the skill of organisation whilst learning M4L

Sep 7, 2010 at 3:44pm

the skill of organisation whilst learning M4L

Hello everyone,

I picked up the application and simply cannot wait to get stuck in. Before i do, I was hoping to pick up some tips on the best way of learning Max with the material i have. Obviously max is the best place to start and then followed with msp in the tutorial section. I just wanted to ask a couple of questions with regarding using the resources so i can learn m4l efficiently:

: Is one tutorial a day the best way to go?

: What sort of tasks should i be setting myself?

: What would be the required time each day spent on learning max?

: Is their any external resources that would be of benefit to me that i should know? (e.g. Computer Music by curtis roads seems good but is it to dated? Is their any other resources similar but that are up to date?)

: Is their any other resources i should know regarding max4live? (I have the tutorials along with baz’s tutorials on y.t. and peter elsea’s tutorials but is their any other i should know?) Computer music by Charles Dodge looks interesting, does anyone have it?

I know some of the questions depend on the person but was interested to know what peoples techniques were regarding max. I appreciate any feedback as this would greatly assist me in my education of max.

Thank you very much


Sep 7, 2010 at 7:18pm

The m4l tutorials inside of Live are a great starting point. They are very concentrated and actually are usable for creating things with ableton live.

as for your other questions. . . If you get excited and inspired remember to take breaks. otherwise just study an easy amount, let the information sink in, focus on making music, and use the help patchers!

Sep 7, 2010 at 7:52pm

Hi Wallflower,

As you say a learning strategy is very personal.

I’m using some very different platforms / computer languages / API’s etc. for a living.

When I have to do a job using software I don’t know (well) I first tend to read the basic ‘getting started’ documentation. Then I scan the topics of the reference manual so I know vaguely which topics are documented.

The next step is to get your hands dirty. Just pose a reachable target for yourself, not a project that is too demanding. In MFL my first project was to get a whimsical MFL device well synchronized with the Live transport.

To get this first job done you will need to dive into the documentation, RTFM!, but this approach helps to stay away from isoteric topics until you’re ready for it.

Is I’ve mentioned in the thread on this platform of licencing MFL for yourself, I consider Max/MSP as a language with a different twist: normally I use SQL and C#, which are written as scripts. You can speak out the text of a script for an audiance if you need to. Max/MSP is a visual language, there is no top down structure and you need another mindset to follow the flow. The fundamental items that make up the language are radically different from constructs in procedural languages.

Once I acquired a basic knowledge of the fundamental elements in Max/MSP, working with it became easier.

I’ve been working with MFL in my freetime hours now from november 23 last year on. I’ve created a Launchpad DrumSequencer that gets very good response at

So it took me 9 months to get a real working knowledge of MFL.



Sep 9, 2010 at 2:33pm

thanks Willem. Did you ever hear of that book i mentioned? Id love to incorporate some literature in addition to the tutorials.

Sep 9, 2010 at 4:20pm

Hello Wallflower,

I don’t know Computer music by Charles Dodge. I see it has a hefty pricetag. Charles Dodge is a composer and a music teacher, so perhaps he knows what he’s writing about. Perhaps there are other guys on the forum who can say something about the book.

There are three kinds of booke on computer music:
1. Books that teall you how the get the most out of the software. Often these books just repeat the manual. I think the Ableton Reference Manual good to read. Ableon Live X power by Chad Carrier and Dave Hill Jr. doesn’t add much in my opinion.

2. Books on synthesis and digital signal processing. Becoming a Synthesizer Wizard by Simon Cann and Native Instruments Reaktor 3 by Len Sasso belong to this category. I have not found any books on Max/MSP.

3. Books on music theory and practice. I think the book you mentioned falls into this category. I have no background in music, so these are the books that should help me to make some decent sounds. Of course there are books on Music Theory, Composition, rythm and harmony. I really like Dance Music Manual by Rick Snoman. There’s no nonsence there and he really takes you by the hand. But it’s all about the different genres of dance music, not on the more relaxed side of ambient or experimental music. Rythm and drums form the base of all genres he describes.

I find it hard to judge a book by looking at the Amazon page, and I have collected quite a few books on computer music that were disappointing.

I read the Computer Music magazine every month and I really like it. Some articles are really helpfull for me!

Sep 10, 2010 at 12:41am

Computer Music Tutorial by Curtis Roads is not too dated. It’s a very essential book. I also have Computer Music by Charles Dodge. I’ve read both. Both are brilliant but if you’re looking for one over the other, I’d recommend CMT by Curtis Roads(although it depends on what you’re looking for, Charles Dodge’s book has more specific unit-generator diagrams regarding specific synthesis and filtering methods… Curtis Roads book still has quite a few of those but surveys through many more topics and info).

There’s also this one:
(haven’t read it yet)

and one of my favorites especially for being free, Theory and Techniques of Electronic Music by Miller Puckette:

and of course, if you’re patient, you could always wait for this which applies directly to Max and M4L:

Btw, Charles Dodge is not just a teacher, composer, but he and his wife are also a very succesful vintner:
(same Charles Dodge)

*Never fear, Noob4Life was never here!*

Sep 10, 2010 at 3:48am

thanks for the resources guys. I heard Curtis Road’s book is quite vague on max/msp.Is this true? I was thinking of Charles’s book because it seems quite focused on max/msp. Maybe i’m wrong?

Sep 10, 2010 at 4:04am

Neither the Roads nor Dodge/Jerse books are at all focused on MaxMSP, or any other specific software implementation, for that matter (though the Dodge book does lean a bit towards the music-n language family (which includes Csound) in the examples it gives). That’s both a strength and a weakness, depending on what you’re looking for. As such, they are both equally applicable to whatever programming environment you find yourself working in. Neither book is about learning software, but rather are both about learning about the procedures, techniques, and algorithms involved in computer music, which you can then implement in any language you happen to use (for the most part).

I’ve used both for my teaching, and for reasons of clarity and brevity often find the Dodge/Jerse book a first choice for folks new to computer music programming, and for completeness the Roads book a first choice for folks with more experience/knowledge in the field. Of course, your mileage may vary… ;)

The Puckette book (and online edition) is the clostest thing to being focused on MaxMSP, as it uses Pd as the primary example language.

Sep 10, 2010 at 4:08am

Steven thank you for your input. I will order the Dodge/Jerse book tomorrow.


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