norns: ideas

you’ve got the spec down, now just write it! :wink:


wow, @phillwilson, this sounds so well-thought out and very very useful!

echoing @alanza, being struck by this depth of idea is exactly what motivated my own first steps into norns development – i had essentially no coding background besides teletype before i went into the first study. i’ve always believed that having the core driving idea is so much more important than the coding skillset. you can’t teach the passionate and deep ideation you’ve displayed. you can teach folks a coding language.

if you’re willing to share, i’d be super curious to learn more about some of the hurdles you’re feeling most demotivated by. you mentioned a few things in there, but if you have any other thoughts i’d love to read em! i think there’s a lot of people who are in your position — musicians with clear and battle-tested ideas but there’s something in the way of working with code to realize them, so these gems get buried — and i’d love to learn how we can help better enable and empower them (+ you!) :sparkles:


I believe this is similar to what Norns scripting study 5 - streams accomplishes, right?

I’ve been debating on and off pulling together a script that does something like this + subtle glitches to get close to a mood like Tomotsugu Nakamura… don’t have any coding experience yet, but keep feeling the itch to try


Do it do it do it! I swear having a “way in” like this to coding (or anything) unlocks superpowers for assimilating new info.


Thank you @dan_derks , is there an appropriate place on lines where I can post a “diary like” journey into making this idea happen? it doesn’t merit being one of the “aspirational” purple script topics ( one day , this is the goal) … but I don’t want to clog other ideas in this ideas thread by posting massive descriptors along the journey, if that that becomes annoying for other people on here.

Reading the feedback I am already having I would say the hurdles I am thinking I COULD at least take some steps towards are:

  1. set up the Grid Layout , getting the buttons all in the right place and turning on and off ( this has been very patiently explained to me by the wonderful @Olivier and I feel like it is now within my gift) … so at least with this done, I can get a tangible sense of how it would be to touch this idea.

  2. take a deep look into other apps that is someway are related to the concepts I will need (midi notes, translating one event kind to another, scale tables etc) … If you or anyone has any pointer of who’s script might be my “nearest neighbour” that would be awesome.

  3. continue looking at the resources and trying them out ( I must admit, my own ADHD does mean I struggle with this more conceptual form of “tag along” learning, where as , with an actual goal of my own to achieve or a specific problem to solve I go the other way and can focus for hours ( I wrote the full manual in one sitting over night).

I am pretty ok at running with a concept , once its been demonstrated in a why I can relate to , so I am guessing, hurdles wise… some of the bigger obstacles will be learning how to create menus and relate changes in them to my needs…I am considering, as a first itteration, of maybe having less "general options " which I had written into my virtual manual to extend the useage case, and instead , focus on setting more “hard properties” that meet my own usage case… the same happened last night as I attempted to edit “Compass” to add Preset recall for a default loadout… I failed to do that, but along the way I did realise that by setting the params that I wanted to start up as “off” from a 1 to a 0 … I accomplished the same thing, but maybe in a way that is only suited to my own needs.

anyways, all food for thought and thanks for all the encouragement.

@alanza ooooh, I really hope so … I am so enthusiastic about this, I can barely think of other things… I just want to implant this knowledge in my brain and get it done !!!

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As far as where to ideate, I think there are two good options: one would be to make your own “making of” style thread, which might be a good fit for the Process category. Another option is the Norns study group Discord, if Discord is your speed. The #help, #code and especially #wip channels there see a good amount of this kind of talk.


Thank you @alanza , Discord isn’t a world I am familiar with, but I will do exactly that on this lovely group

Ok, I have done some more thinking into what is the smallest viable “proof of concept” version that I could maybe work with someone on, to learn the things I can then extrapolate out to all my big ideas…

I think the most basic crux is taking a midi note from a specific channel and having it then trigger from a set of defined notes on a defined channel.

