What is BLOCKS?
The BLOCKS System from ROLI is an ultra-portable modular music studio that offers 5D control via traditional MIDI technology. The idea behind BLOCKS is to give you the expressive capabilities you would only expect from an acoustic instrument along with the power, utility, and incredible sonic possibilities of modern music production and DAW software. An impressive array of LED’s are placed under the controller to give you critical visual feedback that helps reduce your reliance on the computer screen and allows the controller to be instantly setup for different applications like drums, synths, and effect control.
A Modular Music Studio
The innovative design of BLOCKS allows you to customize a control surface that fits your work flow. It is all made possible by the innovative design that allows different components to snap together like “building blocks.” It all starts with the palm sized Lightpad Block. The Lightpad Block is quite simply a brilliant interaction of touch and light to create sound. The pressure sensitive and pliable silicon surface delivers enhanced expressive capabilities allowing you to shape different sounds through gliding, pressing, lifting and other dynamic gestures. The beautiful LED surface responds with every touch and also allows you to switch the layout to display different grids like a 2×2 for a 4 piece drum kit or 5X5 for playing a melodic scale. Another key member of the ROLI ecosystem that can be added to your Lightpad Block is Live Block. When added to your setup, the Live Block allows you to switch scales and octaves, trigger chords and arpeggios, and apply sustain to notes as you are performing on your Light Pad Block. Another crucial feature on the Live Block is the ability to control your volume so you can perform with other musicians. The third member of the family is the Loop Block. If the Live Block helps enhance your live performance, the Loop Block is all about expanding your production options. With the Loop block, you can activate a metronome for keeping your timing, Play and Pause your recorded loops, and activate a SNAP setting to automatically sync your loop to the main beat. For even further expansion of your BLOCKS studio, ROLI also offers the Touch Block and the Seaboard Block which uses ROLI’s pioneering pressure sensitive surface. The Touch Block lets you dial in your exact preferences for how your Lightpad Block is configured. It has controls for adjusting the velocity sensitivity and lift sensitivity, the resistance to pitch controls, the threshold of filter controls. It also offers a Piano button that instantly turns your Lightpad Block into a midi controller with standard notes. Think of the Touch Block as the settings menu, letting you apply your desired workflow to each of the BLOCKS systems five dimensions of control. The Seaboard Block delivers ROLI’s game changing MIDI control surface to your portable modular studio. Enjoy the same level of expressiveness with the more musically familiar layout of a keyboard. Unlike building a traditional music studio where you need to worry about rare connection cables, patch bays, and processors, you’re BLOCKS Studio simply snaps together like legos and can fit in your backpack.
What Makes Blocks Different
In addition to its intuitive modular design, Blocks sets itself apart from traditional Pad Controllers by offering 5 different levels of control. Strike the surface like you would with a drum or key to get a note, Glide your fingers side to side to accomplish a pitch bend, Slide up/down to modulate, and Press in to simulate dynamic control like a Saxophone player who emphasizes a note through their breath. The sounds also respond differently depending on how fast or slow you Lift your finger off the surface so you can achieve different levels of resonance.
Make Some NOISE
While Roli is an ultra-sophisticated control surface, the sounds that your Blocks activate are found on the compatible Roli Noise Application. When you use the Noise App on your smart device, that device basically becomes another part of the Blocks System, except this one connects wirelessly to the other performance surfaces rather than snapping together. The intuitive layout of NOISE matches the look of your Lightpad Block with a swipeable layer on top that allows you to toggle between over 100 sounds encompassing everything from drums, to violins, to spacy and whacky synths. Enter record mode to record your favorite sound as loops, then switch back to instrument mode to perform on top of your new creations. The NOISE app has a store where you can purchase additional sound packs designed by renowned artists as well as genre specific expansion packs. Also in the App is NOISE.FM, a social platform for sharing your creations and collaborating with different Blocks users around the world.
Use Blocks with Your Existing Setup
Just because you prefer the sounds or workflow of a DAW that you have spent years learning doesn’t mean you can’t use Blocks, because now thanks to the Blocks Dashboard Desktop application, you can set your Blocks up as generic Midi Controllers. So you can have one Lightpad Block control a soft synth while its adjacent Block manages your effects, while another block serves as your mixer. Your Live and Loop Blocks can be mapped to control other functions in your DAW using midi learn functions. You can also activate the 5 variations of touch and use them to control your soft synths, drums racks, VST’s and more. Check out Roli product specialist Ruben Dax demo below to find out more about Blocks Dashboard and how to setup your Blocks controllers for expressive and streamlined control over your favorite Music Production or Digital Audio Workstation Software.