AutoTonic AutoTonic by antstudio
AutoTonic is a software application that automatically and dynamically maps your MIDI keyboard to melodic scales and keys of your choosing. In effect, the black keys on your keyboard become programmable switches that allow you to select from various melodic scales and key signatures. You play only the white keys on the keyboard, which are reprogrammed to play only the "right" notes in the melodic scale and key selected.
This is a great application for:
- Musicians who want to lay down a keyboard track but keyboard is not your primary instrument.
- Songwriters who want to experiment with new scales easily and quickly.
- Keyboard players who want to learn new exotic scales and key signatures. AutoTonic's visual display shows the scale mappings very clearly.
This is not an auto-song-generating Band-In-The-Box type of software. You still have to play everything. AutoTonic just keeps you playing the in the right scale and key more easily. If you're familiar with an Autoharp - which has dampers that mute the autoharp's strings so it plays specific chords - then you get the idea. If you're a guitarist used to playing chord-based songs and using a capo to shfit keys, AutoTonic will allow you to work in a similar way with MIDI keyboards.
There are a few different ways to program AutoTonic's black keys and it's very customizable.
- Tonic only - this changes the key but keeps the scale the same
- Scale only - this changes the scales but keeps the key the same
- Tonic & Scale - this changes both the key and scale at the same time
If you're a guitarist like me, the third option makes it easy to map the black keys to the chords of a song, for example going from C Major to A Minor to D Major. By pressing black keys to change chords while playing the song, you can then, in effect, play chords and melody lines that suite the song all while staying in the key of C (white keys) on the keyboard, and without having to learn the shape of each chord and pattern of each scale on the keyboard. All of the built-in mappings that come with AutoTonic are for full scales - and there are many, both common and obscure. But AutoTonic is very customizable so you could even reduce these full scales to just the notes in the chord and not the other notes in the scale.
Experimenting with AutoTonic is a lot of fun. It's kinda crazy to select a blues scale, for example, mess around on the white keys a bit carelessly and yet always be in hitting notes in the blues scale. Select the Yo scale and suddenly you're playing what sounds like a melody line in a Japanese folk song. But it's not like everythings sounds great right away, you still have to get a feel for the scale and experiment to get the most out of it.
Overall AutoTonic a very powerful application with a lot of options for customization. The downsides are that it's a bit of work to set up the first time. It's not a DAW plugin so you have to do some work in your MIDI system and DAW settings to properly route the input of your hardware keyboard to AutoTonic and the re-mapped AutoTonic output into your DAW.
Retail price is $179, which is a bit high. I was able to pick it up on sale for $99, which I consider a very good deal for such a powerful and flexible program.