George Adams Audio

Music Technology

Max MSP Software Instrument

University Assignment

As an assignment for one of my modules studying Music Technology at Coventry University we were asked to create a standalone software instrument using the programming software Max MSP. I created a subtractive synthesizer with four oscillators that is polyphonic to 10 notes.

Synth In Use


Owned by the company ‘Cycling74’, Max MSP is a graphical programming software designed for multimedia applications. Users create ‘patches’ consisting of ‘objects’ connected by patch cables performing calculations and modifications on audio signals and MIDI information. You can view Max patches in two modes ‘Presentation Mode’ which you can see above, and ‘Patching Mode’ below. In patching mode you can see the cables which connect the objects and pass data around the instrument and this could be considered as ‘looking under the hood’ of a car and seeing the engine that makes it run.

Patch Mode

‘Max’imum Versatility 

I wanted to make the instrument as versatile as possible with the aim that each time you use the patch you can discover a new sound. Firstly I included an LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) which can be used, for it’s waveform shape rather than frequency content, to modulate various parameters like volume for a tremolo effect or the filter for ‘Wahwah’. I also had an idea to include an object that can randomize the values of the filter cutoff frequency and resonance with a parameter to control the speed of the randomization for ‘glitchy’ sounds.

LFO + Filter


As one of the requirements for the assignment we had to include the software’s built in JavaScript capability. Although Max is a graphical programming software, JavaScript is a text based coding software which can be used as an ‘object’ within Max. I used JavaScript within my instrument to create an Arpeggiator; an element that would output a Major Chord and an element that plays a choice of scales. Below is part of the text code for the ‘PlayManyScales’ object.


FX Rack

At the bottom of the instrument I included a form of effects rack so that the user can apply to the master out of their synth sound. This consisted of a Flanger, Chorus, Reverb, Delay and a Stereo Delay. All the effects are applied with a ‘Wet/Dry’ fader and effects like the Delay and Reverb have more parameters like Room Size, Delay Time and Cutoff.

FX Rack


Below is a link to Soundcloud where I have uploaded a compilation of the various sounds that can be achieved with the final product played on an external MIDI keyboard. All the effects heard are from the software itself, the audio was recorded raw from Max.


Here is a video of me demonstrating the software and the effect of each parameter on the sound.


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