Getting started with blocks (and with Reaktor, in general) can be quite intimidating. The advent of every aspect of the script and each individual piece of a programed synthesizer can be extremely daunting. The best way to get started out in understanding Reaktor’s new Blocks methodology is to look at their pre-existing structures and tool around with them! Don’t be afraid to open up the ‘Panel and Structure’ views side by side and tinker around! As long as you don’t save over the factory presets, they will always be there for you no matter what you do to them. You can always reinstall them if you accidentally overwrite them, too!
Click on the ‘Panel | Structure’ when you have a block ensemble loaded up and take a look at them side by side. You’ll see the graphical representation right next to the ‘programed’ representation and it’s a good way to make the visual connection as to ‘what goes to what’.
Panel vs. Structure
Understanding the routing paradigm of the structure is key to successfully hooking up new Blocks. Go to ‘file’ and create a new ensemble. You’ll have nothing in the panel, but the structure should have a stereo output set up for you. From here, go to the ‘library’ view and choose your Reaktor Blocks folder. A good place to start would be to set up a simple oscillator. I like to use the Monark one, so go to that subfolder and choose OSC-Monark and drag it into the structure window. You’ll see it pop up both in the structure AND in the panel. Once you’ve verified that your monitors are at a low volume, click and drag a virtual patch cable from the output of the oscillator and connect it to both of your outputs that were created when you made the new document. You should be able to hear the oscillator making noise, and you can adjust the frequency of that noise by making adjustments in the panel.
From here, the sky’s the limit! You can drop in a ‘note in’ Block from the utility folder and simply connect the ‘pitch’ slot of the ‘note in’ block to the ‘pitch’ slot of the oscillator and you’ll be able to modify the oscillator’s pitch with your MIDI controller. Now you’re well on your way towards building your own synth! Check out our awesome course on Blocks for tips on how to craft your newly created synth sound and make it really shine!
The order of the blocks in the panel doesn’t necessarily have to match up with the order of the blocks in the structure. Remember, the panel is where you’ll be using your synth, the structure is where you’re creating it. You can design your panel to be as usable as you like. Want to have your reverb at the end of your audio chain, but you want the knob for it to be right in the center of the screen? No problem. You can drag and rearrange panel blocks as you like without worrying about affecting the basic structure of your synth.
Just about every control on a block (or in nearly any aspect of Reaktor) can be mapped for modulation and control. Simply right-click on a knob and choose ‘MIDI learn’ and you can now modulate the value of that control with whatever you touch next on your MIDI controller. To have the output of a certain aspect of any block modulate something in another block, simply connect it in the structure window. You can connect, for example, the output of that oscillator you chose to the ‘Mod A’ port of a filter. You would then go to the filter block in the panel and click the ‘a’ button in the upper right-hand corner.
You now get to choose any control in the block and select how much you’d like it to be modulated by the value it gets on its ‘a’ input. Reaktor will even show you a preview of the modulation with a small dot surrounding the knob that changes speed as you adjust the frequency of the oscillator.
So Much More
Reaktor is a modular synthesist’s dream, and there is so much to do here. Start out simply, dissect the factory presets, and pretty soon you’ll be creating sonic madness!
Watch this video course to learn all you need to know about Blocks in Reaktor.