Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Zen Guitar” as Want to Read:
Zen Guitar
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Zen Guitar

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,945 ratings  ·  126 reviews
Unleash the song of your soul with Zen Guitar, a contemplative handbook that draws on ancient Eastern wisdom and applies it to music and performance.

Each of us carries a song inside us, the song that makes us human. Zen Guitar provides the key to unlocking this song—a series of life lessons presented through the metaphor of music.

Philip Sudo offers his own experience
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 24th 1998 by Simon Schuster (first published February 11th 1997)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Zen Guitar, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Zen Guitar

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,945 ratings  ·  126 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Zen Guitar
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
i tried to meditate a while back, but i always hated the breathing part and also the sitting part, which seemed like the two main parts.

so i'm just gonna keep stumbling my way through zeppelin's "black dog" until i experience ego death. according to this guy, that kind of work counts for something
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
"Paths cannot be taught, they can only be taken". So it is with Zen guitar.

My first guitar, as for so many, was a 3/4 size classical, nylon strings, cheap laquered plywood and 2-inch wide fretboard - bought by my mother after months of my 13 year old nagging. She didn't know. She wasn't to know that this guitar was fine if I wanted to learn flamenco, or pick out the notes of 'Greensleeves'...but not really effective if I wanted to become the next Springsteen.

"Anything you
Lee Klein
Sep 13, 2019 rated it liked it
The easiest breeziest prose and format kept me reading by mixing quotations from rockers and jazz players with Zen koans and terms I've known since I took a mind-blowing Zen Buddhism class sophomore year in college. About as good as such a book could be, sort of like a self-help instruction-less instruction book -- the sound of one hand clapping etc extrapolated to practicing and playing guitar but also with dimensions and extensions into one's actions and behavior in life. All makes sense in this, seems ...more
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Stop worrying about what the audience wants, about whether your pedals are true bypass, about whether you can play as fast as the next guy. Just plug the damn thing in and ROCK your heart out.
Takeaway message is just to play your guitar and make your own discoveries in music. Stretched out to 183 pages. With some choice quotes and eastern philosophy to bulk it out. Read it in one go. (But I could've been playing my guitar instead).
Oct 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Even though this book is written for people who play guitar or are learning guitar...there is so much to learn from this book. Just replace the word guitar with whatever you are interested in and the same principles apply.
Sep 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
my musical mastermind buddy, mark, lent me this to read.. and it came at a time of emotional upheaval and crazy roadtripping and ditching school to hop around the east coast and play and meet and think and shed some skin. one of those books you can pick up and get inspiration from at just about any time, whether you play guitar or not.
Tim Roettger
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Some choice quotations:
"[W]earing the white belt here means you have agreed to set aside all knowledge and preconceptions and open your mind to learning as though for the first time.

In zen circles, this attitude is called carrying an empty cup. [...]

From here on out, drink and keep an empty cup. The moment you think you know everything there is to know, you will have lost the way. The beginner's mind is the mind of wisdom." P. 26-7

"What matters on the pa
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
One of the most important, enjoyable books I've ever had the good fortune to read. The concept of zen is familiar to many, and this book is certainly laden with familiar concepts, but it manages to relate those concepts incredibly well to the art of learning, practicing, and playing an instrument (not necessarily guitar; this book applies to any instrument... it is not an exercise book), all the while reminding you that those very same concepts seamlessly overlap into everyday life, and stretch ...more
Pompom Sönnfors
Nov 12, 2011 is currently reading it
Zen Guitar is going to take a long time to read. After trying to rush through the entire book I started over and have been contemplating the very first instruction, "Wear the white belt" for a year. It could be time to move on but I don't really see the rush.
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book will help any musician who wants to understand the music and guitar in a deeper, more spiritual way. This book uses Oriental and martial arts principles to propel the reader into a better place in so many different ways. It really is a beautiful experience if you are open to it. I highly recommend it.
Dec 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book doesn't teach any specific guitar playing technique. Rather, it looks at the spiritual side of making music; if you will, the zen of playing guitar.

Everyone carries a song inside themselves, it's what makes us human. This book offers a key to letting out that song. Once you have picked up a guitar and properly tuned it, don't worry if you don't know any songs. Play just one note on one string and give it every bit of your heart and soul. Then repeat the process.

Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zen Guitar is a mash-up of Zen and Music. While it is not a method book in the traditional sense, it does offer guidance on how to approach both one's instrument and one's life in a zen way. If this sounds interesting to you, read on.

- Quotes from musicians (including Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, and Eric Clapton) generally keep the work from becoming too abstract.
- Includes a glossary of terms, meaning it is not necessary to thumb through the book to find the meaning of a Japanese wor/>
Tony Espy
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book to anyone who plays, or even is thinking about learning to play the guitar.

It's an interesting mix of Eastern/Zen Buddhist philosphy as applied to the practice of playing guitar. Some chapters focus on a particular aspect of playing guitar, some discuss mistakes or approaches to avoid, but in the end, all can be applied to life itself.

