Norns: ideas

You’re both correct, of course.

But I don’t foresee many users editing each other’s code each time they want to use a different sound engine with a particular sequencer, much less trying to integrate additional functionality from another script. What you’re describing is a clunky workaround, at best.

(I have Orac envy.)


Having a more generic mapping of synth sounds and sequences would be pretty great. As I don’t have a midi keyboard, I had to go find an old usb midi adapter so that I could get some note data to try out molly the poly. Would be awesome if it “just worked” with grid without the app coder needing to do anything special to support it.


i feel like it’s worth mentioning the organelle was something like ~2.5 years old before orac was born.

i definitely think more generic/reusable standards towards how ui and dsp interact on norns will be realized as more communal hours get put in. the design layout is pretty agnostic towards both controllers (midi, grid, hid, etc) and dsp. this is probably kind of restricting if you already know what you’re doing (ie not me) but i think with time this approach makes a lot of sense for addressing these issues.

the growing pain is figuring out when it makes sense to standardize certain aspects. i am definitely still just figuring out how the thing works.

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(I have Orac envy.)

Considering how valuable Mark Harris has been to any gear community he gets actively involved in, it seems like it would be a small thing for someone to gift him (or crowdfund?) a Norns with the idea of him getting some Orac-like behavior working on it, if feasible. Maybe he already has one, but from his posts I think I remember him having the Organelle and Bela Salt, but not Norns.

Although maybe the problem with Orac is it kind of encourages a confining of a wide-open everything-agnostic sound tool to fit into Orac’s particular way of working. Not sure how much of an issue or non-issue that is. Once Orac came onto the Organelle scene, was there less active development on new Organelle tools in general as everyone found they could patch complex sound tools more easily using Orac chains? For example, instead of learning how to build a synth-sequencer-sampler tool from scratch in PD, you could chain existing synth, sequencer, and sampler patches up instantly.


FWIW - Mark put together one of the first DIY norns using Raspberry Pi and also created code for it that uses the Push2 as a native device. So yeah - he’s been hacking on norns software since it was released.

I think Orac is kinda specific to how pd and the organelle hardware work. I don’t know if that same approach can be used with supercollider


He might choose to chime in but I don’t think lack of norns hardware would prevent him from developing orac (or something similarly deep) for norns

It’s probably more to do with motivation and time needed to dedicate to a project of that magnitude

We’ll see

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mentioned before, but with the upcoming norns update we separate out an external jack audio connection to supercollider, which could also be used by pd. so running pd on norns could happen without much effort… it just needs OSC glue for communication.


I think Norns strongest point right now is the advanced and interesting sequencers. Even the monome modules - it’s all about the diverse sequencers. Norns weakest point is the limited sound engines currently available. I would like to have a more diverse choice of engines converted from existing uGens Generators. Something with more timbral and wider sound palette - The Passerby and Molly Poly synth were great examples, but also something a bit more experimental and gnarlier. Playing with the takt synth recently got me thinking about using a synth engine instead of a sample based engine - something more akin to a Nord Drum or even something using membranecircle, membranehexagon uGens - a synthetic based drum engine with a wider palette than poly perc.
Even a decent wavetable synth or some of the more experimental uGens from the Chaotic and Stoicastic side would be welcome. Certainly something Gendy / Xenakis inspired would be great.

At the moment Norns is great for experimental sequencers but no so great for experimental sounds unless you use the sampling apps and import your own or use the midi out.>Generators>Stochastic>Generators>Chaotic


What would your priorities be for improving Norns’ portfolio wrt experimental sounds/effects?

I get a feeling that with the new softcut & audio changes Norns is going to become very interesting from a realtime sampling/microsound perspective too :slight_smile: .

