Now that tablets and phones have the computational power our main studio machines did just a few short years ago, there’s every reason to look to these gizmos for music. For a person patching in Pure Data (Pd), the free graphical sound environment, it means you can liberate the stuff you’re making from your computer and put it on something portable.

If you don’t mind firing up Eclipse or Xcode, you can make your own music apps with libpd, the embeddable version of Pd developed by Peter Brinkmann and others. But, if you don’t want to write a line of code, you now have two solutions that can do the trick for you – and they’re both entirely free. It’s something we saw with the now-defunct RjDj. (That still works on Android, though not iOS at the moment.) These two solutions address the need for user interfaces, too, in a way RjDj did not.

The sound part is straightforward: with libpd, any Pd patch that runs in the “vanilla” version on desktop can run on Android or iOS. Where you need a little help is getting the patches onto your device, and giving them some sort of graphical user interface so that you control your synth or effect or whatever it is you’ve built.

The newest addition is called MobMuPlat by Dan Iglesia, seen at top. Its approach is to solve the UI problem by adding a graphical editor. As such, it lets you create fairly sophisticated UIs, but you will have to separate the interface design work from your sound patching. The process, according to the developer:

0. Get the MobMuPlat iOS app
1. Create a user interface in the MobMuPlat Editor (currently OSX only)
2. Create an audio engine in PureData
3. Drag those two files into the MobMuPlat Documents folder in iTunes
4. Play your app on your iOS device!

(Hilariously, the setup instructions also include “learn Pd.” But before that scares you, there are some great free guides to get you started. See below, for review.)

MobMuPlat is cool, and it’s probably currently your best bet on iOS (assuming you’ve got a Mac). But it’s not your only option – and there’s no reason to be left out if you’re running Android.


Chris McCormick’s PdDroidParty has a couple of tricks of its own. Rather than make you build a new interface in a separate utillity, the app actually uses interface widgets included in your Pd patch. Create a patch with faders (sliders), toggles and number boxes, and PdDroidParty will render those on the device. That makes testing and prep quite a bit easier. PdDroidParty also has very lovely network sharing, of the sort we’d really want to see in these sorts of apps. (Sorry, iTunes, but some of us feel plugging in a cable and “syncing” went out with the PalmPilot in the 90s, along with pleated khakis.)

There are useful UI abstractions, too, including a KAOSS-inspired 2D x/y touch surface that suits nicely these gadgets, and a tappable list.

Developers can even make distributable apps for Android using the tool – nice for sharing. And of course the source is all open and free. That in turn has allowed an iOS port by the talented Dan Wilcox. (Both Dan and Chris, it should be noted, have been big contributors to libpd – thanks, gentlemen.)

Highly recommended:

I hesitate to point too many people to the iOS version, because it’s clearly marked “alpha.” For now, this isn’t an end-user solution on iOS; it requires Xcode and some patience. Of course, if you do have Xcode set up for iOS, as many of our readers do, then I absolutely want to point you in that direction! In fact, I hope that some developers out there read this and lend Dan some help testing:

PdDroidParty, though, is very end-user friendly (at least if you’ve messed about with Pd a little).

I’d love to hear how you use these tools. In fact, if you fire this up and make some music, take some video or post some audio as we’d love to enjoy it!

And now you have a weekend project.

Don’t know how to use Pd? Here are two great places to start:

Pd FLOSS Manual
Pd Tutorial [English, Deutsch, EspaƱol]

  • Jordan Colburn

    This is great! I played with libpd a bit, but didn’t have any big ideas worth putting in the time required to really make anything too big. Droidparty looks like a solution that will make it quick and easy to play around with simple noisemakers and recorders on my phone!

  • duncan speakman

    this is just so great! .. . wondering if anyone out there has had any luck getting stereo audio into an android device yet? (smaller AD interface the better :) ) it’s still the biggest stumbling block for my projects (also why we’re still using the nifty but EXPENSIVE Gumstix platform)

  • Michael

    Is libpd getting any love from the Audiobus folks?

    I asked for access to the Audiobus SDK to work on libpd and related, but haven’t heard back. Perhaps not surprising, since I’m not a core libpd developer.

    p.s. if there are any core libpd devs here, please respond to pull requests for libpd/puredatap5

  • lematt

    seeing this I’m just wondering why Cycling 74 is not making an equivalent of this.
    Putting a max/msp patch on a windows 8 tablet is easy, but porting it to Ipad or Iphone is a pain (please don’t tell me I can can use Touch OSC and link it to a compootah, I know it, and it’s not the same as having the interface and the processing in the same hand).

    I mean it’s crazy to see the free Max/msp cousin being there before the one we pay for !

  • jiggy

    hey just wondering where this has moved to
    looking to try sceneplayer.apk

    droidparty is cool been trying it out for about a month now
    but been having trouble with bits
    loading sounds to arraytables from tablet
    but can play the buffer if its been contents been saved to the table

    audio input
    tried modding 4pin jack but still dont know what ch the adc~ is getting audio from
    and also u cant display a table in droid party this would help alot
    being able to see if adc~1 is mic input and adc~2 is line input from 4pin jack
    the svg widgets got some of mine to work others didnot bit of hit or a missusually

    also nodebeat u can mod the patch in that
    just make a backup copy of the nodebeat-main folder from your sd card
    then copythat again when its on your desktop name it nodebeat-main2 or somthin
    u should have 2 copys
    open nodebeat-main2/assets/pd
    replace the wavs u need 2 name ur wavs the same
    copy all this over to assets .zip file
    thencopy the assets folder and zip file back into the node beat folder in your sd card replace
    the existing folder and zip then start up node beat
    u may need to clear nodebeats cache before it loads correctly

  • Marcoctn

    Just want to share a simple patch i made today

  • Joe Newlin

    This is exciting stuff for someone who spends most of his time either in PD or on my iPhone.

    Looking forward to beta testing PdParty – Dan says it’s almost ready for release. And I was happy to learn that MobMuPlat now has Windows and Linux interface editors:

    Also, here’s a little something I did in PdDroidParty (scroll to the bottom of the page):