Making Music with Sonic Pi

In Pawtucket this year we have spent a lot of time planning and implementing STEAM units and activities. As educators we have all been challenged to think outside of the box and embrace ideas where science, technology and the arts can meet. With this goal in mind, I was very excited to learn that Media Smart Libraries was hosting a Sonic Pi workshop.

Sonic Pi is an open-source program that allows users to create music by writing code. This program is easy to use, offers many options for customizing the sounds and speed of notes and is really engaging to work with. Users are able to learn coding basics while using music skills. The type of sound produced can range from electronic to authentic sounding based on the sound options you choose. By altering the rest times between notes users can also control the tempo and speed of their music.

Having little coding know-how and even less musical skill, I found the program easy to use. Users with more coding prowess and/or more musical talent would be able to take their work much further than me. In our workshop we were given the notes to a basic song (frere jacques) and shown how to make the rests between notes longer or shorter. From there we were set free to see if we could figure it out! I was able to produce something that sounded reasonably close to right in less than an hour. I also learned some coding basics as well.

I would love to use this in my library, specifically as a station during a tech themed makerspace we plan to have this spring. One issue we face is that our students all use chromebooks, and Sonic Pi is not compatible. Fortunately, we do have 4 desktops left in the library which are able to run the program, so we will be able to use it during the workshop. I plan to share this resource with our technology and music teachers, but without chromebook compatibility it will probably be of limited use to them.

I am always excited to learn new things as a school librarian, especially things that I know my students will be interested in. Sonic Pi is definitely one of those things! As I experience more STEAM projects and tools I am more and more convinced that it’s a positive movement for today’s students. I am thrilled to have something relevant to bring back to my students and colleagues.