Bitwig is a very compatible DAW for recording and editing the BLOCKS’ multi-dimensional MIDI data. Setting up is very simple, and Bitwig’s own instruments are MPE compatible so full BLOCKS expressivity is easy to achieve.
BLOCKS Dashboard allows you to use every element of BLOCKS. You can modify the layout, control the parameters and much more.
In this guide we’ll look at how to set up BLOCKS with BLOCKS Dashboard to play in Bitwig, and how to fine-tune Bitwig’s built-in instruments to respond to each of the Blocks’ dimensions of touch.
BLOCKS uses multiple channels of MIDI to achieve polyphonic dimensions of touch. Bitwig is very compatible with BLOCKS because it accommodates multiple MIDI channels on a single track which can host a multi-timbral plug-in like Equator. Bitwig’s built-in instruments can also be easily set up to respond to BLOCKS’ dimensions of touch.
Step 1: Set up your Block in BLOCKS Dashboard
With your Lightpad or Seaboard Block connected to your computer, launch BLOCKS Dashboard.
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.
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 a Bitwig project.
- Create ➝ Instrument Track.
- Select a multi-timbral plug-in. In this example we’re using Equator.
- When using Bitwig with Strobe2, SWAM or other third-party instruments, remember to Force MPE Mode.
Step 3: Select the ROLI Seaboard/RISE in Preferences
Click on Bitwig’s header on the top center of your session screen.
Go to Settings➝ Controllers. Click on “Add controller manually”➝ ROLI “Seaboard RISE”➝ Lightpad / Seaboard Block.
Step 4: Select the track’s MIDI Input
In the Inspector panel, select the Lightpad or Seaboard Block as the MIDI input. Now that you have finished setting up your Block to control multi-timbral synths, you can play and record as normal.
Step 5: Changing your Equator sound
You can open the Equator plug-in window to edit the sound by pressing the small icon of the plug-in in the Device panel at the bottom of the screen.
Can’t see the device panel shown above? Click this icon at the very bottom of the window to show Bitwig’s device panel:
The Lightpad Block can be used in a variety of ways in Bitwig. Whether it’s set to XYZ Pad mode, Fader Block mode, or Melodic Block mode, your Lightpad Block can be set for performing instruments, controlling faders, and much more.
- Go to BLOCKS Dashboard
- Highlight your Lightpad Block in the visualizer
- Select the XYZ Pad app to load it onto your Lightpad
Assigning 4 different instruments:
Bitwig assigns MIDI CC messages to parameters by “Map to controller or key” function. (also known as MIDI Learn). In this example, we’ll assign 4 different instruments simultaneously to the XY Instrument, one to each corner. This is a very powerful sound design tool, but the Lightpad Block adds another dimension, “Z”, with pressure. To set up the Lightpad Block in Bitwig as an XYZ Pad:
- Select “XYZ Pad” in BLOCKS Dashboard.
- Create an Instrument Track in Bitwig.
- Insert an XY Instrument by clicking the “white” button inside the Instrument Track.
- Click “A, B, C and D” to insert each an instrument by clicking the blue “+” button.
Preparing BLOCKS Dashboard to map MIDI CC in Bitwig:
Use Bitwig’s “Map to Controller or Key” function to assign each XYZ Pad axis to a parameter. To avoid any confusion when mapping each parameter to its respective axis, use the following process:
First, set “Send” to “X,” so that only the X dimension is set. Sending only one parameter at a time will make MIDI mapping easy.
Next, create an XY Effect➝ Select the parameter in Bitwig you wish to modulate➝ Right Click on “X”➝ Touch the Lightpad Block, and you’ll see the parameter’s knob move. Finally, click “Stop Mapping” to finalize the mapping assignment.
In BLOCKS Dashboard, set “Send” to “Y.”
Select the parameter in Bitwig you wish to modulate➝ Right Click on “Y”➝ Now touch the Lightpad Block, and you’ll see the parameter’s knob move. Finally, click “Stop Mapping” to finalize the mapping assignment.
Then, in BLOCKS Dashboard, set “Send” to “Z.”.
Create any Audio Effect (e.g., Reverb)➝ Select the parameter in Bitwig you wish to modulate➝ Right Click on “Z”➝ Now touch the Lightpad Block, and you’ll see the parameter’s knob move. Finally, click “Stop Mapping” to finalize the mapping assignment.
Finally, in BLOCKS Dashboard set “Send” to “All.”
Melodic Block Mode:
This mode sets your Lightpad Block to a 5×5 grid of notes with the addition of the dimensions of touch. Once you create an Instrument Track, you are ready to perform.
Fader Block mode allows you to map and control parameters in Bitwig using your Lightpad Block. You’ll be able to map volume and pan settings, delay and filter settings, and a variety of other parameters to your Lightpad Block. In this example, we’ll use the Fader Block mode to allow you to control the step sequencer in Bitwig. This tool can control filter adjustments over time in rhythmic sequence.
- Create Instrument Track in Bitwig.
- Select the “Fader Block Mode” in BLOCKS Dashboard.
- Insert Step Mod by pressing the white “+” button on the Instrument Track.
- Right-click on each step and choose “Map to Controller or Key”.
Forcing MPE Mode
Some plugins, like Strobe2, require Bitwig to “force MPE mode.” If you’ve loaded an MPE-compatible plugin but it is not responding to 5D touch, in Bitwig’s Instrument Track panel right-click on the plugin name, and then select “Force MPE Mode”:
Setting Bitwig’s built-in instruments to respond to the Lightpad’s dimension’s of touch
Assigning modulation in Bitwig’s built-in instruments is very simple. Just click on the modulator, then click and drag on the parameter you wish to modulate. In the following examples, we have loaded Bitwig’s PolySynth and are editing it in the Device panel at the bottom of the screen.
Strike is recognized by Bitwig as “VEL”.
Click VEL to start mapping. The available parameters will highlight green. Click and drag on the parameter to set the modulation amount, then click VEL again to finish mapping.
Press is recognized by Bitwig as “PRES”.
Click PRES to start mapping. The available parameters will highlight green. Click and drag on the parameter to set the modulation amount, then click PRES again to finish mapping.
Slide is recognized by Bitwig as “TIMB”.
Click TIMB to start mapping. The available parameters will highlight green. Click and drag on the parameter to set the modulation amount, then click TIMB again to finish mapping.
Lift is recognized by Bitwig as “REL”.
Click REL to start mapping. The available parameters will highlight green. Click and drag on the parameter to set the modulation amount, then click REL again to finish mapping.