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