Any better MSP tutorials around than the ones supplied with max/msp?

Jul 29, 2011 at 8:37pm

Any better MSP tutorials around than the ones supplied with max/msp?

The MSP tutorials supplied with the product are really poorly done, imo.

They seem to go something like this:

Tutorial 1 – Move the volume slider up and down, and hear how the amplitude changes.
Tutorial 2 – Click the on/off button to start and stop the audio
Tutorial 3 – Use the slider to change the frequency of the sound.

Exercise 1 – Build a patch with 10 electric guitars that sends the sound to Jupiter and back via the space shuttle, bends the frequency 17 different ways with 98 layers of polyphony through a home-brewed granular synthesis engine. The first 3 tutorials should have prepared you for this.

These tutorials are written in a totally wrong way, which is probably why so many people are frustrated with this product.

The tutorials should have the user DOING SOMETHING and BUILDING SOMETHING from the get-go, not just reading a bunch of stuff, moving a slider around, and then being plunged into an exercise that goes way beyond what was previously described.

There is NO WAY that a new user could possibly come up with the solutions in Exercise 1 based on what they were asked to do in the previous 5 tutorials.

Instead of doing it that way, why not make tutorials 1-5 a STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTION ON HOW TO BUILD THE PATCH IN EXERCISE 1, instead just a bunch of pontificating and being asked to hit an on/off button?

Tutorial 1 could be how to build the first part of the Exercise 1 patch, Tutorial 2 could be how to build the second part of it, etc. until by Tutorial 5 you’ve built the whole thing, and ACTUALLY CREATED SOMETHING, instead of spending 5 tutorials where all you do is read and move a couple knobs around?

Are there any better tutorials available than these? I know this is going to be a long and painful journey if I have to keep using the supplied tutorials.

Jul 29, 2011 at 8:44pm


Jul 29, 2011 at 9:05pm

If you are looking for more project-based MSP tutorials, check out the many articles we have on our website that might be up your alley. You can find them, along with many others (Max, Jitter, Max For Live, etc), here:

Quickly, I would recommend Gregory Taylor’s LFO tutorials, Les Stuck’s polyphonic synth tutorial, Darwin Grosse’s Guitar Processor tutorials, Darwin’s Synth Building with Max/MSP tutorials, and Richard Dudas’s Phase Vocoder tutorials:


Poly Synth:

Guitar Processor:

Synth Building:


Also, check out Stretta’s great Practical Max series, just getting started:

There are some MSP related tricks in the Did you Know series done by Andrew Pask. You can do a search to find them:

Additionally, there are a lot of user generated tutorials floating around on the web, others can chime in on where you might find those.

Happy patching!

Jul 29, 2011 at 9:10pm

Different people like to learns things in different ways but a more goal orientated approach would suit some people much better.

Have a look at some of the tutorial articles series like:

or you could look at vids like:

(personally I prefer videos and being shown stuff so I hope Cycling go into overdrive mode on their own videos)


if you have a casual glance at Google you will see there are a lot of tutorials and I welcome and am thankful for them all :)

(simu post with Ben above but sure I’ll leave it)

Jul 29, 2011 at 9:18pm

To Ben: I appreciate your response. I have already looked at the tutorials you mention, but they are specific for certain things/projects that I am not really interested in.

I am a total noob, and am just looking for basics on how to use the program and get started with some simple stuff (I do have a certain project in mind for after I learn the basics, but that is a long way off).

The tutorials supplied with the product need to be completely re-done, from the perspective of a new user, and be much more INTERACTIVE, where the user DOES STUFF, in SMALL INCREMENTAL STEPS, instead of just reading through 5 tutorials, and then being dumped into an exercise where they’re asked to come up with a solution that requires all kinds of stuff that wasn’t described in the first 5 “tutorials”. In fact, it’s a misnomer to call the first 5 things tutorials, because all they are is text, and then being asked to hit one button or move one slider.

But again, I do appreciate your attempt, and look forward to hearing from anyone else who might know where some better **BASIC** tutorials for MSP might exist.

Jul 29, 2011 at 9:21pm

Grizzle, thanks, I will check those out. Again, I’m looking for basics, and I can’t spend months on guitar processors, or other specific projects that I have no need for. But I will check out the other links you supplied. Thanks.

If anyone has a specific link to a tutorial for MSP beginners, I would appreciate it.

I’m looking for basic tutorials on how to do ANYTHING in the program, not specifics for guitar synths or whatever, but how does one do ANYTHING AT ALL in the program. Beginner stuff.

Jul 29, 2011 at 9:31pm

It looks like you are starting with the MSP tutorials. I think it is important to start with the Max tutorials first. Max really is that backbone so you have to have a good understanding of that before you move on. It helped me to work like that anyway.

When you are ready to try a simple project pick a few objects you think will help you get there and then look at their help files and references. It is frustrating, we all want Matrix style plugin knowledge (I Know KungFu) but it’s just not ready yet :)

Jul 29, 2011 at 9:42pm

Incidentally, I am a technical writer and am available to write better tutorials if you guys are interested. Just give me a minute here to get up to speed :) You can contact me via my email which you have.

