Algorithmic Composition in Max: Bringing Order to Chaos

Membership plan: Going Deeper | Topics: Music Production

Course overview

For centuries, musicians have incorporated chance-based elements into their compositions, first through coin flips and dice rolls and more recently through computer software. Today, building music-oriented algorithmic systems is easier than ever with Max.

What you'll learn

  • In this workshop you will learn a variety of algorithmic processes and useful tools to construct your own systems: including drunken walks, list manipulation and step-sequencer pattern generation. Primarily focusing on MIDI-controlled instruments, you will gain an understanding of how chance can be factored into numerous aspects of composition, from melody and harmony to overall piece structure and instrumentation.
  • By the end of the workshop you will have built a system for algorithmically generating a short multi-instrumental composition which you will be able to go on to improve and expand upon to fit your own preferences.

Who is this course for?

  • Learn to construct music-generating algorithms in Max, to compose semi-autonomously or supplement your compositional practice.

Course content

  • Max patches
  • Part 1 - MIDI Setup & Guitar Synth
  • Part 2 - Sequencer Setup
  • Part 3 - Basic Melody Generation
  • Part 4 - Bell Synth Setup
  • Part 5 - Ostinato Generation
  • Part 6 - Chord Voicing Generation & Organ Synth
  • Part 7 - Chord Sequence Generation
  • Part 8 - Transport Setup
  • Part 9 - Piece Structuring and Final Composition


  • You should be comfortable with the general workflow and data formatting in Max
  • Knowledge of MIDI format and routing to DAWs (Ableton, Logic etc) would be a plus, although Max instruments will be provided
  • A basic familiarity with Git, C++ and audio processing
  • You should have some basic knowledge of music theory: chords, scales, modes etc

Meet your instructor

Samuel Pearce-Davies is a composer, performer, music programmer and Max hacker living in Cornwall, UK. With a classical music background, it was his introduction to Max/MSP during undergraduate studies at Falmouth University that sparked Sam’s passion for music programming and algorithmic composition. Going on to complete a Research Masters in computer music, Sam is now studying a PhD at Plymouth University in music-focused AI.

Useful links

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