Printer-friendly version weekend vote: Are a you a fast-learner, steady learner or late bloomer?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: November 15, 2013 at 4:42 PM [UTC]

Karen Rile's wonderful blog this week about Late Bloomers got me thinking about the various kinds of learning, and where I fit in, where my kids fit in, where my students fit in.

For this weekend vote, I'd like to ask you where you see yourself, starting with three kinds of learners. If you don't see yourself in any of them, please feel free to chime in and talk about the way you learn! Here are the categories:

Fast learner. Here's the learner who has taken in the information before the teacher is even finished saying it. Also, it's the kind of student who can easily adapt their playing after one explanation and then remember it forevermore! The only danger with a fast learner is the potential for boredom, and not wanting to repeat skills.

Slow-steady. This is a person who learns incrementally, a person for whom a setting like school works pretty well. This person might actually enjoy practicing, especially as they see their skills and knowledge building. They thrive on time, dedication and steady work toward a goal.

Plateaus and leaps. This is what Karen described in her blog: someone who is taking it all in, but may not seem to be learning anything at all from the perspective of an outsider. It's the child who, after barely being able to get through an easy reader, suddenly reads an entire Harry Potter book. Or the student who, after lesson upon lesson of barely eking out "La Folia," suddenly turns all heads and plays it with fire and precision at the recital.

Where do you see yourself? And if you don't see yourself, please describe!

From Paul Deck
Posted on November 15, 2013 at 6:00 PM
The option "long plateaus and leaps" category sounded like me, as long as I am allowed to count leaps that are lower than, say, three rows of matchboxes.

From Jim Hastings
Posted on November 15, 2013 at 7:10 PM
Fast learner here -- 21% of 47 votes at this writing. As I've said, I first played by ear on a 1/2-sized fiddle and then by reading the notes -- before I had my first teacher.

Don't recall offhand having to unlearn habits but did have to get the fundamentals down right away -- bow hold, bow division, basic tuning, careful listening. This teacher and I worked well together; in fact, she couldn't have been more right for me -- with clear, precise, logical instructions that I recall, often word for word, to this day.

Started position-playing around 3 months in and would leaf through the Whistler lessons as literal bedtime stories. Curiosity too strong -- couldn't wait to see what was next.

Another danger for this type of learner is learning things wrong -- fast! Here, the teacher is key. My first teacher had a good blend of moral support and a firm hold on the reins to be sure I didn't derail myself by running ahead too fast.

Posted on November 15, 2013 at 7:25 PM
Just plain slow. Sigh.
Posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:14 AM
slow, then fast, then slow, then stop. then fast, then medium, ... it's not always as important how fast we learn, but how thoroughly we learn.

From Brian Kelly
Posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:22 AM
Another category would have been useful: 'Totally hopeless...should have stayed with the kazoo.'
Posted on November 16, 2013 at 11:12 PM
Wow, I'm exactly the same as Jim. I started on my own, learning proper position and things like how to cross strings with a bow. I started on a full size at age 7, since my parents were not convinced that I would stick with it long enough enough to justify spending any money on a half size (my mom had an old full size from elementary school).

After I got my half size violin, I began learning Suzuki book 1 by ear. I could soon pick out any piece I knew by ear and play it. But as a kid, I was such a perfectionist when it came to intonation that it took me 2 years to get myself through book 1. After I started lessons, I was able to progress very quickly and within 5 years, I was the Principal 2nd violinist of the Jackson Symphony Youth Orchestra.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on November 17, 2013 at 3:22 PM
I voted for "None of the Above," but I'd actually say "All of the Above" at different times and different phases of life.
From Mark Roberts
Posted on November 18, 2013 at 6:28 AM
I never get any better, just everyone else gets worse.
From Kate Little
Posted on November 18, 2013 at 9:25 PM
An option was missing: All of the above.

A person can learn in different ways at different times, or with different material.

From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on November 19, 2013 at 8:49 PM
I chose "long plateaus, then leaps" but I've actually been in all three situations.

One concept I'd like to bring up is what I call "demand learning": learning what's needed for the task at hand. I use this concept constantly in my career as a computer programmer, where there is so much knowledge and so many techniques that if you didn't pick and choose you wouldn't have time to do anything. As a string player, I recently learned the rudiments of ricochet bowing because I needed it to play part of a piece our orchestra is performing.

Demand learning is suitable for people who already know some of the material in question and are filling in the blanks, as opposed to someone who's starting cold and can benefit from a welluctured curriculum. It's a good match for me and the violin, since I already have experience playing other instruments (including the mandolin, which is tuned the same as a violin), as well as a healthy dose of music theory. However, it's probably more difficult for a teacher, who when faced with a student like me has to figure out how to avoid wasting time going over material that I already know, while filling in the gaps in my existing knowledge and building on it.

To get back to the topic, it's when these gaps are filled that I learn quickly, both because the missing pieces are small and simple, and because they are like the missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that enable me to fit together some of the other pieces that I already have. But at other times, when I'm building on my existing knowledge, I can have my plateaus or slow, steady progression. And slow and steady is an unavoidable part of learning the violin. Some things just can't be explained in enough detail; you have to work on it until you get it.

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