In conversations and on the internet, I’ve heard many times about people’s frustration with trying to learn this product using the tutorials. I’ve also attended seminars at CNMAT where new users got basically nowhere trying to use these tutorials.

If there’s anything MAX/MSP is NOT, it’s self-explanatory, intuitive, or in line with normal software protocols and customs (especially the stupid right-to-left thing – who was the genius who made that decision?). There is no way to use or understand this product without some serious time put into reading, time-wasting trial and error, etc. Just ONE tutorial that walked a new user through creating some halfway-cool, rinky-dink little thing that introduced some of the basic concepts and objects would go a REALLY long way, instead of just reading a bunch of text and then dumping it onto the user to come up with a solution to an exercise, which is what you have now for a “tutorial”.

String a few of these simple interactive tutorials together, in which users are SHOWN how to build something, instead of being QUIZZED on how to build it, and people might actually be able to use the product for what they want, without years of dicking around, which is what everyone I know who has used this product has had to go through.

I guarantee better tutorials for new users will increase your user base exponentially.

Jul 29, 2011 at 9:45pm
Jul 29, 2011 at 9:58pm

I look at learning Max like learning to read and write natural language. You need to learn the alphabet first, how the letters sound, what they look like, some rules about how sentences are put together, etc. I’m sorry that you’re frustrated, but starting from scratch there’s some basic learning of letter shapes before you can go on to write paragraphs.

I have some basic examples that try to illustrate certain techniques or answer specific questions from the forum here, and some more complete programs here.

Jul 29, 2011 at 10:00pm

And thomas2222, if I were you, I would try to check my attitude at the door.

Jul 29, 2011 at 10:03pm

Thanks for the unsolicited advice on my attitude. If I ever feel like I need any more advice from you, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Jul 29, 2011 at 10:05pm

I don’t disagree that we need to learn the alphabet first etc. But how about some better tutorials that show us how to do that?

Jul 29, 2011 at 10:06pm

And if you think what Im saying is wrong or out of line, try googling “max/msp, frustration”. Apparently, I’m not alone.

Jul 29, 2011 at 10:12pm

Look you’re the one saying things like “The tutorials supplied with the product need to be completely re-done…” and “…who was the genius who made that decision?” This is not constructive criticism.

You may consider your time too valuable to learn Max/MSP with the provided tools, but your attitude certainly does not make me inclined to waste my time helping further.

Jul 29, 2011 at 10:16pm

I agree that the second remark might not be constructive, but the first one is. The tutorials do need to be completely re-done. It becomes even more constructive because I clearly explain why, and how they can be fixed.

Jul 29, 2011 at 10:17pm

Thanks, if I need anymore of your help or advice, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Jul 29, 2011 at 10:38pm

At this stage I think you are being disingenuous and rude. You have been shown literally months of tutorials in multiple formats including txt, pdf, video, working helpfiles, working examples, completed software, a forum, a book, and references for every single object.

I have to say your remark about writing tutorials professionally for cycling74 whilst being unable to complete the first excercise is either laughable or worrying (i’ll leave it up to others to decide which).

I did search google for “max/msp, frustration” and unfortunately it did not support what you said however I also searched Google for “max/msp, chicken” and I was astounded to see the search results fully supported my thoughts on the relationship between chickens and max/msp.

Jul 29, 2011 at 10:45pm


I’ve had some of the frustrations you describe. In fact, I’ve had them twice — once years ago when I first encountered Max, and a second time several years ago when I got serious about learning Max5.

After a quick trip through the tutorials, I found that focusing on the help files for the specific objects I wanted to use worked out better for me. Those files show you how to get an object to actually do something, and often they contain links to examples of the more complex uses. Just make sure you’ve paid attention to the tutorials on the different message types.

Max can seem like a foreign country at first, even to a seasoned programmer, but IMHO it’s worth it after you get the lay of the land.

Best regards,

Jul 29, 2011 at 11:35pm

OK, I just went and skimmed the first five tutorials, and looked at Exercise 1. The only explanation that I can come up with why Exercise 1 would seem impenetrable as you say, is if I hadn’t already done the Max tutorials. MSP builds on top of the Max foundation, and the Max tutorials are where you would learn about the Max objects in Exercise 1 like: message types, metro, delay, s(end) and r(receive).

Different people learn in different ways, and I recognize that the existing pedagogical material might not work for you, but it has worked pretty well for a lot of people.

Jul 29, 2011 at 11:49pm

I can’t think of any ‘arcane’ software product that ships with a more extensive reference/tutorial/helpfile library. The OP says, I want to learn German but what’s with all this ‘subjunctive’ and ‘imperfect’ nonsense, I want to speak German now.

I can honestly say that, as a programming/computer-science virgin, MaxMSP was the EASIEST language for me to learn. It just takes time; wading into the forum and upsetting the most supportive community I know should not be your first step. Spending time with the Max (not MSP) tutorials is the best advice – creative impatience is almost a good thing; just channel it right.

