Finally Getting the Roli Seaboard Block
As some of you may know, it’s been my goal to create a mobile music setup. I wanted something that would be cutting edge with features that extended far beyond what most instruments at the moment could do. I think there’s a lot of growth potential in music (or just art) technology and want to be a part of it. I also wanted something that would speak to my personality, my way of doing things. Seems like a lot to ask right? In short, I wanted a piece of gear that’s both forward thinking and fits my personal aesthetic. Well I found it. And now I have it.
What is the Seaboard Block?
So what is the Seaboard Block? The Seaboard Block is an MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) mini keyboard controller that can connect wired via USB or wirelessly via Bluetooth if you so choose. The size of the Seaboard Block is perfect for traveling with because it’s small enough fit inside a backpack no problem. These two features alone got me excited and I wanted to learn more.
Originally, I didn’t know about the Seaboard’s MPE capability (or MPE at all, which I need to write a blog post about) which is one of its main features. I fell in love with the design more than anything at first. Now that I have it at my fingertips, I appreciate the design even more.
Why the Design?
Here’s what I appreciate about the design: the minimalistic inverted keyboard colorway, the entire surface of the Seaboard being playable, no protruding buttons or knobs and its modular design allows for expansion.
I appreciate the minimalist idea of having only your favorite things with you, reducing clutter and living with things that you really enjoy (I follow @theminimalists on basically everything. They also have a great blog, The Minimalists Blog, if you’re ever interested :). I think the design of the Roli Seaboard Block reflects this idea very well.
As I’m reducing clutter and trying to bring in things I really enjoy into my life, I wanted to focus on this idea in my music as well. I wanted a simpler workflow while using equipment I would really enjoy using. For me to buy this piece of equipment, I needed to be sure I really like it for all of its qualities.
With the entire surface being playable, I think the Seaboard Block is a good example of the design idea “Form follows Function”. The “Function” of the Block is to utilize different dimensions of touch to create musical expression. As I’m playing the Seaboard Block, literally anywhere I press on the surface (and how I press on the surface) will create a sound. The MPE keyboard feels and acts like a hybrid between a keyboard and a string instrument. It’s strange to get used to, but isn’t any new instrument strange when you first learn it? That’s what this keyboard makes me think when I’m playing it. It’s not a MIDI keyboard, it’s an instrument.
As an audio engineer, I fell in love with the gear and all the knobs, cables, faders, levels, spectrums. If I like all that stuff, why do I like the fact that the Seaboard Block (or any Roli Block) has no knobs, cables (kind of), levels, spectrums? The thing is, the Roli Blocks system does have knobs, faders, levels and more. They’re just rethought.
The Seaboard Block can be mapped just like any MIDI keyboard to parameters in a DAW. The Roli Lightpad Block can do the same as well as display faders, be a drum pad and can even be an XY pad all through an LED surface. You have options to make your system the way you want it.
Not only that, as an Ableton Live user, I can use Max for Live to patch MIDI plugins, control lights and video with the Roli Blocks in many different ways. Max and Roli Blocks also created the Blocks Package which has Max UI objects that work specifically for the Roli products. I’m excited to get started working on my own patches for live performances. I like that modularity especially coming from an audio engineering background.
Why is it Forward Thinking?
In my opinion, the Seaboard Block as well as the other products from Roli are forward thinking because it’s utilizing the latest technology to electronic musical expression (the MPE technology), wireless, rechargeable and portable. These factors come together to achieve a common vision of mine and Roli’s: to create music mobilly. It’s a circumstance of similar thinking and good timing. Roli seems to be getting the idea of “mobile music” rolling (see what I did there? lol). Now I want to experiment with this new piece of equipment and see if it will fit into my mobile music workflow. Stay tuned :)
If you guys want to follow my journey to a mobile music setup, subscribe to the YouTube channel! Also follow on Instagram @intempusmusic for updates!