Sonic Pi Workshop

Faculty of Education, 19 June 2019, rev. June 2020
E Reed. ereed - at -



  1. Low barrier to entry but difficult to master
  2. Another means of analysing and expressing music
  3. Tangible outcomes or high degree of abstraction:
    • Art as process or concept? Music as mechanism?1
  4. Errors highlighted immediately
  5. STEM funding?

Advantages over other software

Bold = serious advantage over other music tech software

  1. Maths
    • Randomisation
    • Choice
    • Mathematical processes
    • Microtones
    • Polyrhythm
    • Phasing and polytempo
  2. Music tech
    • Synthesis
      • Envelope control (ADSR)
      • Amp, pan, and other controls via in-line options or use_synth_defaults/use_sample_defaults
    • Samples
      • Built-in samples
      • External samples just by quoting path
      • Quickly change rate and pitch
      • Reverse!
    • Oscilloscope!
    • Live control through live_loop
    • OSC and MIDI I/O
    • Live audio in through synth :sound_in and live_audio2
  3. Computer science
  4. Other features
    • Free
    • Record audio straight from the programme and control in real time
    • Built-in tutorial and code examples


  1. Maths
    • Easy to make addition mistakes so that loops don’t synchronise
  2. Sequential programming rather than concurrency; slight difficulty of live_loop and the friction between concurrent live_loops and linear compositions. This can be bridged with in_thread, but which do you privilege in a short SoW?
  3. Music tech
    • Text based so difficult to visualise, e.g. pitch of notes, envelope shape…
    • Clunky MIDI and Audio I/O. Compare this to Logic, for example.
  4. Computer science
    • Sterility? Relative difficulty of introducing amp: options or other expression
  5. Students might be better than you! (problem?)

Resources for learners

A repo of resources at



Raspberry Pi Foundation

Sam Aaron


Codecademy: Ruby

Blogs and isolated posts

Art thoughts

Research and further reading

Sonic Pi in use

Other stuff

  1. Analogies of process art or conceptual art, e.g. Sol LeWitt 1, 2, Haegue Yang… 

  2. Don’t forget to stop! live_audio :foo, :stop