It’s been a long, long wait, but it’s now official: Ableton and Cycling ‘74 have collaborated on Max for Live, which integrates Max/MSP with Ableton Live. There’s tons of information on the Cycling ‘74 site, and I’ll be doing some follow-up interviews for CDM soon with more details, but here’s the overview.

What is Max for Live?

Max is an add-on product for Ableton Live 8, which will be announced in a press conference shortly. Note that it isn’t just Max or just Live – it’s a separate, add-on product. No pricing information yet; availability later in 2009.

What Will You Be Able to Build?

  • Step sequencers
  • Instruments
  • Effects
  • Stuff to control Live
  • New hardware integration features, with your own instrument / effect / sequencer creations, and with Live itself – think, build your own hardware mappings

What I’ve heard is that via native controls, you’ll be able to control anything you can control in Live with a mouse, down to moving warp markers around. That’s obviously huge, but expect the specifics of these details (and eventually, how to do it) on this site over the coming days and months. I’m also eager to find out if it’ll be possible to use Max for Live with OSC inside Live.

How Integrated is It?

  • Native Live API controls: Max now gets a native API for controlling Live, with live.object, live.path, objects. This is actually arguably the most important part, because it means you could in fact use Max to control Live in place of the Python-based Live API. That raises a bunch of questions and unfortunately, this is the part of Max for Live about which we know the least, but you know this site will be all over the details as soon as we can get hold of them. (The only bad side of this that I can see is that it may mean fewer options for Live users who want to use their own development tools instead of Max, but I’ll investigate.)
  • Preview mode: This lets you edit in Max while devices continue processing audio/MIDI as if running inside Live. It updates in-place in Live’s device view. That’s been possible previously using things like Native Instruments’ Reaktor plug-in or the combination of FL Studio and Synthmaker, but it’s certainly new to the Max environment.
  • UI controls: You can create Ableton-style interface controls for your patches. This is really extraordinary: you build a patch as normal, and what Max 5 calls its Presentation Mode now looks like an Ableton-standard UI in the program, with full support for color schemes. You even get descriptive text in Info View when you mouse over something, just like the official Ableton stuff.
  • Multiple undo: Undo in Live applies to Devices created with Max for Live.
  • Tempo sync, sample-accurate automation: I need to get the details of this, but normally syncing tempo is a major pain using MIDI, ReWire, or even plug-ins – this appears to allow more direct integration.
  • A step sequencer object: Previous efforts like SynthMaker in FL have made it pretty easy to build instruments and effects, and it’s certainly possible to build sequencers in tools like Reaktor or Pd. But what’s unique about Max in Live is that it provides a sequencer with a Live-style interface that integrates with tempo.
  • File/preset integration: This is where it gets really awesome – juggling Reaktor patches, for instance, can be a pain.
  • Web collaboration: Ableton Live 8 adds web collaboration options, which extends to Max devices. 

What Devices Are Included?

So far, you get a nice set of Devices to use with Max for Live:

  • Step Sequencer, with four 16-note sequences, shift, random, MIDI control
  • Loop Shifter, with automated mapping and playback, for Max-style looping
  • An extension for the new Akai APC40 that turns it into a step-sequencer editor for Live MIDI clips

Now, note, on that last item, you don’t necessarily need to run out and buy Live 8 and Max for Live and a new APC (though there are worse things to happen to someone). The new features should open up new controller integration features and custom software-controller creations for all kinds of hardware. For instance, the monome (site | cdm tag) should greatly benefit from the features in Max for Live. It’s already got a rabid community of Max patchers behind it, and there’s no reason you couldn’t do something wild with Live, Max for Live, and the monome – including additional features you can hack into the monome, like tilt sensors/accelerometers/IR range finders. (Yum.)

And in fact, the monome community is already on it without the aid of Max for Live: Pages, built in Java, is an elaborate app for automating access to some of Live’s power. You can imagine that the availability of Max for Live should mean even more of this sort of thing.

