SC4Reaper

I was given the opportunity to hold a course in SoundDesign at Stockholm University of The Arts. It was initially intended to be solely about Reaper. I negotiated the situation to have the course also include ways that SuperCollider can extend the capabilities and capacities of Reaper. In this course we will learn to channel three types of data from SuperCollider to Reaper. In doing so we will extend the realm of the possible when we organize sound. The three data types are: Audio, MIDI and finally OSC. Please download the below .zip which contains files which can be used to make sound in SuperCollider, to record that sound in Reaper and to control Reaper in ways which are not possible using Reaper alone:
sc4Reaper.zip

This configuration guide presumes that your operating system is Mac OS X Sierra, High Sierra or thereabouts, and that you know the password to the user you are logged in as. I have it on good authority that if you are on Catalina or above, things will be different for you, that is to say you might have a difficult time with your configuration. The course in general presumes that you have never opened SuperCollider or Reaper. The aim of this configuration guide in particular, and this course in general is to make you more free in the ways that you can use Reaper which for all intents and purposes is a highly capable DAW, but still, just a DAW. As such it is inherently linear in it’s very nature. SuperCollider will allow us to add dainty bells and gleeful whistles to the day to day of how we work with Reaper.

Open Terminal.app, then copy the below command into Terminal.app and run it by pressing Enter. This will ask for your password. When you input your password there will be no visual feedback on the screen, which is fine. When it’s finished it will let us install all kinds of cool applications and plugins from anywhere we prefer:

sudo spctl --master-disable

Please download and install the 64 bit version of Reaper from the below link. Reaper is our DAW, it is where we record sound and generally do our work of organizing sound:
Reaper.fm

Please download and install the Current Version (with Apple notarization) from the below link. SuperCollider let’s us do anything and everything that we could ever dream of. We interface with SuperCollider by writing and manipulating code. It contains a state of the art synthesis engine which is renowned for it’s efficiency and cleanliness. It also contains quite an elegant programming language that has been specifically tailored to our needs, being as we are; Folks who want to organize sound:
supercollider.github.io

Please download and install the latest signed version of SoundFlower from the link below. SoundFlower let’s us route audio between programs inside our computers:
github.com/mattingalls/Soundflower

It is my strongly expressed recommendation that you never, ever, ever listen to the sound output of SuperCollider without first having routed it into Reaper using SoundFlower. Three reasons: The first of which is safety. SuperCollider is special in the way that it will let you make yourself deaf if you ask it to make you deaf. Contrastingly Reaper is special in the opposite way. It will never let even a single sample pass through it that could make you deaf. Reaper will automatically mute it’s output before we get into any real trouble. The second reason is diagnostics. It is really easy to keep track of what is going on with the input in Reaper. The metering is a lot better than SuperCollider’s out of the box. The third reason is organization. Having access to Reaper’s capacities as a DAW makes organizing sound a lot easier. I should state that entirely unique ways of organizing sound within time are possible inside of SuperCollider, but it is my experience that those ways of organizing sound are a way’s way yonder, onward on a timeline ahead of us. Even though we are just starting out, making bleeps and bloops is not enough, we want to organize sound in powerful abstracted ways, on day one!

Please note that if you have used SoundFlower in the past with a GUI then I should tell you that this is not that. This is a kernel extension. Long story short: It not only works now, it is very trustworthy because the original developer Matt Ingalls has taken back control over his project.

First begin by going into System Preferences, Sound and then toggle “Show volume in menu bar” because we are going to be toggling that a whole lot let me tell y’all. Next hold down Alt and press the speaker icon in the menu bar. Change the “Input Device” to “SoundFlower (2ch)”. Press the volume increase button on your keyboard (just to the left of the power button). Set it to two units from the max. This will act as your send from program A to program B. Now press the volume icon in the menu bar again and switch over to your preferred output device. If I’m using my quick + dirty headphone output I like to set mine at four volume units. This will vary wildly on different setups.

Now that we have Reaper, SuperCollider and SoundFlower successfully installed on our machines let’s go ahead and boot Reaper if you haven’t already. Press Cmd + , to reach SuperCollider’s Preferences pane. A multitude of things can be configured here. The different settings have been grouped in categories and subcategories in the pane to the left. We can navigate in the pane either by clicking or by using the up and down arrow keys. In the first category “General” we can see that it is possible to import and export all of Reaper’s configuration settings. This is good to know in case you find yourself working on an unfamiliar machine and want to use your own special settings that make working in Reaper feel homey, and life in general feel bearable. I like to untoggle “Show splash screen in startup”, but don’t feel like you have to.