One of my favorite things about this book is that each chapter starts with a quote from some the g
NO, i lost the review.

So here's the summary:
1) At the beginning, I thought it was gimmicky, but of the sort that ''if you believe in it, you'll get the value out of it''. So I gave it a chance, and the last third of the book really took me and engaged me. A lot of it you discover on your own through the years, or else you don't advance and give it up.

2)It helped to apply the mindset to different challenges other than guitar: singining, learning chinese characters, r
Aug 23, 2007 rated it liked it
I was kind of disappointed that this one had no actual musical examples included in the text. More philosophy than actual hands-on lessons. Still it had some interesting ideas and approaches. If you like this book you should definitely check out How to Become a Guitar Player from Hell which came out only a couple of weeks ago. How to Become a Guitar Player from Hell covers almost every guitar technique used by modern guitar virtuosos and explains them in simple terms anyone can understand. Arpeggios, fi ...more
Samuel Lawson
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book will either seem like an exercise in navel-gazing or it will be a valuable asset to the musician in pursuit of self-actualisation (just don't expect it to be your only asset). I really liked it; helped me find a sense of perspective when I was experiencing symptoms of burn-out many years ago. The book is applicable to guitarists of any genre. The world of classical guitar has certain unhealthy elements, not the least of which being elitism and over-emphasis on competition. This book su ...more
Kurt Bannister
Mar 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
Pure fluff with no substance.
Jatin Raseen
Dec 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Pathetic book. Nothing important for self learners. No techniques, skills, only pure blabbering through out.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book for guitar players of all levels who view listening and playing music as a spiritual experience.
Tatiana Rodina
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book I return to each 3-5 years.
It is not about playing, it is about the way of making art, communicating with yourself and others and, living.
A lot to apply in life, a lot to learn.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it
In short, there are several beautiful ideas in this book which will inspire your guitar playing and also the way you lead your life.
But the reason why I am giving 3 stars is, because either this book lacks the coherence or I am unable to see it as of now. (may be I need another reading)
There is no common thread that unites it all.
I am unable to see a structure in the form of a book - which it is and should have felt like one - as a whole.
Maybe I expected a lil too much.
Chris Harris
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Eastern philosophy (predominantly Japanese Zen Buddhism, but there are elements of Chinese Taoism) as applied to playing guitar. Lessons on subjects like humility, learning to listen to your bandmates, and dealing with getting stuck when your progress plateaus may be familiar ones, but they are all worth learning. The result is a celebratory book, with some interesting quotes from guitar players such as Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, and Allan Holdsworth heading each chapter.

And "when things fal
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read this because of an Instagram comment.

This turned out pretty boring and drags out a lot of stuff like "wow in The Orient 'crisis' is *danger* and *opportunity*" which is just so tiresome. I found the examples and analogies to be confused (as opposed to purposefully confusing).

I think that the Leonard mastery book has a lot more clear thinking around the theme of spirituality in practice, so read that instead if this book interests you.

W.A. Mathieu's Harmon
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books about music that I have encountered. Principles that I will use and think about every time I pick up my guitar. More than a book about practice but a book about becoming one with the guitar and making every session a way of being in the moment with the music. I feel this would be a great book for anyone even non musicians but, for a person new to guitar or any music endeavor a priceless read.
Camilo Colorado
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book changed the way I look at my guitar and my playing. I now appreciate my instrument more. However, I am not as mindful of my playing as the book shows. That is more of a knock on me as it is on the book. If you follow the ideas in the book, you will be the guitarist you want to be. No more and no less.
Peter Lucibelli
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I have studied Zen about 25 or more years ago. I am a musician and have been mostly my whole life. This book came recommended by another deep thinker and musician. I was truly knocked out by this book as it deals with Zen and a guitar but the guitar really can be anything. Interesting read and highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Kinda corny, but some really good advice. Great quotes at the beginning of each section. Nice quick, easy read.
Michael G
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Did not quite resonate with the Buddha in me. I feel as if he was waiting to be killed in the middle of the road and the trucks passed him by in every chapter. Play guitar. Mu!
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Silly, lighthearted fluff.

Don't expect to have a life-changing revelation while reading it, or anything.
It's just a bit of fun.
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music
  • The Inner Game of Music
  • How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond
  • The World in Six Songs
  • Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within, Book & CD
  • This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession
  • The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart
  • A History of Western Music
  • The Joy of Music
  • Silence: Lectures and Writings
  • Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination
  • Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are
  • Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
  • Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning
  • The Cello Suites
  • Music, Language, and the Brain
  • The History of Jazz
  • The Music Instinct: How Music Works and Why We Can't Do Without It
See similar books…

Goodreads is hiring!

If you like books and love to build cool products, we may be looking for you.
Learn more »
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“My own thing is in my head. I hear sounds and if I don’t get them together nobody else will. —Jimi Hendrix” 2 likes
“So many different formulas can work that there’s no real formula. What’s important is to learn from whomever or whatever you can, at your own rate, in your own way. How or when you learn doesn’t matter, so long as the learning occurs.” 1 likes
More quotes…