Over the past few years, I have continued to develop a portfolio of consultancy work for other, primarily music education, organisations.

Most recently, I worked as a Research Consultant for The Music Commission, led by ABRSM.

I have recently undertaken consultancy work for LCM Exams on their 2021-23 Piano Syllabus, having previously been a consultant on the 2018-20 syllabus.

Previously, I have undertaken syllabus work for ABRSM on the proposed changes to the Practical Musicianship syllabus. In addition, I have previously examined a thesis for the Curwen College of Music.

I am available for a range of consultancy work. Please send a message to enquire:

PhD Research


The autonomy of private instrumental teachers: its effect on valid knowledge construction, curriculum design, and quality of teaching and learning.

Research Questions

  1. What constitutes valid knowledge in the context of private instrumental teaching?
  2. How is the private instrumental teaching curriculum designed in order to facilitate the construction and realization of valid knowledge?
  3. How does the autonomy of the private instrumental curriculum support and challenge the quality of teaching and learning?

This research aims to open doors into the world of private instrumental teaching. As well as examining the varied nature of the profession and the work private teachers undertake, it seeks to uncover more about who private teachers are and the way they view that work which they carry out. Notably, in view of their position outside of institutional frameworks, the research seeks to understand the factors which influence what and how private teachers teach, and in particular, the way they perceive pupil input. 

Despite the widespread and important role private instrumental teachers play within the music education sector, they inhabit a position which has often been described as isolated; their work taking place behind closed doors. Whilst the nature of one-to-one instrumental teaching has been examined in a variety of contexts, notably higher education, private teachers occupy an almost unique position, operating outside of institutional control. Private teachers have previously been seen as difficult to reach, and researchers have voiced concerns that research into private teaching may be seen as an invasion of teachers’ privacy.

From a social constructivist position, and situated within an interpretivist paradigm, I conducted three unstructured interviews with private teachers. These provided the foundation for research which was then expanded to include an online survey of private teachers which received 486 responses. Using an iterative approach, ensuring constant dialogue between data gathered and existing literature, interview and survey data were thematically coded and analysed, and key themes identified.

Whilst private teachers were committed to the work they undertook, responses suggest they were often uncritical in their practice. The dataset indicates an emerging dichotomy between the autonomy private teachers possess and their ability to manage that freedom, leading to communities of practice which do not function at as high a level as they might.

This research makes a valuable contribution to an under-researched area of music education, highlighting a number of implications for practice. At a time when state-funded music provision is under threat, it is essential that key stakeholders better-understand the role private teachers play as part of the wider music education profession. 

Conference Papers

The control of choice, and the choice of control in private instrumental teaching

The University of York Music Education and Music Psychology Conference (June 2016)

This paper examines the issue of control and choice within the private instrumental teaching context. Whilst one-to-one instrumental teaching has been the focus of music education research in the past, the autonomous nature of private teaching has remained largely hidden from view. Yet, for many, learning an instrument with a private teacher will form the primary developmental basis of their instrumental skills. Private teachers find themselves in an almost unique position in education, for within the bounds of legality, they can operate in any way they see fit. Issues of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment are outside of institutional control. Through a grounded theory approach, a series of in-depth interviews with private teachers, alongside data collected via a widespread survey offer an insight into a profession which has remained predominantly behind closed doors. Although there is an acceptance that lessons are a partnership, the master-apprentice model dominates. Although pupil input was not discouraged, it was not necessarily encouraged; there is a suggestion that any input from pupils needs to offer a valid teaching point, the validity being defined by the teacher. The nature of private teaching offers teachers huge choice in what and how they teach, yet as suggested by Bernstein (1975, p. 90), do teachers need to relinquish control in order to offer that choice? As the master-apprentice model continues to dominate, the divide between instrumental teaching and the wider sphere of music-making and education appears to deepen. Comparison of data with research conducted by Jorgensen (1986) suggests that little has changed in private teaching in the past 30 years. Recent suggestions of an increasing demand for private lessons makes it all the more important that we understand, embrace and challenge the place occupied by private teachers within the wider sphere of music education.


