Evaluating Guitar Performance

Using a Comprehensive Assessment for Your Students

By NAfME Member Christopher J. Perez
Director – Freedom High School Guitar Program, Orlando, Florida

“The approach to what you do, results in what you get . . . ”

Freddie Gruber (1927-2011)—Drummer and Master Teacher

For some time our teaching environment is looked upon where assessments and evaluations are an “evil” necessity to our profession. Exams to test terminology and music theory are good to assess knowledge, however there should be performance assessments to test application of musical skill and level mastery. If used and administered properly performance assessments could be:

  • A valuable source of formative and summative grading
  • An aide in developing musical and technical growth
  • A way to track the progress (weekly, quarterly, semester, yearly) of your students or ensembles

 

assessment

Assessments cannot be given nor graded arbitrarily. Careful consideration must be taken as to why your students are taking a test (written or performance based) and what (differentiated) rubric is in place to score a test. Your administration of tests:

  • Should not be subjective but objective
  • Provide accountability of your teaching practices
  • Show acquisition of music terminology
  • Show performance development of your students.

For my high school beginning guitar classes, I do a lot of performance based testing (about 30-35 per year). Skills developed and mastered include scales, chord strumming, chord progressions, chordal theory, note reading, barre chords, power chords, arpeggios, plus solo and ensemble performances.

Within the first nine weeks I administer their first solo, “Fingerspiel” by Jürg Hochweber (Grade 1) and the one octave C Major scale. Both rubric types are provided below.

FINGERSPIEL

Guitar I Solo Test #1

Name:__________________________________                                   Period: 1 – 2 – 3

 

Solo (Fingerspiel – Fingergame) by Jürg Hochweber

 

Individual Notation (GE – 2 pts. Each = / 10 points total)

◊ All notes are accurate and played with confidence

◊ Most notes are accurate (1-2 errors)

◊ Several notes are not accurate (3-4 errors)

◊ Many notes are not accurate (5-6 errors)

◊ Most notes are not accurate (7 or more errors)

 

Individual Tone Quality (GE – 2 pts. Each = / 10 points total)

◊ Performs with a rich, full tone; no buzzing or twang

◊ Sound is warm but needs to be richer and fuller

◊ Occasional buzzing; tone could be a little richer

◊ Fair tone quality – tone is sometimes weak with buzzing

◊ Poor tone quality – tone is often weak with frequent buzzing

 

Individual Technique/Body Position (GE – 2 pts. Each = / 10 points total)

◊ Performs in classical position correctly and comfortably

◊ Displays one technical problem to correct

◊ Displays two technical problem to correct; does not always use good technique

◊ Displays several technical problems to correct; needs to practice in classical position

◊ Uncomfortable with classical technique; rarely practices in classical position.

 

Rhythm and Tempo (GE – 2 pts. Each = / 10 points total)

◊ All rhythms are precise, with a constant steady beat at correct tempo

◊ Most rhythms are precise (1-2 errors), beat/tempo changes occasionally

◊ Most rhythms are precise (3-4 errors), a few pauses, tempo changes occasionally

◊ Several incorrect rhythms (5-6 errors), several pauses, tempo changes frequently

◊ Many incorrect rhythms (7+ errors), frequent pauses, unable to perform at correct tempo

 

Individual p-i-m-a / Hand Position (GE – 2 pts. Each = / 10 points total)

◊ R.H. relaxed; fingers curved; thumb is forward; proper fingering; L.H. thumb behind neck

◊ R.H. relaxed; fingers should curve more; (p) should be forward; L.H. thumb behind neck

◊ Tension; finger/wrist placement or strokes need work; L.H. thumb is visible on top of neck

◊ R.H. finger/thumb placement is incorrect; hand is tense; L.H. thumb is riding top of neck

◊ R.H. is too tense for proper p-i-m-a technique; L.H. thumb is riding top of neck

 

Solo Exam Total:________ (50 pts. Possible)

guitar ensemble

Diligent and methodical practice and preparation will insure better rates of success and growth. Photo courtesy of Christopher Perez.

1 octave Segovia Scale (finger shifts)

 = 110 BPM using alternate im or mi fingering

Quarter note = 110 BPM using alternate im or mi fingering.

 

Point of Discussion – Do you find anything wrong with the rubric below? Does it place too much or not enough emphasis on any one item (tone, correct notes, technique)? What would you change if at all?

Tech. Test – Diatonic Scale C Major (1 8va)

            Scale Checklist (up to 5 points each = )

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          All scale notes are played correctly, ascending and descending

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Scale is performed at the correct tempo without breaks or stops

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Scale is performed with a good sound without muted or buzzing notes

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Player is using proper stroke (rest, free) ascending / descending

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Player is using alternating im, or mi R.H. fingers (or flat-pick up/down combination)

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          R.H. is free from excess tension

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Right fingers are curved

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          R.H. thumb is forward of fingers

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Left thumb is correctly placed behind the neck

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          L.H. fingers are curved

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Guitar body is lowered

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Neck is at 45° angle

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Left leg is elevated

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Right leg supports the guitar

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Player is sitting up straight on edge of chair

 

Total score:_______ (75 pts. each scale)

I find this rubric grading too heavily on technique. If your assessment is based on a performance skill, your rubric needs to have a balance on assessing note accuracy, tone production, and performance technique.

guitar ensemble

Assessing performance requires a collaboration of teacher and students. Photo courtesy of Christopher Perez.

