London-based technology company Roli wants to change the way people make music. And its latest creation, Blocks, is unlike any instrument you've seen before.
You don't need years of lessons -- or frankly, any musical experience -- to create your own beats with Blocks. Packed into a simple 4-by-4-inch touchpad is an entire music studio, designed to be friendly enough for anyone to play, even if you're intimidated at the thought of creating your own music.
But this isn't just for musical newbies -- the system is scalable to serve as a professional tool for advanced musicians. Multiple Blocks can be attached magnetically to any of the four sides. Optional smaller control pad Block accessories have built-in buttons to change settings and build beat loops quickly during a performance.
It all starts with the Lightpad Block ($179, or £169.95). The pressure-sensitive silicone pad displays lights on a grid, with each light square representing a different note. But you don't just tap the light squares as if they were keys on a piano. The real art in a performance lies in how you press your fingers on the pad. Dragging a finger can glide between notes, bending the pitch as you slide into the next note. You'll also get different sounds depending on how long and hard you press down.