MaxForLive: Creating Your Own Audio Tools in Max For Live

Learning MaxForLive: From the basics to the advanced, with Ableton Certified Trainer J. Anthony Allen.
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Instructed by Jason Allen Music / Music Software
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  • Lectures 51
  • Length 5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 9/2015 English

Course Description

For years I've been teaching Ableton Live and Max in the college classroom. As a University Professor, my classes are sought after, and, frankly, expensive. I believe Ableton Live can be learned by anyone, and cost shouldn't be a barrier. This class uses the same outline and syllabus I've used in my college classes for years, at a fraction of the cost.

MaxForLive is a powerful tool that lets users design their own instruments, effects, and devices. It isn't without its drawbacks: MaxForLive is notoriously difficult to learn. I've developed an approach for teaching MaxForLive that focuses on teaching it like a language: You will learn small blocks and patches, understanding the how and the why along the way. As we grow our vocabulary, we "learn how to learn" more and more.

Topics include:

  • The unique and quirky history and development of Max
  • What we can do with MaxForLive
  • Max vs. MaxForLive
  • The MaxForLive Devices
  • Finding and Sharing MaxForLive Devices
  • Getting Help: Help Windows in MaxForLive
  • Presentation Mode & Patching Modes
  • The Max Editor
  • Messages
  • Bangs & Buttons
  • Project 1: Building a MIDI Delay
  • Project 2: Building an Arpeggiator
  • Working with Audio Signals
  • Project 3: An Audio Delay
  • ~ Objects (tilde objects)
  • Presentation Setup
  • Controlling Live
  • Abstractions
  • Controlling anything in Live
  • Project 4: A Beat-Quantized Randomized Filter
  • Finding the Beat from Live
  • Project 5: Artificial Intelligence (sort of)
  • ... And much more!!!

Also included in this class is 6 of my own MaxForLive patches for you to download, dissect, use, and build on.

And of course, once you sign up any part, you automatically get huge discounts to all the my other Ableton classes. You will not have another opportunity to learn Ableton Live in a more comprehensive way that this online.

J. Anthony Allen is an Ableton Certified Trainer, and a PhD in Music Composition and master of Electronic Sounds. His music has been heard internationally in film, radio, video games, and industrial sound, as well as the concert hall and theater.

He currently as an adjunct professor of composition at the University of St. Thomas, Macphail Academy of Music, and the CEO of Slam Academy in Minneapolis.

Praise for other classes by J. Anthony Allen:

  • "I've had Live Lite for a while but never quite understood how to use it because of the different options in how to arrange audio. This course explains exactly how to do that and get the most out of Live."
  • "Great overview - I would start here for sure if you are just getting your feet wet with live. clear and to the point. session walkthroughs are great. looking forward to more"
  • "I have never had any formal training in music at all. Trying to learn all the notes and how everything translated was a serious challenge. After going thru this class, Dr. J has totally brought down the barriers. The content was very useful and was easy to grasp for me."
  • What are the requirements?

    • Knowledge of Ableton Live is required to understand this course.
    • Taking Ultimate Ableton Live: Part 1 - The Interface & The Basics is a great place to start, but not required to get the most out of this course.
    • Taking Ultimate Ableton Live: Part 2 - Recording & Warping is also great, but not required to get the most out of this course.
    • Taking Ultimate Ableton Live: Part 3 - Producing & Editing is also great, but not required to get the most out of this course.
    • Taking Ultimate Ableton Live: Part 4 - Synths & Samplers is also great, but not required to get the most out of this course.
    • Taking Ultimate Ableton Live: Part 5 - Audio & MIDI Effects is also great, but not required to get the most out of this course.
    • Taking Ultimate Ableton Live: Part 6 - DJ Techniques & Controllers is also great, but not required to get the most out of this course.
    • Access to Ableton Live will be required. Using the trail version (free for 30 days) would be a great way to start.

    What am I going to get from this course?

    • Use MaxForLive to create custom devices in Ableton Live
    • Speak the syntax of MaxForLive, and know how to find answers
    • Design unique MaxForLive patches for sale, sharing, and using in your own music

    Who is the target audience?

    • Students who want a comprehensive understanding of Ableton Lve
    • Students looking to understand the deeper levels of Ableton Live
    • Anyone looking to explore the possibilities of MaxForLive

    What you get with this course?

    Not for you? No problem.
    30 day money back guarantee.

    Forever yours.
    Lifetime access.

    Learn on the go.
    Desktop, iOS and Android.

    Get rewarded.
    Certificate of completion.


    Section 1: Welcome & Overview

    Welcome to the world of MaxForLive. Say goodbye to your friends, your spouse, and your social life (but surprisingly not your money). This is addictive stuff.

    Section 2: What is MaxForLive?

    For starters, I want to just talk about the basics of MaxForLive, and show you what it looks like.


    Next, I want to take a 10,000 foot view, and show you how MaxForLive works.


    Lets talk a little bit about the possibilities of MaxForLive.


    Our first download: This is the patch I showed in the previous video.


    The name of this thing can be a little confusing. I'll address that here just to get us all on the same page.


    Max has actually been around for a few decades - while MaxForLive is fairly new. It has a long and strange history - worth knowing about (and fun to talk about!)