Where to Read Up

I’ll update this as more information comes through, but here’s what to get where:

David’s Tools for Creating Devices in Live is probably the most important read, as it shows how the integration works – already juicy, though we need to find out more about those native controls for actually manipulating Live

David Zicarelli’s "Perspective on Integrating Max and Live" talks about the genesis of the project and what it means to existing Max users

If anyone stops by NAMM booth 6314, we’d love some other perspectives.

What this stuff means:

Max for Live is best understood as Max/MSP/Jitter in Live. Here’s a full explanation, with more details to come on exactly how they integrate:

Max For Live is Max In Live: MSP, Jitter, OSC, and All; The Open Source Side?

And yes, I will be following up on open source alternatives, because they have their own strengths and weaknesses.

  • DiGiTaLFX

    Wow this is going to be amazing!!

  • So Peter, were just trying to throw me off guard in the other article?

  • phortran

    i can't wait for the details of this integration to surface. i hope there will be a way to bypass max/msp and integrate directly with ableton over the same paths. i also hope, and this is a huge stretch, that ableton will open up that communication layer or at least provide some basic information on how to use it outside of max for live. not to downplay the power of that integration either, that looks absolutely amazing.

    i don't expect ableton to officially support developers or users of 3rd party/open source apps that utilize this integration path, but i think a little transparency could go a long way in furthering ableton adoption. if ableton is easy to integrate into any application or device into then so many little projects are going to spring up, and that can only mean more sales for ableton (since their app will be at the center). i can only see this being a good thing for all parties (except possibly cycling74 when the pd version arrives ;)).

  • lematt

    that's pretty exciting 🙂

  • salamanderanagram
  • Picking up the pieces of my mind off the floor right now…

    There's one niggling question though.. where's Pluggo?

  • salamanderanagram

    this looks awesome. i hope it doesn't require max/msp because i can't afford that right now but my credit card can lol…

  • gbsr

    but will it require max/msp or could you buy and install it without max/msp?

  • what i think is particually interesting is how it says ya can edit max patches – while audio is running through ableton…

    thats pretty amazing really

    it'll really help out with patch design if ya can actually just rewire stuff on the fly and hear what happens..

    no doubt ya gonna get some crazy sausages building and editing stuff on the fly – in a gig … madness..

  • salamanderanagram

    just checked the system requirements on the ableton page and the only requirement is live 8.

  • poorsod

    is this a full version of max? or would we be getting a cut-back thing?

  • this is ridiculous…i just got 7!!!!

  • @Mike: I actually just learned quite a lot of this. 😉 I will sorta stand by the previous comment, in that it looks as though the API features in Max may be based on the Live API, which could have some interesting implications for both.

    Pluggo: dunno.

  • you will want to add this page to your link list.
    it has a nice video

  • vinayk

    I wonder if people create patches with this for live – will they usable with a Max for live runtime or such?

    Makes it cool for other non patchers like myself!

  • vinayk

    hmm after watching the end of the max for live video on the ableton site – I think not… but if its reasonably priced then I guess one can do just that…

    wonder if it'll be a lot cheaper than max/msp/jitter?

  • bliss

    Peter, I have to say that Ableton put the live back into Live with their announcements today. The Akai APC40 and Max for Live are simply brilliant developments. Once again Live no longer seems like it was compromised for the sake of music production over real-time and live performance.

  • kevin

    "I’m also eager to find out if it’ll be possible to use Max for Live with OSC inside Live."

    i'm pretty sure that with this sort of setup (i.e. full API available), anyone could implement OSC control over Live as a Max for Live plugin..

    really, it should be something that ableton does on their own, but it would make it possible.

    my two questions are 1) what is the "Max for Live" add-on going to cost if i already own the full version of Max, and 2) if i have max 5 and live 8 open at the same time and max has an object [s rad] and an active max plugin in live has an object [r rad], well… you can guess the question part…

  • Jeremy Bernstein


    1) pricing hasn't been announced, but if you already own Max 5 and Live 8, it will be very reasonable.

    2) think of it this way: when a device is open in Live, it's running inside of a Max Runtime library within Live. When you open it up for editing, it's running inside of the Editor. Namespaces for global symbols like 'send' and 'receive' are local to the running process (so Runtime lib/Editor are separate contexts). So I'm not sure what kind of abuses you are thinking of, but they might not work as you're expecting. On the other hand, you could easily use UDP or TCP/IP to send messages between Runtime and Editor processes…


  • Ableton's page also mentions video output!

