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Ableton Connection Kit (2016) (ableton.com)
239 points by Tomte 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 96 comments

I was a musician before becoming a software developer. Max/MSP was my gateway into the general field of programming and I still rely on the intuition I built back then when forming mental models about problem solving. Object-orientation, functional concepts, declarative programming – it’s all in there in a very tangible way. It’s just a joy to work with! So, seeing how Max just keeps maturing and becoming more and more accessible makes me very happy! And having it integrate so well with Ableton and the outside world is really a major leap forward compared to back then (2004, pre-Ableton acqusition). We spent oceans of time getting sensors, midi and OSC working together reliably! Now it’s a non-issue.

That's an interesting perspective, I've found quite the opposite. I'm an experienced developer and I've dabbled with Max for Live but have not quite found it a joy to work with.

Having to do everything in a GUI is just really tough to do, so I give them props for how good it is, there's no other purely visual programming environment I've tried that is even this usable. I did find the discoverability surprisingly poor when starting out, but after a while I think I now understand the structure and what's possible. But my biggest complaint is it's just soooo slow to do basic things. You have to drag and drop every single little construct, instead of typing "if { } else { }" which takes maybe 5 seconds, you have to drag and arrange and connect like 6 different things which takes at least 20 seconds and a lot more focused dexterity. I also find the freeform spatial layout kind of stressful and dread changing anything, instead of going into a function and editing code or adding a couple of lines of new functionality, you have to drag everything everything else around the page to add space for the extra blocks you want to insert.

I don't want to undersell it, the libraries and building blocks you get in Max are amazing, and the ease of things like working with audio buffers make up for a lot of the painpoints. But I do wish there was a first-class way to connect things together with code instead of the current system, I think it would make iterating much faster and more enjoyable.

There are plenty of mature text-based options for music programming. For example SuperCollider (which also serves as a sound engine for many other front-end languages), Faust, ChucK, RTcmix, Csound (one of the oldest and still widely used & developed), HMSL, Hiroki Nishino's forthcoming microsound-oriented LC language, Paul Batchelor's stack-based Sporth... and on and on. Not to mention many options for using your general purpose language of choice with a music synthesis library, I'm the author of one for python called pippi. Paul Batchelor's C-based SoundPipe library is meant to be embedded. (I'm using parts of it in pippi.)

And so on!

(FWIW Max also has many text-based options like the lower level embedded gen language, and many bridges to higher-level languages like javascript, python, lua for programming at control rate...)

I, like you, was an experienced developer before I ever used Max, but unlike you, I found Max a pleasure to work in and have always wished I could use something like it for my day to day work. I mean, yes, Max had (maybe still does, been some years) some major limitations that prevented it from being used as a general purpose language and yes, some things are simply easier to express in text, but I loved working in Max. I loved not having to name things until I was done experimenting and knew exactly what it did, I loved visually connecting things together. I'm a heavy user of boxes and lines, usually on paper, to help me think through complex problems and I found that in Max, I could do most of my thinking directly in code, rather than having to doodle on paper.

Yes, Max has (had?) a ton of limitations and gotchas, but I don't feel that they're something that couldn't be fixed. Some day, I'd like to try make something Max-like but with what I saw as problems "fixed", but I've never had the time to do it.

> I also find the freeform spatial layout kind of stressful

For me it was the opposite. I found it liberating. I did make very heavy use of abstracting things into smaller components and making sure my visual code didn't look like spaghetti. I loved how clear the flow of my code became.

> You have to drag and drop every single little construct,

what ? no :)

You type `n`, type the name of your object, and press enter. e.g. to create a [trigger b b] your keyboard sequence would be `ntrigger b b<enter>`. Hardly the end of the world

I barely knew about ableton before some recent HN front page articles. IMO they must have some of the best frontend/ui/designer people out there, especially for a company that’s not huge.

The synth and music apps for the browser are pretty great!

Edit: links



>IMO they must have some of the best frontend/ui/designer people out there, especially for a company that’s not huge.

They're one of the pioneers of flat UI's, long before e.g. Apple jumped on that train in 2013. Here's a review with screenshots from 2004: https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/ableton-live-4

Their UI style didn't change that much since then, they got it right from the start. I wish they'd make an OS and laptops/computers etc., as another design oriented alternative to Apple with an European background. They have the design cred to succeed there.

For another aesthetic, see ReBirth:


I fervently hope they don't make an OS based on this.

I call that the Fishertechnik aesthetic: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fischertechnik

In a way I think that held them back for a while from being considered a serious audio app. I thought it looked too simple, gray and plastic. They needed more of a feeling of precision and control. On the other hand it had more of a fun lightweight feel and that helped for their main market.

