ROLI BLOCKS — your wireless modular touch controller

ROLI is a company that doesn’t care for convention. While others may be content with doing things in an established way, ROLI takes those established ways and takes them a few steps further. We’ve seen next level keyboards like the Seaboard RISE, but now ROLI has taken a look at the way people make music, in particular with grid controllers. And applying their outside the box thinking, they’ve come up with BLOCKS (not to be confused with Novation Blocs), a modular touch approach utilising iOS devices as a base.

Words follow, and just enough of them:

ROLI launches BLOCKS, an affordable LEGO-like music creation system for everyone, at Apple Stores around the world

LondonROLI, the music technology innovator, today launches BLOCKS, the most accessible and scalable music creation system ever made.

ROLI BLOCKS is a modular music studio that opens up the world of music-making to everyone. Each individual Block offers unique capabilities that let people create music in simple but far-reaching ways. The Blocks connect together to create customizable kits that suit any budget, skill level, and musical style. With a click of magnetic connectors, music-makers can now build their instruments as they go.

Renowned artists including Grimes, Steve Aoki, and RZA are already making music on BLOCKS and creating signature soundpacks for BLOCKS musicians. Grimes — a composer, producer, and global superstar whose sound is redefining pop music — said, “ROLI BLOCKS will democratize music production. It’s so intuitive and versatile. I’m always on the go, and BLOCKS is the most powerful mobile production tool I’ve ever used.”

Three Blocks launch today. The Lightpad Block features a tactile, glowing surface that lets people shape music through presses, glides, and other natural gestures. The Live Block and Loop Block have controls that make it even easier to perform and produce in real time. BLOCKS is powered by NOISE, a free music app for iPhone and iPad that is now available at the App Store. NOISE connects to BLOCKS wirelessly over Bluetooth, becoming the system’s sound engine as well as a standalone app.

Roland Lamb, founder and CEO of ROLI, and inventor of BLOCKS, said, “Many areas of life have been transformed by the digital. Music, though, remains a universal language that everyone understands, but only a few can speak. BLOCKS will change that, and enable people around the world to experience the joy of music-making for the first time.”

The Lightpad Block, Live Block, and Loop Block are exclusively available at,, and Apple Stores around the world. With a Lightpad Block retailing at $179 (£169.95) and the Live Block and Loop Block at $79 (£69.95), BLOCKS is extraordinarily affordable as well as powerful.

ROLI celebrates today with an event at the Steel Yard in London. Roland Lamb’s keynote address and the world’s first BLOCKS performance will be live-streamed on ROLI’s Facebook page at 1800 GMT on November 1.

The launch caps an important year for ROLI, which has emerged as a leader in music technology innovation. The award-winning Seaboard RISE, a reinvention of the piano that has redefined the expressive capability of electronic instruments, has been adopted by a range of artists from Stevie Wonder to Meghan Trainor. ROLI acquired FXpansion, a London-based maker of audio software and virtual instruments, in September 2016.

Visit and watch BLOCKS films to see and hear how this modular music studio will give everyone a musical voice.

ROLI BLOCKS — your wireless modular touch controller


For the record, I’m going with BLOCKS as a singular concept, so “BLOCKS is…” rather than “BLOCKS are…” in my writing.

ROLI is clearly switched on when it comes to PR and marketing, and has included a liberal amount of VIP hyperbole into their launch. But let’s get down to what’s going on here.

BLOCKS is a series of hardware controllers that requires the free iOS based NOISE app (which can be used on its own too) to run. Running wirelessly, the Lightpad Block is the workhorse, and is supplemented by the more conventional Live and Loop Blocks for more hands on control of music creation. Blocks can also be magnetically hooked up together to make longer keyboard style controllers, or larger grid controllers too.

The Lightpad is very much what ROLI is about. It works in what ROLI calls 5D, so you can hit it just like a pad, and then move side to side as well as up and down for pitch and modulation, as well as having pressure sensitivity on pressing and releasing. This is what ROLI is good at, and I’m really happy to see their knowledge applied to a pad based workflow.

Having played with the NOISE app a little this morning, ROLI is clearly switched on to the creative possibilities of using all dimensions in hardware and software too. Having just got an iPhone 7, this was my first experience of 3D touch, and it works incredibly well. The free app comes with a selection of sounds and styles and is ready to record with. Adding BLOCKS will just make life that little bit easier for music creation. Impressive stuff.


I think that the execution of the BLOCKS concept is first class in every single aspect. But touch tech has proved itself to be less than popular in the past, hence why controllers tend to have actual physical controls and velocity sensitive pads with specific functions. And these usually hook up to more substantial desktop apps too, as mobile apps and devices are still viewed with suspicion by pros.

That said, BLOCKS isn’t perhaps aimed first and foremost at pros as a pro level tool, and appears to be more suited to people wanting to get into creating music with their iOS devices. The Apple Store hookup indicates that ROLI doesn’t really need the expertise of the pro audio retail chain handling these and will leave Apple staff to fill in the gaps that ROLI’s expansive media doesn’t cover to a level that most people will be happy with.

At this point, I feel that BLOCKS is a great sketchpad for ideas. The interface has certainly stripped away much of the clutter from screens and hardware often associated with music creation and appears to integrate perfectly with the Blocks themselves. They are perfect partners and sit very well together inside ROLI’s beautifully crafted ecosystem.

Time will tell if BLOCKS is something that DJs will take to. As our basic workflow is playing other people’s music, it’s hard to see how the deeper functions of these could fit into our world. If the hardware is MIDI, and the ROLI 5D magic can be used with DJ software then it’s all good. And if we can load our own sounds into NOISE, then I see scope for creativity.


BLOCKS is available from ROLI directly and Apple Stores. The Lightpad Block is £169.95/$179 and the Live and Loop Blocks are £69.95/$79.