Introduction - Nicholas Rake

Hello all!
I’m long overdue for connecting, as Sonic Pi has become the center of my life. I first used I think a 1.x version on my Raspberry Pi 1. I’ll be honest I didn’t really get it at first and got quickly frustrated with the workflow, having spent nearly 20 years with drag and drop DAWs and wave editors. I revisited it just for fun on a RasPi3 I was setting up for a friend, and the moment I understood chord_degree and .choose I was hooked! Even back on my DAW, I used to always say that the computer made the music and I just validated it. I used a lot of generative concepts in my music, but there was always something too limited about my ability to do so. Sonic-Pi has fulfilled that need and then some. I’m able to churn out generative music in styles and rhythms I was never able to figure out before. Now I’ve been dusting off my MIDI gear and buying some new stuff (brand new Monologue Aphex Acid Machine!!! ) and finally making the Dub, Glitch, and Acid House I was always trying to make on my DAW.
I just played my first Algo-Show this last weekend. I live in Asheville, NC, a block from the Moog Factory, and have just put together our first AlgoRave, prominently featuring Sonic Pi. I am also a Middle and High School teacher who teaches a Musical Coding class which teaches Sonic Pi. I’m at the end of my second semester and am so excited about getting so many kids started on coding and production. I have a dream that in a couple years, I’ll have a fresh new scene ready to be embraced by young producers. The quality is rough, but here’s the show, that’s me for the first hour. All Sonic Pi on a RasPi3, though the last 3 songs are running through my ESX-1.
I’d say the most surprising thing about Sonic Pi is that I can watch you (Sam) and I have no clue what you’re doing half the time, yet despite that, I’m able to do my own thing without difficulty. I really appreciate watching your videos, I learn all kinds of stuff and we share a lot of musical taste.

I really need to step up and help out when the semester is over. I’ve been meaning to offer to update some documentation, as there are definitely times where we’re all reading along in class and I stop to say “We don’t have to do it like that anymore”. Talking about control yesterday is a good example of that, there’s still instructions that suggest saving the synth object in a variable is mandatory. That change completely fixed part of my workflow, so I’m very quick to point out the difference. I’d love to help improve the great documentation that is already there.

Thank you for everything Sam, you single-handedly pulled me out of an extended musical funk.


Nice introduction, and welcome! I was checking out your video and it was cool checking out how varied your compositions were. One thing I missed though was seeing the editor included in the visuals! When Sam does his practice sets I often keep an eye on the editor, even if I don’t understand everything he’s up to. Watching your video made me realize how much I find that watching the composition really adds to the “performance” aspect, and I was really curious how you put together your tracks - especially the dubbier ones.

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What subject does that “Musical Coding” class fall under? Is it a music/arts type course or a tech/computer science? Or some sort of enrichment? Also, is it a class that receives a grade? I also teach Sonic Pi to Middle schoolers, but as a music class where they get a grade.

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Thank you very much! Yeah, we would have had an editor view, but it came down to a late start and a forgotten adapter.
My workflow for playing is very different from Sam. I compose most of a song beforehand and then start playing with key points when I’m playing. Sometimes looking for a cool seed, sometimes changing up timings things like that. I have a little Acid Track I write from scratch, but typically I treat SP as a studio tool.

Here’s that dub track to check out. I’m pretty sure it was originally born from Wob Rhyth in the examples. Definitely where I got the inspiration to wobble it if not. I promise someday I’ll comment my code. :’(


Respect, Sir! Tasteful.



Such a fitting tribute!

Are there some examples of your previous DAW-based work? Haven’t done much generative music with them but it’s interesting to make that connection.

Updating the documentation will be very useful. The basis is so strong, so pedagogically useful. But it should really incorporate the changes implemented in different versions. Do you keep a list of things which need to change?
A fun project could be to get students to write some of their own documentation. Haven’t had the opportunity to do this, yet. But it’s one of the big lessons from Open Educational Resources: it’s about creating new things, not about replacing textbooks.

The generative aspects in those days were limited to using randomization in an arpeggiator and a random number generator that let me choose patterns in various plugins. So I’d set up the patterns but wouldn’t know what order they were coming in.

I don’t actually keep a list, no.
That’s a really good idea, I may see about that in the future.

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