Jul 29, 2011 at 11:50pm

I think the help and reference system are perfect, the tutorials are really good though I haven´t really used them aside that bpatcher thing on my second patch. Max is a lot about trial/error-experience and patience. Furthermore a lot in Max explains itself if you are aware of common midi/audio specifications. Maybe a little bit of sorted/algorithmic thinking to understand the concept of objects communicating per messages.

Anything else is described in the object-reference on demand. Some details are tricky though until you know about it, like Max´ timing from right to left and the problems with complex or reversed iterations. For those things breaking your mind for hours there is the internet ;)

The biggest problem is expecting “a product” in a manner that would make the brain obsolete. Anyone who ever had to do with other programming environments considers Max as a wonderful and very well documented playground. It´s smart, it´s user-friendly.

Jul 30, 2011 at 10:35am

While I think Thomas has expressed himself perhaps a little forcefully, I do think he’s got a point. I’m learning Max-MSP at the moment, with no programming background at all, and I’m definitely finding ‘gaps’; some objects are in the tutorial patches and aren’t defined, some behaviours aren’t really fully explained, and each of the ‘reviews’ involves quite complex (for a new guy) operations and sequences of connected objects.

I do think there could be some mileage in a slightly gentler learning curve, although I must stress the support community is great. Also, I may feel different in a year or so, but some of the language used in the manual seems unnecessarily verbose.

Just a couple of things to think about, from a totally new users perspective. And another thanks to those who’ve taken the time to answer my dumb questions :-)

Jul 30, 2011 at 1:01pm

MaxMSP resources checklist; do you have access to the following?
the tutorials;
the object helpfiles;
the reference files;
this forum;
this book:

Most Maxers do.

I do; been Maxing for about 4 years, still n00bish still learning still fun.

Jul 30, 2011 at 1:03pm

@thomas2222: Right-to-left is puredead brilliant. It is a requirement for serialization of data that is conceptually parallel.

Here’s the deal: the leftmost inlet triggers output. “Duh” you say. OK, connect the three outlets of a notein to the three inlets of a noteout. Now think for a moment what happens if you do right-to-left. MIDI Channel goes to MIDI Channel, Velocity goes to Velocity, Note Number goes to Note Number and BANG! noteout sends the correct information out.

Now work out the alternative, left to right. Notein sends Note Number to noteout and whoops… how is noteout supposed to know what velocity or channel to use? It can’t. Don’t say “it can wait” because the object has no way of knowing if (let alone when) any other messages might arrive.

You asked who invented right-to-left. As far as Max goes, Miller Puckette invented it, and he was a far more insightful software designer than you are ever likely to be.

Since you started the attitude in this thread I don’t have any reason to apologize for speaking bluntly.

Jul 30, 2011 at 6:36pm

@thomas2222 -
You do appear to have an unpleasant way of expressing your needs.
Several of the people who responded are the actual developers of the product, and/ or professors who teach the product (and music comp) in well known (= big $/ big rep.) universities. Their input should be considered.
oh, you’re a technical writer , are you? Well, you *should* be better prepared!!
Many people here are professional musicians who have learned from the existing tutorials. They also had initial problems, but by being nice, they were given some wonderful advice, and many are now quite skilled with the program.
I learned from the existing tutorials and EXAMPLE PATCHES, had no problem *at all*, but then I only had a PhD in music (no computer background). I now am Sr. Programmer at large insurance corp. Early max tutorials Must have had *some* effect, eh?
I hereby answer your “lame tutorial” statement with a “no imagination or logical skills shown by a ‘spoon feed me’ newbie” statement.
Feel offended?

Good, then you, me and Chris M. are even.

Be nice, or be gone.

Jul 31, 2011 at 11:27am

anyone around here remembering good old zsolt:

wish i was sociologically skilled enough to come up with a clever formula of userbase/timespan/rude rant in forumposts.

Jul 31, 2011 at 2:47pm

I learned MSP from the msp (and max) tutorials. before that I never did operate a modular synth, nor any other similar software. So it can be done. And since more than 10 (or even more) years I use MaxMSP almost daily – (and I am a professional musician) so i would say it worked.
By the way I always thought the maxMSP tutorials are just GREAT – when I started to use Reaktor (which is a great software) I really missed a MSP-style tutorial !!!
If, however, you feel you can write a better one, please, go – always nice to find new ways of doing things!

Jul 31, 2011 at 6:00pm

+1 for the quality of the tutorials included (especially when used with the help files). Granted I’ve had plenty of assistance and advice while I’ve been learning how to use Max but so much of what makes the program great is the experimentation and trial and error process.

I think an introductory tutorial that showed me how to make exactly what I wanted straight away would be fairly dull anyway, wouldn’t it?

Jul 31, 2011 at 7:54pm

Yeah exactly, the hottest thing is getting behind the details your own way – and if it really really won´t work out a tricky corner then asking some people for help.

But (shouting for) full featured step by step advice is awful. Use your fckn brains.


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