Do adult beginners learn differently?
Hi everyone - new adult beginner here. As someone who's been to old school university (projector and slides + blackboard), and then to graduate school (flashy powerpoint, online resources etc), I've been thinking about how adult beginners like myself can maximise their learning experience in order to do value-adding and smart practice so as to improve. Teaching resources are widely available these days, so are methods.
I'd like to hear from other adult beginners or teachers who teach them on their perspective on their learning/teaching experience. What has or has not worked for you as a beginner or teacher? What tips can you impart for someone who is keen to sit violin exams etc. Can adults learn "faster" than kids because they can synthesise information and learning materials better?
Looking forward to your views. Many thanks in advance.
In general, the biggest differences are that an adult is capable of picking up the intellectual aspects faster. However, they'd pick up the physical aspects - particularly motor coordination and anything dealing with flexibility - much slower.
Depends on previous experience. When I took up guitar I became convinced that a lot of piano skills transferred to guitar. So now I'm hoping both will transfer to violin. My biggest problem is not to be disheartened and just get on with it. I was a lazy kid, so I'm pretty sure I can learn just as fast now as I did then. But after I hit the "Reply" button I've got to go and practise and not be as lazy as I was then!
I think Madeye has expressed the essence of it very well.
In my experience teaching adults, they were difficult because they always wanted to focus on other things. They start working on vibrato on their own the third week of lessons, before they have the proper hand position, or they decide that 3 months in is a great time to learn Vivaldi's Winter. Children accept without question that there is a step by step process with violin.
Different adults learn differently. And although my sample size is just one (myself), I'd say they use the same ways of learning since they were young. However, I think the big difference is that adults are much more self-conscious and afraid of being judged. There is some formative age at which self-consciousness becomes an overpowering force.
@Timothy, you have almost exactly described the schedule I have, I also have the school run to do on top of all that and I have to find time to learn new tunes on my other instrument, if you find a solution please let me know!
I took a fiddle workshop a few years ago from Martin Hayes, a very accomplished Irish fiddler. He was talking about technique when he stopped, looked at all of us old, gray haired guys and said, "You know, if you haven't learned the fundamentals of technique by the time you are 50 you probably never will, but you will have learned humility, and that's more important."
"adults...were difficult because they always wanted to focus on other things. They start working on vibrato on their own the third week of lessons...or they decide that 3 months in is a great time to learn Vivaldi's Winter."
Scott Cole wrote:
Learning the violin comes down to how you practice, and a good teacher will help guide your practicing, show you where you're going wrong, and select appropriate material for you.
As an adult, your main asset is that you have greater concentration and self-discipline than a child does.
Yes, and I think a lot of adult learners failures stem from their teacher using child learning techniques, which is all they ever known.
I'm not convinced that adults necessarily struggle with the physical skills, at least not before they get into their 50s. I've seen adults pick up the physical skills faster than children do. Adults tend to want to know what any particular exercise will do for them, or the reason behind doing something a particular way. If it is explained adequately, adults tend to practice with more focus, though often for less time because of adult responsibilities.
Thank you all. It's illuminating reading your comments. I had 2 years of beginner piano lessons as a kid, and picked up guitar later in my teens, but can't read music at all aside from the most rudimentary ones.
Practicing effectively is more important than practicing hard. This may be cliche, but practice doesn't make perfect, it makes permanent. You'll get more from five minutes of careful, attentive practice than from hours of mindless repetition that can build bad habits. The single most important thing is to know what to watch for while practicing any particular technique. If at any time you're not sure, ask.
I would say for adult beginners (like myself), set long-term technical goals in your practise. Obviously you have to discuss them with your teacher first and ask which practise you need to do to make it happen,
Maria, I wouldn't sell people that short. I tend to think that even the people with the worst genes for string playing still have a high ceiling, because even the very bottom of the normal range of fine motor skills is still quite agile in adulthood. They may not have the potential to be international soloists, but I suspect everyone without a significant disability is capable of reaching regional orchestra level.
@Timothy, aye, I am in the United Kingdom, gets very dark very soon right now. I'm an expat Aussie so I don't think I shall ever get used to it.
I think most adults, when they've got their violin on their shoulder for the first time at their first lesson, are thinking, "How in the hell am I going to do all this?" And their hands are a stiff as iron. Put a violin on a four-year-old child's shoulder, and they just want to try making sound.
On a somewhat related note, what other teaching methods are available beside Suzuki? And which ones are more suited for adults?
Many adults (myself included)are impatient and want to play certain “songs” right away. They then get frustrated with the sound they produced.
It's clear to me from the noises I make, that what is fundamental is good LH/RH coordination, so détaché scales and arpeggios for LH anticipation, and legato scales and arpeggios for string pivoting without LH anticipation. The rest is secondary.
I think that adult beginners have the potential to learn even faster than children, but the reality of adult life gets in the way. One needs about one hour of practice time each evening, without distractions, with surplus mental energy, after working an 8+ hour day. That doesn't happen very often in real life.
Methods are an American thing. They don't exist in Britain. Suzuki, Doflein, Sassmannshaus. Well, maybe they are German too, or maybe Sassmannshaus saw the money Suzuki was making and thought, hey I could use some of that. My method is to play something until you can do it OK, then do something harder until you can do it OK, then do something harder. Every now and then go back to easier things and do them better than you did first time around.
Adult learners don't learn differently, they learn diffidently.
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