Okay, it looks a little scary, but just think of that as an added way of convincing your friends you’re a total badass.

You may have heard about Pure Data (Pd), the open-source cousin to Max/MSP and a powerful tool for visual programming or “patching” music and multimedia. Pd has even appeared in the iPhone app RjDj and creating generative music for EA’s hit game Spore. But actually learning how to use the thing? Or learning some of the more advanced possible techniques in sound synthesis and processing? That’s another matter.

Johannes Kreidler writes to let us know about his new book for people wanting to learn Pd. It starts at the beginning and teaches you not only the ins and outs of the Pd environment, but all of the advanced music processing techniques, as well. (Given the similarity of Pd and Max/MSP, that should make this just about as useful for Max devotees, too.)

The book is available for reading free online, or in paperback format from Wolke Publishing House. It’s available in both English and German. Johannes writes:

This tutorial is designed for self-study, principally for composers. It begins with explanations of basic programming and acoustic principles then gradually builds up to the most advanced electronic music processing techniques. The book’s teaching approach is focused primarily on hearing, which we consider a faster and more enjoyable way to absorb new concepts than through abstract formulas.

The patches described are available for download.

He notes that because Pd is free and open source rather than commercial software, there isn’t a company behind it that can focus on documentation for new users. That’s been a common complaint about Pd, and this book does a lot to fill it — as well as a lot to fill the need for better documentation of sound techniques, as well, for users of any environment. Some of the juicy topics covered:

  • Additive, subtractive synthesis
  • Sampling
  • Waveshaping, modulation synthesis
  • Granular synthesis (something I try to eat a bowl of every day, seriously)
  • Fourier analysis
  • Sequencers
  • Connecting to hardware, network transmission and OSC
  • Basics of visuals

It’s a really elegantly-organized set of topics, and absolutely of interest to users of Max/MSP and other environments, as well. With this and a new SuperCollider book coming out this spring, we’re really getting some wonderful resources for learning greater ninja skills. Stay tuned, as I hope to create a forum for folks working on learning this stuff.


Book site, including downloadable patches and online reading:


Direct link to downloading all the patches as one zip (thanks, mic, in comments!):


More info, including the paperback version:



Author’s site:

The authorship of the book was aided by a grant by the Music University of Freiburg / Germany.

Previous appearances by the author:

A song made from 70,2000 samples

The stock market declines, as a song

More Pd Books

bang | pure data Free, online

Creator Miller Puckette’s own The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music, free online in various formats and also in print

  • sef


  • Eoj

    Double hooray!

  • mic

    that's great! i waited for that so long.

  • sweet

    this is great. ive been looking for something like this for a while now.

    it would be super great if there was a pdf of the book…. and maybe a zip of the patches.

    does the book come with a cd of the patches? i cant tell.

  • @sweet: Ah, I see what you mean, the patches all need to be downloaded individually. From what I can see, there is not a CD. (Having gone that route with a publisher, trust me, not all it's cracked up to be…)

    As for reading, though, I think it's easier to navigate online than in a PDF. 😉

  • mic

    i think there's no cd, but the book tells a link to all the patches:


    by the way: it's the guy who made a piece with 70,200 samples from other pieces and a piece with melodies from stock charts:



  • sweet

    yes, but for printing pdf rules.

  • I've wanted to learn Pd but lost interest when I couldn't find good resources for a complete noob like myself. This looks like a fantastic primer. Thanks!

  • looks excellent! I'll have to check this out soon.

  • @mic: You get all of my pay as an editor today. 😉

  • sweet

    thanks mic. i knew there had to be a zip somewhere… and seeing as the table of contents comes in pdf, i bet the book is out there somewhere too.

  • This is a welcome addition to the Pure Data resources. Don't miss the other free PD book: Bang | Pure Data.

  • @K.M. – yeah, indeed. In fact, on that note, maybe it's worth a followup with free Pd resources. Pd-extended, of course, with everything that's in there… what else?

    It's on the Pd wiki, of course, but sometimes worth having a human guide through what's available. (hence, this site!)

  • PDF printing — you know, I don't quite understand why you'd want to do that, frankly. Per-page cost winds up being not so far off just buying the book, which is nicely bound for you. 🙂 Good to support the author/publisher at some point!

  • Jaime Munarriz

    but dont't forget Miller's Puckette own book, it's also really good.

    I miss on both more explanation of the non-audio elements, the basic control like moses and so.

  • carl

    @Jaime – He explains all the basic things like moses in the first sections.

  • Mark

    How is PD used in the generative music creation of Spore?

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  • jvoorhis

    As an owner of the hardcopy of Puckette's book, I can strongly recommend it to anyone interested in learning the theory of audio digital signal processing. If you are interested in building your own sequencing software or learning the basics of MIDI and OSC IO, you will probably find it lacking.

    On a related note, The Csound Book (yes, that's the title) is an awesome resource for both audio and sequencing ideas. The Csound tutorials are straightforward and rewarding, but the contributed chapters are an excellent learning resource for synthesis and sequencing in general. It also makes a good companion to The Computer Music Tutorial.

  • The headless version of Pd actually *is* the musical engine inside Spore. 😉

    I do like Puckette's book, and The Csound Book, and The Computer Music Tutorial. All worth checking out. I am pleased, though, that this new Pd book and what I've seen of the SuperCollider book are a bit more immediately practical and focused. I think it'd be really tough for a beginning student, for instance, to pick up The Computer Music Tutorial and have any idea what the heck is going on. (In fact, some of us might find it a bit spotty as far as what we're looking for.) It's good to see some new references – I hope it's a trend. 😉

  • Polite

    Thank you! *sends it home*

  • dan

    While I really like Puckette's book this looks like a good complement.

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  • It looks great. Very helpful. Thank you!

  • Hi,

    there's another book on sound design with Pd, that includes a fantastic introduction to Pd as well:

    "Designing Sound" by Andy Farnell

    Website here: http://aspress.co.uk/ds/

    The 100 page Pd introduction from that book is available as a free PDF on the site as well:

    "Designing Sound" comes with an unofficial RjDj recommendation. 🙂


  • Excellent. I think I know what my next project will be.

  • ocp

    You may also want to check out this simple tutorial by Derek Holzer: http://en.flossmanuals.net/PureData/Introduction
    It’s downloadable and in pdf ( ;

  • poopoo

    Yay! I'm especially interested.

  • matt

    great post! cheers!

  • james

    looks likesuddenly theres moredocumentation on pd then on maxmsp. any good books/tutorials on maxmsp?

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