Mul and Add (and arguments to UGens)

Two arguments recur in many UGens, and its worth describing them separately in this tutorial file. They're useful because they provide a way of keeping signals scaled appropriately to be used as inputs to other UGens. The audio output of the system expects numbers in the range -1 to 1, but a frequency might require numbers from 20 to 20000, and these different sorts of scale are dealt with through the mul and add arguments. 

//we'll keep using the internal server for the scope facility





If you check help files for UGens you'll often see mul and add as the final arguments: check the SinOsc help file now:

[SinOsc] //cmd+d to bring up after double clicking anywhere on SinOsc, or on the brackets

Notice that mul is the third and add is the fourth. You can directly address those inputs to the oscillator (those 'arguments') by using the colon syntax:


For audio outputs (which this ar rate SinOsc is, for it is the last thing going out to the soundcard) the values must be kept between -1 and 1 (with mul:0.1, the previous sound was kept between -0.1 and 0.1, safely within bounds). 

Here is an overloaded sound (be careful listening to this):

{}.scope //loud! defaults are 440 Hz, amplitude multiplier 2.0

and here is a sound whose amplitude is at a more reasonable volume:

{}.scope //loud! defaults are 440 Hz, amplitude multiplier 2.0

You can see that the mul: part of the code is setting up an amplitude multiplier, that is, it scales the signal on the y axis. 

{,0.1))}.scope //demo of amplitude scaling

There is another standard thing you will see happening to signals, and that is offsetting (translating) on the y axis. I use the add input of the UGen for this. 

{,,-0.9))}.scope //demo of offsetting

The mul and add controls help when you need to set one signal as an input to another and need to scale the input signal appropriately to the expected input values required. 




//cutoff values need to be sensible frequencies in Hz; here sine output turned from -1 to 1 into 2000+-1700 

var cutoff =,,1700.0), add:2000.0); 

//var cutoff =*1700.0 + 2000.0;  //same thing,freq:cutoff);



There is a shortcut for the mul and add inputs given by using the * and + symbols. 


is the same as 




is the same as


//filter example rewritten:



//cutoff values need to be sensible frequencies in Hz; here sine output turned from -1 to 1 into 2000+-1700 

//var cutoff =,,1700.0), add:2000.0); 

var cutoff =*1700.0 + 2000.0;  //same thing,freq:cutoff);



I have used the : syntax to put values into particular inputs of the SinOsc UGen. How do I know about these inputs, and are there other ways to utilise them? 

The arguments to a SinOsc are freq, phase, mul, add.

How do I know that? Select SinOsc and hit cmd+d for the help file 

SinOsc //double click on SinOsc and press cmd+d for help

SinOsc //or select SinOsc and do cmd+J for the source code definition of this UGen

So if I make all the UGen's inputs explicit:, phase, mul, add)

Expected input values might be:

freq- 20 to 10000 (Hz)

phase- 0.0 to 1.0 through the cycle

mul: 0.0 to 1.0 from silence to full amplitude

add: 0.0 no offset

(and the output of the SinOsc is between +1 and -1)

In using the SinOsc UGen in code I must substitute appropriate values into these inputs. These values could be fixed constants, or they could be other UGens, in which case they will probably be time varying values. If I don't specify a given input, a default value will be taken, and that is what you heard happening above.

Explicit use of constants in all inputs:

{, 0.0, 0.1, 0.0)}.scope

Plugging a UGen, a MouseX control, into the frequency input:

{,880), 0.0, 0.1, 0.0)}.scope

Having the frequency argument as before (it is the first input, remember), using the colon to refer to a particular input, and accepting defaults for the rest:

{,880), mul:0.1)}.scope


There are often many ways of accomplishing something. For instance, to limit the volume of a single SinOsc, we might write:

{,0.0,0.1)}.scope //provide freq and mul arguments directly

{}.scope //provide just the multiplier argument explicitly

{0.1*}.scope //multiply the SinOsc UGen by a constant

{, mul: -20.dbamp)}.scope   //use dBs! The conversion calculation is done just once at the 

        //initialisation of the UGen

A note on modulation (you may find it useful to reread this later):

mul and add are very useful in setting up modulators, sometimes via the * and + versions. The mul input in particular gets used for explicit modulation, that is, multiplying different signals together. 

Using one SinOsc to modulate the frequency of another:


The inner SinOsc is the modulator. 3 times per second, it varies between +-40 (mul scaling). I add 440 to make this output value go between 400 and 480. This is a suitable input varying frequency control for the outer SinOsc.