Venturing into making MIDI devices in Max For Live – AmbiNotes Update 1

It was at university that I began venturing into Max For Live. It was the idea of creating audio effects that I could use on my tracks and call my own super excited me. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert at all. I’m still in the very early stages of learning Max and still have a lot to understand and wrap my head around. Despite this, I love Max, it’s so great to get lost into. When starting, MIDI effects never crossed my mind at all. I use a lot of MIDI effects in my music, but making one was not something that I had initial interest in. In the past, I used a lot of different Ableton MIDI devices for random chords/melodies from ambient pads, mainly the scale, random and arpeggiator devices. I thought it would be an interesting experience to create a single device that encapsulated all of these devices, appealing to ambient artists specifically. However, I don’t want to exclude anyone of course.


This is what the device looks like in it’s current stage. I have plans to make it look much prettier than this. Right now it’s designed with pure functionality in mind. The left hand side is dedicated purely to the notes that it outputs. Here you can determine the scale that you writing in, and the range that each note can cover. This allows you to generate wide chords that cover the entire frequency range, or keep the notes very close together.  I also have included 3 integer boxes that display each of the notes generated. A feature that I want to be implement here is the ability to choose how many notes you want to use, as right now 3 is the default and this can’t be changed. If needed to, I would like to add more note options, possibility as high as 6, however this isn’t a priority in terms of elements I would like to implement.

The right side of the device is where the user can determine note lengths. It was tempting to add lots of options when it came to note lengths, ranging from the very short to the very long, but as I was building the device and the vision I have for it, I decided to focus on the latter. It was also tempting to make it purely tempo synced, as a lot of my ambient music is rather rhythmic, but I’m also aware that a lot of ambient artists productions aren’t rhythmic and to the beat, so I’ve implemented both. Now despite the fact that the device is tempo synced, you won’t find any divisions less than one bar. This allows the pad patches that you make/use have time to evolve through the chords, if that is your style. The tempo synced option ranges from 1 bar to 8 bars. The user has the ability to pick their own note lengths, this has a range of 1 second up to 10. I feel like there could be a lot of improvements to be made in this section of the device, with the main feature I want to implement is the ability to change the note length for each individual note, allowing for even more busy and ever changing chords and patterns.


In terms of the inner workings of this device, it is of a very simple construction, something that surprised me a lot when venturing into MIDI devices for the first time. Each of the ‘p’ patchers contain all the frequency values for each of the individual scales that I’ve implimented (shown in the image below). I haven’t done much in the way of research to see if there is a less tedious method to implement the frequency values, but so far this method has been working so I shall stick with it for now. Any MaxMSP/Max For Live experts out there reading this will probably have their heads in their hands looking at the image above. I’m sure I have made things either over complicated or not complicated enough, but I feel like once I start implementing the features that I want to it’s going to become more sophisticated. As it stands right now, the device works how it is meant to, which makes me rather excited for it’s future.


If there any readers out there that would be interested in ‘beta testing’ these early versions of the device please drop me a message on Twitter, or contact me via the contact page on this site and I will send you a version at my earliest convenience. Thank you for reading if you made it this far!