CNET First Look
Blocks is a whole new way to create musicNever played a musical instrument before? Not a problem with Blocks, a new high-tech music system by Roli.
[MUSIC] Here's a musical instrument that doesn't require years of lessons to master. In fact you don't need any musical experience to create your own beat. With Blocks. This four by four inch lighted touch pad is a brand new type of music system designed to be friendly for anyone to learn even if you are intimidated by creating your own music. But it also can grow into an advanced tool for professional performances. Here's how Blocks work. The pressure-sensitive, silicon surface shows lights on a grid. Each block represents a different note. Use an app to choose your instrument and sounds and choose a scale. Be it major, minor, or something more advanced. Each scale has its own light pattern. Stay in the lights, and you'll stay in harmony. You can glide between notes, bending the pitch, and sliding into the next note just by dragging a finger. Sounds respond to how hard you press down. Make a beat, save it to a loop, switch instruments or sounds, and keep layering beats on top of one another. [MUSIC] At launch there are 120 sounds available through the online network noise.fm. The site is also where you'll find a community of other artist sharing their tunes. Even well known musicians like Rhymes, Steve Aoki, and Riza are contributing and making their own sound pack. If you download someone else's performance, the app lights up to show you how the person hit the notes. So you can play along to learn, or even remix their work. And about that app. It's called Noise, it's a free download in the Apple App Store. So if you're curious about Blocks, you can try the app before buying the whole setup. Blocks is a creation of London based company Roli Previously, Rollie put a new spin on the keyboard with an instrument called the C board. Blocks takes that concept and packs it down into a square light grid. The light pad block in the app is all you need to get started. But you can magnetically snap on more blocks for more control. Including two smaller ones with short cut buttons. They attach to any of the four sides. The main light pad block costs about $180 or 170 pounds in the UK. The smaller controlled pad blocks will run about $80 or 70 pounds each. There is another cost Cost you may not realize. It requires an iPad or iPhone to play the music. There is no audio output on the block, it's sending the sound to the app over Bluetooth, which in this demo, was playing through a speaker. And if you want to save and share your creation with others, you're only able to do so in the noise.fm network. But the creators say additional sharing and saving functions are planned for future updates. There's also no Android app but that's coming eventually. For now, it's just for iOS, and Apple is the exclusive retail outlet for Blocks. For cnet, I'm Bridget Carey. [MUSIC]