Bit Voltage

Max4Live – Legible Patching Technique

If you’re anything like me, at some point you’ve opened up one of your old Max patches and had to sit for more than a hot minute, scratching your head. Wondering, “Ok, now. What was I thinking at the time? Where was I going with all this? Who am I, really?” One minute, a few objects in your patcher window are playing nice in an orderly fashion and, before you know it, an unyielding abyss of uncooked spaghetti is staring straight back at you. An utterly unreadable chaotic mess of objects, messages, and patch cords.


messy max patch


Despair not, friends! I have a few handy tips and tricks to not only help you patch more legibly, which will come in handy when you want to revisit old patches (and/or share them with friends/relatives/strangers you only know through the internet), but to also patch faster! Let’s begin…



Object Alignment. 

This is one of the most simple and effective ways to organize a messy patch…

Below is a simple patch that observes the (0. – 1.) output of the volume slider of whichever track this device is on.


Legible Patching Examples 1


You’ll notice that, while flowing and legible, this patch is displaying some tell-tale signs of early-onset patch-illegibility. Nearly all the objects are unaligned and the cords could use some sprucing-up as well.

Begin by highlighting all the objects you want to occur in a straight line and press “Command + y” (mac) or “control + y” (windows).



Repeat for all groups of objects you feel need alignment and make any desired adjustments.




The Max Toolbox

The Max Toolbox is an add-on developed by Nathanaël Lécaudé and is available for download here. This is an incredibly powerful tool and, once you’ve developed the muscle memory for the all the hot-keys, you can patch both cleaner and quicker!

The video below demonstrates all the quick-commands that become available to you once this package is installed correctly.



Installation of the Max Toolbox (Max 7)

Within the Max Toolbox download, there will be a folder labelled “extras.” In this folder is a file labelled “ToolBox.maxpat.” This file will need be placed in the directory: /Contents/Resources/C74/extras.

To access this directory, navigate to Max 7 in your applications folder, open its context menu (option + click, left-click, control + click… whichever option your OS supports for opening context menus), and select “Show Package Contents.”



Now navigate to the aforementioned directory and place the file.


Step 3


The rest of the folder can be placed in directory: … /Contents/Resources/C74/packages


Step 4


For further assistance with package installation, the Cycling ’74 forums are an excellent source of useful information.

In this patch, I used the quick command for even distribution of objects along the Y-axis. To use this command, highlight all the object you want evenly distributed and press the “y” key on your keyboard.




Aligning and Color-Coding Patch Cords.

This is handy if you have loads of intersecting cords running all throughout your patch. Aligning patch cords can be accomplished in a few different ways. The first being the same method as aligning objects. Highlight the patch cord and press “command + y” (Mac) / “control + y” (Windows).

To demonstrate, I will use the patch from the first segment of this post. And, for the sake of visual clarity, I will adjust the width of the “” object by highlighting it and clicking and dragging one of the smaller white squares that become visible in the corners of the object.



Now highlight the patch cord and press “command + y” (Mac) / “control + y” (Windows). You can adjust where the newly formed segment in the patch cord lies by clicking and dragging it.



Conversely, you can remove segments form a patch cord, by highlighting it and opening its context menu and clicking “Remove All Segments.”



If your patch cord needs to travel a long distance, necessitating multiple segments throughout the patch cord, you will need to check “Segmented Patch Cords” in Max’s “Options” drop-down menu.


Step 1


Now click on the outlet of the object you want to send information from. As you drag away from this object, click when you want a new segment in the patch cord to occur. Do this until you reach your desired inlet.



You may also elect to use the “Route Patch Cords” option from the patch cord context menu.


Step 3


You can also change the color of your patch cord, which helps when you have a lot of intersecting patch cords or cords that travel long distances throughout the patch. Open the cord’s context menu and scroll down to and click “Color…”


Step 4


A pop-up window with several different color palettes will appear. Here, you can choose the prettiest color, which we all know is the color blue.


Step 5




Comments and Panels and Arrows! Oh my! 

These objects are especially useful when working on a collaborative patch, or if you’re just helping some poor soul wrap their weary mind around all this wacky Max business.

To create a comment object, press the “c” key on your keyboard and type in the desired information.



For some added visual clarity, you can add a “Panel” object. Once this object is configured properly, it will highlight the section of the patch your comment object is annotating.

Create a new object by pressing “n” on your keyboard and type in the word “panel.”



Now drag and resize the panel so it covers the desired section of the patch.


Step 6


Now open the panel’s context menu and select “Send to Back.”


Step 7


Now open the panel’s inspector by highlight the panel and pressing “command + i” (Mac) / “control + i” (Windows). You’ll notice a section in the inspector displaying some coloring options.


Step 8


Click “Interior Color,” switch “Gradient” to “Color Fill” by clicking, and select the 2nd prettiest color, which we all know is the color yellow. And be sure to check the “Include in Background” option.


include in background


You can also make arrows to point out more specific parts of the patch. Create a new object by pressing “n” and give it the name “live.line”



Open its inspector. You will see options for line thickness, arrow positioning, justification, and color.


Step 13


Configure the aforementioned settings as you see fit. You can also change the background color of a comment box within its inspector to match the color of your arrow. This is another simple way of visually enhancing the information you are trying to convey.


Step 14

Step 15



So, in the end. Instead of something like this…




… you end up with something like this…




It may seem like a lot of work. But, your collaborators will definitely thank you… and there’s a chance your future self might start to thank you more often.

Please feel free to contact with any questions you may have.

Enjoy responsibly!





This post was written by
Nathan Crepeault, graduate of New York University’s music theory and composition program, is an avid Max for Live user and bassist. Based in Austin,TX, Nathan has been teaching Max for Live with the Bit Voltage crew since his arrival from New York City in early 2011. Nate uses Max for Live to augment Live’s capabilities as a looping tool, alter the functionality of his control surfaces, and tastelessly glitch innocent audio signals.

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