Digital Sound & Music: Concepts, Applications, & Science, Chapter 3, last updated 6/25/2013
3.3.3 Experimenting with Music in Max
Max (and its open source counterpart, PD) is a powerful environment for experimenting with
sound and music. We use one of our own learning supplements, a Max patcher for generating
scales (3.1.4), as an example of the kinds of programs you can write.
When you open this patcher, it is in presentation mode (Figure 3.47), as indicated by the
drop-down menu in the bottom right corner. In presentation mode, the patcher is laid out in a
user-friendly format, showing only the parts of the interface that you need in order to run the
tutorial, which in this case allows you to generate major and minor scales in any key you choose.
You can change to programming mode (Figure 3.48) by choosing this option from the drop-
Figure 3.47 Max patcher in presentation mode
Programming mode reveals more of the Max objects used in the program. You can now
see that the scale-type menu is connected to a list object. This list changes in accordance with
the selection, each time giving the number of semitones between consecutive notes on the chosen
type of scale. You can also see that the program is implemented with a number of send, receive,
and patcher objects. Send and receive objects pass data between them, as the names imply.
Objects named s followed by an argument, as in s notepitch, are the send objects. Objects named
r followed by an argument, as in r notepitch, are the receive objects. Patcher objects are
“subpatchers” within the main program, their details hidden so that the main patcher is more
readable. You can open a patcher object in programming mode by double-clicking on it. The
metronome, handlescale, and handlenote patcher objects are open in Figure 3.49, Figure 3.50,
and Figure 3.51.