tried to learn the recorder in 4th grade and my teacher suggested that my talents lay elsewhere when I couldn’t play “Mary had a little lamb.” In graduate school I tried to take something called “miracle piano.” At each point, I got stuck on rhythm. It was no miracle.
Then, I started playing [the video game] “Guitar Hero.” I was terrible. My wife helped me to play. The first time I ever did anything vaguely rhythmic, I got excited. I practiced the game for a while and made it through beginner and medium. I thought, Maybe I should try a real guitar. The video game was a gateway drug that gave me confidence to try the real thing.
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