MAX Month 1 - An Analogue Style Stequencer


I availed of the fantastic DANCE-TECH.NET promotion and got MAX/MSP/JITTER at the student discount rate of €250... (thank you very much Marlon) - One of the conditions is that I write a blog report of my experiences with MAX/MSP/JITTER at least once a month for 6 months.....

So far MAX is cool. I have a reasonable knowledge of MIDI and analogue gear. I have a good knowledge of synthesis in general, I have used other modular software environments like Synthedit and I have a small analogue modular synth. So many of the general concepts involved in MAX are not new to me. The names of the modules themselves can be quite new to me. Words like Borax, Funnel, ZLJoin, Coll don't mean much to me. Words like counter, seq, random, velocity 0... these words are OK for me.

Right now I am interested in MAX as a control for my analogue gear, as a way to record and process live audio, and as experimenting box for doing live electronic sound. I am not as interested in building synths. I don't want to build the softsynth to rule them all. The softsynth that is sooo powerful and has soooo many options that nobody really knows how to use it. I just want to make little bits of things that I can use in a live and experimental way. I want to use MAX as just another module in my modular synth.


My first build is an ANALOGUE STYLE SEQUENCER. It's all done with Multisliders which are variable between 2 and 64 steps, the multisliders repeat the fader positions if I jump from 8 to 16 steps, it sends MIDICLOCK OUT. There are 3 sequencers PITCH/GATE ON-OFF/CV1 - this matches my Kenton Pro-Solo MIDI to CV converter. The sequencers can be independently stepped in 1 of 3 ways - Forward/Backward/Random. Also the faders positions of all 3 sequencers can be independently randomized. All 3 sequencers are MIDI Controllable (up to 16 steps) which matches nicely with my Behringer BCR2000. No filters, envelopes or tones... all that is done on the analogue modular.

I learned a lot from building it. One of the things I learned is MAX is very particular when it comes to the flow of numbers. T B F messages are new to me. So it's a little tricky trying to work out the exact order millisecond events have to take. Sometimes I just connect multiple objects without using a trigger message and move them around on the screen to see which position gives me the right output. It's strange hearing the sound change as you move the little object boxes around as if you can hear the numbers calculating away in the background.


Right now I'm very much in the ugly math camp. My patches seem to have lots of - + == < > / and plenty of ???? - I look at the expressions used in some of the patches found on the Cycling 74 forum and wonder where they got them. I can solves the expressions easily. The unfortunate thing is I do not need to solve them (max does that) I need to understand how to formulate expressions. I wish there was a big book that told you how to formulate simple expressions. I get a lot of X ? Y. The ? relates to the function that connects X and Y together. I know X and I know Y but how X becomes Y confuses me. I sit there endlessly dividing and subtracting and multiplying and then I go to the MAX forum and find this incredibly simple expression that does exactly what I want. I look at the expression and it is so simple but I still cannot figure out how they formulated the expression. For me I think it might be ugly maths for a while yet.

Anyways that's enough of a rant to justify my first months blog. Month 1 and I finished a randomizable MIDI controllable sequencer that I can use to control my external synth. Not bad....

Next month - Live Looping????

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