Thursday, May 09, 2013

GUITAR ZERO: The (fun) Science of Learning to be Musical

Maybe I didn't have talent, and maybe I was old (or at least no longer young), but I was willing to take it slow. Could adults like me acquire new skills if we approached them bit-by-bit, owl-style?

I bless the day (just a few days ago) I found GUITAR ZERO (ISBN: 9781851689620) by Gary Marcus. Having read just the first chapter, I was given the hope that at age 36 (I'm no longer young) I can still succeed at playing the guitar, learning French and Japanese (which I abandoned more than a decade ago), and revisit Mandarin. I'm currently learning Italian and doing surprisingly well, which strengthens my belief that this book is the real deal.

The part where Gary mentioned the willingness to take it slow, that's where it resonated with me. Relating it to my Italian studies, I AM doing it really slowly, enjoying every syllable and sound of the language. In short, I'm not in a hurry.

In the case of French, it was really difficult but I love languages. I soon gave up when it got really tough and I couldn't pronounce the words to save my life. Same went with Japanese, but I gave up because I couldn't handle the kanji (characters that look like Chinese writings).

As for my guitar playing, I've lost all the calluses I proudly acquired on my left fingers when Italian took over. I need to get a better grip of my time. The chords are so difficult (this was the real problem) and my fingers were crying uncle (this is not the real problem; I love pain). I'm not exactly proud of my memory either be it the brain or finger memory. HOWEVER, Guitar Zero came to the rescue. I am going to read the book, tweet about it, blog about it, and hopefully you too would be inspired to pursue your secret dreams or quests.

From the back cover:

On the eve of his fortieth birthday, renowned cognitive scientist Gary Marcus decided to fulfil a livelong dream and learn to play the guitar. He had tried many times before – failing miserably. This time, he decided to use the tools of his 'trade' to see if he might succeed. On his quest he jams with twelve-year-olds and takes master classes with guitar gods. A groundbreaking exploration of the allure of music, Guitar Zero is also an empowering case for the mind's ability to grow throughout life.