Supercollider + norns workshops: July 11th and July 25th

your pulse synth sounds so good!! I didn’t know about OSCdef, that is a good trick to know for sure.


in case folks missed it, the on-demand videos for July 11’s workshop have been posted!

if you signed up for the live session, just log into and you’ll see them in the Tone to Drone course.

if you hadn’t signed up for the live session but you want to catch up (either for this weekend’s workshop or to dig deeper into SuperCollider), you can snag access here: Tone to drone - Introduction to SuperCollider for monome norns - On-demand - Music Hackspace. if cost is a barrier, please email or ping Zack and we’ll get things sorted!

i wasn’t able to attend July 11’s session live and I just watched everything async – damn, Zack, Tone to Drone was such a thoughtfully planned + executed session!! there was a ton in there, which is perfect for an educational video collection, and the concepts all dovetailed really nicely into each other. i wish i’d heard your explanations of arrays + nesting the first time i tried to learn SC – you set up such a nice on-ramp to what can be really clinical concepts, making them so musically tangible.

@infinitedigits, thank you for sharing your learns over the last year with us and for presenting them with such enthusiasm and kindness!!!


Thanks – is there a way to download these for course participants, or do I have to be online to watch them?


I use the app „Downie“ for downloading…


Hi! Thank you very much @infinitedigits for the top ranking workshop and @dan_derks for the kindness and patience with my very basic level questions :sweat_smile: I should also thank Laura and congratulate for the awesome Music Hackspace.

I recommend Zack workshops to everyone, including those with zero or near zero programming skills like myself. Now I will watch the recording 10x times and come back with more structured questions - and I’m already waiting for part 3!

However, if I can ask one now (and sorry for the obviouness that it will probably sound for those with programming background): for Norns programming why study SuperCollider and not directly Lua? I suppose that it’s easier to program (and test) sound stuff in SC and with the compiler it’s so straightforward, but there’s something that I’m missing?


Very well said. I agree with all what you are saying @aeoner and hope that @infinitedigits aka Zack will continue with his supercollider workshops… For me it would be also great to get only into one or two synth engines (subtractiv synthesis or granular sampling techniques) in more detail… because I am totally new to coding but very interested…


what a good class today @infinitedigits !! so much love and gratitude to the TA’s for making sure everybody had a great time — it’s staggering how much knowledge is inside of and freely shared within this community.

the shortish answer is that norns relies on SuperCollider for the sound-making components, which you then build UI + controls for via Lua. while Lua is a coding language that’s pretty friendly and approachable, it’s not a synthesis environment.

the core developers (whose contributions to the project are mostly volunteered, it’s insane and perhaps not broadly known) have built a flexible and musically-minded API for Lua to directly address SuperCollider because these are elements (while possible in SC) are not SC’s primary strength. most norns scripting, unless you are interested in building a synth from the ground up, is focused on establishing “what happens when and how” via Lua.

so (for example) you’d use Lua to convert incoming MIDI messages to trigger a SuperCollider synth — Zack alluded that this is possible in vanilla SC, but the Lua-powered API on norns makes it a heck of a lot easier, while also providing a screen to draw on and encoder and buttons and baked-in grid/arc/crow support, etc.

nb. i’m typing this on my phone while a pizza bakes in the oven, so apologies if i’ve added any confusion (other folks should feel free to chime in!!).

i hope so too! maybe a good time to also mention that folks should feel free to get in touch if they want to lead similar sessions and wanna chat stuff out (feel free to DM, or hit up Music Hackspace!). a goal of these sessions is to get folks the knowledge they need and to provide a supported platform run by some super nice people to deliver their takes on the knowledge they gain. but also 1000% agreed that Zack is particularly gifted at teaching and facilitating :gem:

also, if folks have specific things they’d like to learn, shout it out!! so much of this community is people with skills and time who feel fulfilled by helping other people gain skills and meet their needs to make art. put it out there and it’ll likely find the right eyes :slight_smile:


thanks everyone for joining in on the second workshop! I really hope it was worthwhile for you.

don’t worry if SuperCollider seems hard - thats a common sentiment early in the SuperCollider experience. I spent a lot of time getting boggled by it and I sincerely hope that the workshops hit on things that might make it easier to jump into. take your time, ask questions! there are plenty of people ready and happy to answer questions on the lines forum via the dedicated norns+SuperCollider thread, or via the norns discord.

here’s some specific questions from workshop 2 that I wanted to expand on a little bit:

q: do you have to make a norns engine everytime you want to run SuperCollider code?

mostly, yes. but engines can be short and sweet, aka the PolyPerc engine. the one caveat is something like @yota’s cool norns script that lets you write arbitrary SuperCollider code without the need of making your own engine: interpret. (by the way, I also highly suggest checking out @yota’s youtube channel which is full of interesting and beautiful SuperCollider examples:

q: can you seperate the norns engine into different files?

