Kit lets you make music on the go

What happens when you're on the road and musical inspiration strikes? Now there's a solution...

Musical inspiration is notorious for striking spontaneously, which is wonderful if you are surrounded by instruments, but the reality is that’s rare — especially for travellers.

The ROLI Songmaker Kit aims to solve this with a portable rig that is compatible with laptop software for an on-the-go experience.

Released last year by London-based music technology company ROLI, the Songmaker Kit is equipped with “blocks” that connect magnetically to create a customisable interface.

Included in the package are three main parts: the Seaboard Block, a 24-key pressure-responsive silicone keyboard; the illuminated MIDI touchpad controller Lightblock M; and remote audio workshop controller Loop Block. These are complemented by a generous amount of software options.

Its 5D Touch feature enables users to produce sounds and frequencies depending on the variation of five touch options on the keyboard.

 Putting it simply, there’s Strike (how hard you press); Glide (left to right movement), Slide (up and down movement), Press (how long you hold) and Lift (how quickly you release).

The hardware design is very intuitive and feels surprisingly natural across both the Lightblock and Seaboard, but the Seaboard “keys” are half the size of the spaces between them, so combined with its all-black design, this can result in occasional errors.

Its capabilities distinguish the Seaboard Block from other MIDI controller offerings, and provides new creative opportunities. 

However, these can be more of a novelty than they are practical.

The Songmaker Kit allows the user to fully customise all its features and even switch on fixed velocity to avoid unintentional pitch-bending and infrequency.

If the aim is to give amateur musicians a portable “instrument” with professional features, then the Songmaker Kit can be initially confusing and daunting.

It may just be a little more than the average person needs or wants. 

However, once you get your bearings, it can be fun.

Fact File

The full Songmaker Kit costs about $979. Separately, the Roli Seaboard Block (“keyboard”) is about $519, and the Roli Lightpad Block about $349.


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