sections: startawakelevelsparameterstapeselect


To begin, let’s get acquainted with the layouts of each iteration of norns – stock and shield:

figure 1: stock norns and shield legend

power on


  • Hold K1 for four seconds.
  • Until you’ve performed this process a few times, it might help to look at the light next to the POWER jack. You’ll see it transition from white, to peach, to amber – you can let go of K1 at amber.
  • In a few seconds, you’ll see a sparkle animation on the screen. Some call it a dust. Either way, norns is on.


  • Confirm that you’ve followed all of the steps in the norns shield assembly guide.
  • Attach a high quality Raspberry Pi power supply that provides at least 2A at 5V to the micro USB port on the Pi.
  • The red light on the Pi will be steady, while the not-red light will flash.
  • In a few seconds, you’ll see a sparkle animation on the screen. Some call it a dust. Either way, norns is on.

After norns powers up, it will launch the last script that was loaded. On a fresh norns, this will be awake, a set of looping sequencers.

In any norns script, a quick tap of K1 will toggle between the playable interface and the menus interface. If you get caught in the menus, just tap K1 to get back to the script.

figure 2: interface layers

power off


  • Press K1 and navigate to HOME.
  • Use E2 to select SLEEP.
  • Press K3. You’ll be asked to confirm.
  • Press K3 again to go to SLEEP.
  • After a few seconds, norns is off.


  • Press K1 and navigate to HOME.
  • Use E2 to select SLEEP.
  • Press K3. You’ll be asked to confirm.
  • Press K3 again to go to SLEEP.
  • Wait until you see the not-red light on the side of the Pi stop blinking and go out completely.
  • Only after the not-red light on the side of the Pi is no longer visible, you can safely remove the power connector from the Pi.


Before we dive into exploring the system, here’s a quick guide to exploring awake.

E1 changes the mode: STEP, LOOP, SOUND, OPTION


  • E2 navigates position, E3 changes position
  • K2 toggles the sequence to edit. K1+K2 clears all steps
  • K3 morphs the current sequence. K1+K3 randomizes


  • E2 / E3 sets loop length
  • K2 resets to play to zero
  • K3 jumps to random position


  • E2 / E3 adjusts selected parameter
  • K2 / K3 moves selector


  • E2 adjusts BPM
  • K1+E2 change division
  • E3 changes root note
  • K1+E3 selects scale

(bonus: try plugging in a grid.)

Most norns scripts rely on these types of interactions — re-definable encoders, two-button presses in the form of hold-one-press-the-other, turning an encoder while a modifier button is held, etc.


To begin our menu dive, let’s adjust the audio levels.

Tap K1 to come up from the script layer to the menus layer and turn E1 counter-clockwise until you see pairs of vertical sliders.

figure 3: setting levels

  • K2 / K3: select previous pair / select next pair
  • E2 / E3: adjust left level / adjust right level

The horizontal notch represents unity. All levels can go to +6dB.

  • out controls the final output of the global mix
  • in determines how much of an external input is fed into the script
    • DO NOT plug modular-level signals into norns (neither stock and shield) – norns is designed for line levels only
  • mon allows the input to be monitored as part of the global mix
  • eng controls the output level of the script’s synth engine
  • cut determines the mix presence of softcut, a flexible sampling layer
  • tp adjusts the level of a playing tape, which is fed into the global mix as well as softcut


changing the sounds

Use E1 to navigate to PARAMETERS, and enter the EDIT menu with K3.

figure 4: editing parameters

At the top of this menu are controls for each component of the global audio chain:

  • LEVELS features controls for output, input, monitoring, engine, softcut and tape levels
    • on stock norns, you can also adjust whether the headphone monitor is stereo or mono and add or remove headphone gain
    • again, DO NOT plug modular-level signals into norns (neither stock and shield)
  • REVERB adjusts the system reverb and send levels for the currently loaded engine, softcut, monitor, and tape
  • COMPRESSOR adjusts the system compressor, which is the final stage of the audio processing
  • SOFTCUT adjusts the output and send levels for the six-voice system sampler

CLOCK reveals controls for the norns global clock. The clock can be synced to a number of sources, including MIDI, Ableton Link, and crow. We’ll dig into specifics about clock later, but it’s good to know about!

