Write On – Tom Middleton

Taking a wander through digital instruments

"Let’s talk about tablets and technology. I have never felt so creatively and artistically empowered. Tactile hardware see us touch the screen and re-write the rules on music making  approaches.

BUT. Do some of these pocket money apps actually dilute the market by providing those without any real musical ability, imagination or creative talent access to tools that can produce authentic, professional sounding but generic loop-based music?

Is it now more difficult to find those moments of magic mixed up in the mire of mediocrity?

I’m actually on the fence with this. My father was a lecturer, so I’ve always felt compelled to ‘pass on skills, wisdom and experience’ and ‘inspire and nurture the next generation’ be it through seminars, demonstrations or one on one tutoring. And I believe that the truly gifted will always shine through as individuals whatever their tools are.


For those producers who cut their teeth on analogue kit (like I  did in Richard D James’ bedroom studio) then this modular and  expandable tabletop set-up is fun and feels reassuringly familiar. You simply connect up devices, and start jamming with up to twenty-nine devices. From MPC-like sampling drum machines, a classic TB303 acid bass line to a tasty Tenori-On like tone matrix, which I love for its random and chaotic melodic patterns that help me fight my deep rooted classical orchestral training!


Incredible value for money. Everything you could possibly need to start ‘playing’, and goes deeper for more serious musicians who want a portable sketch pad for compositions. Love the intuitive smart instruments, like the strings or guitars with ‘strummable’ broken chords laid out in a logical way. Too much fun and a valuable asset for professionals on the move.


Genius finger drummers delight that turns any surface you tap or hit into a percussion instrument with a huge variety of synthetic drum and percussion modeled sounds. The microphone picks up  vibrations and transients, and converts instantly into sounds. Even the timbre changes depending on how hard you tap the table!


Nice up the dance with the DJ’s secret weapon (and accidental educational nugget!): a 147 station dub/reggae/dancehall/bass/D&B radio plus fifty classic sound system SFX, sirens, horns, bleeps and in app add-on MC shouts and samples for just 69p from legends like Lee Perry, U-Roy, Yellowman, Mad Professor. Tune into Rinse…add your own rewinds, bleeps and horns


All the classic vintage drum machines in one app. TR909, TR808, CR78, Linn..it looks great, sounds authentic and the interface is fun and intuitive, and you can edit and export your own patterns. (It’s all over Gorillaz last LP if you need extra endorsement!)


One of the priciest apps… But hold on, £22.99 is a bargain as a ‘real’ MS20 will set you back £1000-plus these days. Even has the modular cable routing plus a built-in sequencer and drum machine that uses the synth engine for sounds. Sync it up to Tabletop using WIST (see below) and it’s another asset in the post-recording studio world most of us now occupy.


This allows other iOS devices to link together and is currently compatible with over twenty-five iOS music apps meaning any number of band members can play any number of iOS devices live in perfect sync without connecting cables! Kraftwerk V2.0 here we come!

No doubt we’ll be hearing more and more underground and crossover music composed and recorded solely in the tablet environment and some real stars will be born from this digital generation. Just think what the Playstation did for Grime!”



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