Our good friend +verb has been delving into making music with Tabletop and the fruit of his experiments has resulted in "Mechanoid," his first all Tabletop track. It's a madcap grime banger, and he was good enough to talk to us about his experience making it.
+verb - Mechanoid by retronyms
Making a track entirely in Tabletop is a fun experience overall. Getting quality sound out of iOS and into some speakers was a tad bit frustrating, but once accomplished, this was not an issue.
I will briefly explain what you are seeing in the screen shot. I have everything routed to two Goblin MX4 mixers since they have sends and returns. With the "Mechanoid" track I didn't actually use any sends and returns, but I like these mixers in case I want to add some effects later. The main drum pattern comes from the XOX Drum Deranger device and my included Futur drum kit. This kit includes hits that I have synthesized and created. Later on in the track some percussion is used from the Gridlok device and my included Cyberblap drum kit.
For the two bass lines I have used two separate RS4000 synthesizers. I've found this synth to be quite fun and very easy to automate. One bass line is simply a square wave sent to the Whirl (chorus/flanger) and Overdose (digital distortion) effect devices. The Whirl adds thickness and subtle movement via chorusing and the Overdose grimes up the tone quite a bit. The second bass line is a mixture of waveforms with some mod envelope adjusting the cutoff of the filter frequency along with an LFO and fade manipulating the filter frequency cutoff as well. This kind of movement makes sounds super gooey and dynamic, which is quite enjoyable to my ears. Static sounds tend to be real boring and lifeless.
The third RS4000 device is actually for the arp lead halfway through the track. I have some square wave LFO and fade modulating the pitch of some square waves. This is routed through a FILTR (high pass) effect device which I have automated to open and close in real time via trial and error. This gives the sound dimension...it comes and goes from front to back as the frequencies get filtered over the course of the measure.
The Triggerator device in the middle of the set is used for triggering the loops I have created of all the elements. While a very powerful device already, I would still like to see some improvements made to it. Mostly, the ability to merge blocks would be quite cool. I also hope that someday maybe multiple blocks can be launched at once… this would be amazing for live performance with Tabletop.
All of these sounds are routed through a mastering effect chain which includes another Overdose, a PRSSR compressor device, and a LMTR limiter device. I have an instance of the Glitchboard device adding fills and stutters and filtering in spots of the track. The track is then exported via recording with the Recorder M2 device.
You can see that this really is just a track of simple sounds, creative use of effects, and solid arrangement. Tabletop is very powerful and making quality tracks is quite feasible and fun!
Outside of the Triggerator features I previously mentioned, I ran into a few other small limitations… great future features that I think would be awesome. First, more space to drop devices is crucial! The area to work in now is sort of limited and having more devices per track could make songs become even more complex and polished. Second, while I love the current sequencer feature of most sound outputting devices, I feel that a piano roll of some sort would be amazing. Perhaps like Genome midi within Tabletop though… it doesn't even have to be that featured yet. I envision being able to route some midi data to multiple synths at the same time. My tracks typically are quite layered, sometimes 4 synths to make one lead. Being able to send midi to multiple devices would be awesome. I so hope this appears in the future of Tabletop. Or at least, the ability to copy a midi pattern from device A and paste it into the sequence from device B. Last, I think some analyzers or feedback throughout some certain devices would be nice. For instance, attenuation meters for the PRSSR and LMTR. Also some sort of FFT for the track as a whole. Duplicating devices would be rad as well. Midi in and out would be clutch. Oh… and an 8 band EQ device.
Having said all of that, Tabletop is definitely capable in it's current state. I have tried endless audio apps in iOS and Tabletop does it right. I am super stoked to be of help to such a great company. I hope you enjoy my track made inside Tabletop because I enjoyed making it. If you haven't tried Tabletop yet, then what are you waiting for?
We really want to thank +verb for his contributions to Tabletop, for allowing us to share "Mechanoid" with you, and for his detailed breakdown and suggestions! Be sure to pick up his stellar new EP, Fragments, out now on Robox Neotech!