Northern Virginia
Guitar Lessons

Dedicated to

beginner & intermediate

acoustic guitar


Weekday slots (9 AM to 4 PM) are still available.
My apologies, but I am currently BOOKED FULL for Weeknights and Weekends.
Changes do occur, so please contact me to be placed on a short waiting list.

Dirk Johnson,
Guitar Instructor

Are You Making Progress? How to Measure Progress for Beginners

While it is fun to listen to the top professional guitar players, it can be challenging for beginners (especially adults) to put their own skill level into proper perspective. Pros can make a beginner feel inadequate, which can lead to reduced motivation and maybe even a decision to stop playing altogether, as beginners feel that they'll never "get there".

Here's the Tony Soprano answer to that..Forget about it! If you are comparing yourself to pro players, or even friends or good local players, you're focused on the wrong metrics. Most of them have decades of full-time experience playing the instrument, and, yes, they do have a lot of innate talent to go with it.

Instead, using the progressive learning method that I like to teach, your progress is measured ONLY against your own skill level. By focusing on learning to play simple songs well, and then building upon that repertoire by enhancing it gradually *and practicing this regularly*, your skills will improve and your confidence will build with it. It begins to reinforce itself, and you'll want to play more, and get better at it.

I see a lot of beginner and intermediate level players that try learn all kinds of advanced tricks and licks or note-for-note actual transcriptions of recorded songs that are too advanced for their skill level. They want to "short circuit" the learning process, and play like a pro by somehow learning the same notes and moves. This approach seems feasible, but it rarely works, since they've skipped over the basics.

If you focus on mastering the basics and apply them to an expanding repertoire of good, solid songs that you can enhance with new tricks and licks over time, you will make CONTINUAL, MEASURABLE progress, against your own past skill level.

And that's what this is all about, getting a little bit better at this, every day that you play. Over time, you'll have the confidence to play your songs for friends and family, or publicly at a jam or open mic. Along the way, we enjoy the journey. That's really how this works.

That's what I teach, especially to beginners. Send me an email or give me a call, and we'll discuss your goals, and how I might help.

More Info:

Why Most Beginner Guitar Books Are Not for Beginners

Your First Lesson for Solo Melody - For the adult beginner

Your First Lesson for Vocal Accompaniment - For the adult beginner

Intermediate-level Lessons - For players in a rut!

Learning Paths:

Students select a learning path that fits their goals.

Solo Melody Guitar - what it is, and isn't

Vocal Accompaniment - how to play guitar while singing

How to Measure Your Progress - keeping it all in perspective.

I focus on teaching ADULT and YOUTH BEGINNERS (age 12 and up) how to play ACOUSTIC GUITAR in many of the popular "roots" styles, such as fingerstyle blues, and chord melody and flatpicking. I teach pop tunes, acoustic rock, jazz balads, coutry blues, country, and folk styles. I also teach my students how to play at jams and open mics, and how to improve their vocal accompaniment on guitar.

VOCAL ACCOMPANIMENT COACHING has become one of my main teaching specialties. I help singers and songwriters improve their guitar skills, which makes their repertoire more interesting and entertaining.

BUT...THERE IS NO NEED TO SING! - I can teach you how to enjoy the guitar as a solo instrument, with no vocals.

The Right Approach for Adults - with the focus on FUN!

As an adult beginner, your guitar playing will take a very different course than that of a 15-year-old future rock star. The rock guitar fantasy doesn't apply to us. Yet, there is so much more to playing guitar than being the lead guitarist in a rock band.

Maybe you want to play at local jams, write some songs, entertain friends and family and play at open mics. Or maybe you just want to play at home for your own satisfaction.

However you choose to play, you can do it, be good at it and have fun. Starting now. Why wait any longer?

Adult guitar players spend most of their playing time at home, playing solo. We do it because we like to play guitar. It's relaxing and mentally challenging at the same time.

Playing alone and doing it well is very hard to learn on your own. Good instruction and personal, customized guidance will lead you toward the right skills that will support your progress and make your playing interesting, both to you and to others.

Plus, I CUSTOMIZE my lesson cirriculum to match every student's musical taste. You'll be learning to play what YOU WANT. I don't use a pre-packaged lesson plan. My role is to aim you exaclty where you want to go. That makes it fun to practice at home!

The Right Approach for Youth - with the focus on FUN!

My approach to youth beginners is based upon fundamentally solid music instruction, with a focus on reading tablature, practicing with a metronome, and playing recognizable, fun songs.

Once a student demonstrates the ability to play basic songs, the lessons are then geared toward the students preferred musical interest.

Please note that I do not play or teach electric "rock" guitar!

FUNdamentals, Music Theory, Proper Technique and a Focus on Songs

  • Even during your first lesson with me, you will play the guitar. You will learn proper strumming, picking and fretboard fingering exercises that you will apply and practice from that point forward. Then we build on it.

  • We'll learn to read tab (tablature), chord charts, and some music notation and chord notation.

  • We'll focus on songs, not "excercises". Yoiu will learn to play easy, timeless songs that you can build upon. We'll turn many of them into "performance pieces" over time. You will build a foundation repertoire of songs that you like, and that your friends and family will appreciate, and recognize.

