When preparing for a live show, Making an expressive and musical Ableton Live set can be a bit overwhelming, especially for beginners. One of the problems you might run into is your computer’s processing power, or CPU. Depending on what plugins you’re using, and especially on laptops, you might be surprised how quickly you end up topping out your CPU, and when that happens you’ll get glitches, distortions, and a rather feverish and unhappy computer.
In a live set, you won’t need every track from every song playing at once, so we could disable all the effects and instruments that we aren’t using. The little yellow circle in the top right of any device enables and disables that device. Enabled devices use CPU, even if you aren’t actually putting any sound or MIDI through them, so it’s a good habit to turn off devices that you aren’t using.
But what if you have lots of devices on lots of tracks? It can become a pain having to click every single one of those yellow circles just to save some CPU. That’s why I made MUDA.
MUDA is a Max for Live device which does that for you automatically and instantly. It has no buttons or controls, other than a Help button. To use it you simply put the device on a track with other devices in it, and hit the track’s “Track Activator,” better known as the Mute button. Muting the track will turn off all the devices on that track, and unmuting the track will turn them all back on again.
It also remembers which, if any, devices were already switched off, and won’t switch them back on when unmuting the track. It’ll even remember if you close and reopen Ableton Live.download MUDA as part of Michael Terren’s suite of Max for Live Devices The Max for Live patch itself looks more complex than it is, but it boils down to a few nice things about the Live API.
- “live.observer” is a useful device that lets Max observe what’s going on in Live. For example, if you change the volume on a track, and you set Max to observe that, it’ll report that volume change back to you. Here, I use it to observe whether the track activator is on or off. When it changes, it sets off the big reaction that turns on or off all the devices on the track. I’ve also got another “live.observer” that reports to me what devices are currently on the track, which is essential because I need that information in order to tell Live to turn those devices on or off.
- The Live Object Model (LOM) is the Rosetta Stone of Max for Live—it’s effectively a map for how to access certain parts of Live. When accessing the parameters on a device, you need to know which device you want, and in order to know that you need to know what track you want. While finding the track and device part are easy (using the path “this_device”) finding the right parameter can sometimes be tricky, considering it’s just a series of numbers counting up from 0. However, all I wanted to do here is turn the device(s) on and off, and it just so happens that that parameter is always the first parameter, i.e. parameter 0. So when I’ve got the list of devices in the track (from the “live.observer” described above), I can simply add “parameters 0” to it to access each on/off switch. Too easy!
- There is a lot of list making and list processing in the patch. Lists are simply a group of numbers or symbols combined into one “message”—they’re communicated as a single entity like any other message. A list might be something like “0 1 2 4 5 6” or “id 250 id 251 id 252 id 254 id 255 id 256”.
There are objects in Max with the prefix “zl”, that allow you to manipulate lists in interesting ways. For example, you can reverse lists, see how many items are in a list, or interlace two lists together. I use these a lot in order to get these numbers just the way I want them. It takes a while to get used to thinking in terms of lists, but once you get the hang of it they can make patches come together in a flash.
This is a really useful device that makes it really easy to stay on top of your CPU, keeping your computer happy no matter how big your Live set gets. Let us know what you think about it! And again, there are more really useful Max for Live devices in the pipeline so check back here soon!
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