Kontakt is a multi-timbral software sampler by Native Instruments. BLOCKS Dashboard allows easy integration between BLOCKS and Kontakt. This article will show you how to use the Lightpad Block or Seaboard Block as a melodic instrument controller with Kontakt.

BLOCKS Dashboard Settings

Lightpad Block
  1. First, connect your Lightpad Block via USB or (on MacOS) Bluetooth.
  2. Next, launch BLOCKS Dashboard.
  3. In BLOCKS Dashboard, select the Note Grid app to load it onto your Lightpad.
  4. Kontakt has a maximum pitch bend range of +/- 12 semitones, so make sure to set your Lightpad Block’s pitch bend range to the same in BLOCKS Dashboard:
    • Once the Note Grid app is loaded, ensure that the following setting is selected under “MIDI Settings”:
      • Pitch Bend Range: 12
Seaboard Block
  1. First, connect your Seaboard Block via USB or (on MacOS) Bluetooth.
  2. Next, launch BLOCKS Dashboard.
  3. In BLOCKS Dashboard, select your Seaboard Block. It will automatically load the current MIDI settings.
  4. Kontakt has a maximum pitch bend range of +/- 12 semitones, so make sure to set your Seaboard Block’s pitch bend range to the same in BLOCKS Dashboard:
    • With the Seaboard Block selected, select under “MIDI Settings”:
      • Pitch Bend Range: 12

How do I set up Kontakt?

Kontakt is multi-timbral and is able to perform the polyphonic expressions of Glide and Slide by receiving each MIDI channel from the Block on an individual module. Each Kontakt module will produce only one note at a time, so that pitch-wide MIDI messages like pitch bend and CCs can be expressed polyphonically.

Step 1: Single Channel Mode

We’ll load an instrument and make it respond to the Lightpad or Seaboard Block’s dimensions of touch. Later, we will duplicate the instrument to receive multiple channels.

To make this easier, first set BLOCKS Dashboard‘s MIDI Settings to:

  • MIDI Start Channel: 1
  • MIDI End Channel: 1
  • Use MPE: off

BLOCKS-Dashboard-MIDI-Settings-Single-Channel-PBR-12

Now all notes will be sent on channel 1, which makes previewing sounds easy but doesn’t allow for polyphonic expression of the dimensions of touch.

Step 2: Make Kontakt’s instrument respond

Open up Kontakt and load an instrument. You’ll notice that initially it only responds to Strike, and that Glide is not polyphonic.

Glide is not yet polyphonic because we are only using one channel (BLOCKS Dashboard is in Single Channel mode). Glide is transmitted as pitch bend, which is a channel-wide message. It will affect all notes played on that channel when sending it to one instrument module in Kontakt.

Now, refine the patch to respond to the Block’s dimensions of touch. Each dimension of touch is transmitted as a standard MIDI message. For instance:

  • Strike is transmitted as velocity.
  • Press is transmitted as aftertouch.
  • Glide is transmitted as Pitchbend.
  • Slide is transmitted by CC74.
  • Lift is transmitted as release velocity.

Open the Editor area on your patch by clicking the tool icon:

Kontakt spanner icon

Edit all groups

Many Kontakt instruments have multiple layers of samples, so make sure that you have selected ‘Edit all groups’ before you start routing modulation, otherwise the effects will only be heard on certain layers.

Kontakt edit all groups

Adding modulators

Now you’re ready to add Modulators, which will send the Lightpad or Seaboard Block’s MIDI messages to various parameters in the Kontakt instrument.

Kontakt click to add modulators

Modulators are added under the “Mod” tab of each section, and will have different routing options depending on which section they are attached to. For example, to send pitch bend messages, to the instrument’s pitch, we will add a Mod in the “Source” section.

Setting pitch bend range (Glide)

Glide is transmitted as pitch bend. Kontakt has a maximum pitch bend range of +/- 12 semitones. Earlier we set BLOCKS Dashboard’s Pitch Bend Range to 12 semitones, so now set your Kontakt instrument to the same in the “Source” modulators.

animated gif setting Kontakt's pitch bend range to 12 semitones

Each modulator has a drop-down menu to select the source of the modulation (pitch bend) and the destination (pitch).  The available destinations depend on where the Modulator has been added. A fader in the centre of each modulator controls the magnitude of effect that the source has on the destination.

Note: some instruments by default have a limited up or down pitch bend range. To use the full pitch bend range, you may go to the Multi Rack view, select the Options tab, and under “PB Range” drag the “Down” and “Up” knobs to -12 and 12 respectively:

CC74 (Slide) – In this example we will also set Slide to a filter, but you can use it to modulate any parameter that Kontakt allows. Slide is transmitted as CC74, and uses a starting value of 64 (central). So add a modulator with these settings:

Slide in Kontakt setup correctly
Kontakt add FX and mod for CC74

Using the same method, we can add more modulators to respond to:

Velocity (Strike) – most Kontakt instruments will by default assign to volume.

In the example below we’ll select mono aftertouch as a source and the cutoff of a filter as the destination.

Kontakt add FX and mod

Kontakt patches are automatically velocity sensitive and will respond to Strike by playing a sound louder or quieter dependent upon how hard a keywave is struck. In addition, velocity can be used to modulate other parameters in Kontakt. If you want to assign velocity to other parameters:

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 11.29.41 AM

Release velocity (Lift) – In the example below, Lift is sent to “drive” on a distortion FX unit.

  1. Go to Group Insert FX.
  2. Click on Add FX.
  3. Select Effects.
  4. Select Distortion.
  5. Drive” Knob will appear.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 11.33.29 AM

Step 3: Duplicate that module

Once you are happy that your patch responds to the Lightpad or Seaboard Block, save it as a patch, and load in several more of the same module with that patch loaded. Set each module to its own unique input channel. The number of modules you use determines the polyphony of your patch with your Block.

Kontakt set channel

For example, you might create 4 modules for 4-voice polyphony. The first would receive Channel 1, the next Channel 2, then Channel 3 and the last Channel 4.

Step 4: Multi-Channel Mode

Now that your Kontakt patches are ready to respond to the Lightpad or Seaboard Block’s dimensions of touch on a polyphonic basis, you can set BLOCKS Dashboard‘s Channel Range according to the number of channels you have used.  For example, if you have created a patch of 4 modules for 4-voice polyphony, set:

  • MIDI Start Channel: 1
  • MIDI End Channel: 4

Step 5: Make music!