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faust2pd: Pd Patch Generator for Faust

Version @version@, |today|

Albert Graef <>

This package contains software which makes it easier to use Faust DSPs with Pd
and the Pure programming language. The main component is the faust2pd script
which creates GUI wrappers for Faust DSPs. The package also includes a bunch
of examples. The software is distributed under the GPL; see the COPYING file
for details.

.. note:: This faust2pd version is written in Pure and was ported from an
   earlier version written in Pure's predecessor Q. The version of the script
   provided here should be 100% backward-compatible to those previous
   versions, except for the following changes:

   - The (rarely used) -f (a.k.a. --fake-buttons) option was renamed to -b.

   - A new -f (a.k.a. --font-size) option was added to change the font size
     of the GUI elements.

   - Most command line options can now also be specified using special
     ``[pd:...]`` tags in the Faust source.

   Also note that you can now run the script on 64 bit systems (Q never worked

As of version 2.1, the faust2pd script is now compiled to a native executable
before installation. This makes the program start up much faster, which is a
big advantage because most xml files don't take long to be processed.

.. _Pure:

.. contents::
.. sectnum::


Copyright (c) 2009-2011 by Albert Graef.

faust2pd is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the
terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software
Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later

faust2pd is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY
WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR
A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with
this program.  If not, see <>.


faust2pd is known to work on Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows, and there shouldn't
be any major roadblocks preventing it to work on other systems supported by

The faust2pd script is written in the Pure_ programming language and requires
Pure's XML module, so you need to install these to make it work. Install the
latest pure*.tar.gz and pure-xml*.tar.gz packages and you should be set. (Pure
0.47 or later is required.) Also make sure that the LLVM base package is
installed, as described in the Pure INSTALL file, some LLVM utilities are
needed to make Pure's batch compiler work.

To run the seqdemo example, you'll also need the Pd Pure external
(pd-pure*.tar.gz), also available at the Pure_ website.

To compile the examples, you'll need GNU C++ and make, Pd_ and, of course,
Faust_. Make sure you get a recent version of Faust; Faust releases >0.9.8
include the puredata architecture necessary to create Pd externals from Faust

.. _Pd:
.. _Faust:


Get the latest source from

Run ``make`` and ``make install`` to compile and install the faust2pd program
on your system. You can set the installation prefix by running make as ``make
install prefix=/some/path``. Default installation prefix is /usr/local,
faust2pd is installed in the bin directory below that.

Optionally, you can also run ``make install-pd`` to copy the supporting Pd
abstractions (faust-\*.pd) to your lib/pd/extra directory, so that you can use
the patches generated by faust2pd without copying these abstractions to your
working directory. The Makefile tries to guess the prefix of your Pd
installation, if it guesses wrong, you can specify the prefix explicitly by
running make as ``make install-pd pdprefix=/some/path``.

The included faustxml.pure script provides access to Faust-generated dsp
descriptions in xml files to Pure scripts. This module is described in its own
appendix__ below. It may have uses beyond faust2pd, but isn't normally
installed. If you want to use this module, you can just copy it to your Pure
library directory.

__ `Appendix: faustxml`_


Run ``make examples`` to compile the Faust examples included in this package
to corresponding Pd plugins. After that you should be able to run the patches
in the various subdirectories of the examples directory. Everything is set up
so that you can try the examples "in-place", without installing anything
except the required software as noted in Requirements_ above. You can also run
``make realclean`` before ``make`` to regenerate everything from scratch (this
requires faust2pd, so this will only work if you already installed the Pure

Faust Pd plugins work in much the same way as the well-known plugin~ object
(which interfaces to LADSPA plugins), except that each Faust DSP is compiled
to its own Pd external. Under Linux, the basic compilation process is as
follows (taking the freeverb module from the Faust distribution as an

.. code-block:: sh

  # compile the Faust source to a C++ module using the "puredata" architecture
  faust -a puredata.cpp freeverb.dsp -o freeverb.cpp
  # compile the C++ module to a Pd plugin
  g++ -shared -Dmydsp=freeverb freeverb.cpp -o freeverb~.pd_linux

By these means, a Faust DSP named ``xyz`` with n audio inputs and m audio
outputs becomes a Pd object ``xyz~`` with n+1 inlets and m+1 outlets. The
leftmost inlet/outlet pair is for control messages only. This allows you to
inspect and change the controls the unit provides, as detailed below. The
remaining inlets and outlets are the audio inputs and outputs of the unit,
respectively. For instance, ``freeverb.dsp`` becomes the Pd object
``freeverb~`` which, in addition to the control inlet/outlet pair, has 2 audio
inputs and outputs.

When creating a Faust object it is also possible to specify, as optional
creation parameters, an extra unit name (this is explained in the following
section) and a sample rate. If no sample rate is specified explicitly, it
defaults to the sample rate at which Pd is executing. (Usually it is not
necessary or even desirable to override the default choice, but this might
occasionally be useful for debugging purposes.)

