Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard Tip: Droning with the Free Button

This article describes the general function of the “Free” button as well as how to lock sustain for drone work.

Extra Buttons on Keyboard Edition of Blofeld

The keyboard version of the Waldorf Blofeld has 3 extra buttons on the front panel – 1) Octave Down 2) Octave Up 3) Free.

P. 17 of the Manual  describes the Free button

Free Button Just for fun we added an additional button with assignable function. The functions are accessible from Global Menu.

Set the Function of the Free Button


  1. Press and hold “Shift” + “Global” button to enter Global Menu
  2. Rotate “Display” knob to find the “Free Button / Pedal” page. On the current OS, it’s the last page – so just crank the knob get their quickly.
  3. Use the left-most “Display Dial” to rotate through the possible options for the “Free” button. The button can be assigned to 6 different functional states as shown below. For the purposes of this article – select “Sust. toggle“.
    1. off – nothing happens when you press the Free button.
    2. Sustain – The button acts like a sustain pedal. But please use your fingers!
    3. Sust. toggle – Also sustain, but it acts like an on/off switch. 
    4. Control W, X, Y, Z – the corresponding controller is sent to internal sound engine and MIDI out.
    5. C. W, X, Y, Z toggle – Emits the assigned controller but acts like an on/off switch.
    6. mute – mutes Blofeld while pressed.
  4. Press the “Play” button to return to patch selection and play mode

Drone Machine Usage

The “Free” button can now be used as a toggle to latch sustain thereby turning your Blofled keyboard into a “West Coast” style drone machine.

Presets with No Arpeggiator

On presets without the Arp enabled, toggling the “Free” button simply gives you infinite sustain without having to hold a pedal down. This is perfect for both sound design work and real-time drone performances. Hit “Free” and start working the matrix!

Presets with Arpeggiator

The arpeggiator has the following modes:

  1. Off
  2. On
  3. One Shot
  4. Hold

If the mode is set to #3  “Hold” – the Arp is already latched and will hold by default. If you would like instead to toggle holds without menu diving to get this parameter (which is burred pretty deep) – set the value to  option #2 – “On”. Now if you toggle the “Free” button, the arp will hold. Press the “Free” button again to toggle the Arp off.

More Articles on the Waldorf Blofeld

Check out some of the many articles I’ve written on the Waldorf Blofeld here https://modulatethis.com/category/blofeld/.

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How to Make Your Waldorf Blofeld Synthesizer Go to 11!

As you walk through the factory patches, you might notice some patches are louder than others. Or perhaps you programmed your own patch and can’t quite get it to be loud enough to be in balance with other patches in your set. Here are a few quick tips to take a quieter patch and make it go to 11.

Make Sure the Amp Volume is set to 127

Hit the “Shift” button and navigate to the “Amplifier Page”. Verify that overall “Volume” is set to 127. Note the “Velocity” parameter is a global patch parameter that determines how much velocity effects volume. If you play with a light touch, you might want to take this parameter down some. If it is set to 0 velocity does not effect the volume.

Crank Up Your Oscillator Volumes

Make sure the oscillators that are active are high enough for your needs. Click the Oscillator button in the matrix to turn select the first menu for Oscillators, and crank the 4th knob over. Repeat for other oscillators.

This Parameter Goes to 11!

Now for the secret sauce. Let’s say you have a patch and all the levels are perfect and in balance, yet it’s still too quite relative to other patches in your set. You can get a volume boost quickly with on parameter set, Filter Drive.

The “Tube” drive curve with values down in the teens can add a volume boost without distortion. To make the patch rip the audience's face off, set the value to 127! Experiment with other drive curves.

More Blofeld Please
I hope you found these tips helpful. You can view other posts on the Blofeld category of Modulate This here.

I’m slowly working on some patches that I plan to make available as a library down the road. If you’d like to be notified opt-in to the Modulate This! mailing list and check the box for “Patches for Waldorf Blofeld”


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Synthesist | Composer | Keyboardist | Performer

Waldorf Blofeld vs Dave Smith Tetra Synthesizers

Modulate This reader Deman recently commented on a post from February entitle “Blofeld LFOs Gone Mad” – One Patch Performance Series. Deman wanted to know which I preferred, the Blofeld or the Tetra.

Well Deman,  while I’ve only played the Blofeld, I did consider the Tetra so I did some research on both before going with Blofeld. I’ve put together a table highlighting the major differences below.

