We have been huge fans of ROLI since they introduced their Seaboard Rise keyboard about three years ago and have been watching them closely ever since. In 2016 we saw the addition of a new ecosystem aptly called
ROLI Blocks and throughout the last couple of years they have gone from something somewhat limited to a full-blown portfolio of products that can be used by both novices and professionals alike.
The GarageBand/Logic edition comes with three of the favorite blocks to create the perfect set up for mobile producers or those with a limited amount of space at home. This Songmaker Kit (there are others in the line) is configured to work specifically with the Apple DAW's GarageBand and Logic Pro X and helps beginners to get started in their music making journey and helps more seasoned users with workflow and overall control.
Seaboard Block: This is a miniature version of the flagship Seabord Rise keyboard controller, but calling this just a keyboard is a bit unfair. The Seaboard not only acts as a keyboard but goes far beyond with its soft, pressure-responsive surface to let users play in between the keys and even bend the pitch. So whether it's strings or piano or synth, your options here are far beyond that of your standard MIDI keyboard. The 24-note Seaboard is probably the most intimidating of the controllers and takes the most practice to understand all the functionality of its magical spongy surface truly.
Lightpad Block M: This was one of the original parts of the Blocks system and takes all the touch-sensitive DNA from the Seaboard Rise and puts it into a great little drum pad that can be used to create beat patterns, control aspects of your DAW and other instruments like strings, etc. The updated Lightpad M controller is a step up from the original and is a lot more responsive than the first generation. This block is particularly suitable for beginners who are just starting and have no music knowledge.
Loop Block: This is the control center that helps users control their DAW more efficiently with nice shortcuts and essential commands that will speed up any workflow. Like all the Blocks this works across ROLI's native software for IOS and Mac, so you are by no means limited to just GarageBand / Logic Pro X with these controllers - you are entering an entire controller/software universe.
Snapcase + Cables: The Snapcase is a straightforward and intuitive cover to protect your Blocks when you travel. You just set your Blocks in the case, snap them together with the magnets in whatever configuration suits you best and off you go. When you are ready to play, pull it out, flip it open and rock. Along with the case you get two USB C to USB cables and one USB to USB C adapter for those with USB C only Macs. Our only gripe here is that there is no place to put the cable in the Snapcase, not a huge deal but increases the chances of lost cables.
Overall: The Songmaker Kit is intuitive to use even for novices and is a controller that grows with you as you progress in your production abilities. The three blocks together provide just about everything you need to produce quality tunes right out of the box and are also a lean powerhouse solution for mobile production. Together these controllers provide a streamlined functionality that's hard to beat and allow more seasoned musicians/producers many options that are just not available in other control surfaces.
For those of you not interested in Mac DAWs, the other Songmaker Kit might be something to consider. It comes with a comprehensive software bundle that includes Ableton Live Lite, a full version of Equator, Tracktion Waveform and the Strobe 2 - all easily configured on the ROLI dashboard.
Free IOS Software - NOISE | Play
There are also some great free apps for your iPhone or iPad that pairs with your Lightpad and Seaboard to keep you inspired on the plane, train or automobile. Check them out Here.