Northern Virginia
Guitar Lessons

Dedicated to

beginner & intermediate

acoustic guitar


Dirk Johnson,
Guitar Instructor

Guitar for Vocal Accompaniment

Some of my students want to use the guitar as accompaniment instrument for vocals, either their own or others. If so, we'll take an approach (learning path) that is focused on that goal.

At it's most basic, it is based upon playing chords and strumming in time to provide a foundation for the vocal melody. It's the foundation of rhythm guitar.

We'll start out making simple, common chords that are used in many songs, but we'll simplify them at the beginning. We'll focus on fun and simple "three chord songs" (see a partial list below) that can be easily played and sung.

We'll learn how to make chords the right way, by "sequencing" your finger placements, so that you can learn to "grab" a full chord correctly.

We'll talk about strumming and how to make it more interesting and less "noisy" with various bass note/strum patterns.

With time, we'll dig into bass note runs, cross-picking, and other techniques that add variety and interest to your rhythm playing.

Down the road, it also helps to develop some solo melody and fingerstyle skills. All of this helps to make a rhythm player more complete.

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.

Three Chord Songs, - a partial list:

While there are literally, thousands of three chord songs, here are some that are popular and fun. We can find many more, if you like:

Alberta – Eric Clapton
All apologies – Nirvana
All Shook Up – Elvis Presley
All Together Now – The Beatles
The Ballad of John and Yoko – The Beatles
Barbara Ann – The Beach Boys
Be-Bop-A-Lula – Gene Vincent
Bye Bye Love – The Everly Brothers
Can’t You See – Marshall Tucker Band
Chantilly Lace – Big Bopper
Do Wah Diddy Diddy – Manfred Mann
Donna – Ritchie Valens
409 – The Beach Boys
Get Back – The Beatles
Give Me One Reason – Tracy Chapman
Gloria – Shadows of Night
Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis
Hang on Sloopy – The McCoys
Hanky Panky – Tommy James and The Shondells
Hound Dog – Elvis Presley
I Fought The Law – Bobby Fuller Four
Kansas City – Wilbert Harrison
La Bamba – Richie Valens
Lay Down Sally – Eric Clapton
Lively Up Yourself – Bob Marley
Long Tall Sally – Little Richard
Love Me Do – Donovan
Mony, Mony – Tommy James & The Schondells
Mellow Yellow – Donovan
Move it on Over – George Thoroughgood
Not Fade Away – The Rolling Stones
Rain – The Beatles
Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley & His Comets
Rock This Town – Stray Cats
Rockin’ Robin – Bobby Day
Save the Last Dance for Me – The Drifters
See See Rider – Elvis Presley
See You Later Alligator – Bill Haley & His Comets
Shake, Rattle and Roll - Bill Haley & His Comets
Stir It Up – Bob Marley
Stuck On You – Elvis Presley
Surfin’ U.S.A – The Beach Boys
Sweet Home Chicago – The Blues Brothers
Tutti Frutti – Little Richard
The Twist – Chubby Checker
Twist and Shout – The Beatles
Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
When Will I Be Loved – The Everly Brothers
Wooly Bully – Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs
Yakety Yak – The Coasters


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

Guitar On the Mind? - Here we'll explore the mental challenges of learning to play.

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

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.