Getting started in SC? Finding motivation and a roadmap!

Hi everyone, I’ve recently found a lot of interest in learning this incredible tool that is SuperCollider. I truly find it the best in terms of capabilities and freedom offered for music production and livecoding!
I would really like to learn how to use it, to create an audiovisual project that I have had in mind for quite some time now.
I watched Eli Fieldsteel’s video series very passionately, and I also recently bought (and finished reading) his book “Supercollider for the Creative Musician”.

There are actually many concepts, not new as I am already a programmer, but I find it difficult to find the motivation to undertake this path, as I feel confused about the best way to start.

Do you have any advice on this? I understand that it’s very much a matter of personal experimentation, but do you have any tips to make learning easier? Are there any music theory courses that you particularly recommend? Despite having read and studied the book, the moment I open the SC editor, I feel totally lost.
Is there a roadmap that you particularly recommend?

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It helps me the most to have concrete projects to work toward when learning a programming topic or system - but ofc it’s also hard to come up with concrete projects when you don’t have a full picture of the possibilities of a system and are in a more exploratory mode.

If you want to stay music-focused, it might be worth picking out some straightforward sounds or techniques to implement and explore? E.g. try making a simple feedbacking delay or 2-operator FM synthesis, and then start embellishing the sound design to make it more interesting. This can be more exploratory - you can try things out and find your goals intuitively based on what seems exciting/interesting/successful.

I also find it useful for me to dig around a little for music that gets a lot of mileage with very simple techniques, and then try to build something with the same approach, reverse engineer, copy, or improve. Early computer music can be useful for this, because it’s often using straightforward and simple techniques (due to limited resources) in very interesting ways. Someone like Eleh is great at getting spectacular results from simple gestures - many of those pieces feel like they could have been made with 20 or 30 lines of SuperCollider code so - for me - experimenting in this territory makes me focus on finding interesting things in simple techniques vs piling complex techniques on top of one another.

I’ll sometimes simply go through the catalog of UGens for things I’m not familiar with, and spend 15 or 20 minutes on things I find to try to make something interesting from them. This can occasionally spark inspiration enough to start combining with other elements.

Though I don’t use Ndef for any “final” music, it’s still a fantastic thing to use when experimenting and exploring, because it takes the feedback time down to nearly zero, so you can quickly try things out.


When I started, I was motivated by the potential to make large scale “composed” pieces entirely in SC… but then came maybe similar paralysis about how to start learning and practicing - I think the seemingly infinite options for how to go about anything got me stuck. I actually craved direction and limitation. For me it was very liberating to take the pressure off and just focus on jamming with sounds, s.record when something good happens, and maybe assemble in the daw later. (I still often work this way.) The first sort of finished piece I made all in SC involved building a structure to play recordings I had made earlier, which was a good way of separating concerns.

But also if sound design feels intimidating, another possibility for limiting your options is to use patterns or routines to send midi to a vst or hardware synth and focus just on composition with SC.

This might be a useful article also: Opinionated Advice for SuperCollider Beginners | Nathan Ho

I also suggest going through the help files and looking at/adapting the examples, same with, and this forum, to get a feel for what is idiomatic. Theory texts can be similarly helpful - or even published scores. It’s good to try to adapt different techniques to the SC environment. Learn from the masters.

And really important is to listen carefully to what you are doing and to what other people are doing. The more you practice listening the more you will hear.

Hope these scattered thoughts are useful and good luck!


Thank you so much for your response, it definitely cleared up several questions!
Have you got any suggestions regarding the strictly musical part of learning? I listen to a lot of music, very varied, sometimes even complex, but my background is solely as a programmer and I may have gaps in sound design topics and in general in musical technicalities!

Thank you so much, the response was much appreciated, and the article you linked was very interesting and useful. You’ve definitely given me new insights on how to tackle this journey. Do you think learning musical techniques and sound design is necessary before approaching SuperCollider? I find writing SynthDefs quite complicated at the moment.

The roadmap I most recommend for all music is following your curiosity and having faith that it will lead you to interesting places. Musical learning operates at a different timescale to most of our fast-paced society. Small progress can be made in 3 months, more can be made in a year, medium progress can be made in 5 years, and self-realisation might happen in a decade if you’re consistent.

You need to be patient. But to make the journey fun I find it best to play a lot and be curious. If I’m not enjoying the process my motivation will eventually expire. The best place to be in is where you have to make an effort to stop yourself because you are so engrossed, but you know you need to cook, answer emails, and meet with friends.

Finally, I would create your audio-visual project now. You might think you don’t have the technique - and you don’t - but having something within you that you want to bring into the world you will learn a whole lot of skills in the process. In the end, it’s the projects that matter. Being good at coding, or knowing loads of music theory, or having perfect technique on an instrument is only useful if you have something to do with it. I still am very lacking as a coder but that doesn’t bother me, because I am clear about my ideas and I know with persistence I can create them.

Keep going with what you are doing. Making music is one of the most enriching and live-enhancing things you can do.