So , would anyone be able to start me off with the basics to take the following midi notes:

Channels 1 kick midi note #36 C1
Channels 2 snare midi note #38 D1
Channels 3 hi tom midi note #40 E2
Channels 4 floor tom midi note #41 F1

And use each note to drive a different random note within a C major scale between the following range limits :

Output Channels 1 , a bass synth note between #36 to #47
Channels 2 a lead synth note between #48 and #71
Channels 3 a pad synth between #60 and #83
Channels 4 ( rechanneled to ALSO send on Channel 3 lower pad synth note between #36 and #47

I think if I can get my head around that bit, I might glean enough to have some of the larger concepts begin to unlock.


I have just spent another evening researching and found out about musicUtil.lua library …wow… so much I still dont get…but I can see just by looking it over… that so many of the things i thought I might have to somehow build form the ground up, have been done by those who have trodden this path before… WONDERFUL


Not sure if this is related to something I have been wishing for… This idea seems very simple to me, but I don’t see many examples out there and I have zero experience… I have been looking around for some device to upload and launch midi files from a library. It appears that the squarp pyramid and maybe the octotrack, and a handful of discontinued sequencers are capable of doing something like this. I wondered … can it be nornsed? Essentially, a simple version of the ableton clip launcher + launchpad, but with norns + grid…

Is there anything like this out there (for norns or otherwise)? In terms of interface, Mark Eats Clips is great. Anywhere from that level of functionality to the minimum of streaming/looping one midi file at a time (and then triggering another in it’s place) would work.

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Norns idea:

Choose a synth engine
Choose an amount of randomness for modulation, maybe focusing on sweet spots for bass, lead, pad, rhythm, chord (opinionated, obv)
Choose a scale
Choose a number of beats, bars, or an amount of time
Choose a number of iterations that will be rendered

The script generates audio and saves it to a folder

The idea is to automatically create source material to play with in other scripts.

And thaaaaat is as far as I can take that idea.


Norns cheapskate grid idea:

Many of us seem to be using 2 x Launchpad Minis as a grid. It would be fantastic if someone 3D printed an enclosure that fused the internals together, thereby eliminating the dead space between them.

“Why not just but a grid?” you say. Well, I already have these two bastards so no point wasting them.


welcome to a :brain: dump.

norns ideas are constantly cropping up in my brain. I love norns because its so easy to take an idea into reality.

here are norns ideas that I ran out of bandwidth to “finish”, for whatever reason. feel free to fork them and make them your own thing. feel free to use them as they are (none of them will blow up the norns but some may have bugs or not do much). feel free to dig into them and rip out parts that you like and throw away the rest. also feel free to comment on them, maybe some fresh ideas from the community will spurn my brain back into action to do something with them.

10 half-baked norns scripts

1. “acid”

this is a precursor to acid test. it was supposed to be a full-voice acid system (bass, chords, drums, etc) all controlled by the grid. but my grid layout got to be extremely complicated (using 8-bit representations as values). it got less and less fun to play so I stopped and opted for something simpler.

the engine is great though. its got kicks, snares, hats, claps, chords, bass, etc.

here’s my (probably nonsensical) spec sheet:

2. “303”

another precursor to acid-test. its mostly just a bass synth, but I had ideas for adding chords. again the main salvageable component is probably just the engine.


3. “turstile”


this is a rotating sequencer. you can read a lot more about it here. it was supposed to have different notes from different chords rotating in a way that their speeds would have a chord align at the top every X notes, while playing notes in between in some kind of weird melody. it works but its a little repetitive I found and I wasn’t sure how to inject more chaos into it.

here’s the original spec sheet:

4. “marimba”

this is a marimba script. I wrote a bunch of the code on an airplane and then when I put it on my norns I found it hard to use. its hard to make sequencers. its based off the Zimbabwean marimba which has a specific layout for each kind of marimba (bass / baritone / tenor / soprano) which I was trying to emulate. and then @yams made colorwheel and I felt like that could do all the marimba things I wanted to do.

once again the engine is great, and I use it pretty regularly, for example with colorwheel.


5. “softloop” mod

this is a little mod I wrote recently that you can inject loops into any script (like awake). it works by using the last two softcut voices and syncing to the current clock (so it actually plays in sync with any script!). I like the mod but I feel like it would easily “cause problems” with some scripts (I haven’t tested with every script). one way around problems is to just add 2 more voices to your norns (the readme explains how to do it) but I don’t want to advocate that for everyone.

