Ableton Live 9 and Max for Live

Oct 27, 2012 - 03:15

UPDATE 1: a page dedicated to PUSH CONTROLLER
UPDATE 2: I’ll be certified for Live 9 very soon and this is cool. I want to keep involved in Ableton’s fields and continue to teach it !
UPDATE 3: I relaunched the Marseille Ableton Live User Group and the official page on facebook is :




Ableton just announced Live 9, the new version of their amazing and now famous DAW (digital audio workstation)

The website has been totally redesigned and it is really nice. Check it here.


Small story

This would be hypocritical to avoid to talk about pure technical and tool here. Don’t you remember ? I’m a digital artist, okay, but also a technology-driven one ! And I assume it totally. I have to say something: I don’t care about people saying art HAVE TO be totally isolated from technical discussions and things like that. Art comes from technical knowledge, even if that one can be really primitive or innate technical knowledge !

Because around 2004 I have been really interested by Live 4, I decided to invest time and money in that software. I became an Ableton Certified Trainer in 2010 and I taught Ableton Live before this date and a lot after too.

Because I use Max/MSP (now Max6) since 2003, I became very familiar with this graphical programming framework. I’m using it everyday for my own creation, projects. I’m prototyping softwares I have to design with it. I’m packing softwares with it.
Of course I’m teaching it a lot these days and I feel a real involvement of new people interested  in Max, coming from Max for Live.

Basically, instead of coding functions and designing code patterns you could feel as totally ugly and abstract, you are connecting boxes with patch cords. A patch is the link between two or more objects. Then you can have a global vision of your program on a more concrete and less abstract way. Real programmers would say it is totally critical to have your program like that. I call them closed-minded people. Because REAL programmers consider almost all different programming paradigms as a beautiful and especially an interesting one.


What is Max for Live ?

For people not knowing that, Max for Live is the integration of Max6 in Live.

You can check this link.

It provides a real new way of thinking by providing a framework to design your own devices for Live.
Before Max for Live, we were able to use all the amazing Ableton native devices provided with Live. Live and Live Suite were different but it was only a marketing package stuff.
As sound generators, there was (and are):
- Operator (the amazing 4 oscillators FM synthesizer on steroids with many modulation features)
- Analog (the raw 2 oscillators + 1 noise generator based synth)
- Collision (physical modeled percussion synthesizer)
- Tension (physical modeled string synthesizer for cello, guitar modelization)
- Impulse (8 slots samples based drum machine)
- Simpler and Sampler (full of features sampler device)
- Electric (physical modeled electric piano synthesizer)

There was (and ARE) a lot of MIDI and audio effects.

After Max for Live birth, we were able to create devices.
Basically, with Max for Live, you can design every kind of devices, from sound generator MIDI based or even algorithmic-based to Audio DSP (effects, processor etc) and MIDI processors too. And of course, any type of interface with every type of other external software, hardware or whatever you can imagine, connected through a network or not, using bluetooth and whatever .
No limit, really.
You have something in mind, you can design it.

Everything magic comes from Max/MSP framework itself, not really from Ableton Live (read below for that Live part), but it opened Ableton Live to the infinite possibility of a development framework. Indeed, That kind of framework provides the way to … create softwares, so it seems obvious, to folks like me, to feel this feeling of power when you are using a programming framework ! Of course, it makes Ableton Live first users so HAPPY to be able to click on a new button on devices: the edit button 

Check it at the top right corner of the device below :

This button means you have here a max for live device.
Then, you can click on this button and see and even modify the engine of any max for live’s devices.

Here is an example of device opened.
This is a view of a Max6 patch. Yes: when you click on Edit in Ableton Live, it opens the engine of the device as a Max6 patch.

Each small white box in that patch (the window with the name Laverne.amxd) is an object. You can also see some User Interface (UI) objects like the one with the green/yellow VU Meters and also all dials.
If they are related to the UI inside Ableton Live, they can be displayed or not in the max for live device. I mean, there is (many) a way to use a mode named presentation mode providing a way to display only the useful button for users, and not the engine under-the-hood. This is only to simplify the UI and make users focusing on their purpose: MAKING MUSIC !

