Approaching: norns

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?




no, you could absolutley (for example) modify MLR to also play a supercollider synth and use it for input into the sample chopping. MLR uses only the built-in buffer manipulation functions of the norns DSP backend. this process even runs on different CPU core from supercollider process and wouldn’t contend with user synthesis engine for compute resources. (well, except RAM.)

you can also make engines that do many things at once. they are just supercollider classes and SC is very flexible.

the scripting side can also be approached in a modular or chainable way. we haven’t seen a whole lot of this b/c it takes a bit of care and intention to encapsulate data in a lua program. (that said, i tend to automatically keep app state in a dedicated object as general good practice.) but it’s entirely possible to refactor a few scripts into one, some have been already structured as libraries that you can add to other scripts. (e.g. Tunnels).

speficific example, grid control is enabled by defining a global handler and refresh function. swap functions to swap modes. simpler than in Max.

now, all that said… if you want a specific thing to happen, you may need to implement it yourself, or find someone to collaborate with who is interested in the same specific thing.

norns is also not a very strong computer compared to your laptop or whatever, it has minimal UI bandwidth, and it might not make sense to treat it as an entire studio.


This is a very satisfactory and helpful answer! I love this idea of how this works and would be very interested in continuing to pursue the Norns in this way. I wasn’t able to really deduce how strong or capable the Norns was with something like this.

In honesty, my main goal is to basically eliminate a computer/laptop based DAW entirely. I am just hoping to make/improvise some music as a method of expression and relaxation. Building out a script on the Norns that would begin to allow that type of flexibility would be very very cool.

That will be somewhat difficult/not possible if you want to edit files. You can record your sounds to the norns ‘tape’ but norns is not a daw replacement.

Recording to the tape is more than enough! Can I then bring those tape recordings with Norns to mlr? Like, an example of a project would be this:

Use a sequencer for some drums, place that in the tape, or mlr to repeat, move to a synth machine, play with that, put that ina mlr or tape groove, do the same one last time. Three or 4 layers deep on the tape or mlr.

This would be for improvisation, exploration and meditation. Obviously, bringing in extra equipment and a DAW like a recording rack/effects would be necessary to make something more complex and full fledged.

But as an exploration tool, having the ability to generate and play with multiple layers of sound using a Norns would be a dream come true.

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Yeah, you can do quite a lot and that workflow sounds fun. It would be a great way to get away from staring at a screen.

The problem might be if you need fine precision to line things up or quantize, sequence, etc, along with soundfile cutting/editing that you would do with a DAW.

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So, something like that is possible with the Norns? I’m only now really beginning to wrap my head around the thing.

He details of quantizing and such are of little consequence for me with a tool like the Norns. Truth is, I enjoy the act of the discover with a machine like this more than having something to show for it afterwards. Like having an endlessly programmable and flexible guitar to noodle for a bit, layer sounds to create something and just walking away once I’m satisfied.

As well, I have a son on the way and have decided these kinds of projects and tools are things I want to begin to become proficient with, so when he is the right age, I can begin to expose him to programming in a way that feels immediately tangible.


Hi all. I’ve been debating recently about trying to get my hands on a norns unit. I’ve found one second-hand and it’s definitely tempting me. However, it’s still just a matter of money. Even if I do decide it’s ok to make a purchase, I probably wouldn’t be able to get a grid for a while, which sucks because it really seems like norns is best when paired with it. A big draw for me is the mlr script, which as I understand it, does not work without the grid. So I’m curious, what can the norns do out of the box? Is it a worthwhile investment to simply buy it on its own?

(For some context, I work with tape loops a lot. I’m interested in something that can be flexible and enhance my workflow, and can also be the brains of a live performance.)

Even as I’m typing this I’m feeling a bit discouraged about it all. Considering the price point and how little I truly understand it I’m probably better off sitting tight for the time being.


Check out otis or cranes for some non-grid tape loop like scripts. Softcut on norns is really excellent. Easily scriptable digital tape.

as for…

for me? yes. For you? idk :sweat_smile:

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@ecfike Would you like a version of mlr that can work without the grid? I’d be happy to make you a version that works with a normal keyboard in the meantime :slight_smile:


Regardless of whether or not I end up getting a Norns, I think that would be an incredibly handy thing to have!

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