As already mentioned, the main ingredient of this package is a Pure script
named "faust2pd" which allows you to create Pd abstractions as "wrappers"
around Faust units. The wrappers generated by faust2pd can be used in Pd
patches just like any other Pd objects. They are much easier to operate than
the "naked" Faust plugins themselves, as they also provide "graph-on-parent"
GUI elements to inspect and change the control values.

The process to compile a plugin and build a wrapper patch is very similar to
what we've seen above. You only have to add the -xml option when invoking the
Faust compiler and run faust2pd on the resulting XML file:

.. code-block:: sh

  # compile the Faust source and generate the xml file
  faust -a puredata.cpp -xml freeverb.dsp -o freeverb.cpp
  # compile the C++ module to a Pd plugin
  g++ -shared -Dmydsp=freeverb freeverb.cpp -o freeverb~.pd_linux
  # generate the Pd patch from the xml file
  faust2pd freeverb.dsp.xml

Please see `Wrapping DSPs with faust2pd`_ below for further details.

Note that, just as with other Pd externals and abstractions, the compiled
.pd_linux modules and wrapper patches must be put somewhere where Pd can find
them. To these ends you can either move the files into the directory with the
patches that use the plugin, or you can put them into the lib/pd/extra
directory or some other directory on Pd's library path for system-wide use.

Also, faust2pd-generated wrappers use a number of supporting abstractions (the
faust-\*.pd files in the faust2pd sources), so you have to put these into the
directory of the main patch or install them under lib/pd/extra as well. (The
``make pd-install`` step does the latter, see Installation_ above.)

Control Interface

The control inlet of a Faust plugin understands messages in one of the
following forms:

- ``bang``, which reports all available controls of the unit on the control
  outlet, in the form: ``type name val init min max step``, where ``type`` is
  the type of the control as specified in the Faust source (``checkbox``,
  ``nentry``, etc.), ``name`` its (fully qualified) name, ``val`` the current
  value, and ``init``, ``min``, ``max``, ``step`` the initial value, minimum,
  maximum and stepsize of the control, respectively.

- ``foo 0.99``, which sets the control ``foo`` to the value 0.99, and outputs

- Just ``foo``, which outputs the (fully qualified) name and current value of
  the ``foo`` control on the control outlet.

Control names can be specified in their fully qualified form, like e.g.
``/gnu/bar/foo`` which indicates the control ``foo`` in the subgroup ``bar``
of the topmost group ``gnu``, following the hierarchical group layout defined
in the Faust source. This lets you distinguish between different controls with
the same name which are located in different groups. To find out about all the
controls of a unit and their fully qualified names, you can bang the control
inlet of the unit as described above, and connect its control outlet to a
``print`` object, which will cause the descriptions of all controls to be
printed in Pd's main window. (The same information can also be used, e.g., to
initialize GUI elements with the proper values. Patches generated with
faust2pd rely on this.)

You can also specify just a part of the control path (like ``bar/foo`` or just
``foo`` in the example above) which means that the message applies to *all*
controls which have the given pathname as the final portion of their fully
qualified name. Thus, if there is more than one ``foo`` control in different
groups of the Faust unit then sending the message ``foo`` to the control inlet
will report the fully qualified name and value for each of them. Likewise,
sending ``foo 0.99`` will set the value of all controls named ``foo`` at once.

Concerning the naming of Faust controls in Pd you should also note the

- A unit name can be specified at object creation time, in which case the
  given symbol is used as a prefix for all control names of the unit. E.g.,
  the control ``/gnu/bar/foo`` of an object ``baz~`` created with ``baz~
  baz1`` has the fully qualified name ``/baz1/gnu/bar/foo``. This lets you
  distinguish different instances of an object such as, e.g., different voices
  of a polyphonic synth unit.

- Pd's input syntax for symbols is rather restrictive. Therefore group and
  control names in the Faust source are mangled into a form which only
  contains alphanumeric characters and hyphens, so that the control names are
  always legal Pd symbols. For instance, a Faust control name like ``meter #1
  (dB)`` will become ``meter-1-dB`` which can be input directly as a symbol in
  Pd without any problems.

- "Anonymous" groups and controls (groups and controls which have empty labels
  in the Faust source) are omitted from the path specification. E.g., if
  ``foo`` is a control located in a main group with an empty name then the
  fully qualified name of the control is just ``/foo`` rather than ``//foo``.
  Likewise, an anonymous control in the group ``/foo/bar`` is named just
  ``/foo/bar`` instead of ``/foo/bar/``.

Last but not least, there is also a special control named ``active`` which is
generated automatically for your convenience. The default behaviour of this
control is as follows:

- When ``active`` is nonzero (the default), the unit works as usual.

- When ``active`` is zero, and the unit's number of audio inputs and outputs
  match, then the audio input is simply passed through.

- When ``active`` is zero, but the unit's number of audio inputs and outputs
  do *not* match, then the unit generates silence.

The ``active`` control frequently alleviates the need for special "bypass" or
"mute" controls in the Faust source. However, if the default behaviour of the
generated control is not appropriate you can also define your own custom
version of ``active`` explicitly in the Faust program; in this case the custom
version will override the default one.