Personally, if I can feel the technical part and the code as very beautiful things, I guess I couldn’t have that feelings without the final purpose. Does it make me strange ? or even only artist finally instead of being the engineer & hardcore geek coder I am ? Really, it doesn’t matter.

So Max for Live is the way of developing new devices directly inside Ableton Live. And Ableton announced that Live 9 suite will directly include Max for Live. If you wanted to buy only Ableton Live, please, buy Ableton Live Suite. Some people will answer me : “it is expensive” or “hey you don’t pay software yourself”. I’ll just answer I AM paying my softwares, even as an Ableton Certified Teacher, and NO it isn’t expensive. Why ? Because you can build all your future device! and if you don’t want them, you can grab mine or those on which is a TOTALLY insance user-driven library. You’ll find new strange EQs, Glitch tools and many new reverbs or other totally uncanny stuff.

Pulling things from Ableton to Max

So I had more and more requests to teach Max. It is a nice thing and I really liked that because, indeed, I have a lot of pleasure to teach about visuals design & DSP design too. It is a pleasure to mix sound synthesis in my course with visuals generation, pixel processing and pure software architecture design patterns discussions.

I heard here and there “wow max seems … that hard.” or “Max is that complex stuff wow, there are some gurus about that but not a few” By the way, there are gurus in every thing :)

I’m really happy to have been involved in the pure Max side of things because today, I can really design EVERYTHING I need & want and yo use that directly in this so powerful and cool DAW : Live.

The Live API and Max

Some of you aren’t programmers at all. An API is an Application Programming Interface.
Basically, imagine you create a tool and you want some people to be able to plug their own things to that tool in order to increase features especially, then, the API is the interface between their things and yours.

Live has its own API. People is able to touch it through Max for Live and with some dark scripts named Remote Scripts. The Max for Live way is the easiest for non pure programming people and I’d advice you to walk on that one.

If you wanted that secret link about Ableton Live 7 (and 8) remote scripts in Python, no problem, it is that one :

To be plugged to the Live API gives you many things to do, like grabbing the tempo in real time to drive some LEDS connected to your Arduino, or to your hardware controller. You can also control some clip’s loop entry point/out point with knobs: everything you want to control or to have feedback from can be done with Max for Live ! It has obviously NO limits because it comes from low-levels of your DAW.

It is NOT a classical plugin, it is related to Ableton Live !

I made a bunch of tools for me only. I also made some tools I’m still distributing there.

The Live API is a whole universe for people discovering it, but you have to see the big map.

You have to forget about details and just understand that this is the way to touch each parameters in Live, even those not visible on your Graphical User interface (GUI)

I’m teaching the whole APi in my courses and we really have fun without headache.

Those who permanently want to keep their secrets by saying “Max is so hard” are just afraid you want to steal them. I met some like that. Let them go and enjoy the magic behind Max6 and Max for Live and … Live !

Ableton Live 9 and new things coming

So what are the announced new features. I tried to compile them here in order to make them sense in my own mind.

Automation recordable in Clips and curvy style

Before Live 9, we were only able to record what we called modulation in clips. Modulations in Session mode are only variations of parameters relatively to their absolute (real and current) value. As far as I understood, we’ll be able to make real absolute variations in each clip in Live 9. I’ll have to call back all my students !! I told them so much to be careful to the fact automation (arrangement mode) DOESN’T EQUAL modulation (session mode) :) But it is a VERY good news!

We’ll be able to edit automation with curves. It is nice and it will does a more accurate job !

Browser improvements

Browser has been hugely improved, apparently. There is a new sorting of each element. I just hope it will be okay at the upgrade step. The Library will probably be processed (even a very bit) in order to be compatible.

There is a nice thing righ here: the Rank feature. We’ll be able to sort presets by the rank based on our use. We use this preset more than that one? You’ll see it upper in the list. Useful ! I often consider and teach Live’s helpers features as totally necessary and not only look’n’feel oriented! Indeed, colors of clips, of tracks are really useful and totally nice on stage too, making your mind more focused on the music.

