Segments in this Video

Learning to Play an Instrument (09:27)


Gary Marcus recalls his attempts to learn a musical instrument as a child, and his continual failures despite his passion for music. Vernon Reid received a guitar at age 15 and struggled to learn because of the high action on the instrument. After giving up, he decided to try again; inspiration from other musicians helped him persevere.

Motivation and Process (06:15)

Persistence is a key part of learning and talent; it is rooted in genes related to will power. Reid explains that when learning a skill, people develop a feedback system, in which a little effort will result in progress. Marcus agrees that people who are good at learning continually find a zone of proximal development. Everyone approaches a challenge differently, creating an internal conversation that will determine how they deal with it.

Developing Authenticity (07:00)

Reid argues that everyone has more to learn on guitar—most people only play one style, but each style is difficult to learn and deserves respect. He appreciates musicians who have their own voice; to develop this, sometimes musicians have to look outward to gain inspiration from other instruments or sounds.

Musical Influences (06:16)

Alan Lomax traveled the United States recording common musicians with a portable tape player for the first time. Reid recalls that the album Brian Eno made using some of these recordings as samples changed how Reid understood music. He lists some of his favorite albums and significant teachers, conveying the wide range of influences that helped to create his unique style.

Originality and Perceptions of the Guitar (08:55)

Reid argues that to create something new, musicians have to make opportunities for accidents, and be able to appreciate them. The book “The Advancing Guitarist” introduces a new way of looking at the guitar, making it easier to imagine and understand intervals. For most musicians, the mechanics of playing an instrument is a significant obstacle, but prodigies can immediately surpass this challenge and approach music philosophically.

Vernon Reid Performance (15:39)

Marcus and Reid discuss the effect of a brain aneurysm on a music prodigy, and whether his guitar playing changed or even improved after the injury. Reid performs a few songs with his music partner.

Gary Marcus Performance (06:33)

Gary Marcus welcomes his two favorite teachers, Terre Roche and Roger Greenawalt to the stage and performs with them.

Credits: The Science of Learning (to Play the guitar) (00:07)

Credits: The Science of Learning (to Play the guitar)

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

The Science of Learning (to Play the guitar)

Part of the Series : Brainwave: Memory
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



One of our most eminent neuroscientists spent a year teaching himself to play the guitar. Why? Scientist Gary Marcus was keenly interested in how the brain can essentially rewire itself to make up for deficits caused by trauma. In the presence of Vernon Reid, #66 on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, Gary Marcus discusses the experience of learning to play and the impulses that brought him to music. Presented in association with Urban Zen.

Length: 61 minutes

Item#: BVL143697

ISBN: 978-1-64347-347-5

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.