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Thread: Guitar Zero

  1. #1

    Default Guitar Zero

    Hi Everyone,

    I recently read a Time mag. article about the book Guitar Zero, which is about man, with no discernible musical talent, who tries to learn guitar as an adult,

    Its author is Gary Marcus, a cognitive psychologist at New York University who studies how the brain acquires language. Marcus is also a wannabe guitarist who set out on a quest to learn to play at age 38. In Guitar Zero he takes us along for the ride, exploring the relevant research from neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology along the way. One of his main themes is the importance of doing practice right.

    Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/01/25/the...#ixzz1lME8Mpdk

    thought you may be interested- would like to check it out myself and am curious if any of you have read it,

    SC

    also a story in NPR:
    http://www.npr.org/2012/01/22/145461...to-learn-music

  2. #2

    Question

    I read about this book on Amazon a few weeks ago, before it was released, which was just recently I think. One thing that struck me about the book and the idea in this article is how contrary it is to something I recall reading (I think) Michael Jordan say once years ago in an interview. In a nutshell, when asked about being great, about his greatness as a basketball player he responded that, and I'm wildly paraphrasing here, he focused on what he did well and making it better, turning what he was already good at into what he was great at.

  3. #3
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    Default

    Nice article, here's a bit that hits home!

    I was reminded of the importance of deliberate practice by a fascinating new book, Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning. Its author is Gary Marcus, a cognitive psychologist at New York University who studies how the brain acquires language. Marcus is also a wannabe guitarist who set out on a quest to learn to play at age 38. In Guitar Zero he takes us along for the ride, exploring the relevant research from neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology along the way. One of his main themes is the importance of doing practice right.

    “Hundreds of thousands of people took music lessons when they were young and remember little or nothing,” he points out, giving lie to the notion that learning an instrument is easiest when you’re a kid. The important thing is not just practice but deliberate practice, “a constant sense of self-evaluation, of focusing on one’s weaknesses, rather than simply fooling around and playing to one’s strengths. Studies show that practice aimed at remedying weaknesses is a better predictor of expertise than raw number of hours; playing for fun and repeating what you already know is not necessarily the same as efficiently reaching a new level. Most of the practice that most people do, most of the time, be it in the pursuit of learning the guitar or improving their golf game, yields almost no effect.”

    So how does deliberate practice work? Anders Ericsson’s 1993 paper makes for bracing reading. He makes it clear that a dutiful daily commitment to practice is not enough. Long hours of practice are not enough. And noodling around on the piano or idly taking some swings with a golf club is definitely not enough. “Deliberate practice,” Ericsson declares sternly, “requires effort and is not inherently enjoyable.” Having given us fair warning, he reveals the secret of deliberate practice: relentlessly focusing on our weaknesses and inventing new ways to root them out. Results are carefully monitored, ideally with the help of a coach or teacher, and become grist for the next round of ruthless self-evaluation.

    Can you say "Sherpa?"
    Too soon we grow old, too late we grow wise

    "I once played notes so fast that light emanated from the strings whereupon, I saw God.... who then told me to relax and start playing music."

    "You know, once you've had that guitar up so loud on the stage, where you can lean back and volume will stop you from falling backward, that's a hard drug to kick." David Gilmour

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  4. #4

    Arrow

    Quote Originally Posted by JN999 View Post
    I read about this book on Amazon a few weeks ago, before it was released, which was just recently I think. One thing that struck me about the book and the idea in this article is how contrary it is to something I recall reading (I think) Michael Jordan say once years ago in an interview. In a nutshell, when asked about being great, about his greatness as a basketball player he responded that, and I'm wildly paraphrasing here, he focused on what he did well and making it better, turning what he was already good at into what he was great at.
    Here's an Interesting vid from Steve Vai about working on your strength and weaknesses....it's a bit of a conflict to me...Red is Green and Black is White...


    kinda goes with whats going on here a bit..
    That book will be on my" Buy It Now" list....

    "Sherpa !!!!"....is that loud enough...My Sherpa has had no problem Identifing my weaknesses and holding my feets to the fire




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  5. #5

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    Sounds fascinating, will have to look it up.
    Enjoy Your Karma, after all you earned it.
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  6. #6

    Default

    I feel like I have learned more in the past year of focused, highly motivated practice, then I did in the 10 or so years I played regularly in high school and college. Back then I seemed content to just more or less keep doing the same thing it seems. Constant playing did not really improve my playing much, I plateau'd and eventually got discouraged enough to stop playing for 15 years.

  7. #7

    Wink

    There are a couple of good links on his website, including a NYT article about Pat Matheny and the science of improvisation,

    http://garymarcus.com/

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    Default My book review

    I picked this up at the library the other week. It is a pretty quick read. Some notes:


    First, it really isn't about Guitar. It could be Flute Zero or Chess Zero or whatever, it is more about the intersection of learning, talent, and hard work. The premise is can a 38 year old adult, with zero rhythm, learn a musical instrument, or do you need to start at a young age? Does the age not matter and does Talent matter? Should you get a teacher? What kind of research is out there to back up the idea that he 'has no rhythm' or that you need to start playing when you are 3 years old.


    I don't think there is too much groundbreaking in the book beyond the idea that for each person's given "talent", it doesn't matter what age you start. He has some studies that look at the brain development of kids vs adults while learning and both are capable of learning at any age. He brings up some good points like, who has more time to practice scales, a 13 year old on summer vacation or a 47 year old parent of 3 with a job, etc? One point i liked was that he believed that young kids learn quickly because they don't mind playing the same thing over and over - the same way they will watch the same stupid movie over and over and over and over (i have small kids ;-) - whereas adults get bored of that repetition quickly. Adults can sometimes make up for these limits by learning more theory or other more intellectual things. OTOH, it is hard to match the passion of a 'frustrated' teenager tryin to get some 'attention'.


    Finally, everything in the book is cited, so if you want to learn more about the studies he quotes, they are in the back of the book.


    The only thing i think the author missed in his personal experiment is that I think there is real value to people who are 1) creative at one activity and 2) who frequently learn new things. I believe that your creativity can be shifted from one activity to another, so the fact that the author has been writing papers and researching for the last 15 years helped his playing (once he got the basics down and moved onto songwriting, jamming, etc). Secondly, i am curious if learning is a skill that can be practiced and if, therefore, people who are constantly learning find it easier to learn new things. I would assume that as an academic, the author would have spent alot of time learning.


    In conclusion, a good, quick read. If you like Malcolm Gladwell or freakonimics type books, and wished someone did a book like Outliers* but focused it around guitar, then you will really like it.


    Tim


    *He generally comes to a different conclusion than Gladwell in Outliers - Gladwell came down more on the Nurture, that if you put the time in, you will be good. People who are better put in more time.
    "The hard part is just syncing your left and right hand, which is.... When it is super loud, it really doesn't matter anyway" ~Satchel from Steel Panther

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by plumbee View Post
    ... it is more about the intersection of learning, talent, and hard work. The premise is can a 38 year old adult, with zero rhythm, learn a musical instrument, or do you need to start at a young age? Does the age not matter and does Talent matter? Should you get a teacher? What kind of research is out there to back up the idea that he 'has no rhythm' or that you need to start playing when you are 3 years old.


    I don't think there is too much groundbreaking in the book beyond the idea that for each person's given "talent", it doesn't matter what age you start. He has some studies that look at the brain development of kids vs adults while learning and both are capable of learning at any age. He brings up some good points like, who has more time to practice scales, a 13 year old on summer vacation or a 47 year old parent of 3 with a job, etc? One point i liked was that he believed that young kids learn quickly because they don't mind playing the same thing over and over - the same way they will watch the same stupid movie over and over and over and over (i have small kids ;-) - whereas adults get bored of that repetition quickly. Adults can sometimes make up for these limits by learning more theory or other more intellectual things. OTOH, it is hard to match the passion of a 'frustrated' teenager tryin to get some 'attention'.

    Tim
    Thanks for an excellent and well thought out review here Tim. It got me to thinking. I know for a fact that an older player with seemly no (and I mean zero) rhythm or "talent" CAN learn to play in the pocket and play well. I've seen it first hand (by chance) very recently with a student in his mid 60's or so, and learning guitar as a beginner, has gone from at first glance to having "no talent" to becoming a pretty good player and accomplishing what he set out to do. Honestly, I'm not so sure I believe in 'talent". Good question to ask if there has been any research that says some people of "no ryhthm". I doubt it. Yes some people are more attuned to the part of the brain that makes it easier to access what it takes to play guitar. That's what we're really calling "talent". When we meet someone at first that seems to have no talent or rhythm though, it's the job of the teacher to help that person find that place in their own mind. Each person is different and sometimes it takes more time or less but the point is that I think it's in all of us there waiting to be found. It's innate. And once it's found, it's...well... found, and is a HUGE stepping stone. Voila! Now THAT person has "talent".

