Native Instruments’ Reaktor is a powerful and flexible software environment for creating, modifying, and playing synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, drum machines, effects, and more. With just a bit of programming you can easily integrate BLOCKS into your Reaktor ensembles. (Click here if you’d like to use the Seaboard RISE and GRAND with Reaktor.)
Several uploads in the Reaktor User Library include support for MPE. The “Midi Polyphonic Expression” Reaktor Block, for example, allows you to use eight MPE channels in a Reaktor Blocks patch. Simply use BLOCKS Dashboard to edit the behavior of your Lightpad or Seaboard Block, setting MPE mode to ON and a Channel Range of 2–9.
The ROLI Seaboard Aggregator includes support for up to 10 channels of MPE data, and MultiExp uses this to pair it with a semi-modular synth in an ensemble designed for MPE instruments like the Seaboard and Lightpad Blocks.
This tutorial will introduce a new Reaktor instrument that supports all of the Seaboard and Lightpad Blocks’ MPE channels. We’ll pair this instrument to a simple subtractive synthesizer, showing how to incorporate the Seaboard and Lightpad Blocks into your Reaktor creations.
Step 1: BLOCKS Dashboard Settings
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 use with Reaktor.
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.
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: Receive and route the Block’s MPE data
Reaktor makes it easy to control synthesizers polyphonically, although to use it with the Lightpad and Seaboard Blocks we’ll need to first receive and interpret the Block’s MPE data. To do this, we’ll create a new macro (although it’s called “Seaboard” you may also use it with the Lightpad):
This macro includes several instruments. One instrument receives MIDI Channel 1 of the Block’s data; this is the Global Channel, which Blocks use to transmit Global Messages (for instance, if you have an additional Lightpad Block in “RISE Controllers” mode). The macro’s other instruments each receive one of the remaining fifteen MIDI channels (2–16), which Blocks use to transmit notes and their accompanying 5D Touch data. The macro combines the 5D Touch information from these MIDI channels and assigns each note’s expressive data to one of fifteen voices in the Reaktor ensemble.
This macro outputs the following information across 15 Reaktor voices:
- Slide (CC74)
- Glide (pitch bend)
- Press (Aftertouch)
- Strike (Gate)
- Lift (Release Velocity)
Additionally, the macro has outputs for the following:
- CC107 (Left Touch Fader)
- CC109 (Center Touch Fader)
- CC111 (Right Touch Fader)
- CC114 (XY Touchpad, X)
- CC113 (XY Touchpad, Y)
To use these outputs with an additional Lightpad Block, use BLOCKS Dashboard to load the “RISE Controller” app onto the Lightpad Block. This will allow your Lightpad to mimic the Touch Faders and XY Touchpad of the Seaboard RISE.
Finally, if you have an additional MIDI device with a sustain pedal attached, you may use the corresponding sustain pedal output:
- CC64 (Sustain pedal)
Step 3: Map the Block’s data to a synthesizer
Now that we have received and routed the Block’s data in our Reaktor ensemble, we can map it to a synthesizer.
We’ve chosen a simple subtractive synthesizer using a few basic Reaktor modules, including a Sawtooth oscillator, a Ladder Filter, and an ADSR Envelope. We’ve set the ensemble to use 15 voices so that the ensemble will respond to each of the Block’s MPE channels.
By using basic multiplication and addition modules we can easily map the Block’s 5D Touch to expressively control our simple synthesizer. For this demo ensemble:
- Strike controls amplitude
- Press controls amplitude and filter resonance
- Glide and pitch control the current note pitch
- Slide controls filter cutoff frequency
- Lift controls the envelope’s release time
Also, we’ve edited the “Connect” tab for each fader (“P Cutoff,” “Res,” “Attack,” “Release”) to directly control these parameters with an additional Lightpad Block with the RISE Controllers app loaded in BLOCKS Dashboard.
Finally, to sweeten up the sound we’ve put in a couple of Reaktor’s built-in effects, Chorus and Tape-ish Delay.
Use your Lightpad or Seaboard Blocks to play this ensemble and hear how your gestures can control this simple synthesizer expressively.
Step 4: Create your own Reaktor ensembles for the Lightpad and Seaboard Block!
Armed with the Seaboard macro and a few pointers, you’re now ready to add BLOCKS support to your own Reaktor ensembles!