Update 3/3/2013: Updated pricess since original Post

  Blofeld Tetra
Price $699 $499 $799 $849
Sound Generation Circuit-models of analog waveforms: Pulse with variable pulse-width, sawtooth, triangle, sine wave, wavetables that were introduced by the Waldorf Q and appeared shortly thereafter in the Micro Q series. 100% analog signal path. 2 – analog sawtooth, triangle, saw/triangle, square with variable pulse width.
Synthesis Types Subtractive/FM/Wavetable Subtractive
Multi-Mode 16 Splits/Layers with 2 outs Four-part multitimbral capability with four separate outputs.
Polyphony 25 4
Display 128×64 LCD 2 line LED
Non-Volatile Sample Playback Memory

64 Meg of Non-Volatile Ram wih SL Option
99.00 €

FX 2 Independent FX Processors None
USB Yes, Third-Party Editors Yes, Manufacturer supplied editor


Both synths have strong arpeggiator/step-sequencer capabilities. Here is a summary as described by the manufacturers:

Blofeld Arpeggiator (From the Blofeld Web Site)

Okay, Blofeld’s arpeggiator could very well become the biggest chapter of this page but let’s try to keep it short…

It features variable clock divisions from 1/64 triplets to more than 1000 bars, with variable swing/shuffle, a range of up to 10 octaves. Up, down and alternate figures, selectable play order from low to high note, low to high velocity, as played or reversed, variable note length, different velocity modes. And Hold or One-Shot, if you like.

But more importantly, it has the most powerful Pattern Editor we have ever seen.

You can set each Step to either play the note it would do so anyway, to pause, to play the previous note again, play the first or the last note, play those together, play a chord consisting of all held notes or a randomly selected note.

Then you can adjust the Accent of each step (including silence), activate or deactivate Glide for each step, set the timing to play a step ahead or behind its nominal time, and finely adjust the note length between short staccato and full legato.

No wonder this arpeggiator had great reviews when it first appeared in the Waldorf Q. It will take you straight to arpeggiator-heaven, as has already happened to thousands of Waldorf customers. Dig it!

Tetrai Arpeggiator (From the Tetra Manual P. 35)

Tetra features a 4 x 16 “analog-style” step sequencer that can generate four separate sequence tracks of up to 16 steps each. Each of the 4 voices has its own sequencer. Individual sequencer tracks can be routed to any standard modulation destination (see the table on page 35). Using VCA Envelope as a destination, for example, varies the volume of each step; a destination of Filter or Filter Envelope Amount will produce different filter settings per step. Typically, however, at least one sequence is routed to an oscillator to control pitch.

The sequencer is a “gated” sequencer. That is, a note must be played, either from the PUSH IT switch or via MIDI, in order for the sequence to be heard and it will continue to play as long as the note is held (gated).

Note: The PUSH IT switch’s Toggle parameter enables notes (and,
therefore, sequences) to be latched on for sustained playback.

The Clock Parameters determine the note value/tempo of the sequencer. The actual gate duration for each step is fixed at half the step time. Use the envelopes to generate notes of longer or shorter duration.

One very useful way to modulate a parameter in sync with a sequence is using LFOs with sync; LFO frequency runs from 0 to 150, after which you can select the sync settings. A setting of 16 Steps for LFO Frequency with a Triangle wave selected and routed to the filter will provide a clean filter sweep over a 16 step
sequence, perfectly in sync! This is much easier (and smoother) than programming a filter sweep using sequence steps.

In a nutshell, Tetra is a strong choice for those looking for a pure-analog solution in a very small desktop form factor. Blofeld is the choice for those looking for a more versatile solution in the sound design department with a more workstation-like set of features (16 splits/layers, built-in FX, option for non-volatle sample memory…). The large LCD display makes the and MIDI matrix make the Blofeld experience similar to using a soft synth on a computer.

I am in the latter category and was also looking for more bang-for-the-buck so I chose the Blofeld. I also felt the virtual analog was quite good. If I had extra budget for an analog desktop unit would I buy a Tetra? You betcha.


Blofled Tetra


Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Boulder CO

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My Blofeld + Ableton Live + Lpk25 + AudioCube Couch Potato Setup


I wanted to create a small couch-friendly setup where I could play the Waldorf Blofeld with my little Akai LPK25 Controller and an AudioCube. Here is how I set it all up.

AudioCube Configuration
I use Percussa’s MIDI bridge to configure a sensor cube so that face 1-4 send CCs 10-13 (click image to enlarge).

Blofeld Global Configuration
The Blofled supports custom mapping of 4 CCs to controllers that are labeled W,X,Y,Z. Hold down “Shift”+”Global” to access the global params and turn the Display Parameter Dial to access the “Global Controls” page. In my case, i set W-Z to 10-13 respectively to match the CC numbers coming from the AudioCube.blofeld_w

Blofeld Patch Modification
Now I modify any patch to respond to AudioCube modulation by going to the Matrix menu and then setting W-Z as sources. In the example below I map Z (AudioCube Face 4) with Ring Modulation Level.blofeld_z_to_rmod

Ableton Live Configuration
imageAbleton Live 8 is running on a laptop which is the hub that makes this all work. The LPK25, Blofeld, and AudioCube are plugged in via USB and configured as MIDI devices in Live options. I create a Midi Track and specify the Blofeld as the output and arm the track.

At this point MIDI is merged from the LPK 25 and Percussa MIDI Bridge and sent through to the Blofeld allowing me to rock out from the comfort of my couch.

Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Boulder, CO