Scrolling down further, we find some of the script’s parameters. These are chosen by the script’s author and can be adjusted by using E3.

saving the changes

To recall and build on the changes you’ve made in a future session, we can save all the parameters as a PSET (preset).

figure 5: saving parameters / PSET

Use E2 to navigate down the left column of the PSET screen.
Use E3 to navigate down the right.
The currently loaded PSET will have an asterisk * next to it

save PSET

  • select SAVE and press K3 to open the naming dialogue
  • use E3 to switch to the alphabet and E2 to choose letters
  • K3 enters the selected letter
  • use E3 to navigate back to the controls (use E2 and K3 on DEL to delete a letter)
  • press K3 on OK to save

load PSET

  • select LOAD and use E3 to choose a saved PSET
  • press K3 to load the selected PSET

delete PSET

  • select DELETE and use E3 to choose a saved PSET
  • press K3 to delete the selected PSET



These changing melodies are lovely, but they’re a bit removed from the natural world. Let’s load a field recording of hermits to loop underneath.

Jump to the menus interface and use E1 to navigate to the tape screen.

figure 6: playing a tape

select loop

  • with the PLAY lane selected, press K3 to open the audio folder
  • the audio folder contains both folders and single clips
    • folders will be prepended with /, without a duration
    • clips will be prepended with their filetype (eg. .wav) and a duration
    • want to import more clips into your norns? see wifi + files.

PLAY expects 48khz files (both stereo and mono supported). WAV, AIFF, FLAC and other uncompressed header / sample formats supported by libsndfile will work (including raw).

start/stop loop

  • when a clip is loaded, its name will be reflected on the PLAY lane
  • press K3 to START playback
  • during playback, press K3 to STOP and clear the sound

As of this writing, sounds always loop and there are no additional transport controls.


This all sounds rather lovely – perhaps you’d like to record it?

On the tape screen, press K2 to switch between the PLAY and REC lanes.

figure 7: recording a tape


  • with the REC lane selected, press K3 to open the naming dialogue
  • name your tape, or feel free to use the pre-populated counter
    • see figure 5 for tips on navigating the naming dialogue
  • when you arrive back at the tape menu, press K3 to record a stereo 48khz .wav file

stop recording

  • with the REC lane selected, press K3 stop an active recording
  • the tape will be saved as a stereo 48khz .wav file with the name you gave it

what gets recorded exactly?

In the simplest terms, everything you hear from the main output is committed to a recording tape. This includes the system reverb, compressor, monitor audio, as well as any tape that might be playing. If you are recording for further processing in a DAW, you may want to turn off the system reverb and compressor for a more barebones sound.


Now that we have a nice awake session under our belts, let’s explore some of the other scripts on norns!

Tap K1 and navigate to the home menu, then press K3 on SELECT:

figure 8: selecting a script

  • use E2 to scroll through installed scripts
  • press K3 to open a description of the selected script
    • press K3 again to load the selected script
    • press K2 to return to the SELECT menu


When you entered the SELECT menu, you might’ve noticed an asterisk next to awake – this signifies a favorite script, which places it at the top of the scroll. This makes it easy to quickly access your go-to’s!

To add a favorite, turn E3 clockwise on any script in the SELECT menu.
To remove a favorite, turn E3 counter-clockwise on any already-favorited script.


Many of the top-layer menus are also navigable with an attached USB keyboard. Current support is minimal, contributions welcome.

When the screen UI is on the menus interface:

  • F1: LEVELS

  • F2: TAPE

  • F3: HOME


On all menus:

  • arrow up / arrow down: E2 with delta +/- 1

  • pageup / pagedown: E2 with delta +/- 6

  • arrow left / arrow right: K2 / K3

where to next?

Now that you know the basics of navigating the system, adjusting a script’s parameters, and recording the results, you should feel free to explore the dozens of community scripts preloaded on your norns. To learn more about the default scripts, check out the app page!

Want to connect to WIFI to download more scripts? Want to transfer TAPE files? Want to make sure norns is up to date? Check out wifi + files!