    This could be just found-less intuition on my part, but then again I've experienced it for what it's worth.

    Couldn't agree more with what you said about the author being an experience researcher and that one area of creativity leads to helping him to more easily learn another. Good point.

    Can't say that I disagree Gladwell's nurture theory right now, but then I haven't read Guitar Zero yet.

    Thanks again,
    Herb
    The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled. -- Plutarch

  10. #10
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    Default

    First, let me state that both books are back at the library, so any miss-statement of their ideas is purely accidental and the fault of my reading comprehension.
    Quote Originally Posted by herby View Post
    Good question to ask if there has been any research that says some people of "no ryhthm"
    GZ quotes a study that said there is a difference - i can't remember exactly, but i think it was a physical difference.... i guess you will have to get the book ;-)

    Quote Originally Posted by herby View Post
    I'm not so sure I believe in 'talent"...... Yes some people are more attuned to the part of the brain that makes it easier to access what it takes to play guitar. That's what we're really calling "talent". When we meet someone at first that seems to have no talent or rhythm though, it's the job of the teacher to help that person find that place in their own mind. Each person is different and sometimes it takes more time or less but the point is that I think it's in all of us there waiting to be found. It's innate. And once it's found, it's...well... found, and is a HUGE stepping stone. Voila! Now THAT person has "talent".
    gladwell quotes a study of music conservatory students that showed that the deciding factor on their performance was the hours invested - he is using it to bolster his "it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert" arguement. GZ addresses this directly and offers a view more compatible with what i have observed. That, on average, hours of practice is the most important, but does not apply to the ends of the distribution. There are plenty of examples of people who made an impact shortly after starting. In Guitar, we have players like Clapton and Hendrix who didn't pick up guitar until 14 or 15 years old and were touring musicians within 2 years and hit their stride by 5 years of playing. It is hard to argue that if anyone simply put in the same amount of time as clapton and hendrix, you could play like them, in 5 years.

    Quote Originally Posted by herby View Post
    Couldn't agree more with what you said about the author being an experience researcher and that one area of creativity leads to helping him to more easily learn another. Good point.
    this is something i have been thinking about alot. If anyone has any good resources about this, i am all ears!

    Thanks for the conversation, i enjoy the critical thinking.
    Tim
    **** again, i apologize in advance if i miss-represented either author's intent. I no longer have the books to double check anything.
    "The hard part is just syncing your left and right hand, which is.... When it is super loud, it really doesn't matter anyway" ~Satchel from Steel Panther

  11. #11

    Default

    I'm enjoying your critical thinking on this stuff Tim. No reason to apologize for any possible misrepresentation of the authors' intents. This is a guitar forum after all and we're apt to be a little loose on these kinds of subjects lol. Besides, no one is paying you to do book reviews here.

    My guess is that Gladwell's 10,000 hours theory is pretty close to the truth as a loose rule. I say as a loose rule because with guys like Hendrix and Clapton, I could argue that they were already so attuned naturally to the part of the brain that comprehends what it takes to play guitar that two or three years or so was plenty of time. I did some quick (and very possibly inaccurate... I didn't double-check my math) calculations and (think I) saw that over 2 years they would have had to practice nearly 24 hours a day to get to 10,000 hours. It wouldn't surprise me though if they didn't get in a good 12 hours and very possibly more a day. Over 5 years when they "hit their strides" it's very likely they could have gotten to their own "10,000 hours". Whichever, that was enough for them, or guys like them. The examples of Hendrix and Clapton are also a great tribute to their practice technique. People like that aren't wasting time when they practice. They're learning something new and helpful every time they picked up the guitar. Besides, if I remember Gladwell's theory correctly, 10,000 hours didn't mean "perfection" but meant "good enough". And good enough is.... good enough.

