What is Seaboard 5D?
Seaboard 5D is a free performance-oriented “player” app that brings the Seaboard's five dimensions of touch to iOS devices in the form of an expressive synthesizer. You can use it on its own, playing on the touch screen, or with a Seaboard RISE controller connected over Bluetooth. Download it free from the App Store.
For more features, including recording, looping, drum kits, sharing, remixing, check out our free mobile app NOISE for iOS and Google Pixel. Note that Seaboard 5D and NOISE are separate apps, and soundpacks are not transferable from one to the other.
This is Seaboard 5D’s default start-up screen:
You can play notes by pressing on the keys as you would do on a normal keyboard.
But once you’ve struck a key, you can also move left & right to change the pitch, or up & down to change the tone. These are some of the unique features the Seaboard RISE and BLOCKS offer, allowing you to play more expressively than on a normal piano keyboard.
And if you have an iPhone 6S or 6S+ or newer, the app uses 3D Force technology to detect how hard you are pressing, to make sounds louder or softer, or change the timbre in other ways.
The name of the current preset appears on the top bar:
Press the left arrow to play the previous sound in the library, or the right arrow to play the next sound.
Press the preset name itself to bring up the browser: this allows you to see all your presets in one place and move through them quickly.
Press on the preset name at the top, or double-tap a given preset, to return to the main player view.
Additional presets can be purchased through the Apple iTunes store by pressing the shopping basket button on the top right corner:
Use the “Restore Purchases” button if you are installing the app on a new phone and you had previously purchased sound packs. Alternatively simply “Buy” a sound pack again if you had already purchased it, the Apple store will allow you to download the sound pack again without charging you twice. Note that Seaboard 5D and NOISE are separate apps, and soundpacks are not transferable from one to the other.
When playing on-screen, Seaboard 5D aims to provide the same controls as can be found on the Seaboard RISE hardware controller. These include options to switch octave, a sustain pedal, an XY Touchpad to modify sounds, and three Touch Faders assigned to macros that modify the sound. These controls can be accessed by pressing the circular icon for the settings menu.
Press Control 1 or Control 2 for different layouts.
Choose the number of keys displayed by the on-screen keyboard from 13 = 1 octave, to 25 = 2 octaves.
These options allow you best tailor the on-screen playing experience to your needs.
Five dimensions of expressivity
ROLI’s Seaboard technology allows you to play more expressively than using a standard piano or synth keyboard. Not only can you strike & release keys, but you can also control sustained notes by changing the pressure, or sliding your fingers up or down, or gliding left and right to change the pitch.
All your touches are visualised on the screen using the same colours as the knobs above:
- Strike: The velocity and force with which a finger makes contact with a keywave.
- Press: The pressure and continuous touch applied to the keywave after the initial Strike
- Glide: Horizontal movements from side to side on a keywave or along the ribbons.
- Slide: Vertical movements up and down a keywave.
- Lift: The release velocity or speed of liftoff from a keywave.
These 5 knobs above allow you to change the sensitivity of the RISE controller or touch screen.
- Strike: changes how hard you have to strike the note to reach all the way from soft to loud. If you set this all the way to 0 then there is no strike sensitivity, similar to an organ or maybe a harpsichord keyboard.
- Press: allows you to adjust how hard you need to press the keyboard or screen. If you turn this down to 0 there is no pressure sensitivity.
- Glide: this is a very important control and determines how much the keyboard will help you play in tune. If you turn it all the way to 0, the keyboard becomes like a piano, it always plays in tune, you have no vibrato, and sliding your finger from left to right will trigger new notes at the correct pitch – give it a try! If you turn it further up, you change how quickly the synthesiser will glide from note to note, allowing you to play vibratos and glides, whilst eventually always ending perfectly tuned to the exact note. If you you turn it all the way up, there is no pitch correct, and the keyboard acts like a theremin, allowing you play notes at any frequency – you may find this very difficult to play accurately!
- Slide: this knob determines how far you need to slide your finger up & down to change the sound. At its minimum value of 0, there is no slide. At low values it is extremely sensitive, whilst at high values you need to slide the entire length of a key.
- Lift: here you can adjust how sensitive the keyboard is to how quickly you release a key. This may subtly affect how certain presets change when you remove your finger from the keyboard, such as on a harpsichord or guitar for example.
