Forums > MaxMSP

Max/Msp – A Beginner's Questions

Nov 06 2008 | 8:46 am

Hi everybody,

I am quite new to Max/MSP and am really willing to use it. I have gone through like first 10 chapters in the max tutorial, made my "hello world" and fed some signal (by using a creepy midi keyboard software) into max, changed the velocity, pitch etc. of the signal.

However, there are very basic points I’d like to know about:

1) Do I need a mixer to connect my electric guitar to Max/MSP? I saw a tutorial on Cycling ’74 ( I guess it was called "Expand your guitar"), the setup mentioned there included a mixer. Isn’t there an easier way, like connecting the guitar directly from the line-in? How can I use a keyboard with Max?

2) Can I chain ableton and max/msp in Windows PC? Like, I generate some sound in ableton and feed it into Max and vice versa. I heard of SoundFlower but it is Mac only apparently.

3) How do I record sound coming out of Max/MSP?

I’ll be very pleased if someone bothers to guide me, throws in a few coppers like posting some links. I am really willing to use Max and make some noise!


Nov 06 2008 | 11:23 am

Hello Panik,

There are many a way to do the options that you are looking for. i myself am still a newbie user, but have picked up useful things that may help you.

First i will start with the recording.
This was one thing i was really interested in. Mainly because instead of recording into Logic, say, i could not be bothered to do the rewiring. I know it is easy, but when you just ‘want to do it’, this method saved a lot of time

— Pasted Max Patch, click to expand. —

I have even put the buttons to start and stop the recording. All you need to do is have the [gain], say, going into the [sfrecord]
This was taken from a patch i have been working on for a few weeks now. I like the [textbutton] object

Next question. You dont NEED a mixer. But a general easy audio interface can do fine. Plus since you are on PC, you should have a mic in jack connection.
But maybe, to be on the safe side, plus to make your setup look cool with a nice interface, try m-audio for cheap audio interfaces.
Plus some of them have MIDI connections on as well, which always can come in handy.
M-Audio also make USB/MIDI keyboards as well. I would suggest (for a first one) the Oxygen 8. It runs off of USB and is a great little beast. Or even the Ozone, which even has a audio interface built in amongst the keyboard, BONZA. I had one for a while, it was great, then when i got money saved, i splashed on something better, but was more expensive.

Last question. I do know that you can easily rewire Max into Ableton, but the method you are asking , i dont know.
But could say, that if you have an audio interface. You could do some cheeky hard rewiring on your own. By having the output of a audio interface, going to the input of the same interface, then feeding into Max.
I have done stuff like that for years, sometimes it sounds good, sometimes it doesn’t.
How it would work is that you run Ableton, wired in to Max by hard wiring it with some audio jack cables (guitar cables). then play with the loops in Ableton, and then do some mangling with Max.
But, when pluggo finally comes out for Max 5, that wont be necessary, because then you could just build a plug-in for mangling beats.
But sometimes i just like doing it. Once you do it for a while like i have, you enjoy the cables going all around the place ;)

Hope this bantering has helped you some way…

Nov 06 2008 | 11:30 am

Also as well. If you want ANY advice on interfaces, USB/MIDI keyboard etc.

Just give me a email on my personal account. Then i can even email you some good, tough and cheap interfaces and anything you may need or even want.
I could write a HUGE list for you right now. But would prefer if you gave me an email, plus i have to work right now ;)

Nov 06 2008 | 11:40 am

Arrghh, sorry i did not post you the right patch. it is only a minor hange to allow 2 channels to be recorded

— Pasted Max Patch, click to expand. —

This will then have 2 channels to record with

Nov 06 2008 | 11:59 am


>1) Do I need a mixer to connect my electric guitar to Max/MSP? I saw
>a tutorial on Cycling ’74 ( I guess it was called "Expand your
>guitar"), the setup mentioned there included a mixer. Isn’t there an
>easier way, like connecting the guitar directly from the line-in?
>How can I use a keyboard with Max?

The level of a guitar is much lower than line-level, but higher than
microphone level.

Assuming you have a PC with a mic level input, you might want to use
something to get the giutar level down (resistor network or
potentiometer or some box with output volume control). But is not a
good solution.

Some guitar effects or preamps might be able to send a line level
signal that you can feed into the line level input of your computers
sound interface.

If you don’t already have such a box/preamp output you might want to
buy a cheap small mixer (needs to have an instrument input and line
output, but nearly every mixer does have it, except some line-only
keyboard mixers). You only need one channel, but if you get a
4-channel with a pre-fader monitor out, you can use the monitor out
to feed your PC and feedback the stereo from Max on two other
channels of your mixer. Then use the main outs to feed a stereo PA. I
would prefer such a setup for your needs. (You can even send mono
effects to the last channel if you want.)
What you might also want in the analog domain is a compressor/limiter
(completely analog!), so your input never gets distorted. Put it
between monitor out and PC input. It must not be a very good one but
avoid cheap solutions.
(I use a DBX 166XL for that purpose, but you might want to get a smaller one.)

A Behringer Shark might also be a solution to avoid the mixer, but I
didn’t used one yet. If the compressor in the Shark is digital and
not completely analog, I would avoid it, because you still have the
problem of digital signal saturation at the A/D-stage in front of a
digital compressor. Anyway, I don’t like that the attack and release
time are the same in the compresor there. I want longer release times
(about a factor of 10 to the attack time).

>2) Can I chain ableton and max/msp in Windows PC? Like, I generate
>some sound in ableton and feed it into Max and vice versa. I heard
>of SoundFlower but it is Mac only apparently.

Sorry, I hope someone else might help you with this, I only work on
Mac OS for audio.
I don’t know if it is possible to use Jack with Max and Windows and
I’m not sure if this could be a solution in this case.

>3) How do I record sound coming out of Max/MSP?

a) the normal way:
just record your line out analog.
This does not seem attractive, but you might save some CPU power if
you have a slow machine.

b) inside of Max/MSP use a sfrecord~ object to record into a
(multichannel) soundfile.
Really easy. But if you want to record several channels with only one
object, you get one n-channel file. Most sequencer software wants
mono files, so you need to find a software to split them up or make a
Max-patch to feed each single channel into a separate sfrecord~ and
start playback and recording of all sf-objects with a common bang. Of
course you could have used several mono sfrecord~ without needing to
split them up afterwards.
If you wonder why Max uses multichannel files: it takes less disk
head moving to record and play them.
BTW, for a project of mine I record the input together with the
output stereo in a 3-channel file and made a seperate patch for
mixdown (including a reverb) to stereo in Max.

I hope this might help a bit,


Joerg . Spix /at/ spix . homeip . net

Nov 06 2008 | 1:19 pm

I am really thankful guys. I’ll watch out those tips.

Nov 06 2008 | 4:47 pm

If you work without a mix desk & to get line level from your guitar while making sure you don’t have any impedance-related sound alteration:
Use a normal guitar stomp box, set to bypass.This makes sure your guitar sounds properly. Otherwise use a preamp with a guitar/instrument input, before connecting to any line input on your computer or audio interface.


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