A couple of steps down is “Media item defaults”. I like to set my “Default fadeIn/fadeOut shape” to the third one from the top and the “Default crossfade shape” to the second one from the top. Go ahead and feel this out for what you prefer and change them to your faves once you get a handle on what those are.

Another couple of steps down under “Audio” is “Device”. In that preference pane first toggle “Allow use of different input and output devices” then choose SoundFlower as the input device and BuiltIn Output as your output.

Next open a program called Audio MIDI Setup. Click on the “Window” tab and click on “Show MIDI Studio”. Next click on “IAC Driver”. Toggle “Device is online”. Close Audio MIDI Setup and go back to Reaper. Next on our configuration list is “MIDI Devices”. Double click the IAC driver in the list of MIDI inputs. Toggle both “Enable input from this device” and “Enable input for control messages”. Double click the IAC driver in the list of MIDI outputs. Toggle “Enable output to this device”. Press “Apply”.

Next under Plugins click on “Compatibility”. Set “VST/AU bridging/firewalling” to “In separate plugin process”.

Last but definitely not least let’s set up “Control/OSC/web”. Click “Add”. In the “Control Surface Mode” menu choose “OSC (open sound control)”. Set “Mode” to “Local port”. “Local listen port” should read “8000” and whatever local IP you get is good. Toggle “Allow binding messages to Reaper actions and FX learn”. If the “Apply” button is not grey, then press that. If it’s grey then that is fine also. Press “OK”. Boom, we are now done with setting up Reaper.

Next up is SuperCollider so go ahead and boot it up. SuperCollider is at least two things. Right now we’re looking at SuperCollider’s IDE which means Integrated Development Environment. I interpret that as a special flavour of text editor that to some extent is tailored to the kind of code that we want to write. On a practical level what I’m talking about here is the round swirly SuperCollider icon in the dock where we see the programs that are open right now. Next to it is the square swirly SuperCollider icon which is SCSynth. Go ahead and press Cmd + ,. We are now in SuperCollider’s IDE configuration. Press “Editor”. Toggle “Wrap test in post window”. This is essential. Depending on taste you might also enjoy toggling “Disable blinking cursor”, drives me nuts if I don’t do that anyway. Press “Apply” and “OK” to exit.

By default SuperCollider has three windows open. The code window, the help window and the post window. I like to close the help window and move the post window and attach it at the bottom. I find that this makes better use of limited screen real estate. I like to have the docs open in it’s own window in a browser and then use Cmd + tab to toggle to the docs when I need to look something up. That way the docs aren’t cramped up into a tiny box that forces me to scroll all the time. The docs are hard enough to read as it is (that’s a strange kind of joke right there). Boom! Y’allses SC IDE is now sat up.

In the .zip you downloaded earlier is a file called Startup.scd that I want you to open up now. Copy that mess of text. Close that file. Press the “File” tab, then “Open startup file”. Paste into there. Press Cmd + s to save it. Then press Cmd + Shift + L to recompile the class library. We’re going to be doing this a lot. It’s one of a few different ways that we can ask SuperCollider to take a look at itself to see if the way that it is configured has changed in any way. All of the lines of executable code in that file are now ran automagically each time we start SuperCollider. These are sensible defaults I promise. You’re gonna wanna poke through ’em once you get settled in tho for sure, but until then, go with these.

Open up that sc4reaper folder and look for a file called Pxshuf. Have that ready in a Finder window on the side there because we’re going to put it in the right place soon. Go back to SuperCollider. Press the “File” tab. Click “Open user support directory”. Quick tangent: We are now in a hidden, secret place on your computer because  yada, yada, reasons. Click on the “Extensions” folder to open it. Drag that Pxshuf.sc file over into there. Go back to SuperCollider and press Cmd + Shift + L to recompile the class library. You have now extended SuperCollider’s capabilities with one custom Pattern class which is David Granström’s handiwork. It is excellent. If you for some reason ever find yourself without it, you could use the vanilla version instead. It is similar but behaves a little different. It is called Pshuf.

Patterns is one of around five competing paradigms within SuperCollider. These different paradigms represent different ways of thinking, writing code and most importantly, getting things done. A thing can get done in SuperCollider in a bunch of different ways. That can be confusing. Different strokes for different folks is all. I’d like for you to be able to identify some different styles and strategies. Blue words that begin with a big P, followed by a word or two after that is what tell me that I’m looking at code written in this Pattern style.

