Using Norns in live performances

Share your tips and experiences regarding the use of Norns in a live performance in this thread.

How do you incorporate it to a live show and what are your favourite apps for performing? Does it operate as your aux effect unit to bring some extra spice, or is it the core brain of your system on which the whole performance relies on?

Both positive and negative experiences are very welcome to be shared here. It’s also interesting to hear if you’d never want to use Norns live and would rather noodle with it at home or studio instead.

Apologies if this has been covered somewhere else before – I looked but (surprisingly) couldn’t find a discussion regarding this topic.

As for me, I’ll be performing at a festival this weekend, and it will be the first time I’m using Norns in such wide capacity. I’ll be using Norns and Shield alongside a 6U modular setup.

The original plan was to clock the entire set via Crow, but since I just last week updated both Crow and Norns I got cold feet and decided to let the modular entity run free on it’s own. I’m using both Norns in tandem, where Shield is mostly used to process Norns #1 (using Barcode 90% of the time). On the first half of the set, Norns #1 mainly is used to mangle sounds coming from the modular (Otis, Compass, Cranes), but on the other half it takes a more prominent role, with the use of Sines, Twine and Goldeneye. I’m typically quite wary of doing any melodic improvisations, but this time I decided to risk it so for the ending I’m running Initenere to play both the sound engine as well as Just Friends.

In total, I’m using eight different apps throughout the performance. I’m not sure if this is more telling of the huge variety of things Norns can do, or of my set being all over the place. On the other hand, I’m tapping into unknown ground by playing at a multi-genre festival instead of a ambient/experimental niche event so I personally prefer to have variety in the setup.

For a long time I was wary of using Norns live too much, due to issues like apps freezing the device, midi mappings disappearing or 16n not appearing, but I’m very pleased to say that these problems have dissolved during the last year, thanks to great and stability-inducing updates :slight_smile:


i haven’t played live with it yet, things do seem stable enough for me.

the one thing i’d want to solve for with my fates is to have a locking usb-c power cable. my cable has come loose through just regular movement…not anything dramatic.

has anyone done similar already?

Sorry to hear that, but I’d steer you towards the Fates topic to get better advise!


Do you happen to have any recordings with the Norns and your modular?

I just picked up a Norns recently and am just dipping in. Definitely hoping to use it live at some point but nowhere near even amateur level knob twisting with it yet. Curious to hear what’s going on with it.

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Small tip, you can use the Tape as a backup incase something goes wrong with your norns script. Or use it as a general backing ambience. When I did the winter solstice lines stream last year, I wanted to have the beach/ocean background noise but I didn’t want to have the sound of some rando shouting out “What are you doing down there mate?”. So I pre-recorded the same location and time a day earlier and just played it via tape.


Hi @bereenondo !

I got a Norns Shield earlier this year (and Grid this month) and because of Covid-19 reason I didn’t had the chancd to use it live, but I’ll definitely do it when it’s safe - my music language is very live based and I’ll not do different with Monome.

You look pretty experienced with lives, but some general ideas/recommendations that can be helpful too to others:

  1. Most problems I have ever faced when playing live are about basic and/or utilitary aspects of electronic music instruments: cables, adapters, power supplies, batteries/cells etc. Norns appears to be pretty sensible to wrong voltages so be sure that you have the right PSU and, if it’s possible, an extra one. If I understood correctly, you will proccess audio (in) and spit sounds (out) too - so be sure that you have the right cables and - again, if it’s possible - be redundant. Doing a PSU/cable/adaptter checklist before organizing your backpack it’s very helpful and prevent lots of stress;

  2. Because this will be your first time playing live with Norns, I would rather stick with a limited script selection. IMO it’s easy and quick to change scripts, but this is a studio based perception. In live situations the whole selection proccess can suddenly feels clumsy and even risky. And unless you are very used to the scripts, maybe you will also have some muscle memory problems with the very different interfaces/knob/encoders positions (well, I have all the time :sweat_smile:);

  3. If it’s possible, use a mixer (even better if it’s a DJ one) where you have a cue output, EQ and (at least) a Gain/Master knob. Having a safe sound space to cue your Norns script selection can be very helpful;

  4. Have a backup plan! As suggested by @dansimco you have the Tape. I would be even more cautious: think your live set without Norns or have a quick modular patch in hand if you have any problem. Even better, have a pendrive with some tunes if you face extreme technical problems so you can do a DJ set or whatever;

