Note: this guide will show you how to load BLOCKS using BLOCKS Dashboard into GarageBand. Some but not all of GarageBand’s built-in software instruments respond to several of the BLOCKS’ 5 dimensions of touch, though not Slide.

 

Short answer

GarageBand is extremely easy to set up with BLOCKS Dashboard.

In GarageBand, create a software instrument track. Set your BLOCKS Dashboard mode to either Melodic Block Mode or Drum Block Mode. Play and record as normal. Most instruments in GarageBand will provide full polyphonic expression of dimensions of touch including Strike, Glide, and Press.

Edit the data for the dimensions of touch using GarageBand’s MIDI Draw on a note-by-note basis.

Detailed answer

BLOCKS, just as the Seaboard does, use multiple channels of MIDI  so that each dimension of touch can be expressed polyphonically. BLOCKS Dashboard gives you detailed access to edit the fundamental responses and behaviours of BLOCKS. It is especially useful when setting up BLOCKS with other third-party software, when you may want to select different channel ranges and behaviours for BLOCKS.

GarageBand is compatible with BLOCKS Dashboard because it accommodates multiple MIDI channels on a single track. This means that setting up and recording is just like a normal MIDI controller.

Step 1: BLOCKS Dashboard Settings

Once you’ve downloaded and installed BLOCKS Dashboard, open the program from your applications/programs folder. 

Connect your BLOCKS via USB connection or Bluetooth connection to your computer. Subsequent Blocks can be connected by DNA – simply snap them to the first Block to magnetically connect. Keep in mind that all of your BLOCKS must be updated separately to the current firmware version to work with BLOCKS Dashboard. After you see your BLOCKS setup on the BLOCKS Visualiser, select the option “Browse.”

BLOCKS Dashboard create or load a program

Currently, GarageBand is unable to support MIDI mapping, so you’ll want to select either Melodic Block Mode or Drum Block Mode.

In the example below, you can view the settings for Melodic Block Mode. We’ve chosen “Factory” under the Location, “All” under the Tags due to the fact that we are using multiple BLOCKS, and “Melodic Block Mode” under Programs.  The Melodic Block Mode should be set to “Default” or “MPE Mode,” with Global settings. The MIDI Mode setting on MPE, and the first and last channel note set to 2 and 16, respectively.  You can then adjust your gradient colors as desired.

Melodic Block Mode Settings

In the next example, we’ve chosen Drum Block Mode. Although you can use this in MPE mode as well, we suggest changing your MIDI Mode to Single Channel Mode, as the drums will not receive MPE in the same way melodic instruments do.  As you can see here, most of the settings are the same as with Melodic Block Mode, with the exception of a few extra options that are offered. In this mode, you can also adjust the Base Note, Grid Size, Fixed Strike and Value, Tracking Mode, Press Type, and Slide CC Number and Curve.

BD-DrumBlockGif

Step 2: Create an Instrument Track

Open your GarageBand project. Go to:

Track ➝  New Track ➝  Software Instrument

Select the appropriate Input Device and Output Device. The details should show “1 MIDI Input Detected.” GarageBand may not change the name of the instrument in the new track, so you can change the name by double-clicking on it and typing “BLOCKS Dashboard,” or changing as desired.

GB-CreateTrack

After this, you can choose your specific instrument sound from GarageBand that you want BLOCKS Dashboard to control. (If you’re in MPE Mode, you’ll want to choose an instrument with a pitch bend range of 48 to match the default pitch bend range of the Melodic Block mode or otherwise change the pitch bend range in BLOCKS Dashboard.)

GB-SelectSound

 

Step 3: Record

Now that you have created your instrument track with adjusted settings, just record and playback as normal.

Step 4: Editing

In MPE Mode, BLOCKS transmit each new note on a unique channel so that channel-wide messages like pitch bend can be applied on a polyphonic basis.

Strike (velocity) is recorded as a single value per note and can be edited at the note in GarageBand’s piano roll. The other dimensions of touch are continuous controllers and are edited in GarageBand’s MIDI Draw.

Below is an example of how to edit the Glide dimension (recorded as pitch bend), which you will use to perform vibratos on the playing surface.

  1. Record some MIDI to the instrument track. In this example we have a single note which Glides up, down, and then performs a vibrato.
  2. Double-click the region you want to edit to open the Piano Roll.
  3. Click the MIDI Draw button.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           BDMIDIDraw
  4. In the MIDI Draw track which just opened, click on the drop-down menu under Controller. A list of options will appear, including a section in bold. These are controllers which have been used on this particular track.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               GBPitchBend
  5. Select Pitch Bend.
  6. Now you will see the Pitch Bend data for that note
  7. Edit as normal.
  8. To see other controllers used on this track, click on the button adjacent to the Controllers menu. In this example, we have selected Channel Pressure.

GBChannelPressure

Use the same process to edit Press by selecting Channel Pressure, or Brightness for CC74 (Slide).