Sunday Keys for MainStage 2021: Using the Tonic Pad Player

The Tonic Pad Player in Sunday Keys plays an ambient pad in the key of your choice and it’s a great way to glue together the sound of your band, nail transitions between songs and keys, and it’s also great for underscoring quieter moments of a church service.

Be sure to check out all the other video tutorials over on the Sunday Keys Resource Article.

Check out the video or the steps below it to learn more about how to use the Tonic Pad Player:


In this video, I’ll walk you through the features of Tonic and make a few suggestions for how you can use it in a live context. I’ll also explain how you can isolate the output of Tonic’s sound from the rest of your keys playing and send it to your soundboard so it can be used in the live band mix independently from your keys parts.

To start, let’s talk about the basics.

Tonic Pad Player Basics

The Tonic Pad Player gives you an ambient pad designed to complement any chord in the key signature. The key is set by clicking the key button of your choice.

To turn Tonic on, press the On button. To change keys, simply click a new key button.

Press the on button again, to turn tonic off.

Change the Tonic Player's Key

Tonic is designed to fade smoothly between keys, just make sure that the new key isn’t going to clash with the old one during the transition.

The smoothest transitions be between complimentary keys, with the most common being keys that are a 5th, a 4th, or depending on the song, a minor third. If your song is in a minor key, the relative major Tonic drone may sound better than the actual minor key. Try both options to see which feels better.

Change the Tonic Pad Player's Sound

Tonic doesn’t rely on a pre-recorded audio file, the pad is actually being generated in real time, which means you can do cool stuff like click and drag the blue dot around the XY pad to change the sound organically. As you move up the transform pad the amount of shimmer in the drone will increase and as you move down, it will decrease. As you move from left to right, the brightness will increase and vice verse. As you move towards each of the four corners of the transform pad, the drone will take on a distinctly different tone.

If you’re not sure where to set the transform pad, right is designed to sound great for most contexts.

Below and to the right of the transform pad is the motion button. clicking the motion will automate the movement of the transform pad and the “speed” control just to the right controls the speed of that motion. Keep in mind that when the motion button is engaged, the transform will jump to the center position, so it’s best to engage the motion button when the the dot is in centered in the transform pad to avoid a sudden change in the sound.

Shift up the sound in Tonic

To the right of the speed control is the “Shift Up” button. This shifts the entire drone up an entire octave, which can be useful at times to get the pad to sit right in your mix. This button also interacts in interesting ways with the “Drone Center” control in top right corner of Tonic, which we’ll talk about in just a second.

To the right of the Shift Up button is a volume control. For most contexts, halfway up should be a good place start for the volume of Tonic. Tonic is designed to fade in and out smoothly. when turned on and off, but you can also use the volume control to make that transition slower and in some cases smoother.

Change the sound in Tonic higher or lower with the Drone Center control

In the top right corner of Tonic you see the Drone Center control. By default, you’ll see the word “Mid” underneath the label. You can click and drag or two finger swipe up and down within the Drone Center to change the drone center. You can shift the pitch of the drone down up to 2 octaves, and up a 5th, an octave, and two octaves. As I said a moment ago, the drone center control and the shift up button interact in unique and interesting ways across different combinations so feel free to experiment and find out what works for you. Keep in mind that it’s recommend you use the Drone Center control in advance of live performance to dial the pad in how you’d like. Changes made to the Drone Center control while Tonic is running will tend to be somewhat abrupt and may not be desirable during live performance. If you need to change the drone center control during a performance, you can do so during a big moment of a song where the transition would go unnoticed or fade out the volume of tonic between songs, change the drone center, then fade the tonic volume back in.

Change the sound's character by changing the Drone Preset

Lastly, Tonic features 8 different ambient pad presets you can choose from via the top left corner of the Tonic section. just like with the drone center control, you can two finger swipe, or click and drag up and down to switch between different presets. Each preset has a distinct character with some being subtle, some airy, some ambient and some more aggressive. Each preset can sound totally different with different combinations of the drone center control, and the transform pad so be sure to spend some time experimenting to find sounds that you like.

Just like I mentioned regarding the drone control, Drone preset changes will likely sound abrupt and are designed to be made during preparation or during moments of a song or service where the abrupt change won’t be noticeable.

If you’re wondering how to best control tonic during a live performance, there’s some great options I’d like to tell you about.

How to control Tonic during your performance

There are a few ways you can control Tonic.

First, you can control every element of Tonic from your smart phone or tablet with the TouchOSC app. Sunday Keys includes a simple to use integration with a $5 app called TouchOSC that turns any smart device into a wireless midi controller. Inside TouchOSC you’re able to control every element of Tonic meant for live performance, including the transform pad, the key buttons, the on button, and all the other controls in the bottom row of the tonic section. you’re not able to change Drone presets or the drone center from TouchOSC.

If you’d like to learn how to setup Sunday keys and the touchOSC integration, click here to check that out.

If you don’t want to use a phone or tablet, you can assign any midi controller to control elements of the tonic section. Click here to learn how to do that. 

Lastly, every control in Tonic can also be automated per patch, so for example you could automatically select a new key, a different drone preset, dial in the transform pad and turn Tonic On when you select a specific patch. We call this feature Tonic Automator and it can make Tonic totally hands free if you'd like.

Click here to learn how to setup Tonic Automator. A word of caution, setting up Tonic Automator does involve a handful of steps so if you’re not yet very familiar with MainStage it may be a good idea skip the Tonic Automator video for now if you’re not in a hurry to learn how it works. But don’t let me scare you off, the video explains the setup steps in any easy to follow way.

Now that you’re familiar with the various features of Tonic and have some ideas for how to control it, I’d like. to explain how the audio in Tonic is sent out of Sunday Keys. 

By default Tonic is sent to the same output as all of your keys sounds. In MainStage it’s called Output 1&2.

This works great for most Sunday Keys users and your able to use the volume control within Tonic to blend it in with the keys parts you’re playing live.

Send Tonic to the sound board separate from your keys sounds

For some users, it’s preferable to send the Tonic Pad to their sound desk independent of their live keys parts so the audio engineers at the sound board can choose how to use Tonic in the mix.

It’s really easy to do this as long as your audio interface has 3 or more outputs. Make sure that your audio interface is connected and selected as the audio output in MainStage Audio Preferences.

First, select the concert level by clicking the name of the concert to the left of the orange folder.

Then, look to the channel strip area on the right side of the screen. If you don’t see the channel strip. area, click the show/hide channel strips button right above where they should be. Now, scroll to the right of the channel strips using a two finger drag on your touch pad or scrolling with your mouse until you see a channel strip with a purple bar at the bottom named “Tonic Output”

To change Tonic’s output, Click and hold on the area of the channel strip that says “Output 1-2” then hover over the word “output” in the menu and select output 3-4, or if your interface has. more than four outputs, whichever pair of outputs you’d like to designate for tonic.

That’s all there is to it, now Tonic’s sound will be isolated and separate from your keys parts. if you ever need to change it back, just go back to the purple Tonic channel strip and change the the output back to 1-2.


Be sure to check out all the video tutorials over on the Sunday Keys Resource Article!

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