Choral Assessment with GarageBand, Part 1

Listening to students individually takes time—a precious commodity for choral directors. MENC member Shari Tarleton uses GarageBand to assess her choral students individually in a group setting, and it’s saved a lot of time and effort.

Simple Steps to Success

Step 1—Set up: Work with your technical staff to set up folders in the school’s shared storage space for your students’ files. Discuss size limitations.

Step 2–Training: Teach students how to record themselves with GarageBand and store their files. Tarleton walks students through the process, posts instructions, and provides a handout. Here are her helpful hints:

  • Everyone records at once.
  • Talk students through the process step-by-step the first time, moving around to help students.
  • Establish a signal for students to use when they’re ready (e.g., thumbs up).
  • Prepare for technical issues (e.g., problems uploading GarageBand, dead batteries, students can’t find GarageBand on the dock)
  • Be very clear about starting and stopping. Count in to hit “record,” ensure students know where they’re stopping in the music.
  • Record only sections of music—16 to 32 bars—or the files will be too big to manage.
  • Ask students to turn off GarageBand’s metronome (a common problem).
  • Allow time for students to listen to themselves as soon as they’re done. They’ll do it anyway.

Step 3—Saving Files: Ask students to save their files to their desktop, not to their GarageBand folder. Tarleton uses 2-word file names with the student’s last name and the first word of the choral piece (e.g., tarleton_omnia). She’s learned not to assume they can save these files on their own.

In Tarleton’s state, middle school students are provided with a laptop computer. She believes her assessment method would work as well in a computer lab with an accompaniment CD or keyboard.

Next week: Part 2

Adapted from “Garage Band and Choral Assessment,” by Shari Tarleton, The Bulletin, official publication of the Maine Music Educators Association. Used with permission.

Shari Tarleton teaches choral and classroom music at Brunswick Junior High School, Brunswick, Maine.

—Linda C. Brown, September 29, 2010, © National Association for Music Education