    As far as good practice technique goes, Gladwell's ideas in his book "Blink" could be applicable in helping to learn how to practice as well as perform. In short, Blink talks about the decisions we make in the first two seconds of any given situation. What do we think in the first two seconds after we pick up the guitar? After we tune the guitar and get ready to play? Positive thoughts? Negative thoughts? A combination of both? He suggests removing all thoughts except the most very basic. (Easier said than done.) I've tried to use myself as a human guinea pig to test the idea and have to say it's pretty darned interesting. As are your posts here. Thanks again... Herby, the Human Guinea Pig... has a nice ring to it, no?
    Last edited by herby; 05-10-2012 at 10:32 AM.
    The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled. -- Plutarch

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    Quote Originally Posted by Herby, the Human Guinea Pig View Post
    My guess is that Gladwell's 10,000 hours theory is pretty close to the truth as a loose rule.
    I think that was the GZ take - that Good, professional players (Slash etc) will need about 10K hours. IE if most people put 60 hours a week (60=3000hr/year) in, every week, for 3 or 4 years, you would be considered a 'good' guitarist. GZ points out that on the edges (the really great and the really terrible) don't hold to this rule. [note - it isn't Gladwell's theory, it is Anders Ericsson a psychologist who did the research]

    Quote Originally Posted by Herby, the Human Guinea Pig View Post
    I say as a loose rule because with guys like Hendrix and Clapton, I could argue that they were already so attuned naturally to the part of the brain that comprehends what it takes to play guitar that two or three years or so was plenty of time.
    I would define this as talent - being able to do in 2 years what should take 6 to 10 due to the way you were born.

    Quote Originally Posted by Herby, the Human Guinea Pig View Post
    I did some quick (and very possibly inaccurate... I didn't double-check my math) calculations and (think I) saw that over 2 years they would have had to practice nearly 24 hours a day to get to 10,000 hours. It wouldn't surprise me though if they didn't get in a good 12 hours and very possibly more a day. Over 5 years when they "hit their strides" it's very likely they could have gotten to their own "10,000 hours".
    I don't think Jimi was going to school once he started playing, but Clapton was - there isn't enough time for school, sleep and guitar at that rate, let alone sustain it over a few years. 2 hours a week day and 12 hours a weekend-day is 35 hours -1750 hours a year. I think Clapton was getting offers to gig within a year or so of starting and was in the Yardbirds within 3.

    Quote Originally Posted by Herby, the Human Guinea Pig View Post
    Besides, if I remember Gladwell's theory correctly, 10,000 hours didn't mean "perfection" but meant "good enough". And good enough is.... good enough.
    I think this is where any comparison to specific people breaks down - Hendrix was a really, really good player, but he was also MASSIVELY, OTHERWORLDLY creative. His creativity was an integral part of what made him and has kept him relevant. Success is hard enough to define, but with the multiple components (in this case timing, guitar talent, creativity, and some randomness) it makes it very hard to determine what deserve credit for his success.

    This, to me, is a much more interesting topic - while whether innate 'talent' is 10% or 90% of 'success' is interesting, it is unimportant to me - you can't change what you have. But of the things you can change, what should you work on?

    Quote Originally Posted by Herby, the Human Guinea Pig View Post
    As far as good practice technique goes, Gladwell's ideas in his book "Blink" could be applicable in helping to learn how to practice as well as perform. In short, Blink talks about the decisions we make in the first two seconds of any given situation. What do we think in the first two seconds after we pick up the guitar? After we tune the guitar and get ready to play? Positive thoughts? Negative thoughts? A combination of both? He suggests removing all thoughts except the most very basic. (Easier said than done.) I've tried to use myself as a human guinea pig to test the idea and have to say it's pretty darned interesting. As are your posts here. Thanks again... Herby, the Human Guinea Pig... has a nice ring to it, no?
    My thought, at least on performing, would be that you need the hours of time (ie The Beatles in Germany) playing to be able to instantly react (Blink style) and not have to analyze every decision that comes along. Kinda a combo of the 10K hours and Thinking with your gut. On practicing, i am not so sure. I guess it would depend on what you are trying to optimise for (technique, song writing, performance, etc).

    I should point out my bias, that from a very early age, I saw kids perform (piano and violin) who were amazing. They played as well as high schoolers getting ready for Julliard. At 8 or so years old, they undoubtedly practice a bunch, and way more than I, but not as much as the people 10 years older who took their instrument as seriously as Jimi. My mom has been teaching for the last 35 years. Kids start at 3 or 4 years old, and even at that age, some kids are just better. Some are much better, and some unbelievable. So i definitely believe it 'talent'. To make an analogy, IMHO you can't change the cards you were dealt, but you don't need best cards to win. (for whatever winning means ;-)

    It's late, time to strum a few chords and go to bed ;-)
    Tim
    "The hard part is just syncing your left and right hand, which is.... When it is super loud, it really doesn't matter anyway" ~Satchel from Steel Panther

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