By ROBIN MICHELI Meredith Maran Judith Newman ANDREW ABRAHAMS
February 06, 2012 12:00 PM

>At 38, New York University psychology professor (and musical no-talent) Gary Marcus took up guitar. His new book explores the difficulties—and rewards—of being an old dog learning new licks.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU?

I had a lifelong love of music but a complete lack of talent. I played Guitar Hero, sucked at that, but then my wife got me to play Rock Band. . . . I immersed myself in guitar like a kid trying to learn a language.

ISN’T IT MUCH EASIER FOR KIDS?

Scientists used to think the brain’s ability to acquire things switched off at a certain age, but it’s more like a dimmer switch. It might be too late to get a symphony gig, but it’s never too late to learn and enjoy.

DOES TALENT MATTER, OR IS PRACTICING WHAT COUNTS?

Talent matters. I’ve been playing for three years, and when Jimi Hendrix had played for three years . . .

HOW’S YOUR PLAYING?

It’s incredible how far I’ve come. I’m performing a song with Terre Roche (of the folk group the Roche Sisters) in New York. My wife’s amazed at my progress. Though she prefers when I practice unplugged.

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