Polyend’s flagship all-in-one instrument and sequencer grid Play gets a big update this week. That includes a sought-after Piano Roll, plus a whole bunch of features for melodies and chords.

In fact, not only does Polyend give you a choice between Play and, for those who prefer tracker workflows, two different Trackers, but they’ve got a decent case here for being a rival to the mighty Ableton and Akai. They’re everything those boxes are not: slick, light, and focused on the grid for interaction instead of doing everything on the display. For contrast, even as Ableton adds piano roll editing in the new Push, it’s still on the screen – closer to the way you work with their software.

Not so with Play. This is really a device that is meant to be quick and centered on directly playing on the grid, even relative to other standalone machines.

Version 1.4’s Piano Roll uses that step interface for all your editing. And there’s more here, too – more inversions, fills, melody randomization, and so on. Those things often get sold as “for people who don’t know theory” but – I’ve met a lot of theorists as well as moonlighting a bit myself, and they’re unlikely to spit out chords and melodies for you, either.

What’s nice about this as with the rest of Play is a focus on spontaneous improvisation. That can mean something radical for live performance – adding melodies and chords on the fly, the way an improvising musician does. (Yeah, it’s probably jazz musicians you’re thinking, not theorists, folks.) Contrast that to what most “live” performances usually are – a bunch of pre-programmed patterns with some occasional triggering and some knob twists. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you as the player want to surprise yourself, live or while you’re thinking up tracks, these sorts of features are a boon.

Full feature list from Polyend:

  • Added Piano Roll for chord and melody visualization:
    • Transforms the sequencer grid into a piano roll where notes can be selected in rows and placed on the corresponding step in
  • Fill Mode added to MIDI Tracks
    • New config menu to control how MIDI beat fills work. Menu > Settings > Fill Config
  • Added Melody Fills: Chord and Bass.
  • New MIDI Chord inversions:
    • Accessible by pressing Shift while turning the Chord Knob (for all chords except Power 4th/5th)
    • New smart melody randomizer Fill Type: Random +
    • New randomization algorithm with randomized notes
    • Knob parameters for work steps are now saved when switching between MIDI and Audio

And look how this thing has evolved:

1.4: Piano Roll, more chord and melody generation

1.3: Copy and paste between audio and MIDI, enhanced MIDI CC control

1.2: Customizable Global Master FX

1.1: SD export, more sound content, enhanced workflow and page views

The YouTube algorithm is now recommending me the recent Nintendo Direct under Polyend’s video. So of course you could skip all of this and just play the new Super Mario Bros game. I’m going to say that finger dexterity will totally translate. We trained for this. Oh, crap, I was trying to make a suspended chord and I fell off down off the edge of the platform and …. doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot.