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After a night of playing the video game Guitar Hero, Gary Marcus, 38, a psychologist at New York University, decided to learn guitar. He did, and he wrote the new book Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning. High notes:

Don’t rush. People need, on average, to use a skill for 10,000 hours to be proficient. Also, if you played as a child, don’t make comparisons to back then. “Learning an instrument is, in part, conquering your own fears.”

Target weakness. Understand what you need to do to get better, and focus on that. “Don’t just play the four songs you already know. Part of what you are doing is trying to outwit yourself.”

Have fun. Marcus loved the guitar and powered through it, even though he wasn’t innately musical. “I became obsessed and I enjoyed the obsession” by playing together with other musicians. Overall, the fun factor was what kept him going. “You shouldn’t set out to be Jimi Hendrix,” he says. “I started with as little talent as anybody, and I got to the point that I could make up my own music. If I can get there, anyone who wants to be proficient can.”

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