If you’re a guitarist, you probably want to take your skills to the next level.
But if you’re like me, you’re afraid of mismatching different parts of guitar playing.
You don’t want to spend all your time on scales, and lose your knowledge of chords.
That’s the promise that Tony’s Acoustic Challenge makes, but does it hold up?
In this article, you’ll learn what features make Tony’s Acoustic Challenge unique, and whether it is the best option for you.
We’ll go deep into the material, and I’ll finish with a few recommendations that might be better suited to developing a well-rounded guitar skill set.
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What Makes for a Great Ongoing Guitar Program?
If you want to grow your guitar skills on a regular basis, you need an ongoing program you can follow for great progress.
This is important whether you have an existing routine or not. Daily, consistent practice will develop your skills faster than anything else.
While anyone will benefit from a small daily routine, it's really beginning players who need it most.
Are you a beginner? Check out this 20 minute guitar practice routine.
As you grow in your guitar skills, you'll want to spend time on different exercises and repertoire pieces that hone your strengths and bring up your deficits.
But if you're a beginner, you're better off with a pre-scripted routine.
Before considering an ongoing program to improve your skills, you need to understand how much time you're planning on dedicating to it.
You'll also want to decide what percentage of your practice time you'd like to spend on more practical considerations, like playing songs and other material you'll be familiar with.
With that in mind, will Tony's Acoustic Challenge meet your needs?
The Gist of Tony's Acoustic Challenge
At its heart, Tony's Acoustic Challenge (also known as TAC) is an online subscription program with continual content.
It's run by Tony Polecastro, who has a growing online presence in the guitar lesson space, and has done interviews with some of the world's premier guitarists.
As the name suggests, it's only based on acoustic guitar playing.
Tony doesn't use (or even seem to own) any electric guitars, and there are no techniques for this type of instrument.
Tony sells the program as a simple, 10-minute routine you can do each day to keep your skills fresh.
It's not advertised as a complete program, and is more to stay proficient rather than make huge strides at once.
Inside Tony's Acoustic Challenge, and Why It Might Work for You
If you're looking to make fast progress in one guitar skill, you should probably look to the alternatives section.
TAC isn't really designed to push players to the next level on any one skill area.
Instead, Tony markets it as a way to build a variety of basic techniques on a regular basis.
Practice a Variety of Skills Every Week
TAC is built on a week-long cycle, with a new lesson each day.
For five days a week, Tony releases a new video component focusing on one element of playing:
Monday - Warm up
Tuesday - Lick
Wednesday - Scales and improv
Thursday - Chords and progressions
Friday - Key chords
He has worked to incorporate different elements so you don't only focus on one style of playing or technique. This is a nice way to stay excited with something new each day.
You'll Be Able to Use These Techniques Anywhere
All of the content on TAC is original, meaning it's written by Tony and isn't available anywhere else. This includes a variety of custom licks and chord progressions, as well as different warmups he's created.
The focus is on learning strategies that can be applied to a jam session, but it means he doesn't put any focus on repertoire or learning songs. All the pieces are unique, and mostly for improvisation.
The main focus of TAC is on bluegrass and fingerpicking. He usually alternates between using a pick and fingers in the lessons, and you'll probably learn a bit of blues and country along the way.
Unfortunately, there's almost no rock, so if you're looking for great instruction in this genre you'll need to go elsewhere.
Learn at Different Skill Levels and Speeds
One of the neatest parts of Tony's Acoustic Challenge is that you get to play at a few different speeds.
Each of the chord progressions, licks, and warmups is played for you at 80, 100, and 120 bpm.
This means all types of players can use the technique, no matter his or her current speed. You can also go back and try to play a lick you already know at a faster speed.
A Friendly and Fun Way to Learn
There's no denying it - Tony is a fun presenter.
For each lesson, he gives a short introduction and explanation of the technique.
All of the components have fun and creative names, and Tony explains them in a gentle and humorous way. It's exciting to see the new technique he'll explain on each day of the week.
