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LiveScore and MaxScore

The LiveScore and MaxScore editors are full-blown notation applications built around MaxScore—a Max Java object based on the Java Music Specification Language developed by Nick Didkovsky and Phil Burk. Both editors sport the same interface. The advantage of using MaxScore in comparison to other professional notation environments is its integration into the Max environment, allowing programmers to adapt the application to their needs. It can be fully controlled with Max messages while its output can be used by sound-generating patches for polyphonic, multi-timbral and microtonal playback. The MaxScore installer also installs a sampler which performs the aforementioned functions.

  • To start the LiveScore Demo Set open ~/Music/Ableton/User Library/LiveScore/Livescore Demo.als or C:\Users\[home_folder]\Documents\Ableton\User Library\LiveScore.
  • To open the MaxScore Editor with two playback modules to choose from select Maxscore Combo from File->New From Template.

First Steps

Create a new score by choosing New Score from from the File menu. You will see a long measure in a single staff. Add notes by dbl-clicking (Mac and Windows) or ctrl-clicking (Mac). Open the floating palettes from the Tools menu and explore their functionality. In addition, there are a number of keyboards shortcuts which are summed up here:

Before you can play back the notes you’ve entered, you’ll have to load a bank in the sampler or the Fluidsynth player. For the latter, the installer installs a GM SoundFont bank into `{`Max folder`}`/packages/MaxScore/media which should automatically be loaded by MaxScore.Fluidsynth2 .

The sampler uses a proprietary format, which is why you need to either download a bank from here or create your own. To create or load a bank click on Load Sound Bank and proceed as desired.

File Menu

Since most File menu items are self-explanatory, we will only elaborate a few select items:

Commit to Live Set (LiveScore Editor only)

Save your score to the current Live set, so that when you re-open the set the score loads automatically. Don’t forget to save your set after committing, though.


The Editor will allow you to create pdfs of the entire score right out of the Live or Max environments. Choose Print from the File menu and make the appropriate settings in the pane on the right. Since the preview window on the left also employs another copy of the MaxScore, you can even make some layout modifications there. The pdfs consists of rasterized vector-graphics files in svg format which will be deleted after printing, if “Keep SVG Files” is unchecked. If you want keep those files, check the toggle and look for them in a folder in the same location as the saved pdf.

Edit Menu

The Edit menu entries are to a large degree self-explanatory. Let’s focus on the things that may be a little different from the usual experience with commercial notation programs.

A few words about MaxScore’s selection methods :

  1. Note selection: To select a note, click or drag-enclose it, to select a range of notes, click the first and shift-click the last note or drag-enclose a group of notes. Selected notes will turn blue. Most operations such as copy and pasting are applied to note selections.
  2. Measure selection: To select a single measure, click inside the empty space of measure, to select a range of measures click in the first measure and shift-click inside the last measure. Selected measures have light-blue staff lines. Measure and staff operations such as changing clef or time signatures require measures to be selected.

Undo and Redo only work under certain, limited circumstances. Save your work frequently to avoid loss of data.

Pasting over measure boundaries is accomplished with Paste Free Flow. Note that MaxScore will not split large durations into smaller ones if a note doesn’t fit into a measure. In other words, when you paste-free-flowa whole note into a 3/8 measure, the entire note will be placed into the measure no matter what, and its color will change to pink to indicate that the total duration has exceeded the number of beats in the meter. You will be required to fix the notes duration manually at this point.
Occasionally, before entering notes to a measure different from the one you’re just working on, you need to make it current, or in JMSL’s terms, you need to set the current measure/staff to the selected measure/staff. Choose “Make Current” from the menu; this is a bit like setting an (invisible) cursor to a different location. This mainly applies to music  that’s being  generated automatically. For manual edits you can simply click inside a measure to make it current.

The other items refer to the Editor’s interaction with the Live environment and have no meaning when working in Max. This is also the reason why Transcribe Staff and Update are grayed out in the MaxScore Editor.

The Percussion Map allows you to edit MIDI-note-to-percussion-note-and-shape definitions. Possible shapes are: Standard, X, Diamond, X-Diamond, Triangle and Inverted-Triangle. This map will be used when the percussion clef is chosen in the StaffManager.