Nah, they come from an electronic music background, their UI looks similar to modular synths which often have a very radical industrial aesthetic without bells and whistles. The round elments and neon color are influenced from the pseudo-futuristic 90s/y2k rave and acid aesthetic at that time.

To be precise, it looks like Robert Henke's original Max/MSP patch. https://cdm.link/2014/03/see-max-patch-robert-henke-built-ab...

Max has always been flat and simple: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_(software)#/media/File:Lan...

Super interesting, because I was drawn to Ableton years ago because I thought the aesthetic made it feel more professional and serious. I love how there’s no one absolute in design, or anything with humans for that matter

Microsoft has been using flat UI on Microsoft Money since version 8 Microsoft Money 2000. When I first saw it I found it beautiful back then, but they didn't use it on other products.

Design maybe but their engineering is not exactly stellar. Ableton is pretty crashy, especially when working with external plugins (including their own Max). I’m not sure I’d be thrilled by that in the context of an OS.

On Windows it's shit, because if you do music on Windows you depend much more on external driver quality. Only a few companies like RME get it right on Windows, the rest will always cause issues. Never had a problem with Ableton on OSX/macos, even with low budget class compliant interfaces like those cheap Behringers, there, all external hardware drivers are built on top of core audio.

A lot of the most interesting stuff, e.g. Max for Live and I believe the browser-based audio interfaces, is from Cycling '74, which Ableton acquired in 2017.

I agree. But actually the frontend/UI design of a digital audio workstation, DAW for short, is good or not really depends on personal preference. Sometimes arguments between DAWs can reach the same level as religion war.

Yeah these demos are really well done, but I also wonder how they managed to spend the amount of time that must be required to make these tutorials, is it really just for PR and education? There's fully functional drum and melodic sequencers with an "Export to Live" link that downloads a project file of whatever you've made!

I wonder if they plan on re-using this to release something browser based in the long run?


Tangentially related - it's pretty cool seeing hackers get into Ableton. You end up with things like:

"Writing Custom Control Surfaces for Ableton" - https://diracdeltas.github.io/blog/ableton-midi/

Thank you for this resource. I'm planning to write a Control Surface Script for the MidiFighter 3D.

Oh, interesting!

Fun fact: I wrote the sysex communication code used to send configuration to the Midifighter Pro and Midifighter 3D, as well as the first version of the config utility. I see that my code still exists in the Midifighter Twister too! You can see my name in the copyright header.



The bulk of the firmware was written by two engineers who worked for DJ Tech Tools at the time, Michael Mitchell and Robin Green. Great guys to work with. I personally was never employed there directly, I started out modding the Midifighter classic and I wrote a crude configuration tool for my mod, they liked it and reached out to me to help develop it into an official tool.

Let me know if you need any help, I have written several control scripts. I should probably open source them..

Ableton makes me wish I was a better musician, because their software is absolutely delicious to use.

It's possibly the only piece of software I look forward to using. Everything is right about it. I'm currently remastering a bunch of old albums for digital distribution, so I've been using it a ton. I don't know why every UI isn't required by law to have drag up/down to mean zoom on a timeline/scrollbar type control.

I have the opposite opinion: while I commend the minimal look the way you have to switch back and forth between midi sequences and your audio devices is a major source of frustration for me on a laptop screen. I'm constantly resizing the UI. When I first started I was using Live exclusively but since then transitioned to hardware and was never able to get back into it. I imagine Push might be the answer once you want tactility.

Excellent. I love how there’s no obvious objective here - it feels more like “Here’s a bunch of stuff you can do cool things with.” It’s very appealing and makes me wish I was into music production.

Oh yeah this is super dope. The reason why this works is that Max is a 3rd party programming interface for audio, and Live can interface with Max, hence "Max for Live." It uses some subset of JavaScript. Anybody can develop stuff like this and a lot do, but it's quite challenging in my experience and fortunately Ableton does amazing work like this and always releases their own Max stuff.

In love with Ableton, totally not in love with visual programming (Max). I wish it was easier to use traditional programming with Ableton or Max.

Check out Bitwig. Some ex-Ableton engineers split off to rewrite Ableton using modern programming techniques. It has a public JS API for controlling anything in the GUI. Also, has a modular synth mode called the grid (which is similar to Max, but more like eurorack)

This is not a valid comparison.

Bitwig gives you no access to their DSP technology in its scripting language, so it is not remotely comparable to Max in that regard.

Max, on the other hand, gives you no access to Ableton's UI or API.

