Play a Single Sample
Tidal starts with nine connections to the SuperDirt synthesiser, named
d9 (if you’re using the ‘classic’ dirt, then instead
c9). Here’s a minimal example, that plays a kick drum
d1 $ sound "bd"
Evaluate the above code in the Atom (or Emacs) editor by pressing
Ctrl+Enter. If you want to stop the sound again, look ahead to the section on silence.
In the code above,
sound tells us we’re making a pattern of sound
"bd" is a pattern that contains a single sound.
a sample of a kick drum. Samples live inside the
folder which came with SuperDirt, and each sub-folder under that
corresponds to a sample name (like
To find the SuperDirt samples on your system, in the SuperCollider IDE select the
File > Open User Support Directorymenu item. From there, open
Dirt-Samplesin there. You should find a lot of folders, each one is a sample bank containing standard
wavfiles. Feel free to make new folders and add your own sounds to it.
We can pick a different sample in the
bd folder by adding a colon
:) then a number. For example, this picks the fourth kick drum (it
counts from zero, so
:3 gives you the fourth sound in the folder):
d1 $ sound "bd:3"
If you specify a number greater than the number of samples in a folder, then Tidal just “wraps” around back to the first sample again (it starts counting at zero, e.g. in a folder with five samples, “bd:5” would play “bd:0”).
It’s also possible to specify the sample number separately:
d1 $ sound "bd" # n "3"
The usefulness of doing this will become apparent later.
Sequences From Multiple Samples
Putting things in quotes allows you to define a sequence. For example, the following gives you a pattern of kick drum then snare:
d1 $ sound "bd sd:3"
When you run the code above, you are replacing the previous pattern with another one on-the-fly. Congratulations, you’re live coding.
Playing More Than One Sequence
The easiest way to play multiple sequences at the same time is to use two or more connections to the synthesizer:
d1 $ sound "bd sd:1" d2 $ sound "hh hh hh hh" d3 $ sound "arpy"
NOTE: each connection must be evaluated separately in your text editor. That is, you must press
Ctrl+Enterthree times, once for each line above. Make sure that there is a blank line between them each pattern, or Tidal will evaluate them together and get confused (if you want to evaluate just one line, you can press shift-enter).
What is a Cycle?
A cycle is the main “loop” of time in Tidal. The cycle repeats forever
in the background, even when you’ve stopped samples from playing. The
cycle’s duration always stays the same unless you modify it with
cps, we’ll cover this later. By default, there is one cycle per
Note that this omniprescent cyclic looping doesn’t necessary constrain you, for example it’s common to stretch a pattern outside of a single loop, and vary patterns from one loop to the next. We’ll see several ways to do this later, as well.
All of the samples inside of a pattern get squashed into a single cycle. The patterns below all loop over the same amount of time:
d1 $ sound "bd sd"
d1 $ sound "bd sd hh cp mt arpy drum"
d1 $ sound "bd sd hh cp mt arpy drum odx bd arpy bass2 feel future"
Note how the more steps you add to the pattern, the faster it plays them, in order to fit them all in. No matter how many samples you put in a pattern in this way, they will always be distributed evenly within a single cycle.