Below is a guitar ensemble example using a different rubric. This sheet was adapted from the Florida Bandmaster’s Association Music Performance Assessment rubric.

Clinician Comment Sheet for Guitar Ensemble

School: Freedom H.S. Guitar Ensemble Date: Saturday, April 30, 2011

Classification: M.S. / H.S. / Univ.        Performance Time: 11:00a.m.

Selection(s):   1) El Gato Montes (Manuel Panellas/arr. by Eythor Thorlaksson)

2) Aldapeko – The Blackbird Song (Basque) (arr. by Andrew Forrest)

3) The Sound of Paradiddle (Jürg Kindle)

Performance rubric

Clinician will include a + or by the subdivisions, which means they are noticeably good noticeably or needing improvement. A rating of A – Superior / B – Excellent / C – Good / D – Fair / E – Poor will be listed in each over column. A combination of all column ratings in each subdivision are to culminate in a full overall rating of A – Superior / B – Excellent / C – Good / D – Fair / E – Poor.

COMMENTS

{Including: Stage Presence, Discipline, Posture, Instrumentation, Strong Points, Weak Points – Continue on Reverse Side as needed →}

Clinician’s Signature ______________________________________________________

Below are rubrics I use for my final playing exams/auditions. These include students choosing one of three appropriate level solos and playing a Segovia major scale (2-3 octaves with shifts) and relative melodic minor scale (2-3 octaves with shifts). It is a comprehensive performance assessment and makes the student demonstrate their musical performance ability. I now have a four year cycle of graded songs and Segovia scales that I rotate through insuring that students will not repeat assessment of similar music during their high school career.

FHS Guitar Assessment Scale/Rubric 2015 Audition/Final Playing Test

NAME:_____________________________   DATE: May/2015 CLASS/PERIOD: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 7

Evaluation: Ostinato / Study in C / Amanecer

Notation        

◊ ◊       All notes are accurate and played w/ confidence

◊ ◊       Most notes are accurate, one or two notational errors

◊ ◊       Several notes are not accurate, three or four notational errors

◊ ◊       Many notes are not accurate, five or six notational errors

◊ ◊       Most notes are not accurate, more than seven notational errors

 

Tempo/Relative to Appropriate Interpretation  

◊ ◊       Selection is performed within the correct tempo markings

◊ ◊       Selection is performed a few beats under/over tempo (2 to 4 meter clicks)

◊ ◊       Selection is performed a few beats under/over tempo (6 to 8 meter clicks)

◊ ◊       Selection is performed a few beats under/over tempo (10 to 12 meter clicks)

◊ ◊       Selection is performed a few beats under/over tempo (14 to 16+ meter clicks)

 

Rhythm

◊ ◊       All rhythms are with a constant steady beat

◊ ◊       Most rhythms are precise, one or two pauses

◊ ◊       Most rhythms are precise, three or four pauses

◊ ◊       Some rhythms are precise five or six pauses

◊ ◊       Many incorrect rhythms, more than seven pauses

 

Intonation

◊ ◊       Guitar is perfectly in tune with itself

◊ ◊       Guitar is mostly in tune; one string is not tuned to correct fundamental pitch

◊ ◊       Most strings are in tune; two strings are not tuned to correct fundamental pitch

◊ ◊       Several strings are not tuned to correct fundamental pitch

◊ ◊       The guitar is not in tune; strings are not tuned to correct fundamental pitch

 

Overall Sound/Tone Quality

◊ ◊    Music is played with a rich, warm, full tone; no buzzing or twang

◊ ◊    Sound is warm but needs to be a little richer and fuller

◊ ◊    Music is played with occasionally buzzing; my tone could be a little richer

◊ ◊    Music is played with fair tone quality – the tone is sometimes weak with buzzing

◊ ◊    Music is played with poor tone quality – the tone is often weak with frequent buzzing

 

Dynamics

◊ ◊       Dynamics are fully observed, interpreted and performed

◊ ◊       Dynamics are mostly observed, interpreted and performed

◊ ◊       Dynamics are sometimes observed, interpreted and performed

◊ ◊       Dynamics are minimally observed and applied

◊ ◊       Dynam ics are not observed and applied

 

Individual p-i-m-a / Hand Position

◊ ◊       Fingers relaxed & curved; thumb forward; proper rest and free strokes; L.H. thumb behind neck

◊ ◊       R.H. relaxed; fingers need to curve more; thumb should be forward; L.H. thumb behind neck

