Northern Virginia
Guitar Lessons

Dedicated to

beginner & intermediate

acoustic guitar


Dirk Johnson,
Guitar Instructor

Solo Melody Guitar Playing - What it is, and isn't!

It is a bit unfortunate that, in the eyes of the general public, guitar playing has become somewhat synonymous with the rock star axe-slinger who plays scorched-earth electric guitar solos.

Or the other scenario is the acoustic guitar player who simply strums along to accompany their own or a band-mate's vocals.

But there is another way to play the guitar that is neither of the above, and it is practiced by tens of thousands of guitar players every day, for their own enjoyment and for their listeners. It is called "solo melody guitar".

It's all about using the guitar as the only instument (i.e. solo), and the player plays familiar tunes or even original compositions in an interesting, engaging way, without vocals.

Imagine playing tunes for your friends and family on your back porch on a cool summer evening, while they listen and chat among themselves. It's hard to beat. Or maybe this style is played at an open mic, a happy hour, a cocktal party or dinner party gig.

For the audience, there is no need to "sit and listen" to someome singing, so it is not intrusive. Neverthless, people ARE listening, and enjoying, while they also do what they do.

The songs played in this genre range all they way from old time mountain music classics and Celtic traditional, to pop standards, blues fingertyle, fiddle tunes, jazz standards, and much more. The available repertoire is just about endless.

It's a very pleasant and rewarding way to play the guitar, and you can do it just about anywhere, anytime, alone, or with other people. Even while you watch TV...:)

There's no need for a band, or amplifiers, or other encumberances that are necessary with other guitar styles. You just pick up an acoustic guitar, and do it.

Do you want to see some real pros playing solo melody guitar? Then have a look at these videos (Ok,some are duets, but...):

Guitar Boogie by Tommy Emmanuel.

Doc Watson Playing Black Mountain Rag

Mark Knopfler & Chet Atkins - Instrumental Medley (Imagine, by John Lennon, is second song in this video, and worth the wait...)

You don't need to be a professional to play solo melody guitar. You just start by playing simple melodies, then you learn to embellish them with more style as you your skills develop. It's easy and rewarding to learn to play in this style.

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. Some students want to play without singing. Others want to accompany their own vocals.

In many cases, we blend a bit of both!

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

Vocal Accompaniment - how to play guitar while singing

more coming soon....




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 fiddle tunes, fingerstyle blues, and chord melody, flatpick, fingerpick and folk. I also teach how to play at jams and how to play vocal accompaniment on guitar.

THERE IS NO NEED TO SING! - It's great if you do, but 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.

So let's not bother to go there! 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 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 guidance will lead you toward the right skills that will support your progress and make your playing interesting, both to you and to others.

Good guidance and feedback keeps YOU engaged in the process. With it, you'll want to practice. My role is to show you how to get there.

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 standard notation music, practicing with a metronome, and playing recognizable songs.

The book, "Everybody's Guitar Method Book 1" is included in the first lesson at no additional charge!

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

Please note: 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.

  • I will introduce you to standard music notation (reading music) in a graduated way, using the best guitar instruction book that I've ever seen on the subject, (with CD). I'll make reading music understandable, and we'll do it at your pace. We'll also learn tab (tablature) music notation and chord notation.

  • We'll 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 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'll 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
    • Chet Atkins-style Finger Picking
    • Bluegrass Rhythm Flatpicking
    • Fiddle Tunes
    • Folk /Rock / Country Strumming
    • Pop Music Melodies
    • Roots Jazz Rhythm
    • Flamenco Basics
    • Classical Basics
    • 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.

The Books That I Use Most For Teaching Guitar

Most "beginner" guitar books are really not for beginners! Most of them skip the real basics, and focus on chords. Maybe you have bought some. I've bought dozens.

The following books are my primary instruction books. They provide a very graduated method of instruction that allows the beginner student to build real skills and confidence.

These books are only the foundation. I'll enhance your lessons with additional insights, unique exercises, the use of the metronome, and other songs that fit your goals.

Click on any of these to open a new browser window to go directly to Amazon for additional product details, reviews, and easy purchase!

Best Book
For Beginners!

Everybody's Guitar Method
Book 1 (with CD)

Excellent for
Fingerstyle Basics!

Beginning Fingerstyle
Blues Guitar (with CD)

Upon completion
of Book 1

Everybody's Guitar Method,
Book 2 (with CD)

To see more books and instruction materials that I recommend and use for beginner/intermediate students, please click here.

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
    • 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
    • Willie Nelson
    • Chet Atkins
    • Crosby Stills Nash & Young
    • Robin Kessinger
    • Wayne Henderson
    • Roy Bookbinder
    • Michael Fath

      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

I am neither the least expensive nor the most expensive teacher 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 for you 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.

My rates vary according to time and location.

You can come to my house, in the Sterling/Countryside subdivision. I can come to your house. We can meet at a local community center, if one is available to you. Youth students under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult at all lessons.


  • My location, Weekday business hours (10 AM through 5 PM) - $40 per lesson
    Lessons are typically about an hour and a half, plus, every fifth lesson at my location is always FREE, so my daytime hourly rate is about $25 per hour. This rate applies only at my location in Sterling/Countryside (map). I can accommodate almost any time schedule. Plus, your fifth lesson is free! First lesson also includes "Everybody's Guitar Method Book 1" at no additional charge!
    Contact me...

  • My location, Weekday Evenings (6 PM to 9 PM) - $50 per lesson
    Lessons are typically an hour and a half, plus, every fifth lesson at my location is always FREE, so my evening hourly rate is about $30 per hour.

    This rate applies only at my location in Sterling/Countryside
    (map). Time slots are limited. Please check for specific availability.First lesson also includes "Everybody's Guitar Method Book 1" at no additional charge!
    Contact me...

  • My location, Saturdays (10 AM to 2 PM) - $50 per lesson
    Lessons are typically an hour and a half, plus, every fifth lesson at my location is always FREE, so my Saturday hourly rate is about $30 per hour.

    This rate applies only at my location in Sterling/Countryside. Saturday availability is limited.
    First lesson also includes "Everybody's Guitar Method Book 1" at no additional charge!
    Contact me...

  • At Your Location of Choice - Per lesson rates vary, according to the travel time required and time of day. My 'on location" lessons carry a $5 to $20 per lesson additional charge above standard rates, and the "free fifth lesson" does not apply. First lesson does include "Everybody's Guitar Method Book 1" at no additional charge!The additional per lesson charge is based on the required mileage/driving time/traffic/time-of-day. Please advise 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

My Guitar Resume & References

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.