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About Our Stage System

Waltons New School of Music

The New School’s Stage System is a comprehensive methodology for assessing student progress, from absolute beginner to a professional qualification (Performing or Teaching Diploma level). All of our music tuition is designed to work within this system.

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The New School’s Stage System assesses progress and development according to three different general criteria:

1. Performing • Technique

  • Understanding your instrument (or voice) and what it can do
  • Care and tuning of your instrument
  • Control of your instrument (breathing, bowing, fingering, etc.)
  • Fluency and accuracy
  • Technical facility (coordination, intonation, articulation, etc.)
  • Use of instrumental or vocal resources (balance, tone, sound quality, etc.)

2. Theory

  • At lower levels, understanding the stave, note values, simple time signatures, scales, keys, and basic terms.
  • At intermediate levels, understanding all time signatures, major and minor scales and keys, and more advanced terms.
  • At advanced levels, an understanding of all musical elements, as well as the ability to apply this knowledge to music analysis.
  • Students taking lessons or courses in music theory or songwriting are assessed in this category alone.

3. Creative Musicianship

  • Interpreting music
  • Making a piece or song ‘your own’
  • Understand a piece or song in the context of its period or tradition
  • Aural skills
  • Improvisational skills
  • Ensemble skills

Stage Divisions

Our Stage System is roughly broken down into three overall stages:

  • Stages 1-4: Beginner to Low Intermediate
  • Stages 5-7: Intermediate to High Intermediate
  • Stages 8-10: High Intermediate to Advanced


New School Stages, ten in all, are roughly equivalent to the ‘grades’ of graded music exams offered by widely recognised exam boards (ABRSM, RIAM, Trinity Guildhall, Rockschool, etc.) and progress from beginner to performing or teaching diploma level. Stages and their grade equivalents are:

  • Stage 1: a term of lessons or Introducing group course, equivalent to Preliminary Grade
  • Stage 2: equivalent to Grade 1
  • Stage 3: equivalent to Grade 2
  • Stage 4: equivalent to Grade 3
  • Stage 5: equivalent to Grade 4
  • Stage 6: equivalent to Grade 5
  • Stage 7: equivalent to Grade 6
  • Stage 8: equivalent to Grade 7
  • Stage 9: equivalent to Grade 8
  • Stage 10: equivalent to a Performing or Teaching Diploma

Students can be issued with certificates upon successful completion of a Stage, if requested.

New School Stage System
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