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 the BLOCKS with BLOCKS Dashboard to play in Bitwig, and also 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
Go to Option➝ Preferences.
Go to Settings➝ Controllers and cselect “Add controller manually”➝ ROLI “Seaboard RISE”➝ Lightpad/Seaboard Block.
Step 4: Select the track’s MIDI Input
In the Inspector panel, select the Seaboard as the MIDI input. Now that you have finished setting up your Lightpad 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:
Changing your Modes
In addition to playing instruments, you can use the surface of the Lightpad Block as an XYZ Pad mode, Melodic Block mode (5×5 grid) and Fader Block mode. These modes allow you to record a loop playing notes on one Lightpad Block using the Melodic Block Mode and at the same time use another Lightpad Block using the XYZ Pad or the Fader Block mode to simultaneously control the sound. You can use the Fader Block Mode to modulate a sound that you have recorded to control the change of the filter changes over time in a rhythmic way. This is how you can change your Modes:
- Go to BLOCKS Dashboard.
- Click on “Factory” under “Locations”.
- Click on “Lightpad Block” under “Tags”.
- Choose “XYZ Pad mode” inside “Programs”.
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 use LPB in Bitwig with XYZ Pad, please follow these instructions:
- Select “XYZ Pad Mode” in BLOCKS Dashboard.
- Create an Instrument Track inside Bitwig.
- Insert an XY Instrument by clicking the left “+” button inside the Instrument Track.
- Click “A, B, C and D” to insert each an instrument by clicking the right “+” button.
Preparing BLOCKS Dashboard beta to map MIDI CCs in Bitwig:
We will use Bitwig’s “Map to Controller or Key” function to assign each XYZ Pad axis to a parameter, since a single touch XYZ mode will send out 3 messages simultaneously. This can confuse Bitwig and could send each of the XYZ Pad modes CCs to the same MIDI CC. To avoid this confusion, you can use the following process to map the XYZ Pad to Bitwig:
First, set each of the XYZ Pad’s CCs to the default CC for X, CC 113.
Next, create an XY Effect➝ Select the parameter in Bitwig you wish to modulate➝ Click on “X”➝ Now touch the Lightpad Block, and you should see the parameter’s knob move. Finally, click “Stop Mapping” to finalize the mapping assignment.
Set each of the XYZ Pad’s CCs to the default CC for Y, CC 114.
Select the parameter in Bitwig you wish to modulate➝ Click on “Y”➝ Now touch the Lightpad Block, and you should see the parameter’s knob move. Finally, click “Stop Mapping” to finalize the mapping assignment.
Then, set each of the XYZ Pad’s CCs to the default CC for Z, CC 115.
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 should see the parameter’s knob move. Finally, click “Stop Mapping” to finalize the mapping assignment.
Final step➝ Set the XYZ CCs back in BLOCKS Dashboard beta to their defaults.
This mode sets your Lightpad Block to a 5×5 grid of notes with the added expressiveness of 5D touch. Once you create an Instrument Track you are ready to perform.
Faders – How to Modulate a Parameter:
Fader Block mode lets you modulate a sound that you have recorded to control the changes in audio effects. In this example, we’ll use the Fader Block mode with the Lightpad Block to allow you to control the step sequencer in Bitwig. This tool can control the filter parameters over time in a rhythmic way.
- Create Instrument Track in Bitwig.
- Select the “Fader Block Mode” on BLOCKS Dashboard beta.
- Insert Step Mod by pressing the white “+” button on 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 recognised by Bitwig as “VEL”.
Click VEL to start mapping. The available parameters will highlight blue. Click and drag on the parameter to set the modulation amount, then click VEL again to finish mapping.
Press is recognised by Bitwig as “PRES”.
Click PRES to start mapping. The available parameters will highlight blue. Click and drag on the parameter to set the modulation amount, then click PRES again to finish mapping.
Slide is recognised by Bitwig as “TMB”.
Click TMB to start mapping. The available parameters will highlight blue. Click and drag on the parameter to set the modulation amount, then click TMB again to finish mapping.