I have both, but prefer Bitwig. But there is nothing out there quite like Max. Not even Reaktor covers the same territory.

I am hoping that the next big thing in Bitwig will be to open up their DSP API, and give us the ability to create our own Grid modules, and, beyond that even, our own native instruments and effects. But I do not believe that extending their Javascript API is the way to do this.

How does Max compare to PureData today?

I remember reading the book by Miller Puckette about DSP as applied to music, featuring examples in PureData, some 10 years ago.

Back then, I thought that PureData was the open-source version of Max, while Max offered basically some polish and GUI conveniences. But now, I read about Max much more often than PureData.

"Max, on the other hand, gives you no access to Ableton's UI or API"

You mean Max standalone?

Max For Live sure does "give you access to Ableton's UI or API".


I stand corrected.

What it doesn't give you, however, is access to the control surface internals, i.e., to create new control surface "drivers" inside Ableton itself. But of course, that's currently the ONLY thing Bitwig lets you do with their API.

I just got into learning music production and have been using Bitwig 8-track that came with my baby synth. I love it so far, honestly just for the aesthetic and the little tool explainer that appears at the bottom when you hover over anything.

If I stick with this for long enough I’ll spring for the full version but $400 is a steep price.

technically there is a DSP scripting language in Bitwig that isn't public but you can find some examples floating around online.

That said mixing DSP + UI is hard, and if you want to make the scripting user accessible it makes sense to keep them totally divorced.

It's just a matter of proper separation of concerns, and the creation of appropriate levels of abstraction. It can still be done in the same language.

You can program inside of Max with JavaScript or Java

Docs for JavaScript control of Max (and Max for Live): https://docs.cycling74.com/max7/vignettes/javascriptinmax

btw. I know the cycling 74 team is looking for js developers. Berlin or SF office, maybe remote.

Check out Derivative TouchDesigner!

This is neat, but ...

> JSON Video – the second example device on how to fetch web data in JSON format: uses #ableton tagged looped videos from the online video sharing service “Vine”.

How old is this? Vine was pretty much shuttered a few years ago, I'd be surprised if there was a way to add new videos or if you could rely on being able to access old ones

Vine shuttered in late 2016, first GitHub commits are from March 2016, and there are a few commits from 2019, so the project isn't did.

Ableton continues to do fantastic things and produce excellent software that genuinely makes me WANT to use it. Connection Kit is just another wonderful tool to help people be more creative with the platform.

This looks great. I am primarily a Logic X guy, but my son uses Ableton mainly for his live act (looping). This announcement has prompted me to dive a little deeper into the Ableton world to see what it is all about.

I know Logic has fairly powerful MIDI connectivity etc., but it looks like this takes it to a whole new level with different audio comms protocols. Wonder if they support PureData at all?

They do! https://cdm.link/2016/11/free-jazz-now-ableton-link-sync-wor...

I also once managed to get PD into Logic X but it took quite a lot of fiddling around.

> If you’ve been looking to use Live with technologies like Arduino, LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 and OSC [..]

Can't wait for the first Illenium set played entirely on Mindstorms. \s

I'm actually excited to see what people will do with this. This might eliminate a lot of overhead for people who have really creative ideas but lack the technical proficiency to set connect all the dots themselves.

I am interested in Ableton but pretty much everyone is recommending to either get the lite version(which is bundled with a lot of products) or the Suite version.

Would probably help if there was a installment plan for users who are outside the US.

Keep in mind that Lite version barely has any instruments so you'll have to either use 3rd-party plugins or rely on sampling.

A few month ago I decided to start fresh and removed all pirated DAWs, plugins, purchased Lite version and started learning it in and out. I was surprised how far you can go with just sampling. It was so much fun discovering new sample packs, chopping and remixing songs, trying to make tonal instruments out of weird noises. I've also realized how many popular songs use sampling (for example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU5Dn-WaElI). So yeah, setting creative constraints is important ;)

I'm at the point when I'm super at home using Ableton and ready to spend more money on Suit, but holding hopes for black Friday discounts.

Also, shameless plug https://soundcloud.com/myprivateparadise

I am more of a traditional instrument(guitar) guy yet sampling does intrigue me a lot.

Might probably fool around in Ableton Live to get a feel for it :)

Defiantly! As a guitar player you can also use it for live looping.

Doesn't Lite limit you to 16 tracks? That gets over quickly once you start producing serious music.

The Push + Live Suit bundle is good value imo.

Though you should ask what you're going to use it for. I use it mostly as an arranger and honestly, I could have done the same better in Studio One.

