Modalys is an environment that lets users create unheard of virtual instruments based on simple physical objects such as strings, plates, tubes, membranes, plectrum, bows, or hammers, and making them interact. It is possible to construct objects with complex forms using a threedimensional mesh or resulting from measurements. Modalys brings these virtual instruments to life by calculating how they vibrate when played. By combining different physical, resonating objects and by specifying the type of interaction (striking, rubbing, mouthpiece, bow, etc.), the user creates a virtual instrument and then decides how it will be played. OpenMusic and Max communicate directly with the Modalys synthesis engine via intuitive graphical interfaces.


  • Musical composition: contemporary, techno, electro, etc.
  • Sound design: natural work on sound quality (metallic, woody, etc.)
  • Education: modal theory in practice
  • Cinema & video: sound design
  • Scientific research & development: comparison of theoretical and measured modes

Main Features

Modalys’ synthesis engine makes it possible to hear virtual instruments made from simple physical objects or 3D mesh. The user can make an instrument and then decide how it will be played. To do this, the user must define the following in four steps:

  • Objects which simulate the physical structures (tubes, strings, membranes, plates, complex inexistent forms, plectrums, reeds, hammers) which are calculated according to the default values given by the system or can be modified by the user
  • Access to the objects (points on the object on which an action will take place)
  • Connections which make it possible to define playing modes: hitting, blowing, bowing, etc.
  • Controllers that will describe how the parameters of a connection will evolve over time.


Chosen by a large number of composers and sound designers, Modalys for Max is the incarnation of Modalys in the real-time environment Max, used to construct sophisticated instruments graphically using strings, plates, membranes, tubes with any type of materials (metal, wood, diamond, etc.), size (unlimited), and interactions: hitting, plucking, rubbing, blowing, etc. This interface can be controlled live from Modalys in real-time. Modalys for Max requires Max 5 or higher (including 7) and is available for Mac OS X (10.6 or higher) and Windows (7 or more recent). Modalys can also be used from ModaLisp, a textual programming interface that can be used to construct and play an instrument with a script. Using this approach, the user writes and executes Lisp programs to obtain the desired musical result. IRCAM’s musical programming software, OpenMusic, also based on Lisp, enables a musical or graphical control of the models, for instance from a score and/or temporal envelopes.

For a scientific approach to model synthesis, Modalys can easily be used with MatLab through dedicated libraries.


Mac OSX 10.5 or higher, Window 7 or higer (Modalys for Max only).

More info

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