yes, you can! a great example of this is thebangs or dronecaster - both which are structured into several files. in general though - I would opt to keep everything in a single file unless you are doing something slightly complicated like creating ugen subgraphs which is what is happening in these two scripts which essentially let you define synths and then pull them in from different files. usually, though, you will only need to add SynthDefs to a file and you can load up one file with tons and tons of them.

q: how do I send information from SuperCollider into a norns script?

basically, you can send messages through osc to communicate from SuperCollider into norns. in SuperCollider you would run NetAddr("", 10111).sendMsg("yourmessage",<numbers or w/e separted by comma>); and then on the norns you would use the osc input to read the message (documented here). personally, I use this in a few scripts, for example I have the amen player, sending position information from the Synth, which is received within SuperCollider and forwarded to the norns which is then received by norns in the norns script.

its very easy to send information from a norns script to SuperCollider (i.e. by defining addCommand in the SuperCollider script and then using engine.<yourfunction> in lua). it is harder to do the other way around.

q: how do I do x in SuperCollider?

(no one asked this specifically, but I want to hammer home two points)

first: whenever you are trying to do something you don’t know in SuperCollider, I would highly recommend checking something in the SuperCollider docs! for example, just randomly I came upon the docs for LocalOut and at the bottom there is an amazing example of doing a tape-delay which I manipulated into my synth engine for icarus. the docs are excellent and the examples are very musical and inspirational. the same goes for norns stuff - if you don’t know how to do something, its easiest to try to find a script that does something similar which you can build off. we are all learning from each other and its totally okay to go into a script and copy something from it into yours (I wholeheartedly encourage copy-paste from any of my scripts, I do it all the time). a lot of code is very similar (i.e. getting midi input, setting up parameters for leveling, sequencing) so don’t put it upon yourself to figure it out all from scratch (unless you want to!).

second: please feel free to ask! don’t be afraid and be shameless with your questions.

thank you both (and @dan_derks) for the very very kind comments.

please let me know if there is something in particular you would like to do in another workshop!

I’m not planning on doing any more workshops but I am open to the idea. it was a lot of fun for me, and I get to learn a lot interacting with you all. some things I think would be fun would be:

  • workshop on how to design drum sounds in SuperCollider and sequencing them in norns (super fun and pretty easy)
  • workshop on how to make a polyphonic synthesizer (i.e. designing sounds and a voice allocator in norns)

i.e. the above are the sorta things I spend a lot of time thinking about for my own musical journey and would have lots to share about it.


definitely interested in a voice allocation workshop. I was asking dan about this today, I could start a bunch of voices but could only stop one!


My motivation to attend the supercollider for norns workshop was, that even while reading the monome page and some forum threads about norns, I still could not figure out what this device was able to accomplish, or why I should work with it…
thx @dan_derks and @infinitedigits for convincing me to attend the workshop, even if I am new to supercollider… For a beginner like me with some max/msp experience it was easy to follow along. The main fun with norns seems to me, to have a fun little device for diy synth and sampling ideas at my disposal. I only need to know how to get things done…
So, once again knowledge is wisdom and it’s good to know, that there is a community like this here, that is doing things the DIY way…

btw… @infinitedigits your workshop ideas sound very promising. Once you decide to offer them I will attend.


First, thanks again for doing these two workshops, and…

…please count me in on both them. I really do hope you will find the time to do both of these, as I think the techniques you mention in their preliminary descriptions are essential in building one’s own instruments and grooveboxes (and thus moving away from buying purpose-built boxes, aka GAS).

  • workshop on how to make a polyphonic synthesizer (i.e. designing sounds and a voice allocator in norns)

Suuuper interested in this!


Hey! Just wondering when the last Supercollider workshop stream will be made available? I had signed up but missed the live event. @infinitedigits

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It would be fun to encourage the participants and facilitators of the workshops, perhaps the tone to drone workshop in particular, to consider getting their drones into the Dronecaster script.

This might, if they so choose, push the individual learning journeys toward new skill, new UGens, and new adventures.


just got an email that it’s up now!

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this would be awesome! @license and i could do a little pre-recorded video workshop or something that would show people how to do it.


I think this is a great idea :slight_smile: actually I still need to add my new drone to dronecaster!

yesss! if you want to demo with a new drone I can send you one :slight_smile:


Music hackspace is running a 25% off on all courses sale until this Friday, 6th Aug. If you missed the live events.


Just signed up to the two pairs of catch-up sessions with @dan_derks and @infinitedigits

I wanted to explore my Norns earlier but needed to complete my thesis first. My hand-in is a week today so it seems like the perfect time to springboard headlong into Norns!

Thank you for creating these sessions!


Watching the Ample Samples vids right now and just got to the aside where we learn how to find SuperCollider’s master volume slider. Whoever asked that question, my ears thank you :laughing: