Choral Assessment with GarageBand, Part 2

“In our high stress, little time environment, it’s easy to let valid assessments eat up most of our time or simply fall to the side,” says MENC member Shari Tarleton. GarageBand has changed that. Once students are comfortable recording and saving files (Part 1)–one class period is usually enough practice–it’s time to record:

Step 4—Recording: Schedule an assessment day. Tarleton chooses excerpts from three songs to assess:

  • The first 16 measures of “Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’” to assess diction.
  • From B to C in “Omnia Vincit Amor” to assess pitch.
  • The first 24 bars of “In Flanders Fields” to assess breathing and phrasing.

Students set up their first file at the beginning of class. Tarleton runs through the excerpt after warm-ups, and then she’s ready to record. After getting all thumbs up, she counts students in, and recording begins. At the end of the excerpt, students listen to themselves, save to the desktop, and create a new file for the next song. When all three songs are recorded, assessment is finished.

Step 5—Collecting Files: Wait before asking students to drag their files to the shared folder. “There will be too many files going into one folder, and the server doesn’t like it,” says Tarleton. “I learned the hard way. I give students 2 days to drag and drop 2 of their 3 files.” This allows students to listen to their files and pick the best 2. Then, Tarleton loads all the files on to a flash drive to listen at her convenience, and deletes the shared folder.


  • Students sing in a valid choral situation.
  • You can complete an entire class of assessments in one class period—or less.
  • Students are responsible for the process.


  • Sometimes you won’t be able to hear a student in the music file. Tarleton schedules an individual assessment without GarageBand.
  • Absent students miss the group assessment but make up the assessment without GarageBand.
  • GarageBand’s electronic recordings aren’t valid for all assessment. “I’m comfortable assessing diction, breathing, pitch, and rhythm, but not tone quality or timbre,” says Tarleton.
  • With GarageBand, she’s minimized the time required and upped her students’ participation and responsibility at the same time.

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

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

—Linda C. Brown, October 6, 2010, © National Association for Music Education