Introduction to note~ for Max from Musikforschung Basel on Vimeo.

For musicians, this could be the Max external to end all Max externals. Max has long been a powerful, open-ended environment for creation. But sometimes you want a piano roll, or a score, or a timeline. Efforts to do that in the past have been sketchy at best.

note~ gives you all these things in a single add-on.

At its heart, it’s a classic MIDI sequencer. It records and plays back sequence, and lets you edit note values. That’s already fairly revolutionary to have in the Max environment. But then things get interesting: in addition to the graphical display, you can script input and output to and from the object, meaning you can create your own, custom sequencing tools. You get an interface you recognize, but with the power to control every action or drive anything with the sequence. (There’s a nice example involving video.) And that means combining this with the rest of the objects in Max gets fairly intense.

There are four objects:

  • note~, a standard scriptable (or mouse-driven) timeline for Max messages, each with regions that can open other event objects.
  • note.eventEditor, a piano roll-style editor – but with 32-bit floating-point accuracy, including for microtones.
  • note.score shows a conventional musical staff with functions like nested triplets and microtonal pitch description.
  • note.time translates note~’s relative beat-based timestamps to and from beats, bars, and seconds.

Now, you can think of this as a sequencer and go from there, but if you want to dive down the rabbit hole, chew on this description:

From a technical point of view note~ for Max can be considered as a multidimensional realtime database. Every region (i.e. sequence of events) in note~ represents a database. Every event represents another database itself and can hold floating point lists of arbitrary length plus text. In contrast to MIDI protocol note~ does not distinguish between note messages and control messages. Instead note~ introduces freely assignable event types to distinguish between data, each customizable with its own properties.Note~ also sends and receives a sync signal, hence it is possible to synchronize note~ to the Max transport and to Max for Live or synchronize note~ objects among themselves which makes it very easy to create polyrhythmic structures.

Three new, interactive, scriptable views for events in Max.

How to handle event descriptions in music software sounds to me an excellent article topic, or dissertation topic, or way to past the time on a sabbatical in some cave in the wilderness for a few years.

The project is a research endeavor of the Music University in Basel, Switzerland, first seen at the Max-themed event expo’74 last year in Brooklyn. (Thanks to Holger Stenschke from that team for giving us the heads-up.)

Now in public beta:
(Mac-only; perhaps a Windows build is in order?)

Want More Boggling?

Via comments (none other than Pete from Livid Instruments), here’s another excellent sequencer-in-Max alternative:

rs_delos by Roby Steinmetzer has something note~ doesn’t – breakpoints. Otherwise, it’s the same idea, though you get controller data alongside pitch information. The downside: no notation. It also looks a bit less scriptable, though I’d have to play with each.

  • peboer

    Another sequencing GUI Max external can be found in Roby Steinmetzer’s rs.delos object:

    • Peter Kirn

      Wow, excellent. I can’t tell – do you get the same scripting options with this that you do with note~? (Obviously, you do lose notation. But having both, for people passionate about this stuff, is an option!)

  • jengel

    One step closer to not needing live…

    • Peter Kirn

      Absolutely. Nothing against the Max for Live combination, but one thing this means is that you really could build your own, custom production environment from scratch. And that’s pretty cool.

    • Peter Kirn

      Oh, *and* — of course this also means you can put this sequencer inside Max inside Live. 😉

  • Elburz Sorkhabi

    Mouth watering!

  • Malte Steiner

    to bad that Cycling took away the build-in timeline with version Max 5 on…

    • bdc

      The graphical view of the detonate object has returned in Max 6.

  • jiggycheck

    nice alot of work been done to this
    is the piano roll done using the jit.matrix

  • Mark Hannesson

    Check out NoteAbilityPro (Mac only) by Keith Hamel. It is a powerful notation program (I prefer it to Finale and Sibelius) and it interfaces with Max. Look at the last link for an example of it working with Max and IRCAM’s Antescofo~ ( for some awesome score following.

    • Mark Hannesson

      Sorry, the second link at the end of my post didn’t work correctly. To see what it can do with Max scroll to the bottom of the left frame to the Interfacing with Max info.

  • apalomba

    I use Delos as well, it is a great timeline for Max. I highly recommend it.
    Although note~ looks pretty powerful.

  • Dan Nigrin

    The other advantage that rs.delos has it that it’s cross platform… And having the controller data (in rs.delos) is more important for me than the notation stuff now in note~. Still though, I greatly appreciate both efforts!

  • a

    Some of it reminds me of Logic and the environment, at least on the MIDI/control side! (hides)

  • hello

    i cannot believe that no-one has mentioned the bach project yet. if you need notation, it makes max more powerful than openmusic. check it out here: . note~ is great, really great, but it remains irrelevant until they produce it for windows, too. MaxScore has been around even longer than all of these, but is sadly java based ( ). ‘detonate’ in Max6 native has a graphical piano roll editor and has done for years, but it is odd and quirky. one of the advantages of ‘rs.delos’ is that it also handles audio waveform views with its breakpoint editors, too. if you want traditional and expandable sequencing in max, note~ looks like the future though. but i am a huge bach fan myself. i must say, judging by the glowing wonderment of the article, it seems that peter k has not done his max research at all.

  • Jim Aikin

    Notation doesn’t concern me deeply (except when I’m playing piano or cello, of course), but it appears note~ adds some real power to Max. I just started digging into Max this week, after neglecting it for way too long — so thanks for the heads-up, Peter!