Review Guide for Max

This course extensively uses the Max visual programming system from Cycling74 but does not permit time to teach it. Students who are not already familiar with Max are responsible for self-study of the fundamentals. The help system included with Max includes extensive tutorials which are an excellent starting point. Students who have already used Max can use the following checklist as a guide for reviewing their skills.

Max is commercial software and is available on the IDeATe cluster MacBook Pros and campus clusters. If you wish to run it on your own machine, Cycling74 offers a 30-day free trial, a good student discount, a subscription option, and occasionally a discounted sale price.

Outside this course, if you are committed to open-source software, many basic Max programs can work almost unchanged on the closely related Pure Data system (Pd). Pd is more portable, e.g. it can also run on Linux and Android. However, Pd is neither used or supported for this course.

Resources for Max

Max 7 documentation online. This is the online version of the tutorials and reference guide available within the program, but lacks the help demonstration patchers. The help patchers within the software are an essential resource because the sample code can be easily and pasted into your own patchers.

Cycling74 also publishes additional online tutorials.

The Cycling74 forums have many answers provided by the community for gaps in the documentation, plus tips, tricks, and common practice. Answers will frequently have compressed code fragments will can be directly pasted into a new patcher using “File/New from Clipboard”.

Concept Review

Please be sure you are familiar with the correct use of the following concepts and nomenclature as used in Max. These may be looked up in the reference documentation either online or within the program.

  1. program GUI
    1. patchers
    2. editing modes: Locked and Unlocked
    3. the help system: Help demo patchers, Reference documentation
    4. the Max Console
    5. the Inspector
    6. viewing modes: Patching and Presentation
  2. objects
    1. object box
    2. inlets and outlets
    3. arguments
    4. multiple outlets: right-to-left order
  3. messages
    1. patch cords
    2. bang, int, float, symbol, list
    3. message box: right vs left inlet, set and bang messages
    4. outlet message order: right-to-left, bottom-to-top
    5. feedback loops
  4. patchers
    1. subpatcher
    2. abstraction
    3. patcher arguments
    4. external
  5. user interfaces
    1. buttons
    2. toggles
    3. sliders
  6. Jitter

We will be focusing on motion control and not be generating audio or MIDI data. So review of MSP is not necessary, as it is primarily concerned with audio-rate operations. We will work to a limited extent with images and video, so basic familiarity with Jitter will be helpful. Please note that the majority of available Max tutorials are concerned with music and audio and so may not be directly useful, except as they address program structure or the core numerical, list, and timing functions.