Tell that to the Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix... but yeah I kinda agree ;-)

Amazing how they worked around with 4 tracks back in the day. Iirc, even Bohemia Rhapsody was recorded on 16 tracks and they had to essentially record, bump everything to a single track, record again.

The Push is a game changer. It really makes Ableton feel like an instrument rather than a DAW. My current setup is an 88 key MIDI controller (Arturia Keylab) with the Push sitting on top of it. For jams/playing for relaxation I don't have to look at my screen at all.

How is the Keylab? I was in the market for a new keyboard and was eyeing Akai MPK249, but the Keylab looks to be more customizable

I love the Keylab. I mostly got it for the keybed which is best in class for that price point. The DAW controls are a nice added bonus, but the piano feel is great.

And here I'm trying to scale down on tracks and my last song I made had 6 tracks. Usually have about 50 tracks on average.

It's amazing how limitation can help creativity.

I find that percussion and transition elements (risers, crashes, sub drops) make the bulk of my tracks. But then I also don't like using drum racks

> installment plan for users who are outside the US

Why? Ableton is a German company.

That's a fair point, but I expect one could replace 'Outside the US' with 'Outside the G7' and the idea would still have merit. There are a lot of people in this world that simply don't have purchasing power anywhere near what is available to the everyman in any one of those countries and it's not inconceivable that a decent number of them would like to compose music in the way Live enables.

I think the Lite version is pretty affordable and often comes bundled with some cheapish audio hardware. That said, max4live is only bundled within the suite version afaik

They just pirate it.

US customers have Sweetwater installment plans.

Gotcha. Makes sense!

Huh, I remember the Lite version being sold at a cheap price, but looks like it's no longer standalone. If you have any musician friends, you can ask if they have spare keys, or to keep you in mind you one when they buy new hardware that may have a bundled key. It comes bundled with so many things, I'm sure I've trashed at least 5 Live Lite keys over time.

Live Lite doesn't have max tho

Oh yeah, definitely get Suite if you're specifically interested in Max, but I got the impression OP was just generally interested in trying Ableton.

I use Live Lite as I've been to cheap to upgrade my 9 Suite up. The plugin and synth limitations are easily offset by 3rd party plugs either free or sale snags. Lite will give you the feel of Live and have you creating at a very low cost, people give away Lite licenses and they follow the upgrade cycle lite 9 to live 10, etc.

Think about investing in a small midi controller which has the lite/intro? version bundled. So you can feel the software and later decide if you’d invest more or not. Ableton in this case would be without charge for you and you get to keep the controller.

Splice has Studio One in those "rent-to-own" plans if you are interested. I'm an Ableton user, but I got Serum that way

I've got a Lite key if you want to give it a shot. I have Suite already so I won't use it.

I have a spare Lite key if anyone wants it

Could I have it please? I had one years ago that I've lost.

Makes me wanna install Ableton and just play with it. What a well done commercial.

I'm launching an IDE for music composition soon http://ngrid.io

Where can I learn more about it? Any image/video or demo?

Love ableton, but what are good open source programs using ableton's simple approach? I know LMMS

I'm trying to get https://ossia.io there :)

Looks interesting.

The examples link here: https://ossia.io/libossia/ is broken.

oops, fixed. Thanks !

Are there any sample projects I can load into Score? I'm a bit lost as to where to start with a blank canvas.

yep : https://github.com/OSSIA/score-user-library/

but this is clearly not the strong point of the environment sadly !

Ardour is my favorite. It took some time to adapt but as a non professional, I don't miss any feature from Ableton anymore. I use Ardour every time I play guitar with some marshall amp sim (https://www.kuassa.com/products/amplifikation-caliburn/) and a few plugins to pock around riffs and experiment by creating drum and bass lines using a midi piano

If you're looking for cheap (but not open source), Reaper is really fantastic and at an incredible price point.

To add to this: Reaper may not be open source, but it feels like it is. There is no other DAW that is more extendable and configurable. If you can imagine it, and can script it, you can do it. There is a huge community of free add-ons for it. But in full disclosure, while I own it, I do most of my production work in Bitwig.

Just tried LMMS briefly. Sorely needs a tiling window manager - or at least window snapping.

There is also a fork in active maintenance: https://github.com/Stazed/seq42

Edit: Sorry I accidentally posted on the wrong thread

Ok, I can read it normally with llpp after downloading it.

Edit: This document is a great resource to keep by for when the time is needed :)

Ehem. I think you might be looking for this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21503005 :)

Sorry about that, and thanks for the correction.

No worries! Happens to everyone at some point :)

I have that to look forward to then.. :(

Indeed. Just keep in mind that it could be worse :)

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