ADVANCE PRAISE FOR. GUITAR ZERO. 'Gary Marcus, one of the deepest thinkers in cognitive science, has given us an entertaining and enlightening memoir. An entertaining and enlightening memoir, filled with insight about music, learning , and the human mind, by Gary Marcus, one of the deepest. Just about every human being knows how to listen to music, but what does it take to make music? Is musicality something we are born with? Or a skill.

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Editorial Reviews. Review. "Jimi Hendrix meets Oliver Sacks in this great new science book. site App Ad. Look inside this book. Guitar Zero: The Science of Becoming Musical at Any Age by [Marcus, Gary. Audible Sample. Audible Sample. Reader. His most recently published book is Guitar Zero: The and the Science of Learning, Gary Marcus speaks to us about psychology and. That's exactly what neuroscientist Gary Marcus explores in Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning — a fascinating journey.

I really liked the fact that Marcus not only shares with us the latest studies on the human brain with regards to music, meets with and relates the views of scientists, teachers, famous musicians and other experts, but he also applies this knowledge to himself as a new musician.

This personal aspect of the book prevented it from being a dry account of scientific literature. His fun experience of attending DayJams, a rock-and-roll summer camp for kids where he got to play in a band with 11 year-olds made me smile as Marcus relates his innermost and honest feelings about it.

I especially liked reading 1 about the differences in the way children and adults learn music and that one is not necessarily better than the other, 2 why learning music is hard—it has to do with our memory, 3 that music taps into two different brain reward systems at the same time rendering music as cocaine for the brain—explains the rush musicians get, 4 that both talent and practice matter, and finally, 5 that learning a new skill such as music makes us happy.

Having said all this, Marcus explores man's physical and mental nature in relation to music, which I found thought-provoking and insightful, but fails to acknowledge the spiritual nature of man in relation to it.

The closest he comes to expressing it is when he talks about the pleasure we get from music that can be derived from a single note. From my experience in reading scientific literature, evolutionists are baffled by the fact that man has a consciousness, pursues music and art, and has moral values. The more we ponder our spiritual resources, the more our wonder deepens. When it comes to music and man's love of everything it encompasses—composing, playing an instrument, and deriving pleasure and awe that makes our spirits soar from listening to it—it seems logical to me that this awareness and attraction to music is placed in humans by an intelligent Creator in whose image we are created and who wants us to worship him with music and song as understood in Ephesians I couldn't help thinking of this as I read this book.

However, even though I don't know much about the mechanics of music, I was impressed by how much Marcus learned in such a short time and how well he told it all in his new book. I sometimes struggled to understand the technical guitar jargon but it did not detract from the book's overall topic at all.

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A guitar player or any musician for that matter would have been able to relate, I'm sure. After reading Guitar Zero, I have a new-found appreciation for music and musicians. Case closed.

But the evidence for critical periods is surprisingly weak. Consider, for example, the often- cited case of Genie, an unfortunate girl who was locked in a silent room for many years.

When Genie escaped at the age of thirteen, she was exposed to language for the first time, and she was never able to become fluent. Her vocabulary was good enough to get her started, but her grammar was a mess, filled with utterances like "Spot chew glove" and "Applesauce download store.

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Most people interpret her case that way, but another explanation, less often considered, is that Genie's inability to learn language may have come in part from the emotional trauma and perhaps malnutrition she had suffered early on.

Her case is consistent with the critical period hypothesis, but it certainly doesn't prove it. The more people have actually studied critical periods, the shakier the data have become. Although adults rarely achieve the same level of fluency that children do, the scientific research suggests that differences typically pertain more to accent than to grammar. Meanwhile, contrary to popular belief, there's no magical window that slams shut the moment puberty begins.

Guitar Zero

In fact, in recent years scientists have identified a number of people who have managed to learn second languages with near- native fluency, even though they only started as adults. If critical periods aren't quite so firm as people once believed, a world of possibility emerges for the many adults who harbor secret dreams — whether to learn a language, to become a pastry chef, or to pilot a small plane. And quests like these, no matter how quixotic they may seem, and whether they succeed in the end or not, could bring unanticipated benefits, not just for their ultimate goals but for the journey itself.

Exercising our brains helps maintain them, by preserving plasticity the capacity of the nervous system to learn new things , warding off degeneration, and literally keeping the blood flowing.

Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning

Beyond the potential benefits for our brains, there are benefits for our emotional well- being, too. There may be no better way to achieve lasting happiness — as opposed to mere fleeting pleasure — than pursuing a goal that helps us broaden our horizons. Still from grade school onward, every musical attempt I made ended in failure.

The first time I tried to play guitar, a few years ago, my friend Dan Levitin who had not yet finished his book This Is Your Brain on Music kindly offered to give me a few lessons. When I came back to him after a week or two of practice, he quickly realized what my grade school teachers had realized long ago: that I had no sense of rhythm whatsoever. Dan offered me a metronome, and when that didn't help, he gave me something my grade school teachers couldn't — a diagnosis: congenital arrhythmia.

