“Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning” by Gary Marcus

The Washington Post:

As a teenager, Gary Marcus wanted to be a scientist. Two decades later, as a professor of cognitive psychology at New York University, he wanted to learn to play the guitar. And, more important, he wanted to understand how he was learning it.

In “Guitar Zero,” Marcus uses his musical midlife crisis to frame a discussion of the science of adult learning and music’s effect on the human brain. For the past couple of decades, developmental psychologists have believed that complex skills, such as playing an instrument, are best acquired during brief windows of time, usually in early childhood, when the brain is more malleable.

For Marcus, now 42, this fertile musical moment had long since passed, and with it, his rock-and-roll dreams. But “Guitar Hero” — a video game in which players hold a plastic guitar and tap buttons in time to classic rock anthems — convinced him otherwise. He struggled at first but eventually got the knack. And so, with the aid of a few instruction books, some private lessons, a handful of consultants from the six-string Mount Olympus (Pat Metheney, Smokey Hormel) and a trip to rock camp, Marcus took on an actual instrument.

Read the whole story: The Washington Post

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