Roli are changing the way music is created with a new portable device that feels quality enough for pro’s whilst being accessible enough for amateurs to jump straight in.
There are 2 elements to Roli’s great new Blocks instruments, one obviously being the Block devices themselves and the other being their free new iOS app NOISE. Both bring a wealth of music making opportunities to the table but lets look at NOISE first as you can jump into that straight away for free.
NOISE was created to power Blocks as a music-making app but is packed with enough native features to be an impressive music creation tool on it’s own. NOISE takes advantage of the iPhone’s 3D touch to allow you to use the screen like an expressive instrument with pressure sensitive pads on screen, swiping and gliding controls and more. You can control grid based instruments like you had a proper control pad in front of you.
NOISE gives you a choice of over 100 custom instrument sounds from bongos to strings to flute. Using the app’s looping features you can create a full, multi-layered track by combining sounds, loops and progressions. Pad looping isn’t the most sophisticated way to make music but Roli haven’t designed this so you can create the next Tubular Bells, it just makes music fun and easily accessible for beginners with enough to keep the pros entertained.
Not just for creating music though, NOISE can teach you with Learn Mode. Using Learn Mode you trace illuminated Light Trails to learn how to shape beats and melodies. You have a choice of 15 scales which, once selected will show you the notes of the scale on the grid. You can choose to hide notes that aren’t in key to make it even easier and use Snap Mode to quantize your loops.
NOISE already has world renowned artists sharing sounds on their platform for others to use. Grimes, RZA and Steve Aoki are just 3 of the artists who’ve added their own professional quality, signature sounds for use on NOISE.
Now onto the fascinatingly unique Lightpad Blocks that Roli have created to use with NOISE. The Blocks are small enough to fit in your hand but with it’s intelligent touch interface when used with NOISE you have the power of a studio within your palm.
With a 5×5 coloured grid you can use it as an expressive MIDI pad controller to play music or tap out rhythms. The LED coloured lights are intelligently programmed to easily display scales and can guide you as your playing.
The Lightpad Block has 5 different functions:
- The standard ‘tap’ or ‘strike’ which plays on touch like a keyboard or drum pad
- ‘Gliding’ gives a vibrato effect by bending the pitch when moving your finger from side to side.
- ‘Slide’ up and down a note to alter the intensity of modulation effects.
- ‘Press’ further or shallower to affect the intensity of notes and sounds through velocity.
- Finally ‘Lifting’ off your finger at varying speeds will affect the resonance of a sound.
As with NOISE, Lightpad Blocks can be used in Learn Mode so that even beginners can start tapping away and getting an understanding of scales and harmony. Primarily the Lightpad Block and NOISE are beatmaking equipment that enable to you to create beats on the fly that sound as good as they might in the studio, though perhaps less complex.
But that’s not to say there’s depth in the playability of Lightpad Blocks and Noise, with a range of instruments and scales to choose from you can still make a kickass solo. If the 5×5 grid isn’t giving you enough range to quickly play what you want, add another Block onto the side magnetically and you instantly have double the interface.
Lightpad Blocks also have an input for two controller blocks to enhance your creative power even more whilst still remaining the handheld portability of the Lightpads. The Live Control Block is a magnetic add-on that is designed for performance whilst the Loop Block is made for general production. Both cost £69.95 each from Roli’s store.
Whilst it may seem like a portable, scaled down MIDI pad controller, and it sort of is, but it allows you make beats on the go easier than before whilst retaining a quality level of functionality. If you want Roli’s own testament of how the Lightpad Blocks are special, here’s what they say about it:
Breakthroughs in engineering, sound, and design make the Lightpad Block a truly revolutionary instrument. The surface is made of special tactile silicone that’s dotted with hundreds of light wells. Blocks DNA connectors not only magnetically connect the Blocks. They also send data, so each Block knows how it’s configured with other Blocks. As much as the gestures you make on its surface, the Lightpad Block is the new shape of music.
You can download NOISE for free on iOS and iPad now (sorry Android users) and start playing and creating music.
A Lightpad Block will set you back £169.95 which seems excessive for what it is, and maybe it is you decide. But it’s safe to say Roli’s new apps and Lightpad Blocks give you one of the easiest yet expansive ways to create beats on the go.
Purchase Roli’s new blocks and find out more here: roli.com/products/blocks