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Zen Guitar

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,130 ratings  ·  143 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 experiences wit
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 24th 1998 by Simon Schuster (first published February 11th 1997)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  2,130 ratings  ·  143 reviews

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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 set out to make - music
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
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 th ...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). ...more
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 path of Zen Guitar is not the obstacles we f
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: musicking-101
I had high hopes for this book, given my background in both music in Buddhism, and given how many 4-5 star reviews this book has on Goodreads. But I came away disappointed, with the feeling that I've just read the literary equivalent of a heap of cotton candy. Although there were 1-2 memorable paragraphs, most of this short book is comprised of empty platitudes, half-baked generalities, and a pop psychology version of Zen that you've probably already encountered a million times in other contexts ...more
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. ...more
Kurt Bannister
Mar 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
Pure fluff with no substance.
Library copy
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.

When you start regular p
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 word or phra
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 greatest guitarists to walk the plane
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. Arpeg ...more
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, running. One major insight that
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Zen Guitar” is one of the most helpful books on playing guitar that I have encountered, and I highly recommend it to every guitarist. It is unique among guitar instructional books in that it has nothing to say about chords, scales, or technical matters at all. As the author points out in the beginning of the book, “the world is swimming in information”. As guitarists, we don’t really need more information – we can easily find all the information we might want – what we really need, according to ...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
George Barrett
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
I would've liked to rated this book with 2 1/2 stars. Although this book caters for the beginner to advanced guitarists at about mid point the beginner may feel out of their depth. Of course the real purpose behind Philip Toshio Sudo's book is the inculcation of Zen philosophy into one's approach to learning and playing guitar. This book is very useful is for aspiring guitarists in acquiring the right attitude to learning and appreciating guitar. ...more
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.
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.
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.

Another thing which bothe
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 Harmonic Experience is also currently a re
William Stuart
Sep 09, 2020 rated it liked it
It's okay.

The first half of this book is awesome. It explains the concepts of doing everything deliberately and to the best of your ability, and to appreciate the journey, not the destination.

Then it gets repetitive. At some point you hope that the book about guitar might say something about music- either a meditative approach to technique or a holistic way to view the fingerboard or something, but unfortunately, there is very little about the guitar itself discussed here.

Excellent as an entry p
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.
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