This one, the Rank, in studio, will help us a lot, I’m sure about that. As all other new features in that new designed browser. The new left pane seems for making us faster.

They talked about instant preview too. I guess it will be more advanced and available for all instruments (and presets I mean) Definitively useful and not a toy too , but a tool.

New mastering machines

I called that section like that. Indeed, we’ll have:
- a new compressor analog-modeled name the Glue Compressor,
- a freshly redesigned EQ8 with a view of the frequencies spectrum displayed inside of it
- a redesigned Compressor with waveform’s view displayed
- a redesigned Gate, same: with waveform’s view displayed

THANKS Ableton to have heard us about tool accuracy. Indeed, we’ll now be able to be accurate with compressor + EQ + the Gate effect !

Audio to MIDI ability

Will it be a killing feature ? Audio will be analyzed, filtered/processed/thing-ed and a MIDI file will result !

A lot of essays about that were available around 90s and there were really funny. Indeed, you were providing them a rythm and they were designed to find all midi notes. They were really bad but … hey … we are 2012 today ! CPU are totally powerful and Ableton’s guys are now mastering coding totally and I’m quite trusty here!

Especially, I find that will be a nice way to create MIDI clips. Indeed, I’m every time looking  for new ways of composition. Even if I’m often a lot inspired and I already have a lot of ideas coming to my mind as a continuous data flow, I like to introduce and inject new matter.

Here, let’s say, we would be able to tap on the table and to record that or sing something and the computer will produce a MIDI clip, basically, the score you would have had to play or write yourself. All these content-based algorithms are fascinating, even if, for many reasons, I can get them a bit.


MIDI edition improvements

This is the part I’m not really convinced about. I mean, MIDI edition is already very powerful. Using modifiers (shift, alt, cmd), and the trackpad, with can make a lot.

We can select some notes, not all in the clip, alter velocity differently, trim some and not all notes etc.

We’ll have, according to them:
- Transform MIDI notes ok …
- Move notes on & off the grid ok…
- Stretch MIDI notes seems the greatest new : we’ll be able to speed up or slow down specific notes. As usual, I’m thinking mostly to the creative potential of this, only.
- Warp clip automation provides the way to elastic our envelope as we can do with the waveform using warp markers
- Edit automation + add curves to automation, that is nice and more accurate for sure.

All of these can be really cool. This is not THE thing, especially because, as I wrote, I was already very satisfied with the MIDI edition and believe me, using a lot Slice to MIDI feature, I’m editing constantly MIDI clips !


Max for Live included in Live 9 Suite

That is a nice way to make Max entering in your home so, I cannot be angry. Indeed, early or a bit later, you’ll discover Max and you’ll become small then great programmers. Do it yourself will bring you faster to your real comfort zone with all that bunch of technology !


New Max for Live devices included

We’ll love the convolution reverb pro and normal. Those who are more comfortable with sound design know more about convolution-based reverb. Basically, instead of calculating everything, we are using measured-in-real-life Impulse Response, based on a lot of spaces and situations. Using a mathematical operation, we’ll be able to modify an input signal and to make it processed and the result is a signal modified as if it was playing in the same place than the one from which the Impulse Responsable has been recorded. It sounds magic and if it isn’t, it works very fine. Again, here, Max6 is the engine ! And I’m so happy about that !


Visibly, some drum & percussion synthesizer will be available too. Nice. Especially, don’t forget: you’ll be able to open those devices and to learn A LOT from them. This will probably inspire you a lot for your own tools and devices.


One sequencer is also provided. I didn’t get it if there will be only one or more. We’ll see :)


An enveloppe follower will be a nice tool too. And you’ll learn about attack/release dynamic following using Max 6 at the same time. Something I won’t have to teach you, cool !!!! I’ll sleep better!


Globally, we can be really happy. The 64-bit feature isn’t really pushed in the front of things, but it will provide the way to use more RAM, and nicer the CPU! We’ll have at last an optimized software for our computers.