If you have connected your RISE via Bluetooth to the app, these controls will mirror exactly the Pressure, Glide & Slide faders on the RISE itself.
Macros: M1, M2 & M3
On the left of Seaboard 5D’s top-bar are three controls labelled M1, M2, and M3.
These are macros or modifiers that alter the sound of each preset. Since the range of presets is so varied, they do quite different things to each sound. The best way to find out is to try it!
Change the value of each macro by pressing and dragging from the centre, or tap in the center to view the macro as a fader.
Connecting to the Seaboard RISE or an external controller
There are two ways of connecting an external controller to the app: Bluetooth or USB. The app has been optimized to work with a large selection of possible controllers, including ROLI’s Seaboard RISE which can access all the features.
Connecting via Bluetooth
This is the preferred method of connection, allowing you to play the app with your RISE without any tangle of cables.
- Press the circular settings button on the top right of the screen, then press “Connect” to scan the list of available Bluetooth devices.
- Unplug the USB cable from the RISE itself. The power button will flash blue each second to indicate that the controller is now discoverable over Bluetooth.
- Pick the device you want to connect to from the app’s Bluetooth selector
- The Bluetooth button will turn blue when the connection is successful:
Connecting via USB
You will most likely need a USB to Lightning converter, this is sold by Apple under the name “Camera Connection Kit”. For some devices (such as the Seaboard) an additional powered USB hub may be required.
MIDI is the industry standard protocol for connecting controllers to synthesizers. More sophisticated instruments such as the Seaboard RISE use an extension to MIDI called MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) to provide additional gestures such as polyphonic glide, pressure and slide. MPE uses standard MIDI messages over multiple MIDI channels in order to provide completely independent polyphonic control.
Once your controller is connected, press “MIDI Set-up” from the settings menu to access the detailed configuration menu, there are three possible modes of operation:
Multi-Channel & MPE On
This is the recommended mode for the RISE or other MPE-enabled controllers. You can set the number of channels available to MPE from 2 to 16, and MPE will reserve one channel for global messages (pitch-bend for example) that affect all notes played.
Multi-Channel & MPE Off
This mode is provided for compatibility with older devices, the main difference is that there is no MPE Global channel, so you can use the full range of channels 1 through 16.
This mode is provided for standard non-MPE controllers, or other monophonic expressive controllers, such as wind instruments. In this mode you simply pick the one MIDI channel the instrument will be using.
Pitch Bend Range
In all modes you can configure the pitch bend range in octaves. This not only determines how far you can glide on the keyboard, but also how the pitch-bend messages received from the controller are scaled.
Program Change Messages
Pressing the previous & next preset buttons on the RISE control panel will change the preset in the app. But Seaboard 5D will also accept program change messages from other controllers. If there is no program with the number requested, an error will be briefly displayed and the current preset will not be changed.
This button will stop the synth from producing any sound. This may be helpful if there is radio interference with MIDI messages.
If Seaboard 5D switches to monophonic mode
Seaboard 5D uses dynamic voice allocation to occasionally reduce polyphony (how many notes can be played simultaneously) to prevent your phone or tablet’s CPU from crashing. As Seaboard 5D offers constant modulation of all five dimensions of touch on a multi-channel and fully polyphonic basis, this requires more resources than the average audio app, and is quite a lot for a little phone or tablet to handle.
Instead of allowing the processor to crash (and make you miss your incoming text!) Seaboard 5D reduces the polyphony when the load on the CPU is too high. If this happens a lot, try closing other apps and re-opening Seaboard 5D.
Are there recording and looping functions?
Seaboard 5D is a performance instrument which does not have any looping or recording functions and doesn’t connect to other software such as DAWs. You can record the audio directly from your iOS devices’s audio outputs.
For looping and recording functions, please check out our free mobile app NOISE.
We hope you enjoy playing Seaboard 5D, whether on-screen, or as a sound generator for your MPE-compatible controller or Seaboard RISE. Each of the built-in and expansion presets has been carefully crafted to make the most of the expressive possibilities of ROLI’s Seaboard RISE technology, and can be further modified by the built-in macros & XY TouchPad. We wish you much enjoyment with our products.
If you have any questions, our support team is available online and can be contacted here.