Sonic Pi: Raspberry sounds inspire coders and musicians

Posted on October 2, 2014


Sam Aaron shot

Raspberry Pi computers are at the centre of many of the coolest open source creative technology projects, whether it’s a home automation controller, weather station, drone or even a supercomputer cluster. So when Raspberry Pi programmer Sam Aarons spoke about Sonic Pi at Newcastle’s SuperMondays event, the level of interest was amped up to 10.

Sonic Pi is Raspberry Pi’s own music software and it is Sam Aaron’s baby. Aaron has a PhD in computer science with a side order of enthusiasm and can programme an electronic dance music storm using Sonic Pi in no time at all. Coding, he says, is just more fun with music.

He visibly cringes at the idea that coding should be reserved only for apps and websites. “Coding is much more important than that,” he says. “It is about imagination. You dream up a project and then see if you can write the code to make it work.”

Synth me babySonic Pi live coding
Sonic Pi is a sound synthesiser that allows anyone to code music in real time using a simple language based on the popular Ruby. By working up a teaching programme to build it into introductory computer science Aaron wants to get people to learn to code in a structured but fun way. First get creative then ‘oops, I can code’. It is a smart idea.

Everybody loves music and the software includes cloned popular synths like the Roland TB303 and Prophet so anyone can make their favourite acid and house sounds with a few basic commands. You will need a Raspberry Pi, the latest Sonic Pi download and a pair of headphones or a speaker, for your performance of course, but the outlay should be minimal.

Sonic Pi codeSonic resources
For updates and ideas on live coding and the Raspberry Pi follow Sam Aaron on Twitter or the dedicated Sonic Pi account. Aaron also performs as one half of Meta-Ex using the live coding platform Overtone, combining the powerful audio engine SuperCollider with the Lisp-based language Clojure. Check out his Youtube channel or G+ for videos and other media updates. There is also a Google Group for Sonic Pi.