With ROLI Dashboard you can use the Seaboard Block or customize the Lightpad Block’s touch-responsive surface to control Ableton Live in a wide variety of ways. This article will show you how to use the Lightpad Block and Seaboard Block as melodic instrument controllers in Ableton. You may also control Ableton Live clips and instruments with the Lightpad Block, and see more guides here


Ableton’s MIDI Preferences 

Go to Preferences → Link MIDI → MIDI Ports.

Ensure that Track and Remote are turned On next to Input: Lightpad Block or Seaboard Block.


Ableton MIDI settings


The Lightpad Block and Seaboard Block use multiple channels of MIDI so that each dimension of touch can be expressed polyphonically.


When Ableton records multiple channels to a single track (MIDI From is set to “All ins”) it sums all of that data to a single channel. This means that dimensions of touch will no longer be polyphonic – modulations would be heard equally on all notes.


To fully unlock the Lightpad and Seaboard Block’s expressive potential in Ableton, you will need multiple MIDI tracks and a multi-timbral instrument in your Ableton Set. Download the attached templates that have created these tracks for you.


ROLI Dashboard Settings

First, launch ROLI Dashboard and connect your Lightpad or Seaboard Block. By scrolling through the list of apps and selecting a program, you can fully customize how your Block behaves, and you can also modify a Lightpad Block’s LED display.


Lightpad Block

If you're using a Lightpad Block, select the "Note Grid" app.


Click on "Edit" to ensure the following "MIDI Settings" are selected:

  • Mode:  MPE
  • MIDI Start Channel: 2
  • MIDI End Channel: 16*
  • MIDI Mode:
    • Select Use MPE: On for a multi-timbral instrument like Equator or Strobe2
    • Select Single Channel for a mono-timbral instrument like Operator
  • Pitch Bend Range: 48

* Smaller channel ranges can be selected. Fewer channels will reduce the number of tracks required in Ableton, but will also reduce the expressive polyphony. More details on selecting the ideal range hereIn this example, we are using a range of 2 – 16 (which will provide 15-voice expressive polyphony) but you can just as easily use 2 – 5 (which will require fewer tracks and provide 4-voice expressive polyphony) if you prefer.



If you'd like you may use the "Pitch," "Play mode," and "5D Touch" options to control the number of pads your Lightpad Block displays, what key and scale it's in, and the responsiveness of the five dimensions of touch.


To use a 5x5 grid of notes, for example, go to "Play mode," and set "Mode" to 5. (You can also scroll through modes via the Lightpad Block's Mode button, and you can adjust the dimensions of touch with an attached Touch Block.)


Seaboard Block

If you're using a Seaboard Block, highlight it in ROLI Dashboard, click "Edit," and make sure the following "MIDI Settings" are selected:

  • Mode: MPE
  • MIDI Start Channel: 2
  • MIDI End Channel: 16*
  • MIDI Mode:
    • Select Use MPE: On for a multi-timbral instrument like Equator or Strobe2
    • Select Single Channel for a mono-timbral instrument like Operator
  • Pitch Bend Range: 48



* Smaller channel ranges can be selected. Fewer channels will reduce the number of tracks required in Ableton, but will also reduce the expressive polyphony. More details on selecting the ideal range hereIn this example, we are using a range of 2 – 16 (which will provide 15-voice expressive polyphony) but you can just as easily use 2 – 5 (which will require fewer tracks and provide 4-voice expressive polyphony) if you prefer.


If you'd like you may use the "Pitch," "Play mode," and "5D Touch" options to transpose or change the Seaboard Block's range and control the responsiveness of the five dimensions of touch. (You can also adjust the dimensions of touch with an attached Touch Block.)


In this guide, we will look at two scenarios of Blocks as melodic instruments, with a multi-timbral instrument like Equator and with a mono-timbral instrument like Live's Operator:

  • Using the Lightpad or Seaboard Block with a multi-timbral software instrument like Equator or Strobe2
  • Using the Lightpad or Seaboard Block with mono-timbral software instrument like Operator

Using the Lightpad or Seaboard Block with a multi-timbral Instrument

See attached Live Templates for Lightpad or Seaboard Block with multi-timbral instrument.


In order to use the Lightpad or Seaboard Block as an expressive controller in Ableton Live, we'll want to create:

  • One host track – this track will have no MIDI inputselected, and will host a multi-timbral plugin like Equator or Strobe2.
  • Several voice tracks – these tracks will not host a plugin, but will receive the global and note channels from the Lightpad or Seaboard Block, and then send them to the host track. You will create several voice tracks according to the channel range you select in ROLI Dashboard in the first step of this guide below.


Step 1: ROLI Dashboard Settings

Ensure ROLI Dashboard settings are set up as shown above.


Step 2: Create host track with a multi-timbral plugin like Equator or Strobe2

  1. From Ableton’s menu click Create ➝ Insert MIDI Track to add a MIDI track to your Set.
  2. Load a multi-timbral plugin such as Strobe2 by dragging it from the plugins list onto the mixer track.
  3. In the MIDI From section of the new track select No Input – this is very important. This track will not be used for recording any MIDI.


No Input Strobe2


You have just created your host track. It will produce the audio from the plugin you've loaded, in this example Strobe2. The Lightpad or Seaboard Block's note data will reach this track on multiple channels via the voice tracks (which we will create in the next step).


