Max For Live: A Rescue Guide for the New User


As you probably already know, Max For Live is now available for public beta. There are tons of people running to the Ableton and Cycling74 sites to download this add-on to Live only to come to the forum a few hours later and ask, "How do I get started". This may seem like an easy answer for the people that are already familiar with Max and Live. The various users on the forum usually reply with, "Check out the tutorials that are on the Ableton and Cycling74 websites". This is a great answer, as there is a plethora of information out there that can tell you how to do anything you can imagine. However, Here in lies the problem. There is too much information for the average user. Users may feel intimidated by the sheer mass of information out there. Still, others might not even know the information exists. This article is here to direct newcomers to simple information that can get them started and then show them where the advanced information is if needed.

Continue to be rescued after the jump...

The first thing I would tell you to do is check out the video tutorials on this site that will introduce you to the basic concepts.

Max Related:


Max For Live Related:


The tutorials highlighted above should get you started. The next thing to do is look at the tutorials that are available in Live and Max. One of the things to mention at this point is that any information that is available on Max, MSP, and Jitter still applies in Max For Live. This means that you are not limited to just the objects that have the word, "live" in it. The whole programming environment that was created by Cycling74 is available within Max For Live. Feel free to go through the tutorials in Max that say, Max, MSP, Jitter, and Max For Live.

The tutorials inside Live are located under Help -> Help View -> Getting started with Max For Live. Or it should just pop up on the right hand side when you start Ableton Live. These tutorials take you through getting started with Max For Live and continue on to teach you how to build various devices.

The tutorials in Max are located under Help -> Max Help and then choose the tutorials down the right hand side for the various technologies (Max, MSP, and Jitter). For The Max For Live specific tutorials and information go to Help -> Max Help -> Max For Live. There you will see all of the information from Cycling74 related to Max For Live.

Other Helpful resources:

If you still require additional assistance then there are some great forums in which the user community can assist you with your quest for knowledge.

  • Forums - These are the forums on this site in which I personally answer questions 
  • Ableton Forums - These are the forums on Ableton's site related to Max For Live
  • Cycling74 Forums - Forums on Cycling74's site related to Max, MSP, Jitter, and Max For Live


Additional Things to know:


  • Max - a graphical programming environment that provides user interface, timing, communications, and MIDI support
  • MSP - real-time audio synthesis and DSP
  • Jitter - video and matrix data processing
  • Max For Live - The integration of the above technologies into Live with an added Live API


External Objects (Externals):

One of the things that a lot of people do not realize is there are a lot of externals available for Max that people can use inside their programs. All of these externals for Max can also be used in Max For Live.

What are externals? I am glad you asked. Externals are little applications that are written in lower level languages that can be used within Max's environment. 

Why are they important?  Externals are important because they can provide expanded functionality that is not available in Max alone.  For example, I use a lot of CNMAT's externals. These external objects provide me with everything from audio objects, to timing, to OSC, etc.. A Lot of things you can do with Externals you may be able to do in Max/MSP/Jitter, but it may require a lot of patching and creation time. The advantage of an external is that it provides purpose built modules that can be used inside Max's environment. The end result is it makes programming a lot easier and quicker and can provide enhanced functionality.

So, Where do I get these externals? The externals are available all over the internet. You can just perform a google search for, "Max external" or you could check these sites out.



External Objects need to be copied or referenced in Max's path in order to be used. Additionally, they need to be bundled with any patches that you provide to other people. Please check out the license for the external object that you are distributing in order to find out the requirements for redistribution. One other thing to consider is that external objects are written for specific platforms. Make sure that if you are running OSX (Universal) you get that version or if you are running Windows, you get the Windows specific version.

Editor Commentary:

The world of Max and Max For Live can be a deep tunnel in which it may seem you cannot find your way out of. What i would suggest is that you decide what you want to program conceptually and then figure out what objects would be needed to create your program. You can then look at the individual objects and find out what they require in terms of inputted information and find out what their expected output should be. Sometimes it is better to use some of the objects in a smaller patch in order to learn how they respond and then once you understand them you can use them to build larger patches. Just remember to start out slow and don't allow the sheer size to overwhelm you. You can make a program with two objects. Learn the objects, learn how they interact, and go through the tutorials. In the end just have fun with it. You are creating tools that work the way you do. So, a little bit of time learning in the beginning can go a long way in the end.


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