Short Soundtrack

Each student will compose a soundtrack for a brief (30 seconds to one minute) video clip of his or her choosing, likely from an online video site such as YouTube or Vimeo. In the interest of avoiding legal issues, students should be instructed to choose video material that is not copyrighted.

Each student may use his or her voice, instruments, or a digital medium such as GarageBand to compose the soundtrack. Each student will submit a recording of his or her soundtrack, a file containing the original video (or a link to its online location), and a brief written reflection that describes his or her compositional decision-making and processes.

This item has been voluntarily field-tested by Michigan teachers with a non-representative sample of students.

This is an analytic rubric. The column on the left shows the dimension that is being measured in the student’s performance. The levels across the top row indicate the performance level in the dimensions. Occasionally all dimensions and performance levels are exemplified by multiple students in a single recording.


  • Dimension
  • Creativity of Composition

  • Thoughtfulness of Reflection

  • Clarity of Writing

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • The soundtrack succeeds minimally or not at all. It fails to follow assigned length parameters, and bears little or no relationship to the on-screen material.

    N/A at this time.
  • The relationship between the compositional choices and the on-screen material is difficult to discern, and/or the musical material offers minimal variety to the listener.

    View Exemplar
  • The soundtrack is partially matched to the on-screen material. The piece follows assignment parameters such as composition length, but the composition is not entirely creatively successful. Compositional choices are not consistent in matching the on-screen material and/or the material lacks variety.

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  • The soundtrack successfully matches and enhances the on-screen visual material. The piece is the correct length. The composer uses sounds and/or rhythmic and melodic motives that clearly reflect the visual material (e.g., ascending melodic motives for climbing up stairs, dissonant intervals for moments of tension). The composer uses a varied palette of musical features such as sounds (for digital compositions), rhythmic and melodic motives, tone colors, dynamic contrasts, etc.

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  • Student communicates no clear examples of compositional intent and/or content reflects little to no thoughtful engagement with the assignment.

    N/A at this time.
  • Student is unable to identify more than one specific example that reveals his/her compositional decisions. Connections of music to on-screen material are minimally addressed.

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  • Student writes about several compositional choices that connect with on-screen material, but the writing lacks depth and clarity. Content reflects an effort to compose thoughtfully.

    N/A at this time.
  • Student articulates clear, deep, and specific connections between compositional choices and on-screen material. Content reflects an effort to make careful, thoughtful choices in completing the assignment.

    View Exemplar
  • Writing is unclear and has many grammatical and spelling mistakes.

    N/A at this time.
  • Writing often lacks clarity and has several grammatical and spelling mistakes.

    View Exemplar
  • Writing is mostly clear, though it has a few grammatical and spelling mistakes.

    N/A at this time.
  • Reflection is clearly written and has no spelling or grammatical mistakes.

    View Exemplar
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