Hello from Salt Lake City, Utah

Over 20 years ago I got a music composition degree. Since then I’ve dabbled in music, but not seriously. When I was a student I got to play with a Steiner and I wanted to do more with electronic music but I didn’t really get much experience because the program at my University was pretty much on it’s last leg (I found out later the electronic music professor regularly came to lectures drunk). After I graduated they brought in a new instructor and he taught SuperCollider and Logic Pro. I’ve never really learned any DAWs past GarageBand. And I’ve learned a few things in SuperCollider but never really made anything worth showing, it’s mostly notes that I used to teach some music concepts to various people.

After I got my music degree I started working in IT managing Macintosh computers and I’m still doing that today. I took Java and C++ classes when I was a student and after I graduated I slowly learned more languages and I think I became fairly competent at coding, but nowhere near the level of programmers who code all day. I’ve used Perl and Python extensively. I learned Ruby over a decade ago but didn’t end up using it so I am very rusty with it. I thought Ruby was great but then I eventually found Lua and it’s still my favorite and I try to find excuses to use it, but without much success.

I found Sonic Pi this week when I was making another attempt at learning SuperCollider to the point that I can actually produce some music. Sonic Pi showed up in the play queue and it appealed to me because it’s so much easier than SuperCollider and because I also have a 7-year-old who I think would really love learning music and coding with Sonic Pi.

I do have some Raspberry Pi’s but I don’t really use them any more. They’re old and low powered. I currently have a M1 MacBook Air. I actually tried to build Sonic Pi and I got this error, I believe because it’s an M1. I’m not really interested in building it, I just wanted to try it out.

CMake Error at vcpkg/scripts/buildsystems/vcpkg.cmake:793 (_find_package):
  Could not find a package configuration file provided by "platform_folders"
  with any of the following names:


  Add the installation prefix of "platform_folders" to CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH or
  set "platform_folders_DIR" to a directory containing one of the above
  files.  If "platform_folders" provides a separate development package or
  SDK, be sure it has been installed.
Call Stack (most recent call first):
  api/CMakeLists.txt:44 (find_package)

Yesterday I was playing with the sound_in synth and it’s really cool but because I can’t change microphones all I get is feedback. I tried changing the sound out but if I changed the sound out to anything but the built-in speakers then the built-in microphone quit working. I found that if I changed the sound-out to BlackHole then I could record the sound and play it back. It would be nice if I could change the microphone. I know it’s an open issue on github.

I’d say I’m impressed with Sonic Pi, but there seems to be a huge gap between stuff sounding like chiptunes or a basic midi synth and the stuff that Sam Aaron posts on YouTube. I’m not sure how to get those sounds. I’m still looking and learning though.

I’d also really like to use an external text editor. I’ve been pretty spoiled with BBEdit on the Mac and I’ve got a lot of muscle memory keyboard shortcuts that really slow me down in apps that don’t support them. I saw something about using VSCode for Sonic Pi and I need to check that out (although VSCode isn’t really what I like to use either).

I’m not sure what I’m looking for. Because Sonic Pi might catch my son’s eye I will probably keep using it. But I’ve also been looking at some free/crossplatform DAW’s. I have no budget because unless it’s going to earn me money I can’t justify spending on it, which really limits what I can do with music (which is why I’ve only really used GarageBand or MuseScore since I graduated).

I’m more of a classically trained musician and feel more at home plinking out keys on a piano or in MuseScore than in a DAW like GarageBand. And the thing is, when I use GarageBand it’s so inorganic anyway that I keep thinking I wish I could code the notes. But when I code there’s this huge hurdle of how to code it. Tonight I played with midi and osc in. I don’t know much about them past the basics that they exist but I got it working with Sonic Pi and I even found an excuse to use some Lua by downloading a Lua OSC client to send some notes to Sonic Pi.

This message is so long already and I hardly deserve people’s attention because I am too distracted to stay in a community for long. But I’m hoping Sonic Pi can meet some desires I’ve got. Right now I’m wondering how hard it is to get some really ambient spacey sounding synths because I told some video game people I’d try to write something for their space game that I play sometimes. After that I might try to write a bunch of songs for another video game mod. And after that I’m just hoping to get my kid interested in this.

This just came to my mind. Back around the iPhone first came out there was this looper app (for jailbroken phones) that would change various synth effects based on how the phone was held (it was using the accelerometer). I’ve never seen anything like that since and I have no idea why nobody has done anything like it. I don’t believe the OSC apps on the phone do them (but I don’t know for sure–I was wrong, TouchOSC does). Although the comparison is pretty flimsy, it reminds me of Imogen Heap’s Mi-Mu glove. I just went and looked and I can’t believe that she’s actually made an app that does what I just described but it looks like it only works with her desktop app.

Anyway, that’s who I am.

Comments to my post.

I found the thread discussing the M1 build.

I haven’t looked too deeply yet, but it appears the huge sound gap I mentioned is because Sam is using samples instead of built-in synths for his sounds.

I figured out if I put run_file in the main Sonic Pi editor I can point to a file and edit that with any editor I want. That works pretty well for me.

Because I’m a classically trained musician, I really want to start my compositions in MIDI, so I’ve spent the last few days figuring out how to get read MIDI files, use a MIDI keyboard, and get OSC to work. I’ve always thought I should know how MIDI works and I’m finally learning.