    Does this mean I can finally generate my audio and video from a single program? I'm just getting my new monome-live-isadora system figured out, but this could blow it away.

  • I've worked with Max, PD, Bidule, Audiomulch, Usine, EnergyXT, Live,
    Logic, Opcode's Studio Vision (remember them?), Motu performer (years
    ago), and probably some other stuff I can't remember. I can write
    basic C code, and java. I love jazz, and rhythm and improvisation. I
    loved MAX for "small scale" algorithmic stuff. But I bogged down when
    I tried to do a full scale composition, and integrating many changes
    over time in Max were problematic. Rhythm in Max wasn't
    straightforward either. I'm no expert in Bidule, Audiomulch and Usine,
    but I didn't find "large scale" composition with changes in structure
    over time an easy intuitive thing with any of them either. I'm not
    talking Elliot Carter here, but standard song structure, where you
    move back and forth through various themes and patterns.

    Live on the other hand is brilliant for improvisational, large scale,
    change over time composition. It excels in improvisation in a rhythmic
    environment, and is designed from the ground up for basic song
    structure. What it lacks are the small scale idiosyncratic constructs
    that make music interesting to me.

    EnergyXT was probably the best medium for me up till now, but it also
    had many issues. I liked how it integrated VSTs and midi and audio in
    a modular, straight forward environment. It was certainly better than
    Max, Bidule or Usine for standard song structure.

    With the options of VST plugins, Max modules and the architecture of
    Live, I can't imagine a better environment.

  • MattH

    There's a great thread called "Max for Live"? over at the cycling74 forums, in which cycling74 developer Jeremy Bernstein clears up many of the doubts in many people's minds

    He gives a pretty clear impression that Max for Live is a superset of Max rather than a subset, and that C externals, javascript, mxj~ etc are still available; that the main restriction is if you don't also own Max/MSP you can't run it standalone, and that it doesn't have built in support to connect audio/midi to the outside world.

    So Peter, this sounds like a "yes" to your question about OSC control (e.g. via the OSC library from berkeley), at least in terms of controlling Max devices.

    And for those of a textual orientation, the ability to extend via C/Java etc is pretty killer.

    Just think: control warp markers from Groovy; algorithmic composition via functional programming in Scala; embedding sketches …

    Excuse me while I go and change my trousers.

  • MattH

    Woops, I meant:

    it doesn’t have built in support to connect audio/midi directly to the outside world"

    I.e. with the build in objects, you reach the outside world via Live.

  • Dri

    The implications of this will take some time to actually kick in i believe. Some proper "OMFG" patches circulating the net will really kickstart the general production community back into generating interesting devices i hope. Reaktor is "big", but the demographic that focuses mostly on Ableton is about to be spoilt. A lot.

    Again… i hope 🙂

  • Yaeh, this is a great news.. if this is be is possible with PD….this is a more great news 🙂

  • this is awesome! as soon as I received the Ableton newsletter yesterday night I browsed their site and I was amazed!
    Live is growing magnificent.

  • I think this is actually something of a blow to Pd, to be honest. That's sort of the nature of things, though … and there are opportunities to keep things in balance, which I think is good for everyone. Max is a fantastic product and supports a lot of people (both at C74 and among users, artists, who often earn a living off building patches and the like). Pd is an important part of the ecosystem, too, and can remain relevant by leveraging its open source capabilities, improving documentation (particularly the documentation that compares functions in Max to Pd), and by better implementations of things like OSC on both sides.

    But yes, some really big stuff here: and OSC and video? Wow.

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  • Paul N

    SO great. As excited as I am, I feel like I just got done buying into suite and I really hope they offer us some upgrade packages to allow us to enjoy these things at a decent price- I know you aren't here to be a price guide Peter, but if you get any news on the upgrade plan before it posts I would love to know about it.
    At least we have the better part of a quarter to set aside "spare cash"…

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  • @ Peter Kern:

    lets hope it's more of an inspiration to develop an open-source program akin to live ! 🙂

  • Wow this truly looks awesome!