Volcanic eruptions are often preceded by seismic activity that can be used to quantify the volcanic activity. In order to allow consistent inference of the volcanic activity state from the observed seismicity patterns, objective and time‐invariant classification results achievable by automatic systems should be preferred. Most automatic classification approaches need a large preclassified data set for training the system. However, in case of a volcanic crisis, we are often confronted with a lack of training data due to insufficient prior observations. In the worst case (e.g., volcanic crisis related reconfiguration of stations), there are even no prior observations available. Finally, due to the imminent crisis there might be no time for the time‐consuming process of preparing a training data set. For this reason, we have developed a novel seismic‐event spotting technique in order to be less dependent on previously acquired data bases and classification schemes. We are using a learning‐while‐recording approach based on a minimum number of reference waveforms, thus allowing for the build‐up of a classification scheme as early as interesting events have been identified. First, short‐term wave‐field parameters (here, polarization and spectral attributes) are extracted from a continuous seismic data stream. The sequence of multidimensional feature vectors is then used to identify a fixed number of clusters in the feature space. Based on this general description of the overall wave field by a mixture of multivariate Gaussians, we are able to learn particular event classifiers (here, hidden Markov models) from a single waveform example. To show the capabilities of this new approach we apply the algorithm to a data set recorded at Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat. Supported by very high classification rates, we conclude that the suggested approach provides a valuable tool for volcano monitoring systems.