    Section 3: Getting Started

    The MaxForLive Devices are our basic building block - sort of our canvas for creating devices.


    Your installation of Ableton Live probably came with a bunch of MaxForLive devices. Take a quick look at what you've got - knowing that any device can be opened and altered.


    The MaxForLive community is large, and growing every day. There are a number of great resources for find and sharing patches.


    Finally - I want to talk about some workflow tricks for starting from scratch (which we will be doing for the rest of this class)


    MaxForLive (like Ableton) has a built-in Help section that can guide you to answers quickly.

    Section 4: Creating Our Own Devices

    Max has 2 different "modes" and both of them have 2 "views".


    "Patching" is what we call connecting things to build more complex things. In this video I'll walk you through how to patch things and start building.


    Max is made up of hundreds of things called "Objects". In this video I'll show you how they work.


    "Messages" are another kind of building block in Max, important to understand how to use.


    The mighty "bang" message is something completely unique to Max, and a little tricky to wrap your head around at first.


    One more note about my approach to teaching Max, and how you can best take advantage of this class.

    Section 5: Our First Project: A MIDI Delay

    This is how I approach programming a new MaxForLive patch - this is a trick that helps us to outline what we are going to build before we start.


    Pipe - this is an object that will delay numbers, lists, and messages. Perfect for a MIDI delay.


    Next we need a way to add back in our not-delayed signal. While we are at it, lets learn how to put a switch on this so we can turn it on and off.


    We made this using the default [Midiin] object. But we could have used something called [Notein]. Whats the difference?


    Here is the patch I just made for you to download, play with, edit, remake, build on, and have fun with.

    Section 6: Project 2: Arpeggiator

    First I'm going to walk through the different things we are going to need in order to put this project together.


    Step 1: Delay some notes!


    Step 2: Transposing notes!


    Once we do something once, we can deploy it to do it a bunch of times.


    Here is the patch I showed in the previous video. Download it, use it, dissect it, and play with it!

    Section 7: Working with Audio in Max

    Objects with a Tilde (~) can have an audio signal in them - they mostly work the same, with a few oddities.


    When we work with audio, we have a few extra UI objects for showing and interacting with our signal.

    Section 8: Project 3: An Audio Delay

    You will soon get used to these! I do them all the time.


    Our main object for delaying an audio signal is Tapin~ and Tapout~. These work a little different than other objects we've seen so far.


    We might as well slap an audio fader (and level meter) on this while we are here!


    We should probably have a way to turn our dry signal on and off - so lets build that in.


    Now that we have one delay, we can deploy it out and make many delays!


    Lets go one extra step and make this one look nice by visiting Presentation view.


    Here is the file (the "patch") I showed in the previous video. Download it, use it, dissect it, and play with it!

    Section 9: Talking to (and Controlling) Live

    We've seen Abstractions before, but for the next part we will really want to look at them a bit deeper.


    This is a list of a bunch of Abstractions that comes with your installation of MaxForLive. You already have these!


    In this video I'll walk you through the basic language of how we talk to Live, and show you a few patches I've made to outline the syntax.


    Here is the file (the "patch") I showed in the previous video. Download it, use it, dissect it, and play with it!


    More detail on how we can ask for different devices and difference parameters in Live.


    Here is the file (the "patch") I showed in the previous video. Download it, use it, dissect it, and play with it!

    Section 10: Project 4: A Beat-Quantized Randomized Filter

    The Filtergraph~ object is what we use to control a filter. But it isn't actually a filter itself. For that we need [biquad~].


    We can get the tempo from Live easy enough, but what if we want a steady beat? It can be a little tricky.


    Now that we have a beat, and a filter, lets connect them and see what happens!


    Here is the file (the "patch") I showed in the previous video. Download it, use it, dissect it, and play with it!

    Section 11: Wrap Up

    Thanks for Watching! A few thoughts on some more things you can do to keep learning!


    Here is the file (the "patch") I showed in the previous video. Download it, use it, dissect it, and play with it!


    Update! Ableton has just released this awesome set of MaxforLive externals. Here is the link and what they are.


    There is so much more to learn!

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    Instructor Biography

    Jason Allen, Ph.D / Ableton Certified Trainer

    J. Anthony Allen has worn the hats of composer, producer, songwriter, engineer, sound designer, DJ, remix artist, multi-media artist, performer, inventor, and entrepreneur. Allen is a versatile creator whose diverse project experience ranges from works written for the Minnesota Orchestra to pieces developed for film, TV, and radio. An innovator in the field of electronic performance, Allen performs on a set of “glove” controllers, which he has designed, built, and programmed by himself. When he’s not working as a solo artist, Allen is a serial collaborator. His primary collaborative vehicle is the group Ballet Mech, for which Allen is one of three producers.

    J. Anthony Allen teaches at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN., and is an Ableton Live Certified Trainer. He is a co-founder and owner of Slam Academy, a multimedia educational space in downtown Minneapolis. Recently, Allen founded Hackademica – an innovative net-label for new music.

    J. has a PhD in music composition, 2 Master’s degrees in music composition and electronic music, and a bachelors degree in guitar performance. Through his academic travels, Dr. Allen has received numerous awards along the way.

    If you run into him on the street, he prefers to be addressed as J. (as in, Jay.)

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