This guide will show you how to set up BLOCKS Dashboard so that you can easily use Blocks with GarageBand for MacOS. Lightpad and Seaboard Blocks are bundled with Equator Player, which can easily be loaded into GarageBand, allowing you to record your expressive performances. Additionally, some of GarageBand’s built-in software instruments respond to several of the BLOCKS’ 5 dimensions of touch, excluding Slide. You may also use BLOCKS with GarageBand for iOS.

Short answer

GarageBand is extremely easy to set up with BLOCKS Dashboard.

Using BLOCKS Dashboard load the Note Grid app mode onto your Lightpad Block, or use the default factory settings of your Seaboard Block. In GarageBand, create a software instrument track. Load Equator into this track for full 5D expression, or load one of GarageBand instrument. Play and record as normal. Most instruments in GarageBand will provide full polyphonic expression of dimensions of touch including Strike, Glide, and Press (although not Slide).

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

Detailed answer

Blocks, including the Lightpad Block and Seaboard Block, use multiple channels of MIDI so that each dimension of touch can be expressed polyphonically. BLOCKS Dashboard gives you detailed access to edit the responses and behaviors of Blocks. It is especially useful when setting up Blocks with third-party software, when you may want to select different channel ranges and behaviors to match the specific capabilities of the software.

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 it from your applications/programs folder. 

Connect your Blocks via USB 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 Visualizer, select the Lightpad Block or Seaboard Block you’d like to play with GarageBand.

Lightpad Block

With your Lightpad Block selected, choose the Note Grid app to load it onto your Block. Click “Edit” to edit the app’s settings.

Underneath “Mode,” select “MPE.” This will set the Lightpad Block to a 5×5 note grid with full 5D expression.

If you’d like, you may change the Lightpad’s scale, octave, and other Pitch, Play Mode, or 5D Settings. For example, if you’d like to use a 4×4 drum grid instead, under “Play Mode” select set “Mode” to 4. For using the Lightpad as a drum controller, you might also like to turn “Fixed Velocity” on, and set “Fixed Velocity Level” to 127.

Seaboard Block

To use your Seaboard Block, with it selected in the Visualizer its default app will automatically be loaded. Click “Edit” to edit the settings, and then beneath “Mode” select “MPE.” This will set the Seaboard Block to 5D expression using MPE. If you’d like you may change the Seaboard’s 5D Settings so that its responsiveness suits your playing style.

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 your Block to control.

 

GarageBand instruments

You’ll want to choose an instrument with a pitch bend range of 48 to match the default pitch bend range of the Lightpad and Seaboard Block, or otherwise change the pitch bend range in BLOCKS Dashboard.

GB-SelectSound

Equator

To use Equator in GarageBand, go to:

Track ➝  New Track ➝  Software Instrument

Select the Equator plugin. 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 “Equator.”

Alternatively, to load Equator into an existing track, double-click on the instrument icon in a track, select “Plug-ins,” click on “Instrument,” and then select the Equator plugin:

Again, 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 “Equator.”

Step 3: Equator’s MIDI/MPE Settings

If you’re using Equator, it’s a good idea to check Equator’s MIDI/MPE Settings. By default, they will already match those that we selected in BLOCKS Dashboard in step one. But since a mismatch of settings in Dashboard and Equator can cause silent notes or incorrect pitching, it’s worth double-checking them now.

  1. Open the Equator plugin from your instrument track in GarageBand.
  2. Click on menu (☰) in the top right and select MIDI/MPE Settings.
  3. Ensure that Equator’s MIDI Settings match the ones we set in ROLI Dashboard in Step 1 (by default they should already be correct). Now that Equator is listening for MIDI on the same channels that the Seaboard is sending it, there will be no missing notes.

Step 4: Record

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

Step 5: Edit

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).