MAX for Ableton Live

January 22, 2009

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1701565&dest=-1]

 

Max for Live puts the power and potential of Max/MSP inside Live. Create all the instruments, effects and extensions you’ve ever wanted. Go beyond the common and predictable, and transcend the limits that conventional tools impose. Build completely unique synths and effects, create algorithmic composition tools, or fuse Live and controller hardware into radical, new music machines. Join a society of makers and share ingenuity.

Max for Live was co-developed by Ableton and Cycling ’74.

What it is

Basically, Max for Live is a tool kit for making new devices. Think of a diverse and comprehensive set of building blocks that you can use to build pretty much anything you can think of. These building blocks include basic objects such as “+”, audio elements such as filters and oscillators, user interface objects, and a set of objects that regulate access to Live and hardware devices. Max for Live also provides a canvas where you can place and connect these objects with virtual wires. Flowing through these wires are audio, MIDI or video signals, or any other kind of data. Max is essentially a visual programming environment where you build courses or tracks for these signals to run through.

You can build new devices from scratch, modify existing ones or simply use devices that others have made. Max for Live includes several ingenious example devices and plenty of tutorials to take you from using to tweaking, and then to building.

Push the button

The edit button included on every Max for Live device may be small, but there’s some big stuff behind it.

edit_button

Click to open up the device and delve inside, where you can edit, add controls, modify the signal flow and configure as much or as little as you want. While you’re editing, your track keeps playing and you hear the changes you’re making in real time.

device_patching

Interface friendly

Devices made with Max for Live are perfectly integrated into Live’s workflow and user interface. You can manage Max devices just like Ableton devices, save presets or using automation and mapping just as you do now. The tool set provides user interface elements straight out of Live for an Ableton-like look and feel, but you also have the freedom to create new and unique interfaces using the extensive set of Max 5 user interface elements.

object_palette

Official Live API

Max for Live also provides objects that allow you to access and modify the inner workings of Live. Modify the tracks, clips, notes, names and values, selection states—and pretty much anything else you can see or hear in Live. This API also allows you to access controller hardware via Live, creating new mappings that can completely repurpose a hardware device. Even if you don’t know what an API is, you can still use devices that other people have built and apply them to your Live setup.

Here’s something we made earlier…

So what kinds of things can you make with Max for Live? Here are some examples of ready-made devices from Max for Live:

1. Step Sequencer

step_seq

Live users have been asking us for a step sequencer for some time. Now it’s here, with some powerful features and added tweaking potential. Step Sequencer can play up to four concurrent sequences, each with up to 16 steps and each playing a different instrument. It also features adjustable step size and step probability, sequence shift buttons (up, down, left, right), a “random” mode and comprehensive real-time MIDI options.

This device is a fine example of what is ultimately possible with Max for Live. See it in action in the movie at the top of this page.

2. Buffer Shuffler

buffer_shuffler

This audio effect “shuffles” incoming audio by buffering the audio, then replaying it in whatever order you’ve specified. Each channel of the stereo signal can be shuffled with different patterns (unlike Beat Repeat) and there is also a “dice” mode that randomizes the shuffle pattern at each bar crossing. Finally, a smoothing setting limits the amount of clicking at each transition point. Use sensibly to add subtle variations or go full-on to see where it takes you.

3. Loop Shifter

loop_shifter

This instrument is essentially a creative loop playback device that generates some surprising and innovative results. If there was ever a “sound of Max,” this device embodies it. It uses MIDI notes as triggers for playback states, each MIDI note representing one such “state”: a combination of playback rate, loop points and filter settings. Although the Loop Shifter is a relatively simple device, these functions don’t exist yet in any other commercial loop playback product.

The Loop Shifter uses a “morphing” transition between states, an auto-mapping system and an “auto-play” mode that randomly chooses MIDI notes for automatic state selection.

4. APC40 sequencer extension

This Live extension turns the APC40’s button matrix into a hardware interface for programming MIDI sequences in Live. A mode switch on the APC takes you in and out of sequencer mode, where you can set and clear notes in a MIDI clip just as you would with an 808 or analog step sequencer.

See it in action in the movie at the top of this page.

Learning curves and tutorials

Nobody can claim that programming with Max is easy: There is an unavoidable learning curve involved with any kind of programming. So, yes, it can get complex, but it’s worth it. Max’s visual approach is a lot easier to get into than traditional programming, especially because you can immediately see and hear the effects of your changes. Max for Live also includes a number of in-depth tutorials, each with its own reusable example content. The tutorials guide you through Max for Live, from the first basic steps to the advanced, ninja-style stuff. They’ll help you find your level and provide support and examples as your skills develop.

Unlimited instruments and effects

Non-programmers listen up! Even if you have no interest whatsoever in building your own devices, Max for Live gives you access to all the instruments and effects that other people build. Combined with Ableton’s forthcoming sharing tools, things are starting to look very interesting indeed…

For those builders among you, get ready to join the Max for Live community.

Attention Max users!

The equation works both ways: If you already own Max, Max for Live provides straightforward tools for controlling Live from your Max environment. Maybe you want to exploit Live’s timeline, or work some magic with the Session View—it’s up to you. If you own Max 5, this will be your editing environment when you open up a Max for Live device. Please note, though, that Max for Live doesn’t include a version of Live.

Key features

  • Build your own audio effects, MIDI effects and instruments
  • Use the API to control Live Sets, tracks, clips, devices, notes, loops, parameters etc.
  • Extend your hardware’s feature set: provides objects to access any hardware controllers that are connected to Live
  • Includes a specialized version of Max for creating and editing Max devices (Please note: does not run independently of Max for Live)
  • Comes with a selection of MAX devices that are ready to use out of the box for audio and MIDI processing, algorithmic composition, real-time performance and hardware control
  • Devices keep playing in Live while they are being edited in Max
  • Flexible user interface design: the UI can look like Live or completely different
  • Includes hundreds of built-in Max objects for logic, MIDI, scripting, audio and video processing
  • Supports video synthesis and animation via “Jitter” objects
  • Includes step-by-step tutorials for learning to program with Max for Live

System requirements

Max for Live requires Ableton Live 8.

Availability

Max for Live will be available later this year (2009). Pricing information is currently unavailable.

http://www.ableton.com/extend

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