Raspberry pi zero

My Dad has given me one of the raspberry pi zeros. I know they’re pretty new out, but does anyone have an idea if they would be suitable for music making?

I really like the look of b-step, and If I hook it up to a touchscreen LCD then could be a nice wee pocket plaything.

The lack of a dedicated headphone socket is puzzling, I presume audio will be channelled through the micro HDMI socket. If anyone has other ideas about a musical use for these I’d love to hear it! (Disclaimer - I am a total novice, having never used before. But I am willing to learn).


You can indeed get at audio from micro-HDMI; $5 USB audio adaptors are also available that work. The old headphone jack on the A, B, and model 2 Pis was basically doing PWM and was a bit horrible, so you’re actually not missing much there. (By contrast, my Hifiberry sounds excellent).

Sonic Pi is a rather interesting livecoding environment for Windows/Mac/Linux, aimed at education, but it’s a rather competent Ruby-based environment with live interpretation; you can do surprisingly musical and expressive stuff in it - eg, here’s Piano Phase:

notes = (ring :E4, :Fs4, :B4, :Cs5, :D5, :Fs4, :E4, :Cs5, :B4, :Fs4, :D5, :Cs5)
phase = 0.05

live_loop :slow do
  play notes.tick, release: 0.1
  sleep 0.3

live_loop :faster do
  play notes.tick, release: 0.1
  sleep (0.3-phase)

512 ram is decent but might get bogged down running X and so forth; it might be interesting to use them as a player for pd patches, say, or as an environment for other livecode environments like Tidal.

(I’m working on an instrument that will probably be built around one and the official touchscreen; more on that probably in the near future.)


Apologies for not doing my own research, but maybe someone knows off the top of their head. Would Raspberry Pi Zero be a useful platform for eurorack module development? I guess my main concern is power consumption.

I think if you wanted to perform some minimal audio processing, implement some kind of high-level transport (like ethernet), or expose a simple interface for the user to load custom programs, it would be really useful.

I booted my zero with a 32GB card. Plugged in are only composite and keyboard. Also GUI running by default.
I measured 80mA to 140mA.


If I’m not mistaken, the draw is similar to the more power-hungry eurorack modules (but the zero runs on only 5V).

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While browsing for info i stumbled on http://www.warmplace.ru/soft/sunvox/

Looks really nice.

People have made some interesting enclosures for RaspberryPi/Sunvox.

I’m pretty interested in this: http://puredata.info/docs/raspberry-pi

Moonbox looks nice.

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Sunvox is surprisingly playable on tablets and phones, by the way. I’m pretty impressed with its cross-platformness (a trait that Pd shares to a lesser degree).

maaaaaybe but:

  • yes, it runs off 5V; but it’s a moderately fragile bit of kit. You don’t want any 12V near it. If you screw up, you’ll probably fry the Pi - it’s not as aggressive about protecting its pins as an old-style Arduino.
  • it has no ADCs in; its GPIO pins can only handle digital data. So you’re going to end up having to add on ADCs to handle pots, CV/gate in. And as you do that, what you’re essentially doing is building a really big microcontroller that’s a bit fragile. The 0 is interesting because it’s so cheap, but I’ve still found Teensys or similar more cost effective as actual dev microcontroller platforms.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is its card slot: you could have a bank of SD cards much like cartridges, to change out functionality.

I do like being able to write high level language stuff on them, but they’re often a bit crankier than a real microcontroller. Also, just getting stuff to run on boot and stay up is a thing you’ll have to solve; I wrote this a few years ago about how to run stuff via upstart, based on experience building an installation artwork around one.

I’d just be concerned about stability, for a Euro dev platform. (And I say this as someone who’d rather write Ruby or Javascript than C).


Really excellent feedback. Thank you very much.

I mean, it’d still be interesting as a thing to experiment with - cf the circuit abbey Euroduino - and the idea of a module that Does PD is interesting. But I’d emphasise it as a platform for experimenting, rather than building a commercial product around per se.

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I need to figure out what The Owl and the Qu-bit Nebulae are based on. They both run Pd, and the Nebulae also runs CSound.

Nebulae is a Pi - the schematics and code are open source. (In fact, it’s a Pi, an Arduino, and not much else: the Arduino does all UI/analog reads, and talks MIDI to the Pi. This is a common pattern I’ve seen, using the microcontroller to do interfacing, and then spitting nice serial data to a Pi. It just feels a bit clunky to me.)

Not sure about OWL. The Organelle isn’t a Pi, but is another ARM System on a Chip, it looks like.

Don’t take my wariness as a “no” - other people would say yes! Give me enough time and I’d probably talk myself into it. I’m just wary of building everything out of Pis, and I’m also wary of a eurorack module with a 30s boot-up time.


30s bootup is a real drag.

Via this muffwiggler thread, here is a paper about building a CSound machine out of a Raspberry Pi and Arduino Uno, which is a very similar rig to the Nebulae.

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@jasonw22 Downloaded on my phone today to have a play around will definitely benefit from a stylus (small phone real estate!!)

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I’ve been having so much fun with music apps on iOS. I can’t believe I’ve never seen sunvox

i’ve also been researching the pi and SoC stuff a lot recently. it’s insane how cheaply this stuff is and begs to be integrated into products. unfortunately none of them really fit perfectly for me. and one big thing i’ve been trying to get over is latency optimization. the i2s is great (hifiberry sounds good, i have one) but there’s lot of hacking to be done to get it working well (ie, supercollider without jack??)

also, this is what you’re looking for:


also: chip from http://nextthing.co/ is super cool, but the R7 doesn’t have i2s.


yeah - it’s all those fine details that are easy to gloss over in prototyping / dreaming, but then hit hard when you’re making an actual object/instrument that people are going to use. And that’s why my gut is hesitant above - not because there aren’t loads of people with working, home-made whatevers in laser-cut cases, but because of all the unknown unknowns.

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