[less concepts]: max for live

less concepts

less concepts uses elementary cellular automata (CA) to scan sets of notes and determine which ones to play + when, by iterating a seed value through a set of simple rules.

this max for live version includes all the major functions of the norns script of the same name.

it also has a unique feature set:

  • [olafur] mode: inspired by the self-playing pianos of Olafur Arnalds, [olafur] will bypass the chosen scale and will build note pools from direct keyboard input. just arm the track and play a chord.
  • [laurie] mode: inspired by Music Mouse by Laurie Spiegel, [laurie] will add chord voicings to your bit streams. choose a gating bit and enable ‘1’ ‘2’ or ‘3’ for unique harmonies.
  • five text-based meta sequencers: using a built-in set of text operators, sequence/modulate/randomize all parameters to extend expressivity.

huge appreciation for the lcm4l testing crew, without whom this device would’ve remained 90% done and 0% ready: @rdfm, @misuba, @madeofoak, @Myles_Avery, @kurthuman, @AlessandroBonino, @elia, @beforeitwascool, @Wisdom.Water, @tapehead, @adrienp


  • Ableton Live Suite (built for 10+)
  • Max for Live


less concepts manual - v1.3.pdf (513.6 KB)

you can use a lot of Live’s MIDI effects to extend the device – here are some of my faves:

  • Note Length : less_concepts has a fixed length of 100ms. place this device after it to get longer notes!
  • Velocity : less_concepts has a fixed velocity. place this device after it to open its range – I particularly like the Dynamic II preset with a bit of Random and the Low at 45.
  • Random : place this device after less_concepts to randomly transpose the sequence. really useful with Choices @ 1, Scale @ 12, Chance @ whatever! change Sign to taste – for piano VSTs, Bi is priiiiiimo
  • Chord : when using [olafur] mode, place this device ahead of less_concepts to key in a wider range of notes with a simple chord shape. what’s cool about [olafur] mode is that it doesn’t re-order your input, so the order in which you press + hold notes actually changes the note sequence!

plz ask q’s, plz share artifacts here (+ feel free to share publicly if you make a thing you wanna share), plz have fun!


v1.1 on maxforlive.com


STOP [*]

you’ve reached @rodrigo and @stretta levels of achievement now with your development suite for max + monome

*no, please…seriously…go off


So many thanks for this !!


I made this! (with the beta, ok)

Less Concepts + Operator


damn @dan_derks
just had a lekko/janso battle…
it was pretty epic… and mellow
either way, the gangsterest ambient



Not sure if I’m missing something here but when I add less concepts to a midi track on Ableton 10 set the rules based off the doc to get started, less concepts is not sending midi out. After I set the settings I have run the transport

weird! did you select a bit to gate? any additional steps to repro will help :slight_smile:

pretty much my only testing environment. @tslesicki has done some brilliant work with that whole suite :sparkles:


Ah I think possibly it was that I needed to update to the most recent version of MAX. I just updated it, rebooted and now its sending out

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I’m not really an ableton person, but figured I would grab the demo now that they extended the trial period. [less concepts] makes me worry I might have to go in :stuck_out_tongue:

This is great fun, thanks @dan_derks, I love composing with the meta sequencers, fits my tracker brain very well.

Nothing fancy, just a little sketch with 2 x less concepts & 2 x instances of aalto


Oh wow this is going to be my evening most likely. Thanks so much!!

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sounds interesting, i will try it out

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maybe, but it sure is special. this sounds fantastic, thank you so much for sharing it.

i’m really finding that multiple instances opens things up in ways that I hadn’t previously experienced – here’s a take with two pianos (Spitfire’s OPW):

  • each piano has an instance of less concepts with their own rule/seed combos
  • both are set in [olafur] mode, receiving the same super basic chord shapes
  • both are in a chord -> less concepts -> velocity -> note length -> VST sandwich


this was exactly the kind of use case I’m excited to try, thrilled to be able to combine less concepts with sample libraries more easily now


you’re far too kind :two_hearts:and the clip you shared is lovely as well :slight_smile:

I was wondering if there is a way to compose the meta seq commands? I tried a few guesses re: syntax but it didn’t seem to be working.


v1_bit: 2, v2_bit: 9, seed: 40

v2_bit: 1

seed: 20, gbl_oct: 3

gbl_oct: 1

or some such. apologies if i missed something in the docs.

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ah! the meta seq doesn’t parse stacked commands like v1_bit: 2, v2_bit: 9, seed: 40 – they need to be on separate lines.

but if you want those three commands to execute at once, you could write them each as the top line of the first, second and third sequencers (line breaks are also valid and are executed as rests):

1 2 3
v1_bit: 2 v2_bit: 9 seed: 40
v2_bit: 1
seed: 20 gbl_oct: 3
gbl_oct: 1

and then set the divisor on each to read at the same rate.

OH DUH, i should maybe add a “sync” function where all of them can be reset to step 1 and crawl down the line.

OH ALSO, i’ll add this thing i really liked but took out for some reason where you can tell another sequencer which line to read from – so you can sequence a sequencer (with a sequencer that’s maybe being sequenced by it!).

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I realized after I asked that this was probably the answer. Would be nice to have all the information in one spot but this is definitely a workable solution, thank you!

yes please :heart_eyes:

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for sure! no worries. I’m actually going to pick some people’s brains about getting it all on one line – that feels so much cleaner. thanks so much for the question, bex!

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me: “hmm maybe I know enough max to do that”

backs away slowly

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bluuuurgh. sorry. :sweat_smile:
i didn’t say it was refined, just that it’s released.
at this point, released feels better, lol


not a critique of your patch at all! it’s amazing. More so just meant that it was out of my depth for my (admittedly shallow) max knowledge :slight_smile: