Max/MSP, Max4Live, & RNBO (the thread)

at long last - a thread for general max/msp/m4l discussions. feel free to post questions, get help, share patches/devices, harp-on-max-for-not-being-open-source-and-running-on-linux ( :tired_face: ), etc


Been doing lots of Max programing lately. Felt really good to get over those first few (large and daunting) learning curve hurdles this year. Ready to chime in with help. :slight_smile:

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I’ll start us off by sharing some max stuff I’ve been using for a lil laptop-only performance setup in ableton



this is just the lofi saturation part of the party van stuck in a m4l device. actually really good stuff.



also pretty simple, but pretty good - I wanted to use my computer keyboard as a grid keyboard (like the music notes kind). the custom scales part actually make it pretty expressive though. paring it with other midi effects quickly gets you into cool territories.


It was pretty wild figuring out that this one was even possible. It uses the fingerpinger external to let you control four midi cc’s simultaneously with just the trackpad on a mac. getting it mapped in ableton is a bit of a pain but it really opens up what just a laptop can do as an interface. this + synecdoche is potential for a fairly expressive synth. anyway gonna be messing with this external some more while I get ready for a laptop only show :sunglasses:.

any patches to share :^^^) ?


longtime max user here… happy to see this thread exist.

i would describe my relationship with max as love/hate (i.e. love the musical things it’s enabled me to do, hate how many years of my life have been sucked away into it).

i can say that learning it has deeply influenced my entire conceptual understanding of music, allowing new points of access to composition, synthesis, eurorack, etc. the stuff i’ve been doing with it lately is more on the composition side, i.e. using it as a generative environment for harmonic and rhythmic data that can be traditionally notated for acoustic instruments. (i wrote a couple articles on using max for acoustic composition and realtime notation here / here / here.)

the thing i found really frustrating about max at the beginning (and still do, from time to time) was how many seemingly “basic” things you had to build for yourself. “why do i have to waste 3 days to build the list processing object i want? this is so obvious, why can’t the program just ship with something robust and easy-to-use?” but, as time has passed, i can see that the exercise of building the most unsexy things has taught me many valuable lessons and has opened up compositional possibilities that i never would have found otherwise.

as you solve these little technical hurdles, you can also start to build a vocabulary of code that can be used again and again. i went through the exercise about 10 years ago of nicely encapsulating and documenting about 50 abstractions, things like list processing and encoding/decoding that i found myself using a lot. i still use these in every patch, it’s like my own little dialect within the language of max:

if my experience with max has taught me anything it’s this: forget about creating the “perfect system” or patch that has every feature you could ever dream of – paradoxically, these are the projects that usually lead to despair, boredom, or wanting to give up on max completely. focus instead on making small things that serve a specific and finite function (max for live is great for this) – these are the patches that i keep returning to after years and consistently yield the most musically-satisfying results.


Thanks for sharing that utility pack you made. Extremely useful and I think will save a ton of work.


I’m slowly learning this in my own work. For a while after I started using Max again the only patch that really saw any play was a three-object MIDI pass-through. When I eventually built a synth the whole thing was so held together with prayers and duct tape that I was continually surprised it would make any sound at all. But! It was so much fun, and gave me the energy I needed to learn how to give it another, more polished go.


Not really. It’s all a library of dsp abstractions that communicate thru custom protocols. No UIs. But happy to share bits of code if people want to see my approach to specific things.

Working on sequencing stuff now, so that side of things is still a little underdeveloped.


Really liking these font and color choices


Just wanted to share some projects and stuff that I’ve put on GitHub that might be useful to some of you working in Max:

ColorToDec - Simple JS + snippet for converting HEX / RGB colors to decimals (to make it easy to dynamically control UI colors).

AP2JS - JS “Library” for i/o communication with the Ableton Push 2 from Max

SA-BeapModules - A couple of BEAP modules I’ve created, including a port / module version of @Rodrigo’s Karma~.


Super simple step sequencer I programmed to learn Max/msp.

It is basically outputting loud audio click to trigger modular stuff (works well with Maths inputs), but could be easily modified to output midi or what ever you want.

What is really fun is using it for percussion stuff, if you put a limiter after the device.
Other nice thing is playing with the Length and increasing it to more than 16, so you can get weird rhythms (see picture).

Stepsequencer.amxd (293.9 KB)


1++++ this, def been burned by the too many features rabbit hole before - the less flexible patches are the ones I feel more inclined to share.

as I’ve grown w/ max I’ve definitely learned to appreciate these limitations though - learned to spend less time and make prototypes rather than complete things, which lends more time to actually making stuff with the code you’ve created. the point when I gave up trying to do things a normal coding workflow and accepted the weird “max friendly” workflow (which is essentially hard-coding) is really when max started clicking for me as a useful tool for music creation - it can sometimes just lend itself to less flexible tools that are less useful to others.


Absolutely – I had the same experience with Max, trying for years to build one-patch-to-rule-them-all, but eventually realized there was so much more value in building smaller things that fell exactly within the scope of what I was interested in doing for that particular thing. I don’t use Max anymore but I still do the same things, and find it really useful to amass a toolset of small things that I end up doing over & over, and to approach each new thing as its own construction.


oh ya has anyone gotten 2+ channels of audio from standalone max to ableton/a daw ? Ive pretty much just accepted the idea of 8 loop cables on a sound card but figured I’d ask

I used to use a tool called Soundflower to route audio around the Mac OS. It was originally developed by Cycling 74 - there are a few versions now it looks like:

commercial/paid version:

open source fork from original:

Also, I’ve never used it, Jack might be a better solution these days:


Soundflower works very well for this!

whoa thought these were all lmtd 2 channels but heyhehey doesn’t look like it


4got to share this one in above m4l objects post which is funny cause i’ve used it a fair bit more than the other ones


rlly simple stuff, just two clicky digital delay lines that can be pitched/reversed, and there’s a bp filter in the delay path to cool things down.

&& a few tape-y m4l devices from other people I’ve been using lately are this cassette saturator and this tape delay. both pair well w/ the above


I saw stretta’s video for the mc BEAP modules but I didn’t realize they’re actually on his github right now

he has a blog post too

gonna have to try these out real soon


Just wanted to share that yesterday I received my copy of the “Step by Step: Adventures in Sequencing with Max/MSP” book and it’s really great, specially for those who are getting started.
Gregory explains really well all the hows and whys and I really wish I had this book when I was starting. Highly recommend it :slight_smile:


Found myself asking “okay so linear and exponential FM… what would quadratic or cubic FM sound like?” so I made a little patch to answer the question for phase modulation. (Quadratic frequency modulation without accounting for the DC offset coming from the square of any number always being nonnnegative will give wacky results)

The answer? actually a lot like linear PM with a different ratio. To my ear quadratic PM sounds a lot like the “octave-up” 2:1 ratio, but with different behavior and a more shrill high resonance as the index changes, whereas cubic PM sounds a lot like more intense “trumpet” 1:1 or 3:1 linear PM