Able­ton Cer­ti­fied Trainer Phe­lan Kane walks you through the process of build­ing a Max For Live de­vice from scratch

Computer Music - - Video -

Lust for Live

Max For Live – in­cluded with the Suite ver­sion of Able­ton’s DAW and avail­able sep­a­rately for Stan­dard edi­tion own­ers – puts one of the most pow­er­ful vis­ual au­dio and MIDI pro­gram­ming en­vi­ron­ments money can buy – Cy­cling ’74’s Max – right at the heart of your pro­duc­tion sys­tem. Us­ing Max For Live, you can build your own synths, sam­plers, ef­fects, se­quencers, arpeg­gia­tors and any­thing else your fevered imag­i­na­tion can come up with. But there’s a catch…

As an in­evitable con­se­quence of its re­mark­able depth, Max For Live isn’t ex­actly easy to use – which is where our Max For Live Mas­ter­class comes in! Over the next eight pages, and in the ac­com­pa­ny­ing hour­long video, Able­ton Cer­ti­fied Trainer Phe­lan Kane is go­ing to walk you through the process of cre­at­ing your first Max For Live de­vice: a sim­ple dig­i­tal dis­tor­tion ef­fect called Com­puter Mu­sic De­grader.

“What we’ve got here is a bitcrusher and sam­ple rate man­gler,” says Phe­lan. “It’s re­ally easy to build, be­cause it’s only a cou­ple of con­trols. We’ve got a con­trol that changes bit depth, so we can go from 24-bit all the way down to maybe 12-bit – a bit like the Akai MPC60 or even the E-MU SP-1200 from the 80s. Or you can go all the way down to maybe 8-bit, and even into chip­tune ter­ri­tory – 4-bit nas­ti­ness. Even­tu­ally, down at the bot­tom, we get into 2-bit, and it’s just ‘bro­ken’!

“The other con­trol is a sam­ple rate di­vider, called Ra­tio,” he con­tin­ues. “When it’s on 1, we’ve got the sam­ple rate that’s the set­ting of our host DAW, maybe 44.1kHz. Mov­ing it down, we start to get into more alias­ing ef­fects, and add some dirty grunge to the au­dio sig­nal. All the way down the bot­tom, again, it gets quite nasty.

“We’ve got to be a bit care­ful, cos this is go­ing to be quite ca­pa­ble of mak­ing some re­ally loud, ex­treme noises, so you don’t blow up your hear­ing.”

To the Max

“There’s a whole crazy world of stuff out there, all made with Max”

Yes in­deed, by the time you’re done with this tutorial, you’ll be not only the proud owner of a handy new dis­tor­tion de­vice, but also up to speed on the ba­sics of Max For Live and the sorts of things it can do. And once the M4L bug has bit­ten, there’s no limit to where the soft­ware can take you.

“Max’s has two main strong points,” ex­plains Phe­lan. “In the data world – Max – it’s ran­domi­sa­tion, crazy prob­a­bil­ity stuff. In the au­dio world – MSP – it’s all about pro­cess­ing and gen­er­at­ing sounds. I’ve seen peo­ple make MIDI car­pets, where you can jump around and trig­ger dif­fer­ent break­beats de­pend­ing on where you stand. Or a MIDI step lad­der. Some­body else made a we­b­cam where you can pull stupid faces at the cam­era and it con­trols the cut­off fre­quency of a fil­ter. There’s a whole crazy world of stuff out there, all made with Max.”

Al­though we’re only mak­ing an ef­fect de­vice here, Max For Live also en­ables the con­struc­tion of pow­er­ful and elab­o­rate in­stru­ments – both syn­the­sis- and sam­ple­based. Phe­lan de­scribes the ba­sics.

“You’ll bring MIDI data into your Max patch, us­ing some of those Max ob­jects to process num­bers. You’ll have a note num­ber that rep­re­sents your di­a­tonic key­board scale, and you split that in­for­ma­tion into ve­loc­ity and pitch. You con­vert your MIDI note num­ber to fre­quency, and you trig­ger an os­cil­la­tor, and use your ve­loc­ity to con­trol the dy­nam­ics. Ob­vi­ously, you do that through an ADSR and a VCA – even though it’s soft­ware, it’s not re­ally a volt­age­con­trolled am­pli­fier; but peo­ple still use that ter­mi­nol­ogy in Max For Live. So to make a sim­ple synth is ac­tu­ally quite easy.”

The over­ar­ch­ing mes­sage from Phe­lan is to ex­plore the many, many pro­cess­ing and sig­nal gen­er­at­ing ob­jects that come with Max For Live, and make good use of the com­pre­hen­sive on­board Help sys­tem. “Ev­ery Max Help ob­ject is a work­ing Max patch that you can ac­tu­ally click, copy and paste into your own patches,” he af­firms. With all that said, let’s get build­ing…


Want to get started with Max For Live? Then fol­low along and build our De­grader de­vice from scratch!

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