We’ll get back to Patterns later but it is now high time that we use SuperCollider to make some sound. Open the 101.scd file that you can find in your SC4Reaper. This style of writing SuperCollider code is often called Function play. We can identify it by it’s use of curly braces and the word play either at the bigging or the end of it. These are often short because a long time there was a project called sc140 that tried to spread the gospel of SuperCollider by showing that a lot could be done with very few characters. Long story short; These are everywhere on The Public Internet. You might find one you like one day and use the sound it makes. Press Cmd + B. This boots the server. Notice that there is a text marker. Make sure that this text marker is on the line with the code. Now press Shift + Enter. This will evaluate the code. Now press Cmd + M. This will bring up SuperCollider’s volume meter. Hopefully we should see some coclourful lights there. No sound tho right? Open Reaper. Make a new track by pressing Cmd + T. Press the red button on the track we just added. This arms the track for recording. Notice that the track is represented in two places. Down in the mixer and in the track lane. Both have turned red because they represent the same thing. Let’s choose how many channels we want to record. Down and to the right we see “input 1”. Click this text field. click “Input: Stereo” and then “Input 1/Input 2”. We should at this point see that signal from SuperCollider is reaching Reaper in the track meter. If we hover over the tiny speaker icon on the track we see that record monitoring is turned off. Click the tiny speaker icon to turn it on. If all has gone well we should now hear the sound that is coming from SuperCollider. Let’s record this sound. Press Cmd + R to record. Press the space bar when you have a lil´ snip recorded. You’ll now see a dalog urging you to decide what to do with this file you just recorded. Untoggle “on stop”. This makes it easier and faster to work with Reaper when we are recording a bunch of tracks and we want have another shot at nailing our take as quickly as possible. Notice that the track you just recorded is white which means it is selected. Press backspace to delete it. Quick and easy.

Switch over to SuperCollider. Press Cmd + .(that’s period, the end of sentence character) to stop the sound. Evaluate the code again. Notice that the sound is similar but different. That is because the code contains some stochastic choices that I’ve asked the computer to make. This gives us a unique collapsing of the wave front each time we run the code.


Every time we feel that we need to start from the beginning learning how to do things in SuperCollider we begin with Eli Fieldsteel’s excellent video tutorial series:
Fieldsteel video series

If we want, we can also look at the code from the above Fieldsteel videos here: Fieldsteel video series code

If we find ourselves just wanting to look up a particular thing, the docs are online here:
SuperCollider documentation online

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Mads Kjeldgaard one awesome place has all the best resources and tutorials waiting for us when we want to dig deeper:
Awesome SuperCollider

How to change the default synth in SuperCollider:
madskjeldgaard.dk

Get Git:
git-scm.com

How to git:
c0dereview.github.io

An FM synth that can be computer controlled:
github.io/dexed

A safer Benjolin:
github.com/madskjeldgaard

sInstruments:
github.com/redfrik/sinstruments

SoundHack (++bubbler) have modern versions of their freeware plugins through the link below in case you want to compare to the vintage rare ones included in the .zip at the top of this page:
www.soundhack.com

The DtBlkFx plugins are free but sadly going out of style (32 bit plugin):
rekkerd.org/dtblkfx

DestroyFX are another favourite of mine from the wild, wild west of the naughties freeware plugin scene:
destroyfx.smartelectronix.com

The Melda plugins are for reals free and super useful:
meldaproduction.com

If you give an email, any email, to Izotope, they’ll give you their Imager plugin:
izotope.com

The modern way to ask strangers other users how to do things in SuperCollider is here:
The SuperCollider Forum

At the time of writing it is an experimental feature of SuperCollider to be able to run VST plugins inside of SuperCollider itself:
scsynth.org thread

SuperCollider integration for Neovim:
github.com/davidgranstrom/scnvim

Amazing online gallery of fragments made with SuperCollider:
synthdef.art

Two drones of infinite duration: danielmkarlsson.github.io/

I’ve been maintaining a project called Ruins in the distance for quite a few years now. That project mainly uses the tools and techniques we’ve been using in the course:
danielmkarlsson.com/ruins-in-the-distance

Verdensteatret - HANNAH, a stage performance that utilizes SuperCollider in a multitude of ways:
verdensteatret.com

EMS is great:
elektronmusikstudion.se