I agree the current state of “synths” hasn’t made norns the go-to hardware digital synth I thought I would be using it for originally. Maybe the sequencing/sampling aspects have just been too good for me to really dig deeper into synths.


a norns wavetable synthesizer would be fantastic. i looked around the web, and found some efforts to create wavetable synths in supercollider; some even designed for the rPi.

these may be good starting points for anyone wanting to build one for norns (+midi controller, +grid, etc.):

  • HybFMSynth: 8-osc hybrid wavetable+FM synth
  • VOsc3: triple wavetable oscillator with smooth sweeping/interpolation between tables
  • sccode docs on creating and using wavetables
  • (most exciting) MegazordSynth: a wavetable synth based on NES waveforms, with built-in arpeggiator, designed to run on rPi. uses the AKWF single-cycle wave set. i’d like to see this hooked up to a multimode filter, for a unique blend of classic chiptune and softer ambient sounds.

Yes, they all look really interesting, also a subset of this is waveset synthesis that I like the look of also.

I think you can split the current synth engines on Norns down by synthesis types and look at the obvious ones missing. Wavetable synthesis is one - like a Piston Honda / Buchla 259e / PPG Type with a combined low pass gate (like the Passersby back end).

Maybe an additive synthesis engine like the Harmonic Oscillator also. Theres other less well known ones like Waveset synthesis (a little bit like wavetable) like this and this

Also Pulsar synthesis intrigues me (from Alberto de Campo and Curtis Roads) like this and this .

Even a Phase Distortion Oscillator which I personally much prefer the sound of compared to FM.

I also think that you only get the full benefits of these sound engines when there is some dynamic modulation involved. Currently all the parameters can only be addressed by cc. I would like to see some sort of onboard modulation bus containing lfo’s, envelopes and random to control the parameters section of engines. Molly Poly and Passersby have a mod bus and it makes a big difference.

I personally want something abstract, random, chaotic, atonal, not necessarily melodic but with dynamic timbral changes… rhythmically interesting and challenging. Sounds that you listen too but can’t quite work out how they were made, but are intriguing. I like stuff generated from random / shift registers - things like the Blippoo box / Benjolin, pinged filters, resonators, phase distortion, wavetables, that sort of thing, not necessily noise for noise sake, just something genuinely different that is currently not on Norns.

The current sequencers types on Norns/Teletype/Ansible are really interesting and different. You will not believe how many people have asked me on social media about Loom for example. Nobody has seen anything like it before. I want a sound engine that has that kind of impact.


I think make a different synthesis engine type that is currently not offered - a wavetable osc is the most obvious choice but there are many other less known synthesis types


I’d never heard of waveset synthesis before but that’s very intriguing. Are there more examples you know of in recorded music? I’m interested to hear how it’s used.

I feel this! The Looking for recommendations on music made with SuperCollider thread took me down the path of searching for “Florian Hecker supercollider” last night, which led to readings on all sorts of wacky uGens. Would love to see environments on Norns that could facilitate this kind of stuff.


It’s new to me also and I don’t know of any examples in recorded music. I’ve only heard the sound examples of that oscillator and it sounds to me like a grittier gnarlier wavetable synth like the early Waldorf PPG. But it has other applications as it’s using very short single cycle sound samples so it’s seems to be associated with granular synthesis and micro sound.

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Yes, I agree, that’s what I was getting at and you covered it with “wacky uGens”. There’s an actual UGen called FitzHughNagumo Neuron Firing Oscillator. Somebody has got to make that into an Norns engine for the name alone!


I’m still new and learning much about norns - I like the idea of developing new sound engines.

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As a longtime De Campo and Roads follower, Pulsar would be very cool!

My hope for Norns sound engines is that they persist as unabashedly digital (and make the most of their digitality). Mutable’s Plaits has some interesting ideas: in addition to FM,

  • formants modulated by variable shapes
  • speech synthesis
  • granular
  • dust/particle noise
  • modal synthesis (see also Elements)

In terms of sequencing, I would literally pay someone to replicate Grids and Marbles on Norns (with MIDI out).