ROLI Seaboard RISE: Everything You Need To Know


Whether you're a MIDI nerd, a keyboard player, or just someone who likes making cool sounds, you should definitely be taking advantage of the Creative Technology Center's ROLI Seaboard. The product currently goes for about $1,200 online, but for as long as you have access to Berklee facilities, the Seaboard is available for use with no price tag!

You can book the Seaboard HERE for use in the Creative Technology Center during its open hours. You can also use this link to book a Music/Video Production Workstation, where you can use an iMac loaded with software to integrate with the Seaboard.


A Brief ROLI History Lesson

ROLI first took the MIDI controller industry by storm in 2013 with the release of their first Seaboard RISE model. Everyone and their dogs were fascinated by the product and its squishy keys. It was even featured in the popular film La La Land a few years after its release. Today it remains a super useful controller for players and producers of all skill levels and needs. 

Since the release of the Seaboard, ROLI has released some other really cool products such as a collection of software instruments and presets branded for their products and the ROLI Blocks and LUMI Keys. 

What makes all of these products unique and marketable is the way that they take full advantage of MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE). This means that there are more gestures to control sounds, allowing you to get more expressive and dynamic sounds than you could ever get with a classic MIDI controller. For example, you might move your finger side-to-side to create a vibrato or slide it up and down to control a filter cutoff or volume. 


Getting Started

The ROLI Seaboard is pretty much plug-and-play when it comes to setup. It is USB bus-powered, which means that it doesn't need to be plugged into an outlet in order to work because it takes power from the computer. 

If you're using the Seaboard with an iMac in the Creative Technology Center, it is super easy to start making cool sounds by opening ROLI Studio Player. This software includes pre-made sounds which are designed to work super well with the Seaboard. Plug it in, try out some gestures, and see how the patch responds!

Making Your Own Sounds

There are tons of ways to integrate ROLI products with your favorite DAW or software synthesizer. For those who are familiar with synthesis and the MIDI matrix, creating sounds for the Seaboard should be pretty straightforward. Each gesture on the Seaboard has a corresponding MIDI CC as documented on the ROLI website. Here's a nice graphic that is taken from there:

This graphic is super helpful, but if you're not familiar with MIDI CCs and mapping, that's okay! There are tons of presets you can play around with on many software synths! I recommend using ROLI's Equator, which we have loaded onto all the Music/Video Production Workstations at the Creative Technology Center. Because it's made by ROLI for ROLI controllers, Equator is really easy to use and it's super clear which ROLI gestures are controlling what parameters of your patch. 



Besides Equator, there are tons of synths that support MPE, and there are more being added to the list every day! A few of my favorites to use with my ROLI products are:

  1. Ableton Wavetable
  2. Logic Retro Synth
  3. Ableton Sampler
  4. Xfer's Serum
  5. Native Instruments Reaktor
  6. Logic Alchemy

But these are only a few! Check out this comprehensive list of MPE compatible synths on ROLI's official website if you're interested. 



If you read this article and are still not convinced that you should book the ROLI Seaboard... think again. The product is awesome and it has changed the way I and so many others think about sound design and performance. If you're interested in learning more about the synthesis aspects of MPE controllers, feel free to book a session with one of our Technology Peer Trainers at the CTC for one-on-one tutoring to get you going!

Training Subject
Sound Design Synthesis MIDI Controllers
ROLI Seaboard Hardware Synthesis Synthesizer
Last modified
Fri, May 20th 2022