Ableton Max for Live (for non Max5 users - Requires Live 8)
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Max for Live
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. Get Max for Live now.
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.
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.
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
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. 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
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
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. Pluggo for Live
In addition to the new devices mentioned above, Max for Live comes with more than 40 devices from the Pluggo collection. These include audio effects and instruments, all re-built and optimized for use within Live.
5. Tools, building blocks and tutorials
20 new MIDI and audio effects, ranging from common studio utilities like graphic EQs to creative MIDI utilities such as humanizers. Additionally, we've provided more than 20 simple tools called "Building Blocks." These are an excellent introduction to Max programming and have all been carefully annotated to help you learn how they were made.
6. Button matrix step sequencer
Max for Live comes with a device that turns the button matrix of the APC40 or Launchpad into a hardware interface for programming MIDI sequences. 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.
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