Max6 handles 64-bit so, no problems as we had with the 64-bit bêta version of Live 8.3.x HEY … This was a bêta, dudes!

Push controller is a cute LCD display featured one !

Some views, and some words after them:

You can control everything and have feedback from everything.

Some pre-programmed features/behaviors transform the device’s matrix into a piano roll, step sequencer, and other tools instantly.

I’d like to know where those behaviors are stored. Python scripts indestructible and not modifiable ?? or Max for Live patches ?? I guess … both! Hardcoded for hardcore users, and useable with Max for Live by hardcore programmers.

I LOVE LCDs. and even the protodeck had one !

They will provide the way of control a lot of people missed. I could (I wrote I could) buy one especially for that feature and especially because I’d like to hack that to use it with other kind of stuff. This is my do it yourself obsession that came back, I guess.


Conclusion and perspective

Considering the statements by Gherard Bheles, the Ableton’s CEO in that old post end 2009, considering the time they spent to code and recode A LOT of things, afaik, considering the improvements and 64 bits etc… this is a huge steps.

I’m really excited to use it and especially, I cannot wait for beginning the DVD tutorials in french I just signed the contract for. This is a french company, really visible. I’ll provide its name as soon as they’ll be okay for that. I hope you’ll like the work we are going to begin.

This will be a pleasure to provide this DVD to all my students with each full week session I’ll make with them. More than a nice included small present, this will bring parts of me to their house and it is just cool. I love to help people to achieve their dreams, please notice that right now :)



  • Great article and briefing on Max for Live & Live 9 release features. I am new to Ableton and am excited to dig deeper.

    • Thanks a lot for your comment.
      Feel free to ask more about Live.

      • Hi Julien I have M4L issues with Live 9 64 bit. The M4L Granulator/LiveGrabber/Kapture don’t work. Do you have any idea when I’ll be able to use those or I should change everything to 32 bit. I’m waiting since this summer but …

        • hi
          it sounds strange because all objects used in these devices (afaik) aren’t platform dependent.

          • Merci. je sais c’est étrange. la page Max dit que c’est un problème avec java. livegrabber 3.2 est problèmatique mais la version précendente est fonctionel. Windows 8 est probablement la cause… mais je ne veut pas acheter windows 7 et réinstaller tout si possible. merci.

  • This is amazing! Thank you so much! Have a great day! :D

    • I hope you enjoyed my small article.

  • Hi Julien, i’m actually working in an abstract/ ambient project, i have used the droner to make some ambience noise layers, it is very useful because is an unexpected device and always generate a different and interesting sound.
    The only bad thing is that is not enough! i want more to experiment with it, and i think that max for live is the perfect tool for that.. So, i would like to ask you, where i can learn something about max for live programming for making experimental music? Thanks a lot for your time and for your constant researches.

    • Hi and thanks for your interest and enthusiasm!
      There are not a bunch of people mastering Max6, finally.
      I’m often providing courses about Max through Skype.
      Please contact for further infos.

  • Interesting! I can’t wait for the new live and push. YET as a maschine user , I feel the controller is a bit expensieve also, I might say that the update from current 8 suite users is a bit expensive too, don’t ya think?

    I’ve been trying to be a certified trainer , never got replys from ableton …maybe I’m not doing the procedure right…

    • I guess Ableton just made their maschine boosted stuff for Live. And I don’t mean it doesn’t make sense or it is “just” that.

      As a Live user, I’d be happy to use it asap!

  • ok, nice fame-songs about max4live, but is there any tutorial to see how to build lets say arpeggiator. despite that I do some simple php/perl coding, object oriented java looks like a nightmare to me. If max 4 live is object oriented, than most likely I won’t be able to learn it to program device, which I’d like to have.

    • building an arpeggiator isn’t just build blocks together.. and whatever the tool/framework used for that (I mean C++ or JAVA code, but also graphical programming like max) you have to understand what is an arpeggiator… I mean: the thing under the hood!
      I’m teaching max & max for live and yes, we talk about midi protocol, midi message processing, arpeggiator inside triggering quantized or not. Problem isn’t max here.