Q&A: Sebastian Heinz (Patchblocks) | Soundspace

Q&A: Sebastian Heinz (Patchblocks)

We got in touch with Belfast based Sebastian Heinz, the man behind the innovative and not yet released, Patchblocks. Patchblocks are small hardware meets software type synthesizers with audio input and the ability to chain multiple units together to create a stream of digital creativity. They remind us of the Korg Monotron or the Pocket Piano from Critter and Guitari but the addition of it’s software counterpart makes Patchblocks possibilities limitless! Read on to hear more from Sebastian.


So what are Patchblocks and how did the idea initially come about?

I was fascinated by the collaboration that happens on a table full of music gear. You know, when you jam with a friend, plug cables around, tweak knobs and press buttons. This is a very playful and creative activity where two or more people share the same space. Software can’t give you that, yet it offers so much more flexibility for way less money.

So I worked on this big multitouch screen project during my Masters, which was like MAX/MSP gone multitouch, to combine software and hardware. This was about the same time when the iPhone came out. It was collaborative, but it didn’t feel right. You get all the faders and buttons you want, but you can’t grab them.

Once I started my PhD here in Belfast, I wanted to take that idea out of the screen and put it into the real world, partly inspired by the Reactable. This led to splitting the interaction with software and hardware. You sit in front of your screen and express part of your creative ingenuity by using the editor software, but then you can grab your creation and play with it in the real world. A bit like a kid that sits in his room, building a Lego spaceship and then takes it to his friend to play together.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/117825584″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]


There’s hundreds of synths and controllers on the market now, what makes Patchblocks unique?


It is the playfulness, creativity and portability it enables, I think. Of course you also get a lot of features for your money, but I don’t think it’s what makes a product unique. The concept behind it has to be well thought out.


Is there a particular reason why you decided to crowdfund your project, have you crowdfunded in the past?


I’ve never crowd-funded anything. In fact, I’m not the most advanced and connected when it comes to all this social media technology like Twitter, Facebook, etc. However, I wanted to create a strong community around the product, as this would tie in with the concept of sharing and showing your creations. Therefore Kickstarter seemed like a good platform to kick this off.

Pledge HERE.


If someone has never used a synthesizer before, but wants to own a Patchblock, is there any reason they should be put off?


I can see that the patching editor is quite geeky and complicated looking. But there will be a community of people uploading their patches and helping in the forums. So you could start off by playing with patches you download first, and gradually learn along the way.



What is the one thing you hope people get from using a Patchblock?


I hope they will spent more time again in the real world with friends, playing with real things. Instead of looking at, and fiddling with, a tiny flat surface in their palm all day.


We know this may sound a bit premature, but will you stop here?


No. I think it is important to have a vision and follow it. For now, additional modules would be useful, like a footpedal with 1/4” guitar input, or a Midi-block, or more memory and CPU. In the future I would love to make Patchblocks technology accessible for kids though. This would require a lot of software rethinking, but the concept is there. If I’m lucky, there might be a bigger investor or company sharing that vision with me.










To find out more or to donate to Patchblocks crowdfunding campaign check out their Kickstarter page HERE.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Tuna Knobs - Physical Controls For Your Touchscreen | Soundspace

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