6. “softdelay” mod

this is similar to softloop mod in that it just converts the last two softcut voices into a configurable delay. its like halfsecond, but it works on any script. of course it also has problems - it only works if the audio comes from engines/input. its nice though because it instantly turns any script into a delay with configurable feedback/delaytime/filter/etc. I filled out what I needed from it and it would be nice to make its UX better to be put “out there” in case someone wants to.

7. “grdctl”

I was looking at the 0-ctl one day and thought that would be super fun to have. so I made the grid into a “0-ctl” lite version. there are 16 steps, each step has its own time/strength/pitch which can be modulated. those can be unquantized or quantized to specific values. the cool thing is that you can just tap in sequences, and you can tap in as many sequences as you want. it works right now, but its missing important things like the ability to delete sequences and actually send voltages (via crow).

heres my spec:

8. “playback”

this script is based off the TE OB-4 which lets you basically “rewind” live audio to any point in time (within its 5 minute buffer). you can also do repeats/stutters. i made this script and then I integrated it into pirate radio. it works but I don’t have the bandwidth to fix some little bugs that crop up from time to time (related to rewinding past the known point in times).


9. “rc505”

this was a little collaboration with @papernoise which turned out really well (kurodama did the beautiful UI and made the spec). its a beat-synced stereo looped, a lot like the rc505. it works. but I haven’t used it enough to figure out all the bugs, if there are some.


10. “hmm”

I honestly don’t remember writing this. I think its a breakbeat type thing lol.



Oooh this one sounds intriguing :hushed:
So many ideas! (so little time)


I think I have a turnstile idea:

Instead of giving each orbit an individual pitch, give it a ‘chord scale’ (7 - 10 note pitch collection associated with each chord, or selected from a bank for each chord). Instead of playing the same note, it moves up or down in the chord scale (maybe randomly the first time and then in that same direction each subsequent time?).

When I’ve tried things like this in the past (like bessie), the data management is always a little much to wrap my brain around.


I’ve totally considered this as I have the means (CNC router) but end result, there will still be a gap as the PCB extends well past the edges of the buttons. Theres a chance the PCB could be shaved down but I can’t recall how close the the edge the traces run. Still would be nice to have one contiguous unit though.

My other musing with the older launchpads is swapping the greed and red led packages with warm white LEDs. Possibly with two different MCD ratings to try and extract a reasonable “grey scale” look. Would end up incompatible with every other colour palette though.

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Super happy to see this now unleashed into the wild! Thank you so much @infinitedigits for collaborating on this one!


Wow …great ideas dump…it would he awesome to have a mini rc505 style synced loope rot use when I can’t take the big rig in the road…will take a gander at this


cp: a script which syncs norns to/from a connected USB drive. For those who tend to have WiFi issues.

I believe USB drives auto-mount to /mnt. So this script would give you two options:

  • “backup” (copy ~ over to a connected USB drive)
  • “load” (copy connected USB drive over to ~)

small gotcha: “load” would obviously require you to put your USB drive in the folder structure that matches what norns expects, which may not be the most intuitive for non-technical folks

future improvement(?): script can more or less browse the attached USB drive. selecting a folder gives option of “install” which installs it to ~/code as usual. maybe some other cool things


I kind of made this:


does anyone know where the code that draws the start up dust is located? thinking about customizing my start up :cowboy_hat_face:


Haven’t read this whole thread yet, but my most recent idea is “Norns as synthi”, where the grid acts as a patch bay. Obviously no spring verb but that’s ok.

Not sure if the compute power would support, but three oscillators+s&h+filter+envelope+ring mod+mixer seems doable? But maybe the routing/modulation possibilities would be too heavy?

Multi tapping + vari bright to set “coarse” modulation attenuation, which can be fine tuned on the Norns itself.

The matrix would need to be simplified, or the patch bay would need to be halved (vertical/horizontal options) for 128 grid setups.

Knob controllers would be useful but not required.

Potential randomization / partial randomization functions?

Could Xynthi code be ported?

Thoughts on if this would be doable???