Sonic Pi with Sam Aaron

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In this episode, I am talking to Dr. Sam Aaron, the creator of Sonic Pi. Sonic Pi is a code-based music creation and performance tool.

Sam is the creator of Sonic Pi, and also an educator, musician, and was previously also a researcher at the University of Cambridge in the UK. He has created and contributed to an impressive array of open source projects – just one of them is Sonic Pi, which we are focusing on for this episode. 

Image: (c) Tynesight Photos

Sonic Pi, is an essential part of the so-called live coding music scene and  was originally built and designed specifically for education. The fact that it is now an important part of the live coding scene plays a huge role for education, too, as many of the children in workshops or at school will find it super inspiring and motivational to know that some of the top artists in this genre are making use of Sonic Pi. In the shownotes, I’ll put a link to a recent article in the NY Times that describes this fascinating development of the music scene.  

“Convo” by Charlotte Harding; Tri-Borough Music Hub; Royal Albert Hall, London; 7th March 2019. © Pete Jones pete@pjproductions.co.uk

Let’s now take a look at Sonic Pi – it’s software that is available for all major operating systems – Mac/Windows/Linux. You can also run Sonic PI very easily on Raspbian, which is the most widely used OS the low cost Raspberry PI. 

The Sonic PI website explains the key benefits very well:

  • Simple enough for computing and music lessons.
  • Powerful enough for professional musicians.
  • Free to download with a friendly tutorial.
  • Diverse community of over 1.5 million live coders.

So here’s a quick practical description of how Sonic Pi works. After opening the program, you add and modify code in the large editor screen. Once you hit run, that code, which creates music, is run and you get immediate feedback for your creation. You’ll now modify and enhance your code and learn about the specific functions to play and modify sound while having a lot of fun. 

Screenshot of Sonic Pi – Image: CC0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63276154

The last thing to note for this quick intro to Sonic Pi is the excellent tutorial. It’s not only up to date, but also integrated well into the Sonic Pi application which makes first steps very easy. 

Sonic Pi is coding + music education – something I wish I had when I was young. How did your music lessons look like? 

Shownotes

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