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What math to brush up on when learning Max/MSP?

November 25, 2010 | 10:54 pm

Hello. I am a music technology student. As part of our course work we use both Reaktor and Max/MSP. I have always had an interest in these programs and now seems like a great time to start. We will be using these programs in my course starting next year but I would like to get a head start getting used to working in both Max/MSP and Reaktor. Some of my classmates are very proficient at maths, and let’s just say that my maths skills leave a lot to be desired…

I have been out of education (second level, high school for people in the US) for the past 3 years so I haven’t done any sort of maths for a long time. I have been told that for Reaktor algebra is quite important. So I have decided to brush up on my algebra, as well as trigonometry, as a start.

For Max/MSP what should I be concentrating on?

Thank you.


November 25, 2010 | 11:05 pm

Gareth Loy’s "Musimathics" is an interesting set of books on the math behind a good deal of music.


November 26, 2010 | 12:16 am

IMO the topics on the Max tutorials can also be helpful. It even has a few specifically aimed at math and data processing.

That is; if you meant to address math within the context of Max and not so math in general…

And when it comes to maths with regards to signal processing I personally enjoyed chapters 9 and 11 of the MSP tutorials.

Its not extremely heavy but IMO does give you a good example of how you might apply certain math aspects on signal processing.

Hope this helps!


November 26, 2010 | 3:09 am

beyond the maths of signal processing and basic arithmetic (and not-so-basic like you can with [expr] object), I would look at lists, combinations/permutations, etc., as you might get into doing some interesting things with sets of notes/pitches. the [zl] object is a great one to know thoroughly for list processing, as well as all the jit.FX which can be massaged to work musically (it’s all just numbers at the bottom).

Also understand that values coming in, like from a MIDI controller or ones being generated somehow, don’t need to be mapped directly to the output value such as a velocity or pitch. Use them as lookup values for a [table] or [itable] and you’ll have tons more to play with (including the default direct mapping, so it’s a superset of possibilities). So that’s not really "math" as most would think, it’s more about data structures… similar, but with a somewhat different approach.

For music especially, in frequency terms, know the harmonic series well and the concept of beating with close frequencies, then experiment with signals going into phase inlets of cycle~, etc. You’ll find a lot of great sounds this way.

In a lot of cases the math is done for you, but understanding more will open up new possibilities…as will understanding the potential of objects like [preset], [pattr], [matrixctrl], [multislider], etc. These can take a very simple setup and give the user/performer a lot more to easily experiment with.


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