  5. If it’s possible, I would definitely do a soundcheck, specially because you are using a modular system and Norns;

  6. Don’t forget to bring some cleaning cloth that you can dry the support/table where you will place your gear - think also about the best way to protect your precious (and fragile) Norns (and Grid?) before and after your live;

  7. Practice! Your live looks very interesting. I would definitely like ti be in the crowd! However, it looks that you’ll also need to do lots of quick decisions/ musical choices (you are even thinking about melodic improvisation). It’s important that you practice before, maybe even in subpar conditions (i.e low light, small table space, with and without a mixer etc) to train your mind and muscle memory for the real situation;

  8. If you are into recording your acts/stuff, don’t forget to put your portable recorder in the checklist.


I have used Norns live many times and find it to be very reliable - in fact my live setup is currently built around cheat codes which is extremely stable. I too run audio in, process it, and then spit it out, with a small sub mix prior to the input. One thing I have noticed with feeding audio back, and this was discovered once during a sound check, is that sometimes this setup creates ground loops, particularly when using midi or other control from norns. This happens both with the modular via crow, and in my other setup with some Lorre Mill instruments controlled via CVpal. Whilst I have solved this problem in varying degrees it is something that can be exacerbated by new environments with variables that I am unable to control, and the additional gain of live systems. I recommend turning everything up and finding the noise floor in your setup to see if there is anything that can be done if needed. I appreciate that this problem is not exclusive to or necessarily caused by norns but it is still a consideration for me when preparing a live set.
I have never changed scripts during a set, and probably wouldn’t in my current setup given how its based around cheat codes, but it is something I am considering for the future. (Particularly keen to use Flora for some sequencing). I am keen to see how this turns out so please report back!


I have never heard #6 before, what a great tip for so many situations. Don’t forget to bring a towel :notes:


These are all very good points, @aeoner, thanks for the contribution! If possible, spare cables and power supplies should always be brought along. Not to mention trying to arrange decent time for setting up the whole set – there’s nothing more stressful than having 10 minutes to throw everything on the table and doing tens of connections around the system.

Number 8 on the checklist is something I ALWAYS forget to do.

Sorry for being slightly vague on my OP, I have actually played around a dozen times live with Norns over the years, but typically it has just taken a smaller role in the set – i.e. with 1-2 scripts running through the show :slight_smile:

@yoyosandshoes that’s an interesting point, I’d forgotten that at some point I also had some grounding loop issues with Shield – I think I was powering it from the other Norns when I first bought it and once I switched to powering it from the socket it disappeared. When using CC live, do you start from scratch and use it to process sounds from the modular, or have you prepared samples beforehand? I’m also curious as to whether you’ve got multiple presets for one show, that you swap.

I didn’t originally feel comfortable running multiple scripts in one set, but once I started to use the other Norns, it clicked to me how great Barcode works when using it for slightly experimental “crossfading” duties.

I just recalled an unpleasant live situation: a few years ago when Compass came out, I got such bewildering and exciting results with the script that I decided that I’d only use it, and nothing else on an improvised gig with a violinist. What worked out perfectly in rehearsal, turned into an incoherent mess in live context :upside_down_face:


I only used Norns once in a live show with my modular system. One thing I found a little complicated was keeping track of the levels going into the Norns due to the higher signal output from my modular. So checking levels every now and then, was interrupting my flow a little. But besides that little hurdle, everything went smoothly. Would do it again.
And to second @bereenondo – Compass can be extremely hit and miss. :rofl:

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With compass I really would recommend sticking to a tested formula that somehow worked and just not do too much. Also, @Olivier, what happened to the beta? I could not really find bugs :slight_smile: .

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@yghartsyrt @bereenondo – haha, agreed! I tend to create command sequences that are only 4 to 8 steps in length to contain the random. I also have a general aversion to abrupt rate changes, so I never use those commands :slight_smile: Midi-mapping of key controls also goes a long way. Happy to chat further over in the Compass thread.

It’s not so much a question of what happened with the beta, but more what happened with my life! I lost significant steam when it came to rebuild the grid interface, and then I’ve been in a non-programming mindset for the last 6 months. Perhaps one day I’ll dive back in. Thanks for playing with the beta!