Max For Live devices are awesome add-on toys in Ableton Live designed to inspire or solve specific problems. Oftentimes, they serve as a brilliant work-around for producers thinking, “I wish Ableton could do this.” In this article, we’ll review 13 of our favorite Max for Live devices. Find neteller at netentplay.com
Max for Live comes already installed with Ableton Live 10 Suite. You can download it from your Ableton.com account if you have a previous Suite version. If you have Standard or Max, you can download it at a discounted price here.
#1 – LFO
(Audio Effects) This handy device lets you control any parameter and replace automation. It even goes to 24 bars and beyond for longer automation lengths.
Application? You can map the LFO to absolutely anything, such as you want to create movement back and forth on a cutoff filter, reverb, or any knob on any device.
#2 – Envelope Follower
(Max Audio Effects) Allows you to take the audio envelope of a sound and map that to any parameter for cool effects. You can even use this to generate new sounds themselves by mapping it to MIDI effects. Watch this helpful tutorial video to get some cool ideas on how to use the Envelope Follower!
Application? You can map this to absolutely anything, try mapping it to a cutoff/ low-pass filter. In doing that, you basically mapped the envelope shape of volume of the sound to a filter, so the filters movement mimics the volume over time.
#3 – Shaper
(Max Audio Effects) Similar to LFO, this lets you draw in your own shapes that will repeat in cycles to control parameters!
Application? A more surgical form of an LFO. If you wanted a precise way to modulate parameters without automation, this is the tool for you. In that way you can have a cyclical pattern of movement but in a musical way. It’s best on parameters you want to show change over time such as a cutoff filter or reverb. But try it on even simpler things such as volume; At fast rates, it can create a percussive sound.
#4 – Midi Quantize 2.1
Having trouble playing a MIDI keyboard or instruments because you have bad timing? This thing is amazing for live performance! It will take any note played and gate it so that it will not be passed to your instrument until the next interval time specified, and 1/16 notes are the default. Make sure you press Live’s global play button in order for the device to receive time information.
Application? Playing piano keyboard or finger drumming, even if you suck at playing. Okay it’s not that easy. There are a few “gotchas.” Play with a click, and have a relatively low latency setting. It will take some getting used to on the feel of playing like this as the timing is “perfect.”
It is different than Live’s quantization. When quantizing in Live, notes snap to the closest value, forwards or backwards. This Max for Live quantizer will always snap the played note forward to the specified interval.
Also when using this tool, it’s better to capture the quantized notes post FX so that what is in the clip is true, that way you have an accurate reading of what is being played. This quantizer does not work when bouncing down tracks. So again, capture the notes in a new midi track Post FX, then replace the original clip before exporting the song as a whole.
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#5 – BeatSeeker
Playing in a band with a live drummer or real-instruments, and want Ableton’s tempo to follow what YOU are playing? Now you can do that. BeatSeeker can be placed on a track with an audio signal and will automatically change Ableton’s tempo by calculating the average speed of what you’re playing. With little configuration, it works surprisingly well.
Application? Let Ableton Live follow the drummer’s tempo. This Max for Live device takes the average tempo from listening to a live mic of a drummer. Live’s global tempo will very gradually adjust as the drummer plays. This can be very useful for tempo based clip playback and other time-based effects such as delay, LFO’s, or gating where the timing is essential to match the drums.
#6 – Tempo 2
Need to adjust Ableton’s tempo while changing scenes in Session View or throughout your set list? Drop this on a track and try using it with clip envelope automation to automate your project tempo.
Automate the global tempo with this Max Device, and a dummy clip.
Application? In session view, you can snap scenes to a tempo by naming that scene a desired tempo. But that will only snap tempo, if you want a gradual change in tempo in session view, you should play with this device.
#7 – Session Notes
Write down notes on tracks in your project files and stay more organized. It’s basically sticky notes in Live.
Application? Ever gone back to an project file a year later, and asked yourself, “What the heck did I do?!” This solves that. It’s also great for collaborating remotely with others in a project and writing each other ideas on each track.
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#8 – MiniPeater
Another beat repeating utility, with more live functionality than Live’s built in Beat Repeat effect. It will pass from the dry Signal to the Wet automatically by switching the Repeat on (first choose Repeat length) or leave it Off to be Dry. When it “grabs” the incoming sound to repeat, it will always grab the nearest quarter note of the audio and play divisions of that specified interval.
Here’s a short video to demonstrate how it performs.
Application? A quick way to stutter/ repeat notes for production or live performance. Try it out with your productions in with re-sampling the output of this device too.
#9 – Midi Input Assistant (MIA)
This is a pack of Max for Live devices with lots of good stuff. It includes a fully-featured MIDI Monitor to see routing and MIDI signals, a visual Piano Keyboard, Guitar Fretboard, virtual Ableton Push, Score Notation displays, and more. MIA also includes interactive Circle of Fifths and Hertz conversion charts.
Application? Too many to list in this article! If you’re a student or teacher wanting a toolbox on music theory applied to electronic music, this is for you. The most useful component of this suite of devices is the notation device. It is a “swiss army knife” of identifying notes and keys you’re playing in.
Here is a video on MIA by Ben Spilker, one of our Teacher’s with Live Producers Online.
#10 – Nylon
Nylon is a chord generator that simulates chord strokes of a guitar. Play up to 6 strings per chord, add dynamics by controlling stroke speed, acceleration and velocity, and humanize each stroke by adding randomness.
- Control the stroke speed
- Accelerate or decelerate the stroke speed with exponential or logarithmic curve
- Define the increase or decrease of velocity during a chord
- Add randomness to humanize strokes
- Visual representation of chord settings
- Define up to four different chord types and arrange them in an 8-step pattern
Application? Strum your MIDI notes, like a guitar and add more of a humanized feel to notes on a piano roll.
#11 – Binaural Jit
This one is a bit complex. It’s a set of flexible Max for Live devices for binaural spatialization in Ableton. Listener and sound source positions are represented in a virtual 3D room made with Max/ MSP Jitter.
Application? If you’re wanting to do foley sound (film-making audio) to make things sound like they are in a certain space away from the listener, or you just want to make that distant booming sound in your track sound like it actually is coming from father away, this free device can do that!
#12 – Circular Doppler
This is an oldie, but a fun one. Two virtual microphones rotate around a single sound source. Doppler delays, distance dependent amplitude modulation and filtering included.
Application? Make that cool sound of things raising in pitch as they come towards you and decrease in pitch as they move away. Like a racecar sound Eeeeerowwwww. Such a fun, free tool.
#13 – Floating Oscilloscope
It’s an oscilloscope for analyzing your signal chain on a track in Live. It has an additional floating window feature, so you can look at it either in the Device Chain or in a size adjustable Floating Window. Of course you can run multiple instances for signal chain analysis.
Application? Have a more visual representation of your music in real-time. It also just looks cool.
There are many other great Max For Live patches not mentioned. They’re kinda like those Pokemon that you have to catch and use them for later…you can never just grab one, there’s so many good ones out there.
Check out the growing community of Max For Live Patches for all those awesome solutions to your specific problems at www.maxforlive.com.
Here’s an Ableton’s Promo Video For Max For Live
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Thanks for checking out this post, share new devices or your thoughts in the comments section below!