Approaching: norns


the offical description linked above seems clear enough: “norns is a small, portable sound computer.” that page continues to list technical specifications and so on. there is also the norns software stack which is likewise well documented.

there are other small, portable sound computers in production. you are maybe asking after specific reasons why anyone would want such a thing (philsophical, pragmatic, &c.) that sounds like a good subject for its own forum topic.

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  • Laptops cost more money.
  • My laptops don’t have three programmable encoders with higher resolution than MIDI
  • My laptop’s sound card requires a separate power supply

Norns is a special purpose computer. It’s rad.

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Sorry, I shouldn’t make judgements before understanding something new. It seems very interesting, just trying to wrap my brain around the ecosystem

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In use Norns doesn’t feel like a computer. When I open Ableton I find it hard to disassociate it from the computer I’ve been using all day for work, even with the Push. Norns is its own thing. That’s just me though, others use Norns alongside Ableton and a computer. I think the most important thing to understand if you’re trying to grasp any limitations of the ecosystem is that whilst Norns can be a bunch of different things it can only be one of those things at a time. You can’t run a script that makes it a synth at the same time as a script that makes it a looper - unless you write a script that incorporates both of those things! But that’s how new scripts are born, and it’s part of the fun.


Yeah I’m in front of a screen all day too and I have no desire to use a computer for music these days, unless I’m mixing. I’ve got a Nebulae, so similar idea scaled down. I’ve not scratched the surface at using anything but the main granular instrument. Its all very interesting.

Wait, looking at this more…
So you need a laptop still to write the scripts anyway? And Norns doesn’t send CV? So if you want to send CV you need that Ansible? That gets expensive really fast.

Yes, you’ll need a laptop to write the scripts. Or, I guess, a phone or iPad - though I’ve not tried this. Norns is just a url away if you’re on the same WiFi network.

To be honest, I’m mainly in it for mlr which is a looper script. Give me a piano, a mic and mlr and tell me that’s all I’ll have for the rest of my days and I’d be utterly content. Elated! So depending on what you’re after you might not need to mess around with the scripts. That said - if, for example, you want mlr to always overdub by default - just edit the script! Hurrah!

I remember being at university when those first videos on Vimeo came out showing off the ‘monome’ and mlr all those years ago - it always seemed so out of reach! An impossible goal - to own such a thing! I’m so happy after all these years to have a grid sat on my piano next to my Norns. It feels like I’ve closed a loop.


is it possible to use mlr without a grid?

No, the grid really is its interface. That said, I’m not sure what the options are for mapping the controls to a different controller. There are also some other looper scripts (e.g cranes) which don’t require a grid. I’ve not done much with Norns without a grid… the two work so well…

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A couple clarifications. In theory you could write scripts with norns as with any other “headless” computer. SSH and FTP to the device to interact with it. As mentioned that could be from your phone or any other device.

But… many people might just use norns as a stand alone device just using scripts that other people have created. There’s more than a few people who might ever use just one or two scripts (like MLR).

CV - no norns does not have CV built in. There’s a device coming called Crow that will provide CV capabilities to norns (along with a pile of other stuff).

Ansible is it’s own module and not specifically related to norns

If you’re norns-curious and want to investigate it further without a big investment - its possible to get it running on Raspberry Pi without too much hassle.


And very beautiful. Which to me is important. It’s rad, and beautiful :slight_smile:


So, I know I’m playing devil’s advocate here still, but I just still don’t understand the allure of spending $800 on a stand alone computer if you are just running a pre-existing looper or a sequencer script and not editing it to your taste, when you could just buy a looper pedal and/or a sequencer for way less.

So theoretically I could get this running on the Nebulae?

I have no strong feelings any which way as everyone is on their own journey man; but the way I might approach it is: How much would you pay to customize said looper pedal and sequencer (in its own discrete durable portable form factor) to the way you work? And maybe you aren’t sure how you’d like to work yet, and trying out different methods is exciting too. Add on the education and support of the community and I think it’s worth the additional premium (plus it’s very well built).

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It sounds like you’re looking for an off the shelf looper pedal. I recommend the Boss RC-300. That should get you up and running quickly.

It could be interesting to attach a MIDI foot pedal board to Norns and implement most of the features of the Boss RC-300 in that computer. More projects for the back burners…

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There might not be anything to ‘get’. Another aspect of it is the user interface and design itself. That doesn’t matter to some people, but is everything to some.

Yall, I started a new topic for this perennial debate:


It may be helpful to view the language and thinking in the monome universe as highly inclusive of poetics rather than hype…

While often highly technical and specific, it is also imagistic and resonant…

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… and relatively scarce, unlike the korgs, behringers, etc. of the world. I want to explore some unique and tasty spices rather than spread ketchup on everything.


I’ve been exploring the Norns and I’m finding I have questions about the general concept of it:
What I see with the Norns is basically an extension of the monome mentality of inherent flexibility that is unlocked with the ongoing creativity of its users/community. This part is freaking awesome. Totally on board.

But, I’m seeing that you can really only run one script at a time. Is this correct?

I was hoping that the Norns would allow for something almost like what ‘pages’ was to us old grid hounds: a potentially stackable suite of patches, giving the ability to stack a few things on top of each other at once.

I’m seeing that it probably is not possible have mlr, a drum machine and a synth engine all running at once within the Norns, with the grid being the central input partner of the Norns handling each of these as one moves between these functions. Is that correct?

If so, then would I be correct in my reductionist view that it is flexible sound making machine that can either create or edit/record sounds, not do both at the same time?

If so, how does one create a full suite of music with the Norns? Is it always paired with other equipment?


imo someone just needs to make a engine like sum to solve this problem. people keep getting hung up on the fact that you can only run one engine at a time but i think a meta engine of sorts is totally possible. it might not be the full features of each engine but sum is the same way yes?