  • Bernstein, B. (1975). Class, Codes and Control: Volume 3, Towards a Theory of Educational Transmissions. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
  • Jorgensen, E. R. (1986). Aspects of Private Piano Teacher Decision-Making in London, England. Psychology of Music, 14, 111–129. doi:10.1177/0305735686142003
The autonomy of private instrumental teachers: its effect on valid knowledge construction, curriculum design, and quality of teaching and learning

UCL Institute of Education Doctoral School Poster Conference (March 2015)

Many people in the UK, of all ages, receive tuition on a musical instrument through a private teacher. That is a teacher primarily defined as working autonomously, normally from a home-based studio. Although previous research has examined the nature of one-to-one instrumental teaching, little exists which explores, in particular, the autonomous nature of the profession. At a basic level, if no one tells a teacher what to teach, how does the teacher decide what to include and exclude from their lessons? Through a grounded theory, qualitative approach to methodology, the research will explore issues related to validity of knowledge, and curriculum design and construction. An initial series of interviews has highlighted a range of issues relating, in particular, to control, choice and cultural practice. Thus far, the research has suggested that the traditional ‘conservatoire’ model of ‘master-apprentice’ is very much in evidence in the private teaching context.


Music and Education

Henley, J. and Barton, D. (2022) ‘Time for change? Recurrent barriers to music education’, in British Journal of Music Education. pp. 1-15.

Barton, D. (2020). ‘Diploma Exams and Beyond: Exploring the Options Available’, in PAN, 39(3), pp. 36-37.

Barton, D. (2020) ‘Graded Exams and Beyond: Exploring the Options Available’, in PAN, 39(1), pp. 40-41.

Barton, D. (2016) ‘The Changing Exam Landscape’, in Forte 2016(2), p. 26

Barton, D. (2014) ‘Book Review: Music Education in the 21st Century in the United Kingdom: Achievements, analysis and aspirations’, in Educate~ 14(3)

Barton, D. (2011) ‘Music As Experience’, in Dalcroze Society Newsletter 1(1), p. 9

Barton, D. (2010) ‘Leisure Play: Valid Exam or Easy Option’, in Forte (LCM Examinations Newsletter)2010(3), p. 9

Barton, D. (2010) ‘Just Keep Smiling’, in Music Teacher 89(7), p. 34

Barton, D. (2009) ‘The Joy of Duets’, in Piano Professional Autumn 2009, pp. 30-31

Barton, D. (2009) ‘Tutor Books: Friend or Foe?’, in Music Teacher 85(5), pp. 88-89

Barton, D. (2008) ‘A Portrait of Michael Kidd’, in Journal Into Melody September 2008, p. 63

Barton, D. (2008) ‘You Must Be Mad!’ in Music Teacher 87(8), pp. 56-57

Barton, D. (2008) ‘Keeping the Style Alive’, in Journal Into Melody March 2008, pp. 18-19

Barton, D. (2007) ‘To Inspire, and To Encourage: The Role of the Teacher’, in The Guild of Musicians & Singers Newsletter September 2007, pp. 26-28

Barton, D. (2007) ‘The Versatility of the Victorian Musician’, in Cathedral Music 2007(3), pp. 30-33

Barton, D. (2007) ‘What is the future for today’s light music composers?’, in Journal Into Melody March 2007, p. 16

Kjemtrup, I. (2015) ‘Alphabet Soup’, in Pianist Magazine October/November 2015, pp. 78-79

Barton, D. (2010) ‘Kindness Works Both Ways’, in Music Teacher 89(6), p. 70

Barton, D. (2008) ‘Connected Learning’, in Libretto (ABRSM Newsletter) 2008(3), p. 22

Barton, D. (2007) ‘The Plight of Church Music Composers’, in Church Music Quarterley 179(3), p. 36

Barton, D. (2003) ‘Thinking Positive’, in Church Music Quarterley 160(1), p. 31

Genealogy and Local History

Barton, D. (2022). ‘Pringuer ONS’, in Journal of One-Name Studies. 14(6), pp. 28-29.

Barton, D. (2021). ‘[Insert your local town here] Memories: local history as we never could have imagined it?, in Local History News, p. 19.

Barton, D. (2011) ‘Who’s That Grandad?’, in Retirement Today May/June 2011, p. 19.

Ross, P. (2013) ‘Find missing births, marriages and deaths’, in Who Do You Think You Are? May 2013(73), pp. 17-30

Barton, D. (2011) ‘Towards the Light’, in Family Tree Magazine p. 90