Step 3: Select plugin's preset

If using Strobe2, for example, navigate to the MPE factory presets to select the preset of your choice. These presets will instantly respond to the Lightpad and Seaboard Block's dimensions of touch.


Strobe2 5D Preset


If using Equator, select the preset of your choice – all of Equator's presets are optimized for the Lightpad's and Seaboard's five dimensions of touch.


Step 4: Create several voice tracks

Next, we want to create a number of MIDI tracks, which will each receive a separate channel of MIDI from the Lightpad or Seaboard Block.

  1. Just as before, right-click to create a new MIDI track.
  2. Select the first track and use CMD-D (Mac) or CTRL-D (Windows) to duplicate it.
    In this example, we are using a channel range of 2–16. Remembering to include the global channel on channel 1, we will create 16 new tracks in total. If you selected a smaller channel range, you won’t need as many tracks. For example, if you select a range of 2–5, you will create 5 tracks.
  3. On each of these new tracks, set:
    • MIDI From: select the Lightpad Block or Seaboard Block
    • Immediately underneath MIDI From, select a channel for each track to cover your full channel range.
      • The 1st voice track will receive Ch1
      • The 2nd voice track will receive Ch2
      • The 3rd voice track will receive Ch3, etc. until you reach your highest channel.
    • MIDI To: select the host track as the destination.
    • Immediately underneath MIDI To, select the same channel for each track as was selected in MIDI From.
      • The 1st voice track has Ch1 as both MIDI From and MIDI To.
      • The 2nd voice track has Ch2 as both MIDI from and MIDI To.
      • The 3rd voice track has Ch3 as both MIDI from and MIDI To etc. until you have set all of the voice tracks.

LPB_Ableton-Strobe2_VoiceTracks


Step 5: Arm the voice tracks

To quickly arm or unarm the voice tracks, we will use Ableton's key mapping feature.


With all of the voice tracks record-enabled (armed), simply press record. The notes will be spread out over all MIDI tracks and will play through the Strobe2 plugin. 


LPB_Ableton-Strobe2_ArmTracks


If you are creating your own patches in other synths, remember to check that you have set the synth to respond to each of the Lightpad or Seaboard Block’s dimensions of touch in order to unlock the Lightpad Block’s full expressive potential.


Using the Lightpad or Seaboard Block with a mono-timbral Instrument

Operator is a mono-timbral instrument capable of producing one timbre on one channel of MIDI at a time. You’ll need to create a number of identical instances of Operator to access the multi-timbral capabilities of the Lightpad and Seaboard Blocks and take maximal advantage of the polyphonic dimensions of touch.


Step 1: ROLI Dashboard Settings

Ensure that ROLI Dashboard's settings are setup as shown in the attached template.


Step 2: Create your first MIDI track with Operator

Create ➝ Insert MIDI Track to add a MIDI track to your Set. Under MIDI From, select the Lightpad Block Ch. 1 or Seaboard Block Ch. 1.


Load Operator into the track. At this stage you might want to set ROLI Dashboard's Mode to Single Channel so that all of the notes are transmitted on the same channel while you experiment with your patch’s response to the dimensions of touch.


LPB_Ableton_MIDIsetup


Step 3: Operator Parameters

Adjusting a few settings within Operator will allow it to respond to the Strike, Glide, and Press dimensions of touch – Strike corresponding with ‘Velocity’, Press with ‘Aftertouch’, and Glide with ‘Pitch Bend Range’.


Set Polyphony and Pitch Bend

  • Click on the Global Shell area of Operator
  • Set Voices to match the range you set in ROLI Dashboard. In this example, set it to 5.
  • Set the Pitch value to 24


LPB_Ableton_PBR&Voices


Set Velocity and Aftertouch

  • Velocity Connection A to Volume – Set Amount A to 100
  • Velocity Connection B to Tone – Set Amount B to 100
  • Aftertouch Connection A to Volume – Set Amount A to 100
  • Aftertouch Connection B to Tone – Set Amount B to 100

LPB_Ableton_Velocity&Aftertouch


Step 4: Duplicate your MIDI track

Using ⌘–D (Mac), or Ctrl–D (PC), duplicate the first track 4 times and set the channels under MIDI From so that each track receives on a channel from 1–16.

Note: If you have set ROLI Dashboard's Mode to ‘Single Channel’ to build your patch, you can now set it back to ‘Multi’.


LPB_Ableton_DupTracks+MIDIsetup


Step 5: Play

Arm all 5 tracks with ⌘-click (Mac), or shift-click (PC) and play!

If you change your mind about the patch, go to ROLI Dashboard and set Mode back to Single Channel. Preview the patch on track 1, and then you can copy it quickly to the other tracks by duplicating again.

More helpful tips

  • A creator has helpfully made an Ableton script that automates the setup process for MPE instruments like the Seaboard and BLOCKS. Check out this forum post for details.

  • You may set up a templates folder in Ableton Live containing the template project for the Seaboard. If you expand this folder you can just drag the group into any project you currently have open:

  • In Live 10 you can now highlight multiple MIDI tracks and edit them simultaneously. While you can not access any expression data, you can quantize the note data.