nb. we’ll use ‘norns’ throughout this page as a catch-all for both stock and shield – the differences between the two iterations do not affect software usability or hardware connectivity
Since grid is part of the fundamental design of norns, it has immediate integration without installing additional packages. However if you’ve either been using norns / norns shield without a grid, or you’re approaching them both for the first time, a bit of setup guidance might be helpful.
norns has four USB-A ports. Any port can host a grid, so feel free to connect your grid’s USB cable to any available port on norns. As you connect, you’ll see a lightburst on your grid, which indicates it’s receiving power from norns.
To ensure that norns has registered your grid, navigate to
SYSTEM > DEVICES > GRID. Here, you’ll see something similar to:
GRID 1. monome 128 m4409455 2. none 3. none 4. none
A great starting point is awake, which is the script that norns runs after its very first boot-up.
awake is a good one to start with because the grid interface mirrors the sequence that you see on the screen – after loading, you’ll see your grid come alive with a playhead + some programmed notes. Press some pads to change notes! That’s it :)
Want more? Check out the community script selections at the bottom of this page!
If you have a 2021 grid, norns needs to be running the latest software to communicate to it (2021 grid compatibility was added in update
210706). Follow the steps in the norns update docs to update your software. After the unit restarts, your new grid should be successfully detected by norns.
If your grid is not automatically detected upon startup, please follow the steps listed here on the first port under
SYSTEM > DEVICES > GRID.
Still running into trouble with your grid + norns? Please email
firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work it out!
The norns software can host a lot more than what might be currently present at its four physical USB ports, including:
- sixteen MIDI devices
- four grids
- four arcs
- four HID devices
The four ports you see on the
GRID page represent the four virtual ports to which norns allocates connected devices of this type.
When you connect a new grid to norns, it will register the grid to the first-available
GRID port. If you’ve already connected a grid to your norns (or your norns has had a past life with another grid), this means that the first slot is likely already occupied by a previous grid and norns must allocate to the next-available port.
While norns can remember up to four previously-connected grids, it’s not very common to use more than one grid at a time. This means that many community scripts typically communicate with the grid stored at port 1 within the
SYSTEM > DEVICES > GRID menu.
GRID menu could look like:
GRID 1. monome 128 m1000437 2. monome 128 m4409455 3. none 4. none
GRID 1. none 2. monome 128 m4409455 3. none 4. none
In each case, if
monome 128 m4409455 is the grid we want to use then we need to clear it from port 2 and register it to port 1.
The critical thing to remember is that the grid at port 1 is the one which most community scripts target.
To manage the
SYSTEM > DEVICES > GRID menu’s virtual ports:
E2to select a port
K3on the port to surface a list of the grids which are currently physically connected to norns
- if you want to clear the selected port, press
- if you want to assign the selected port, press
K3on the desired grid
- if you want to clear the selected port, press
You should also confirm that the community script does feature grid functionality – see the bottom of this page for suggested starting points!
All editions of grid are compatible with norns. Playability is dictated by two factors, size and varibright capability.
Most norns apps are built with 128 grids in mind, which means that critical actions may utilize the full 16x8 range of keys.
Since 256 is a 16x16 grid, it will be able to interact with any app built for a 128 grid. However, there will be a lot of unused real-estate.
Since 64 is a 8x8 grid, an app’s critical functions may not be displayed or executable.
Addressing playability due to size is straightforward – since norns apps are coded in Lua, modifications can be made which either expand or constrict the app’s grid interactions.
If you want to adapt a script’s grid size, norns study 4 is a good place to start.
Over the years, the brightness of the grid’s LEDs has also evolved. From 2007 - 2010 they were all mono-bright, which meant that the lights were either on or off. Starting in 2011 four stages of “in between” brightness were possible, which opened up new ways of representing data – eg. a dim light could signal a modifier key whereas a bright light could signal a performative key.
Since 2012, grids have had 16 steps of varibrightness.
Most norns apps are built with 16-step varibright grids in mind. While 4-step and mono-bright grids will still function with these apps, there may be indicators or special functions that require 16 steps of brightness to display.
If you want to adapt a script’s LED brightness, norns study 4 is a good place to start.
After you learn how to import apps into your norns, here are a few starting points for exploring grid + norns.
- bistro: a “press cafe” remake (based on the Max/MSP patch originally by
- arcologies: an interactive environment for designing 2d sound arcologies
- buoys: tidal influencer/activator/lightshow
- loom: surprisingly controllable generative sequencer – notes are played when threads moving across the X and Y axis collide
- mlr: the original live sample-cutting platform – load samples or record live audio, then re-pitch + chop + record gestures
Check out the
grid tag on norns.community for many more.