And yet I never lost the desire to play. Music hasn't been studied as systematically as language in terms of critical periods, but there are certainly artists who started late and still became first-rate musicians.

Tom Morello — guitarist of Rage Against the Machine and Rolling Stone's twenty- sixth-greatest guitarist of all time — didn't start until he was seventeen. Patti Smith scarcely considered becoming a professional singer until she was in her mid- twenties.

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Then there is the jazz guitar legend Pat Martino, who relearned how to play after a brain aneurysm at the age of thirty-five, and the New Orleans keyboard legend Dr.

John, who switched his primary allegiance from guitar to piano at the age of twenty-one after his left ring finger was badly injured in a barroom fight and won the first of his five Grammy Awards at the age of forty-eight. Given my arrhythmia, I had no aspiration of reaching such heights, but at thirty-eight, long after I had gone to graduate school and become a professor of cognitive psychology, I realized that my desire to become musical wasn't going away.

I wanted to know whether I could overcome my intrinsic limits, my age, and my lack of talent. Perhaps few people had less talent for music than I did, but few people wanted more badly to be able to play. My first ray of hope came, oddly enough, from a video game, which I bought with the idea that it might improve my rhythm. The game I am referring to is, of course, Guitar Hero, perhaps the most mindless yet entertaining game I have ever played.

In case you haven't seen it, the basic premise is that colored dots fall from the top of the screen, in time with music, and as a player your mission consists of nothing more than the pressing of matching colored buttons on a plastic guitar in time with the falling dots. What makes it fun is that the game plays a snippet of music each time the player presses a button at the right moment, yielding the illusion that the player is actually playing a song. Or not.

If one's timing is bad enough as mine was initially , you hear a beep instead of the musical snippet, and worse, the crowd begins to boo.

Play badly enough, and the crowd boos you off the stage. I know this rather too well, because every time I tried to play the opening song — a regrettable piece of s blues rock called "Slow Ride," by Foghat — the crowd soon began to boo, louder and louder, until the song stopped midway through, inevitably accompanied by the rather brutal and unimaginative message informing me that I had "failed.

But then a funny thing happened. My wife, Athena, returned home from a trip to see friends and raved about how much fun she'd had playing a counterpart to Guitar Hero called Rock Band. Our copy of Guitar Hero came out of the closet, and thus my new life began. Trying again, but this time with the benefit of Athena's feedback telling me when I was pressing the buttons too early versus when I was pressing too late , I finally managed to play "Slow Ride" all the way through, with nary a boo.

I was so excited I could barely speak. My first taste, ever, of quasi- musical success — it was nothing short of intoxicating. For weeks, I kept practicing, and soon I started getting better and better. I never made it to expert mode, but I eventually got through medium and became obsessed with a different question. I didn't want to while away my later years playing a video game, but if I could make progress with a plastic controller, could I learn to play a real guitar?

I began to wonder: Could persistence and a lifelong love of music overcome age and a lack of talent? And, for that matter, how did anyone of any age become musical? It was time to find out.

To an alien scientist, music — and the desire to create it — might be one of the most puzzling aspects of humanity. Any species, for instance, would presumably have a metabolism, and any reasonably intelligent species would likely also have a system of communication; eventually we would expect it to develop systems of government and law, too.

But would such creatures also revere patterns of sound that vary over time? I wonder, would they have any desire to make their own music? Someday, maybe we will find out, but for now, one thing was clear: my own desire to make music was undeniable. I had reached the point where it felt like it was now or never. I began to read up on the scientific literature.

Guitar Zero

How did children learn music? Were there any lessons for adults? To my surprise, although children had been well studied, there was hardly any systematic research on people my age. Nobody seemed to know much about whether adults could pick up an instrument late in life, and it wasn't just music that we knew little about; the literature on the capacity of adults to learn new skills in general was far sparser than I had imagined. We know something about gradual declines in memory, but the only truly firm result I could find with respect to the late learning of music in particular concerned perfect pitch the ability to identify a single note in isolation.On the eve of his 40th birthday, Gary Marcus, a renowned scientist with no discernible musical talent, learns to play the guitar and investigates how anyone—of any age —can become musical.

In case you haven't seen it, the basic premise is that colored dots fall from the top of the screen, in time with music, and as a player your mission consists of nothing more than the pressing of matching colored buttons on a plastic guitar in time with the falling dots.

The earlier the prisms were installed, the better the owls were able to cope with the altered world. And, for that matter, how did anyone of any age become musical?

The more people have actually studied critical periods, the shakier the data have become. What does it take to learn to play an instrument? I sometimes struggled to understand the technical guitar jargon but it did not detract from the book's overall topic at all.