Tuesday 3 September 2019

Frequency-to-Colour display in MaxForLive for Ableton Live

It all started with an enquiry on Facebook. Kovacic Matej asked about how to display 'human chakras, colors and their frequencies' in Ableton Live. After some discussion about spectrum analyser plug-ins, a link to a web-site was given and the thread went quiet...

As part of my occasional 'fix a random query on an Ableton forum' series, I have created a MaxForLive plug-in for Ableton Live called AUDcolours that allows the generic mapping of frequency to colour. To make the specific example in the thread easier, plus for musical use, there are two presets: one is the 'human chairs' that was given in the Facebook thread; the other is the musical notes  for one octave - CDEFGABC. There are seven (of course!) additional preset memories for your own mappings.


There are quite a lot of controls to enable generic mapping of frequency to colour. Each of the eight vertical bars on the left side of the AUDcolours plug-in has a frequency control, Q or resonance control, an audio thru/mute switch (X) and a colour swatch. Each vertical bar can be tuned to any frequency from 10 Hz to 10 kHz, and the width can be set using the Q (resonance) control - low values give wide responses, whilst high values give narrow responses. A medium setting is probably best for initial testing. In the screenshot above, the meter is showing that a frequency of about 261 Hz is being input, and the bar's background has lit up with Red (as set by the swatch UI object). The audio thru/mute switch allows you to listen to one or more specific bars when the X is lit up with bright purple. The swatch is a user interface device that lets you set the colour of the vertical bar.

On the right hand side of AUDcolours are common controls. The vertical group of squares are the usual MaxForLive preset memory slots. Red means empty, White is the current selected preset memory, and Grey means that there are values stored inside the preset memory slot. Underneath the memory slots are the two fixed presets: Chakras and CDEFGABC. On the far right hand side there is a Wet/Dry mix control for the audio, then the Threshold rotary control that determines how loud the input needs to be to lit the vertical bar up with colour (Start high and reduce until you get the triggering just working. Too low will trigger more than one bar!). There are also common controls that can show or hide the rotary controls, the audio level meters, or the colour swatches. Finally, in the lower right hand corner, there is a common control for the audio thru/mute toggle controls (X) - this turns all the Xs on or off at once. If you set Wet/Dry to fully clockwise (100%) then you will hear only the bars which have an X lit up.

Getting AUDcolours

You can get AUDcolours on https://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/5686/audcolours

Here are the instructions for what to do with the .amxd file that you download from MaxforLive.com:


(In Live 10, you can also just double-click on the .amxd file, but this puts the device in the same folder as all of the factory devices...)

Oh, yes, and sometimes last-minute fixes do get added, which is why sometimes the blog post is behind the version number of MaxForLive.com...

Modular Equivalents

In terms of basic modular equivalents, then AUDcolours 0v01 would probably require eight band-pass filters, with eight Utility/Logic modules to do the threshold detection, and eight colour panels to give the colour outputs to give the same sort of functionality, plus a voltage source panel to give the common control over threshold, giving a total of about 25 ME.

And here's a link to click on if you find my writing informative:

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