There are three different views for the MaxScore/LiveScore editor window :

  • Score
  • Staff Manager
  • Preferences


The score view is the main view allowing your to make changes to your score.
Shortcut: shift-1

Use the StaffManager to change some attributes such as the inter-staff distances as well transposition, ledger line and staff line visibility. Changing the indexes, will also allow you to sort the staves. In addition, you can create staff groups and assign brackets or braces to them. The Style menu will let you switch between different notation styles of the same music.

In Ableton Live, the Live Clip menu allows you to create a dynamic association between a Live clip and a LiveScore staff.  Click on the round circle in the Transcribe column to transcribe the clip and use the square next to it to include or exclude the staff from transcription when choosing Transcribe Staff from the Edit menu. Likewise, you can also include or exclude the staff from printing which allows you to perform part extraction.
Shortcut: shift-2


The Editor will attempt to autosave the preferences when the application is being closed. If you want to work with different sets of preferences, you can also manually save and load them by clicking on the buttons on the bottom. Attribute List will bring up a separate window summarizing the attributes and their current values.
Shortcut: shift-3


In the Tools menu you find the following 5 items:

Note Entry Tool

This tool contains icons for operations that effect note entries:Accidental preferences, note durations, dots, note/rest toggle, note, notehead, stem  accidental and legder-line visibility as well as grace-note transforms, cross staff placement, stem direction options,  notehead shapes and size and n-tuplet settings.

Pitch Tool

This tool contains icons for operations that effect transposition and enharmonic spelling. It also offers a wealth of operations for the creation of notes in non-standard tuning. Note that Live doesn’t support microtonal playback natively. Therefore, use LiveScore Editor’s built-in playback modes and the LiveScore playback engines.

Note Attribute Tool

This tool contains icons for operations that effect affect “secondary” note attributes:

Dynamics, ties, slurs, beaming and unbeaming, crescendo, decrescendo, ottava alta and ottava bassa and lyrics as well as a marks. Clicking on the Pitch, Amp, Hold, Dur  and Text icons allows you to numerically change some note attributes, while the Slot tool allows you to attach additional messages to a note which will be sent out when the score is played back or the note is clicked on. Currently a slot message can either be a number, symbol, list, break-point function or a DJster parameter dump (click here for more information).

Measure/Staff/Track Tool

This tool contains icons for measure, staff and track operations:
Time signature, tempo, measure text, custom and default measure width, number of staff lines, current track (track 1 through 4; the maximum track number is set to 4 by default, but can be changed manually in the score file), appearance of barlines (single, double, period double or none), left and right repeats, number of repeats,  as well as key-signature and clef menus. Select measures (not events) to apply any of those operations.


Scorepions -manual

The Scorepion menu is part of a plugin system that allows you to dynamically load Max patches, thus extending the functionality of the Editor. These Max patches reside in a particular folder within the MaxScore folder hierarchy. Refer to this page for further information.

Picster Menu

Picster is a graphic tool created to expand the core repertoire of articulations and other symbols provided by JMSL, the foundation of the MaxScore and LiveScore editors. Picster will let you create library elements that can be reused at any time or individual elements that can be inserted directly into the score.

The Picster menu accesses two libraries, the default library and a user library to which the Picster will automatically save new elements. Specify the location of the user library folder in the editor’s Preferences.

From the menu you can launch the Picster editor or open a Quick Text editor, which also offers access to the vast repertoire of fonts such as Bravura with its 3000+ music symbols via the Character Browser.

Quick Text also sports a macro generator for tempo markings such as in this example:


From the Picster menu choose a destination (Note(s), Staff, Measure) the element is supposed to be attached to, then click on Attach in either the Quick Text or Picster editor to add the element to the score, or load a saved Picster or .svg file from your hard drive. Once a Picster element has been placed, you can move it around. For this activate Picster mode by pressing caps lock and click on the element you wish to move to a different position. You will notice the red bounding rectangle outlining the shape of the Picster element. The note, staff or measure that the element is attached to becomes automatically highlighted so that you always know what MaxScore object the element belongs to. A selected element can be removed with the delete key or edited with the Picster editor. This will remove the element temporarily from the score until it gets re-attached. The previous location of the element will be remembered.

A separate manual for the Picster patch can be found here.

Picster Menu

Playback -manual

Set playback preferences and modes in the Playback menu.