  • Most beginner "adult" guitar books start out with chords. That's a recipe for total frustration. I'll introduce you to chords gradually. So that your fingers learn to fly in formation.

  • We'll use a metronome, starting on day one, so that a strong sense of rhythm and proper timing becomes second nature. When you can play with a metronome, you can play with confidence, in a band or at a jam.

  • We'll explore music theory. You will gradually understand keys, song structures, musical styles (blues, country, jazz, etc.) and the chord variations that make music interesting.

  • I can introduce you to the music of "world class" acoustic guitar players. By listening to them, I'll teach you how to learn from them, even if we can't duplicate their technical skills. Plus, it's great music to listen to while you work or relax.

  • I'll customize your learning repertoire to reflect your own musical taste and goals. I'll steer you away from music that you are not yet ready to play, and toward songs that you can.

  • I'll teach you how to play in a "jam" environment, play for friends and family and at open mics. I've overcome a great deal of "stage fright" and self-doubt. It's a process. You can learn it, too.

Playing guitar does take practice, and there is inevitable frustration, but it should always be fun, even when it's challenging. If it's not fun, you're doing it wrong!

Having guidance along the way is the key. As your instructor, I'm also your coach, sounding board and advisor on this journey. I'll also learn from you, as we explore your own musical goals.

I love to play guitar and play music with other people. I enjoy teaching others to do the same. I'll pass it on to you!

If you are truly a fan of acoustic music, and you want to play it, instead of just listen, let's explore this together.

Styles That I Teach

I can teach you to play music in any of the following styles:

  • Acoustic Blues Finger Picking
  • Solo Melody Finger Picking
  • Chet Atkins-style Finger Picking
  • Acoustic Slide Guitar & Alternate tunings
  • Bluegrass Rhythm Flatpicking
  • Fiddle Tunes
  • Folk /Rock / Country Strumming
  • Pop Music Melodies

Please note that I do not play electric "lead guitar" style or electric blues. I like it. But I don't play it or teach it.

Guitar players who have influenced me

From this list, you will get a sense of my own style of playing. As you can see, it covers many genres, but it is all very acoustic-focused.

In no particular order, and a partial list:

  • Jorma Kaukonen
  • Tommy Emmanuel
  • Doc Watson
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Eric Clapton
  • Dave Matthews
  • Tony Rice
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Peter White
  • Al Dimeola
  • Lindsey Buckingham
  • Richard Thompson
  • Rory Block
  • John Hammond
  • James Taylor
  • Kenny Loggins
  • Django Reinhart
  • Nash & Young
  • Willie Nelson
  • Chet Atkins
  • Crosby Stills
  • Robin Kessinger
  • Wayne Henderson
  • Roy Bookbinder

  • Plus these other acoustic music masters
    influence my playing:

  • David Grisman (mandolin)
  • Bela Fleck (banjo)
  • Jerry Douglas (Dobro)
  • Mark O'Connor (fiddle)
  • Tim O'Brien (multi-instrument)
  • Allison Kraus (fiddle)
    and many, many others.

It makes good sense to work with an instructor that fits with your own musical taste. If you also like the kind of acoustic music mentioned above, then we'll definitely have fun while we learn!

Rates and Teaching Locations

Guitar Lessons  Northern Virginia

I am neither the least expensive nor the most expensive guitar teacher in Northern VA. However, for the complete beginner or frustrated intermediate that appreciates acoustic music and wants to pursue it seriously, I am probably the right teacher who will get you on track.

I will earn my fee, by fast-tracking your approach, through proper fundamental advice and genuine support and understanding of your goals and customizing the lesson to your goals.

My rates vary according to time and location.

I prefer to teach in my home studio in the Sterling/Countryside subdivision. I have full access to my teaching resources there. I can come to your house, but there is a significant travel premium.

Youth students under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult at all lessons! No exceptions.


  • My location, Weekday business hours ONLY (10 AM through 5 PM) - $55 per lesson
    Lessons are typically more than an hour, plus, every fifth lesson at my location is always FREE, so my daytime hourly rate averages about $44 per hour. This rate applies only at my location in Sterling/Countryside (map).
    Contact me...

  • My location, Weekday Evenings & Weekends

    My apologies, but I am currently BOOKED FULL for Weeknights and Weeekends. Changes do occur, so please contact me to be placed on a short waiting list.

  • At Your Location of Choice, Weekdays during Business Hours - Per lesson rates vary, according to the travel time required and time of day. "My location" lessons carry an additional charge above standard rates, and the "free fifth lesson" does not apply. Please provide your lesson location for a rate quote.
    Contact me...

  • Gift Certificates! - The gift of guitar lessons is one of the greatest gifts of all! We can arrange a special rate for a package of lessons, or a single lesson trial. It's your choice.
    Contact me...

Let's Get Started!

You've already waited too long to pursue your goal of playing the guitar. The time to start the process is now!

Please contact me for more info, and we can set a time and place to get started.

Dirk Johnson
(703) 406 4698

Beginner Guitar Lessons for all communities in Loudoun County, Fairfax County, Arlington, VA and Alexandria, VA....
Note that rates vary depending upon the teaching location. Please see my rates.