Using Swing Assessment to Develop Style

Using Swing Assessment to Develop Style

One of the trickiest tasks a jazz director faces is teaching students to perform swing. Not only must educators handle the changes to notation that come with jazz charts, but they also teach students to accent and feel the syncopations native to swing styles. For years, the go-to strategy has been to offer students musical context. After all, learning by ear “from the masters” is how jazz has been taught since its beginnings as an aural tradition.

Having students listen to great jazz performances remains useful to educators today because it works. Providing musical context to students is a great way to make sure that they develop aural skills. When students have a reference recording, they’re able to connect what’s happening with their ears to what’s happening with their instruments and with the notation on the page. It provides a model for students to follow.

But that context also needs to come with feedback. In class, the teacher provides that feedback – often instantly – from the podium. Those same directors rely on SmartMusic to provide valuable feedback on pitch and rhythm for students practicing at home. Coupling this immediate visual feedback with the musical context means that students get clear information about their success in matching the style.

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Swing Assessment

SmartMusic has always included great jazz repertoire, allowing educators to provide students with the musical context necessary to internalize swing style. However, until recently SmartMusic could not assess swung eighth notes. Now, exclusively in new SmartMusic, you and your students have access to accurate feedback alongside the musical context via red, yellow, and green notes.

Of course, different repertoire requires different forms of swing (“Lil’ Darlin’” swings harder than “Donna Lee”). Now you can adjust the amount of swing as necessary directly in the practice application.  Your students will get visual feedback on their performance appropriate to the piece. Students can also use the swing assessment when completing assignments, and this will be reflected in their score.

To see and hear the new swing assessment in action, check out this short video:

More Opportunities

Giving students accurate feedback on their swing performances creates opportunities for the jazz educator. With SmartMusic, you can:

  • Provide students with sight-reading assignments that swing to help them practice jazz articulations and style
  • Upload your own repertoire via MusicXML and apply swing so that accompaniment tracks also swing for students
  • Encourage students who have premium subscriptions to explore the full SmartMusic library to find repertoire that challenges them, knowing that they’ll get feedback on their swing feel
  • Have students complete “pass offs” and quickly evaluate performances of tricky sections in the Gradebook

With SmartMusic, you’ll spend jazz band rehearsal focusing on the music instead of nitpicking notes and rhythms. If you’re leading a jazz band, or otherwise are working with students on music that swings, and don’t have the new SmartMusic, now’s the time.

The new SmartMusic starts at just $39.99 a year for teachers and $13.99 a year for students. Try it for free at

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