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Gary Marcus' new book Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning investigates these questions.
Yesterday, I found a pretty good puzzle game (an online free Flash game) called Musaic Box that illustrates one way to learn a little about music without having any musical talent to speak of. It exploits the idea of assembling musical phrases out of segments that roughly visualize the musicality of a measure.
This morning, Gary Marcus was a guest on NPR's Weekend Edition, Sunday, with Rachel Martin interviewing him on the subject of his new book.
Good interview. "Don't expect overnight success," says Gary Marcus, importantly.
I downloaded the one-hour-free-sample of Musaic Box, Barry, but don't think Marcus would value learning music it's way as much as simply engaging with a real musical instrument and sticking with playing it until the dopamine kicks in as accomplishments become self-evident. BTW, maybe a day will come when such diligence in developing muscular habits/brain plasticity will be less necessary: see http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/01/study-of-the-day-...