◊ ◊       Some tension; finger/wrist placement or strokes need work; L.H. thumb is visible on neck

◊ ◊       R.H. finger/thumb placement is incorrect; hand is tense; L.H. thumb is riding top of neck

◊ ◊       R.H. is too tense for proper p-i-m-a technique; L.H. thumb is riding top of neck

 

2015 Audition/Final Playing Test (continued)

 

Technique Checklist: (Body position) 5 points per check –

[ ]         Player is sitting up straight on edge of chair

[ ]         Left leg is elevated

[ ]         Right leg supports the guitar base

[ ]         Body of guitar is low

[ ]         Right forearm crosses upper edge of the guitar

[ ]         Neck is at 45° angle

Total Score:___________ of 100

Tech. Test – Diatonic Scales – D Major (2 8va)

            Scale Checklist (1 point each = )                 Total score:_______ (50 pts. each scale) 

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          All scale notes are played correctly, ascending

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          All scale notes are played correctly, descending

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Scale is performed at the correct tempo without breaks or stops (110 BPM)

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Scale is performed with a good sound/tone without muted or buzzing notes

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Player is using proper rest stroke / free stroke technique

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Player is using alternating im, mi, am, or ma R.H. fingers

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Right hand is free from excess tension; right fingers are curved; thumb is forward of fingers

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Left thumb is correctly placed behind the neck, left fingers are curved

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Body of guitar is low; neck is at 45° angle

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Player is sitting up straight on edge of chair; left leg is elevated; right leg supports the guitar

 

Tech. Test – Diatonic Scales – b melodic minor (3 8va)

            Scale Checklist (up to 5 points each = )                  Total score:_______ (50 pts. each scale)

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          All scale notes are played correctly, ascending

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          All scale notes are played correctly, descending

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Scale is performed at the correct tempo without breaks or stops (110 BPM)

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Scale is performed with a good sound without muted or buzzing notes

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Player is using proper rest stroke / free stroke technique

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Player is using alternating im, mi, am, or ma R.H. fingers

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Right hand is free from excess tension; right fingers are curved; thumb is forward of fingers

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Left thumb is correctly placed behind the neck, left fingers are curved

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Body of guitar is low; neck is at 45° angle

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊          Player is sitting up straight on edge of chair; left leg is elevated; right leg supports the guitar

CODA:

More and more districts are adopting an EOC “End of Course” Exam that is either paper based (multiple choice) or computer based. Assessments such as these raise several important questions.

  • Are you involved in the writing process?
    • If you have the opportunity in being selected to adopt or write a test, do so. Your voice and experience can help create a fair and reasonable exam. It will also let you know what technical, theoretical concepts and terminology to teach/cover and apply over the course of the school year.
  • Do you have the district/state standards and/or blue prints to guide what you are teaching?
    • Having a standards based test can be unwieldy for music teachers especially when most classes are ensemble type classes that are based on performance skill.
    • Having standards and/or creating blueprints can help teacher know what skills to teach and know what DOK (Depth of Knowledge) questions may be asked.

Ultimately, all teachers are being held more accountable for what we teach and produce in the classroom and that more teacher evaluations are now tied to standardized, non-performance based assessments. As such, teachers need to have as much control and input as possible in developing, creating and writing assessments, either performance or non-performance based. This in turn will aide in your decisions on curriculum to use in the course of your school year.

About the author:

Christopher Perez

NAfME Member Christopher Perez is the Director of Guitar Studies at Freedom High School in Orlando, Florida and is a graduate of Western Illinois University. Recently selected as a Quarterfinalist for the 2017 GRAMMY Foundation Music Teacher of the Year Award, he remains very active as a teacher, presenter, clinician, composer/arranger and musician. Mr. Perez is a member of NAfME (National Association for Music Education) and serves on the Guitar Council as the Southern Division Representative, FMEA (Florida Music Education Association) serving on the FMEA Guitar/General Music Committee, with OCPS (Orange County Public Schools) as the All-County Guitar Chair, GFA (Guitar Foundation of America), and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.

Mr. Perez has served on several local and state music assessment writing teams. His music is published with Drop6 Media, Inc. and has several arrangements on the FBA State Music List. He is a percussionist with the Southern Winds Concert Band and with Walt Disney World’s “ENCORE! Cast Performing Arts”. Mr. Perez has presented sessions at NAfME, FMEA and OCPS Music Conferences and his Guitar Ensembles continually perform on local, state, national and international stages. Under his direction, the FHS Guitar Orchestra performed in concert at FMEA All-State Music Conference in Tampa and at the Long Island Guitar Festival in New York.

Christopher Perez presented on “Evaluating Guitar Performance: Using a Comprehensive Assessment for Your Students” at the 2016 NAfME National Conference in Grapevine, TX.

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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

May 27, 2016. © National Association for Music Education

April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

May 27, 2016

Category

  • Classroom Management
  • Ensembles

Copyright

May 27, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)

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