As an analog girl in a digital world:
Not a producer? Me neither. I feel like the Roli Lightpad Block M may be the missing link between myself, a singer/songwriter and said producers. A lot of the software and equipment used by production people are so expensive, and a full-time career to learn and maneuver. Blocks make that digital aspect so accessible for an affordable price. I can now add beats, incorporate digital sounds, and add a more modern twist on my music in one user-friendly place. That’s a game-changer for me. There are also a ton of guides and videos available to grow and learn with your Blocks. Melodics is a free download on your computer that actually teaches you how to make beats from the ground up in the form of a game. Overall big fan of the Roli Lightpad Block M. It makes everything very accessible without being overwhelming. As advertised, it grows with you.
Beat maker, midi controller, software instrument all-in-one. The thing that’s so impressive to me about the Roli Lightpad Block M is it’s compatibility and portability. You don’t have to drag your midi keyboard to sessions anymore, this little guy fits in your hand. It can take on the role of pads, any plug-in you own, even a mixer. It can also be used with almost any software.
The Block itself:
One big, surface allows for more expression than traditional pads. Blocks adjust dynamics based on how hard you strike the surface. Instead of pre-determined squares, you can choose the format of your digital pads. There are 4 quadrants for a simple arrangement, multiple squares for more of a range, and even notes lit up within whatever scale you choose, which is a personal favorite. You can switch between these settings, and use different ones on one mixing board. The creativity is almost limitless on here. You can play multiple squares at once, and slide between them for different in-between sounds.
Using Roli Blocks:
MPE Midi mode lets you use Roli Blocks with nearly any software. I used it with both GarageBand and Logic X Pro with great success. You can use blocks as a midi controller, and set it up to be any plug-in. The only downside here is there’s a bit of a delay in striking the pad and hearing the sound. As a keys player, this is slightly aggravating, but I found that I adapted the more I played with it. You can also create sounds in software specifically designed for Roli (Noise, equator) and import them to logic (or GarageBand/protools/etc). I did not experience the delay when using equalizer or noise (Roli software). Any loops I created with Noise were able to be dropped into my open GarageBand file, and I could edit from there. Each layer separated into a different track too, which is super super nice.
This is an important one, as it lets you customize settings on your block. You can download this to your computer and manually select what display you’re using, midi components, etc. This is super helpful if you’re using multiple software instruments from different locations. You can set and save modes, and fine-tune track aspects here. If you have multiple Roli products, Dashboard helps organize all of these.
For all the producers out there and Ableton fans, Equator lets you create and recreate sounds and beats. I didn’t purchase this software, but you can access some of its plugins just for owning Blocks. I was able to use an equator digital instrument on one track in GarageBand, and an internal plug-in on another track on the same page. I thought this was super cool.
Blocks are compatible with Ableton, and come with some Ableton Live kits. There are a lot of tutorials available if you have the software, sadly I do not.
Noise **mobile or tablet app only**
Noise lets you create and layer sounds from the ground up. I found this to be the most comfortable way to use Roli Blocks with the most straight-forward outcome. You can BPM quickly, layer beats, and import to your computer. The only downside here is that you can’t use the app directly on your computer, which is where I do most of my music making. But all files can be emailed or air-dropped, so out really isn’t much of an inconvenience.
RoliPlay **mobile/tablet app only**
This is a fun one for beginners, or anyone who just wants to play around with the Roli device. I found it to have serious limitations as far as creating things from the ground up and editing them. The musical choices are limited here to. I didn’t find this app incredibly useful, but it is a good place to start with your Role and get comfortable using it.
You can get a Roli Lightpad Block M for yourself here!
Featured image via Roli
Chip Chick was provided with this product for free, in exchange for our honest feedback. All thoughts and opinions expressed are our own and not influenced by the company and/or its affiliates in any way.