Designing Sound in SuperCollider/Bubbles

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Fig 35.5: producing a repeating but random-seeming pattern of triggers[edit]

First we'll create a reusable synthdef that outputs triggers (but not sound):

SynthDef(\bubbletrigs, {|out=0, probability=0.5|
	var trigs, buf, a;
	// These two lines create a loop of zeroes 
	// with some ones (i.e. triggers) placed at prime-number locations
	a = {0}.dup(200);
	[29, 37, 47, 67, 89, 113, 157, 197].do{|val| a[val] = 1};
	buf =;
	// playbuf by default will use the server's rate, but we want one item every 15ms
	trigs =, buf, 0.015.reciprocal / (s.sampleRate / s.options.blockSize), loop: 1);
	// Randomly discard half of them, to remove too much obvious looping
	trigs =, trigs);
	// Let's poll to watch the events appearing
	trigs.poll(trigs);, trigs);

// Then we'll play it:
x = Synth(\bubbletrigs); // watch the post window to see the bubble events happening (no sound yet!);

Fig 35.8: sound of a bubble[edit]

SynthDef(\bubblebub, {	|out=0, t_trig=0, attack=0.01, decay=0.08, pitchcurvelen=0.1, freq=1000, doneAction=0, amp=0.1|
	var pitch, son;
	amp   = amp *, decay).delay(0.003), t_trig, doneAction: doneAction);
	pitch = freq *[0,0,1],[0,1]).exprange(1, 2.718), t_trig, timeScale: pitchcurvelen);
	son =;
	// high-pass to remove any lowpitched artifacts, scale amplitude
	son =, 500) * amp * 10;, son);

x = Synth(\bubblebub);
x.set(\t_trig, 1); // run this line multiple times, to get multiple (very similar) bubbles!;

Fig 35.9: four bubble systems, simply triggered at random.[edit]

	// Here we'll create busses to hold the triggers, passing them from synth to synth
	~maintrigbus = Bus.control(s, 1);
	~bubtrigbus = Bus.control(s, 4);
	// Note how we make sure things are running in the desired order, using \addAfter
	~trigs = Synth(\bubbletrigs, [\out: ~maintrigbus]);
	// This reads the main trig and puts each trig on a randomly-chosen bus
	~randomdistrib = {
		var trig, which;
		trig =;
		which =,3, trig);
		// or try the Stepper instead of TIRand for "round-robin" selection:
		// which =, 0, 0, 3);
		which = which.poll(trig); + which, trig);
	}.play(target: ~trigs, addAction: \addAfter);
	~bubs = [2400, 2600, 2500, 2700].collect{|afreq|
		Synth(\bubblebub, [\freq, afreq], target: ~randomdistrib, addAction: \addAfter);
	// "map" allows us to push the triggers from the control bus to the "t_trig" inputs:{|bub, bubindex|\t_trig, ~bubtrigbus.index + bubindex) };

Note, instead of using the "bubbletrigs" synth (which is a direct port of the pd example) we could use Patterns to trigger bubble synths. This is a different model for resource management: instead of having four always-running synths which re-trigger to create a new bubble, we create one synth whenever we need a bubble, and it frees itself after.

p = Pbind(
	\instrument, \bubblebub,
	// The commented version is a bit like the above timings...
	// \dur, Pseq([29, 37, 47, 67, 89, 113, 157, 197, 200].differentiate * 0.015, inf),
	// ...but happily we have useful random-distrib generators. Ppoisson would be ideal but is misbehaving for me!
	\dur, Pgauss(0.3, 0.2),
	\freq, Pwhite(0.0,1,inf).linexp(0,1, 1000, 3000),
	// doneAction of two allows the synths to free themselves. See  "UGen-doneActions".openHelpFile
	\doneAction, 2

This next one's a bit more complex - we do as the book does and make smaller bubbles have (a) higher pitch (b) lower volume (c) shorter duration. To connect these values together we define a "sizefactor" and use Pkey to reuse it in each of the args.

p = Pbind(
	\instrument, \bubblebub,
	\sizefactor, Pwhite(0.0,1,inf),
	\dur, Pgauss(0.3, 0.2),
	\freq,  Pkey(\sizefactor).linexp(0, 1, 1000, 3000),
	\amp ,  Pkey(\sizefactor).linlin(0, 1, 0.15, 0.04), 
	\decay, Pkey(\sizefactor).linlin(0, 1, 0.05, 0.08), 
	\doneAction, 2