Ira Gitlin

Ira Gitlin

Banjo, Bass & Guitar Teacher in College Park, Maryland & Online

Email: [email protected]

Teacher Info

Since the 1990s I’ve helped countless amateur musicians to express themselves on the banjo, guitar, and bass. I try to show my students the big picture. Learning an instrument isn’t just a matter of learning this lick or that song; it involves learning how music works in general, and understanding how your instrument fits into the style of music that you’re playing.

My goal is to make my students self-sufficient. Once you learn some fundamental techniques and a little theory (which is really nothing to be afraid of), you can move on to jamming and improvising—and that’s when the fun really starts! I especially enjoy seeing students make breakthroughs, whether it’s finally mastering a new technique or having a “lightbulb moment” when they understand an important concept that makes it possible for them to take their playing to the next level.

Most students who take up an instrument for their own enjoyment want to play music with other people in social settings. This requires a whole set of skills and understanding beyond just how to play your instrument. All too often music instruction neglects this aspect of learning, and students give up in frustration.

In contrast, I emphasize, at every step of the musical journey, how students can apply what I show them, so that even at the most basic level, they can get in on the fun and satisfaction that comes from making music with friends. Although bluegrass is at the core of my musical identity, my experience ranges far and wide over what’s often called “roots music.”

In addition to traditional and progressive bluegrass, I’m also involved in western swing and older country music styles, with excursions into jazz, blues, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll. Since most students are interested in more than one style, this versatility enables me to meet students on their own terms, musically speaking.

I also bring to my teaching a wide-ranging understanding of the history of bluegrass and related musical styles. I have been a frequent contributor to Bluegrass Unlimited magazine and Banjo NewsLetter. In 2005 I delivered a paper at the Bluegrass Music Symposium (held at Western Kentucky University); the topic was the evolution of standard repertoire and arrangement practices in bluegrass jam sessions.

My paper at the 2017 Bluegrass Music Symposium (held at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual gathering) analyzed some of the unusual vocal harmonies heard on early bluegrass recordings. As of this writing (2022), I am working on two books: one, a beginner’s guide to music theory, and the other, a history of an important bluegrass band from the 1980s.

Music Qualifications & Achievements:

I’ve performed with such nationally known performers as the Johnson Mountain Boys, Bill Kirchen, Peter Rowan, Laurie Lewis, and Bill Harrell, and many other great bands and musicians in the Washington, DC, area.

As a teacher, I’ve given lessons on my own, at several music stores in the Washington-Baltimore area, and at American University and the University of Maryland (Baltimore County).

I’ve taught at the Augusta Heritage Center’s Bluegrass Week (where I’ve been a coordinator since 2013), Pete Wernick’s Bluegrass Camp, Banjo Camp North, the Midwest Banjo Camp, and the “kids’ academies” at several major bluegrass festivals.

In 1992 I took the first prize at the National Bluegrass Banjo Championship in Winfield, KS, and in 1993 I was a one-day winner on Jeopardy!


1 hour$70.00


I teach my music lessons from a teaching space located in College Park, Maryland, 20740, USA. My full teaching address will be provided upon your first lesson booking. I also offer mobile music lessons (subject to my availability and your location), as well as and remote lessons via Zoom. For more information about my music lessons simply get in touch.


To book your first lesson with me, or to find out more about my music lessons, don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing me on [email protected].

Rated 5 out of 5
February 7, 2023

“Ira Gitlin is the BEST!!! “

G.S. (Alexandria, VA)
Rated 5 out of 5
February 7, 2023

“Ira listens to where you are musically, asks where you want to go, and gives you practical instruction that leads you in that direction.”

B.D. (Arlington, VA)
Rated 5 out of 5
February 7, 2023

“I always leave my lesson looking forward to sitting down and learning what he has shown me, and it’s almost always something I can apply right away.”

D.W. (Alexandria, VA)
Rated 5 out of 5
February 7, 2023

“Knowledge and first-hand experience with the roots of the music…He’s the real deal.”

D.S. (Washington, DC)
Rated 5 out of 5
February 7, 2023

“The best, most understanding teacher in the world. No one even comes close.”

Z.M. (Weaverville, NC)