Oi from Brasilia, Brazil!

Hi there,

I have tried to learn music all my life, but sometimes I guess learning an instrument gets in the way of learning music … if you know what I mean. I have always felt chained to the hard limitations of my clumsy hands on the piano.

I have dabbled with some SonicPi’s tutorials and the syntax seems intuitive, but I am a total noob about synths and all timbres seem very “techno” for what I am looking for.

I have seen some live coding compositions by Andrew Sorensen where he uses some acoustic sounding synths. How do I accomplish that? I use a Mac and I do have Garage Band with many synths available. Is there a way to use those synths inside Sonic Pi?

Hope to hear from you.


@hitsware - a little bit of context is always helpful :wink:

Hey there @fredguth :slightly_smiling_face: welcome to the forum!

There are several ways you can create the sounds of more ‘traditional’ classical instruments for example.
One way is to make use of samples as hitsware has pointed towards - you can use collections of samples and play these as notes for a particular instrument. There are several free libraries that folks have suggested so far - see Free Sample Libraries.... whats out there for starters.

Alternatively, you can use external hardware or software synths to create these sounds by talking to them from Sonic Pi. This is all described in chapter 11 of the tutorial: (or see https://sonic-pi.net/tutorial#section-11). There are probably examples and discussions around this throughout the forum as well.

Have a read of some of those links if they sound like what you’re after. If you have further questions, go ahead and ask. I’m sure there will be someone on in_thread that will be able to help :smile:

1 Like

Thanks for the ideas. A lot of things to learn. I have read the section 3 (before and again now). It is still not clear to me how can I use a sample to have the same effect as a synth. Can I recognize notes in samples and use them when I ask ‘play :c3’? Is there a list of free synths (rhodes, moogs, steinways) as there are sample lists? or am I missing the point?

For using samples, no, we don’t recognise the pitch content in them. It’s up to the user to sort and trigger them according to manual classification, using sample instead of play. To a degree, we can even change the pitch of a sample to make it fit a certain note, but it is of course useful if the sample collection already provides a spread of ‘notes’!
Having said all that, there’s definitely people here that have often used samples for instruments. Here’s a useful post:

For synths, I don’t know so much about hardware, but there are plenty of free software synths out there. Some may require you to also use a ‘VST host’ program to run the synths as virtual instruments inside them, but there are free varieties of those also. Some free software synths: Helm by Matt Tytel (which can run by itself as a standalone program), https://surge-synthesizer.github.io/, … and plenty more floating around as VST plugins that may provide more realistic traditional instrument sounds.

1 Like

Oh yes, if you do end up using a VST host program to run some plugins in, I recommend the VSTs from https://www.dskmusic.com/ (they’re free) - I have used a bunch of these for a while (not with Sonic Pi though :wink: ) and he has quite a selection, such as synths for brass, guitars, pianos, bass, etc. Worth checking out if you want to go down that route :slight_smile:

1 Like

Hi @fredguth, let me add three notes in addition to Ethan’s extensive posting:

  • You are of course free to use Midi and with that your favorite software or hardware synth to extend the sound capabilities of Sonic Pi; this is probably the easiest and fastest way. If you are looking for a free software synth it depends on the OS you are using. As I am using Linux I can recommend Yoshimi which has quite a few sounds coming with it e. g. some nice Rhodes sounds.
  • I have made a tune using some violin samples from Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra (I just realized that these are no longer online but the site suggests alternatives). If you are interested you can find the code here and the integration of the samples starting here.
  • At least for drums there is an open source project called DrumGizmo which provides multichannel and velocity sensitive access to complete sample libraries; in other words you can create sample libraries and make these easily accessible via midi. I don’t know but you can probably apply this to other instruments.

Hope that helps you to get an idea how to go on.


One point on Martin’s answer. Sonatina Symphony Orchestra samples can still be downloaded but from a new location https://github.com/peastman/sso

I have yesterday updated this link on an article I wrote some time ago which plays Frere Jaques as a round using “synths” created from these samples (55 different ones!). This illustrates the technique of how to use them. Of course you may just want two or three, not all 55.
You can read about it here