Max Basic Tutorial 2: Bang!

Tutorial 2: Bang!

The bang message

In this tutorial, we will work with the bang message as a way to follow messages through the connections in a Max patcher.

This simple patcher will let us look at how to generate messages in Max, and how these messages execute through a patcher in a pre-defined order.

To open the tutorial patch, click on the Open Tutorial button in the upper right-hand corner of the documentation window.

Looking around

Take a look at the patcher 02mBang. Click on the Max console icon in the right patcher window toolbar to open the sidebar. The left side of the patcher window has a very simple patch, with a button UI object connected to a print object. If you click on the button marked by the comment, "Click me!", you will see that the Max Console displays a "bang" message – the output from the button.

The bang message has a specific use within Max – it's the message that tells many objects to do that thing you do. As a result, sending the bang message to other objects will normally cause them to send messages from their outlets. In the second part of the patcher (to the right), there is a button (labeled "Now click me!") connected to a message box (with the message Gotcha!), which is subsequently connected to a print object. If we click on the message box, we can see the "Gotcha!" message sent to the Max Console – just like in the previous Tutorial. Now, click on the attached button object. We see the same "Gotcha!" message appear in the Max Console. How did that happen?

Let’s follow the messages. First, clicking on the button object sends a bang message from its outlet. This message follows the patch cord to the inlet of the message box. When the message box receives the bang message, it performs its task – it sends out its message. Hence, the "Gotcha!" message is sent from the message box outlet to the print object, where it is printed to the Max Console.

Most Max objects (including the message box and button ) will interpret a bang as an instruction to perform their main task using whatever information they have available. We'll see in subsequent tutorials how this plays out with objects that manipulate numbers and other items of data in the Max universe, but for now it's worth observing that since the primary function of the message box is to construct and pass messages, sending a bang to any message box will cause that object to output whatever message is stored in it.

Following messages through connections

The bang message is not only useful for triggering message boxes – as we mentioned above, it can act as a trigger for many other objects as well. Click on the button labeled "Click for one." It is connected to a second button that is triggered by a bang message, which then sends its message (again bang) to the print object. Note that this print object has an argument after it ("one"). If you look at the Max Console, you will see that instead of the word "print" appearing in the object column, the argument to the print object appears - "one". This is useful for debugging Max patchers, as it allows you to create multiple print objects with custom labels to differentiate them from one another in the Max Console.

Now unlock the patcher and connect the outlet of the "click for one" button to the pink button below and to its left. Notice that this doesn’t break the connection that already exists; outlets can be connected to more than one object, and the same message will be sent down each of the patch cords. Lock the patcher and click on the top-most button. The bang gets sent to both button objects, and each of them produces a bang message of their own. By a similar token, multiple patch cords can be connected to a single inlet of an object. In this case, both pink buttons are connected to the same print object. When you click on the top button, the output of both buttons that receive bang messages are routed to the print object, and two "bang" messages are displayed in the Max Console.

The next patch over demonstrates both of these principles. Clicking the button labeled "Click for several!" sends three bang messages to the Max Console through a print object labeled "several". The print object receives a bang from both of the second tier button objects (triggered by our topmost button) as well as a single bang from the top button itself, connected directly to the print object.

We can take this idea further with the right-most patch. It has a number of message boxes, all connected to a single print object named “many”. Each message box has a button attached to it, and a higher-level button controlling them all. You can make individual message objects print their message by either clicking on the message box itself, or by clicking on their attached button objects. If you want to trigger all of the messages at once, you can click on the top-most button.

When you hit the top button, notice the order in which the messages are displayed in the Max Console. The messages are not in an arbitrary order – they are generated based on the spatial organization of the objects in the patcher, executing from right-to-left. We will explore the details of message ordering in a future tutorial, but it is vital to understand that messages are sent in right-to-left order when a single object is connected to more than one destination.

Unlock the patch, and add several more button objects. You can do this by simply hitting the 'b' (for button) key on the keyboard in an unlocked patcher. Connect them to other button objects on that right-hand patch. Try different combinations of multiple outlet connections and multiple inlet connections. As you connect each button, try to guess which messages will display and in what order they will appear in the Max Console.


The bang message is among the most powerful messages in the Max environment; it causes other objects to trigger their output, and can be used to create matrices of connections that produce complex output. We’ve seen that outlets can have multiple connections, and that these connections pass their messages in a right to left order. Inlets may also have multiple connections, and messages are processed in the order they arrive. We’ve also seen that some objects, such as the print object, can be assigned an argument which causes the object to change its behavior. An argument to the print object allows you to identify the source of messages printed to the Max Console.

See Also

Name Description
button Blink and send a bang
print Print any message in the Max Console
message Send any message