After a few days of watching, you feel like you know Tony very well. He's a likeable guy, and you'll enjoy each of the videos he gives. He explains the strategies and techniques in a way that's easy for the most beginning students to grasp.
Plenty to Learn, Even If You Want More
While the lessons are marketed as being around 10 minutes each, it took me well over 15 minutes to fully understand and practice each new piece of content.
Each piece has an intro video that's a few minutes long, plus a playing track, plus tab and notation to download and look over.
I found that it was difficult to get the pieces just right with less than 15 minutes of watching and playing, and required more like 20 or 30 minutes to adequately review the lesson from the previous days as well.
In addition to this, you get full access to all the previous lessons on TAC, going back for months. There are also a few bonus resources you'll get with your membership.
In short, you'll never be without something to play.
A Thriving Community of Fellow Guitarists
If you're looking for like-minded guitarists, this is a great spot.
TAC has a community forum that encourages posting videos of your playing and getting feedback from other members.
There's usually someone else online to talk to or chat with, and there are sometimes live hangouts where Tony explains techniques, interviews a well-known guitarist, or answers questions. It's a good way to get connected with others learning the same content as you.
There's also an ability to build out a Facebook-like profile for yourself and your guitar skills. You can list the guitars you own and include a photo and story for each one.
Resources You Can Download and Keep Forever
One of the great parts of TAC is that you can download all the resources, tab, and videos to review whenever you want. If you decide to cancel your membership later, you still have access to all the content if you download it ahead of time.
You can also print off the tab and notation and keep it for future reference if you're going to other gigs or places where you'd like to use the licks and chord progressions Tony teaches in the program.
What are People Saying About TAC?
I've looked online for reviews about TAC.
Since the program is fairly new, there aren't a lot of reviews out there, but most are pretty positive.
Almost all the reviews are from Tony's own website, but they provide a balance of what the program has to offer and its weaknesses.
One reviewer noted that the cost was a factor, though he finished the review noting that it was worth it in the end.
Another was impressed with how much he learned in such a short amount of time.
A reviewer on reddit noted that Tony was an enjoyable presenter and he enjoyed the program.
Other Guitar Programs That Will Take You Further In Your Journey
While TAC has benefits for a particular kind of student, it probably isn't best for the student who wants to learn songs or electric playing.
If you're looking to get a solid foundation of playing before moving into flatpicking and finger style jamming techniques, these alternatives are probably better for you:
Guitar Tricks is an online lesson program that provides an updated stream of lessons similar to TAC.
Unlike TAC, however, it includes electric guitar playing and a more detailed guide to guitar playing.
There's also a core learning section, which means you'll get instruction that will guide you from beginning to advanced levels. There's a progression in the teaching, instead of just jumping in any week.
Plus, you can learn specific songs, which makes it much more enjoyable for playing with friends and enjoying the guitar outside of a circle of fellow musicians.
It's my top recommendation for guitar lessons online. Learn more about Guitar Tricks here.
Get started with a 14 day free trial of Guitar Tricks - Click Here
JamPlay provides a comprehensive lesson program that's easy to access.
Unlike TAC, it includes a mobile app that you can access everywhere, and gives instruction for both acoustic and electric playing.
Instead of the week-to-week style of TAC, JamPlay is designed with a few goals in mind.
That means you won't get a random selection of content, you'll start with more basic techniques and gradually build your skill set until you're ready for the more complex strategies that come later on.
You'll also get a handful of tools not in TAC, like a tuner, metronome, and chord namer. Learn more about JamPlay here.
Get started with a 7 day free trial of JamPlay - Click Here
Is Tony's Acoustic Challenge Right for You?
Of course, the final decision is up to you whether or not TAC is best for you.
If you're looking for a supplement for your guitar playing that'll keep your skills sharp in a handful of areas and provide flatpicking and fingerstyle techniques you can use in jamming, it might work.
If you're struggling to carve out any time for practicing, want to make fast progress in one particular area, want to learn songs you know, or want to hone your electric guitar skills, it's probably not the best option.
Instead, look to the alternatives and their free trials for a better way to skyrocket your guitar progress.