In the examples subdirectory you'll find a bunch of sample Faust DSPs and Pd
patches illustrating how Faust units are used in Pd.

- The examples/basic/test.pd patch demonstrates the basics of operating "bare"
  Faust plugins in Pd. You'll rarely have to do this when using the wrappers
  generated with the faust2pd program, but it is a useful starting point to
  take a look behind the scenes anyway.

- The examples/faust directory contains all the examples from (an earlier
  version of) the Faust distribution, along with corresponding Pd wrappers
  generated with faust2pd. Have a look at examples/faust/faustdemo.pd to see
  some of the DSPs in action. Note that not all examples from the Faust
  distribution are working out of the box because of name clashes with Pd
  builtins, so we renamed those. We also edited some of the .dsp sources
  (e.g., turning buttons into checkboxes or sliders into nentries) where this
  seemed necessary to make it easier to operate the Pd patches.

- The examples/synth directory contains various plugins and patches showing
  how to implement polyphonic synthesizers using Faust units. Take a look at
  examples/synth/synth.pd for an example. If you have properly configured your
  interfaces then you should be able to play the synthesizer via Pd's MIDI

- The examples/seqdemo/seqdemo.pd patch demonstrates how to operate a
  multitimbral synth, built with Faust units, in an automatic fashion using a
  pattern sequencer programmed in Pure. This example requires the Pure
  interpreter as well as the pd-pure plugin available from

Wrapping DSPs with faust2pd

The faust2pd script generates Pd patches from the dsp.xml files created by
Faust when run with the -xml option. Most of the sample patches were actually
created that way. After installation you can run the script as follows::

  faust2pd [-hVbs] [-f size] [-o output-file] [-n #voices]
    [-r max] [-X patterns] [-x width] [-y height] input-file

The default output filename is ``input-file`` with new extension
``.pd``. Thus, ``faust2pd filename.dsp.xml`` creates a Pd patch named
``filename.pd`` from the Faust XML description in ``filename.dsp.xml``.

The faust2pd program understands a number of options which affect the layout
of the GUI elements and the contents of the generated patch. Here is a brief
list of the available options:

-h, --help           display a short help message and exit
-V, --version        display the version number and exit
-b, --fake-buttons   replace buttons (bangs) with checkboxes (toggles)
-f, --font-size      font size for GUI elements (10 by default)
-n, --nvoices        create a synth patch with the given number of voices
-o, --output-file    output file name (.pd file)
-r, --radio-sliders  radio controls for sliders
-s, --slider-nums    sliders with additional number control
-X, --exclude        exclude controls matching the given glob patterns
-x, --width          maximum width of the GUI area
-y, --height         maximum height of the GUI area

Just like the Faust plugin itself, the generated patch has a control
input/output as the leftmost inlet/outlet pair, and the remaining plugs are
signal inlets and outlets for each audio input/output of the Faust
unit. However, the control inlet/outlet pair works slightly different from
that of the Faust plugin. Instead of being used for control replies, the
control outlet of the patch simply passes through its control input (after
processing messages which are understood by the wrapped plugin). By these
means control messages can flow along with the audio signal through an entire
chain of Faust units. (You can find an example of this in
examples/faust/faustdemo.pd.) Moreover, when generating a polyphonic synth
patch using the -n option then there will actually be two control inlets, one
for note messages and one for ordinary control messages; this is illustrated
in the examples/synth/synth.pd example.

The generated patch also includes the necessary GUI elements to see and change
all (active and passive) controls of the Faust unit. Faust control elements
are mapped to Pd GUI elements in an obvious fashion, following the horizontal
and vertical layout specified in the Faust source. The script also adds
special buttons for resetting all controls to their defaults and to operate
the special ``active`` control.

This generally works very well, but you should be aware that the control GUIs
generated by faust2pd are somewhat hampered by the limited range of GUI
elements available in a vanilla Pd installation. As a remedy, faust2pd
provides various options to change the content of the generated wrapper and
work around these limitations.

- There are no real button widgets as required by the Faust specification,
  so bangs are used instead. There is a global delay time for switching the
  control from 1 back to 0, which can be changed by sending a value in
  milliseconds to the ``faust-delay`` receiver. If you need interactive
  control over the switching time then it is better to use checkboxes instead,
  or you can have faust2pd automatically substitute checkboxes for all buttons
  in a patch by invoking it with the -f a.k.a. --fake-buttons option.

- Sliders in Pd do not display their value in numeric form so it may be hard
  to figure out what the current value is. Therefore faust2pd has an option -s
  a.k.a. --slider-nums which causes it to add a number box to each slider
  control. (This flag also applies to Faust's passive bargraph controls, as
  these are implemented using sliders, see below.)

- Pd's sliders also have no provision for specifying a stepsize, so they are
  an awkward way to input integral values from a small range. OTOH, Faust
  doesn't support the "radio" control elements which Pd provides for that
  purpose. As a remedy, faust2pd allows you to specify the option -r max
  (a.k.a. --radio-sliders=max) to indicate that sliders with integral values
  from the range 0..max-1 are to be mapped to corresponding Pd radio controls.

- Faust's bargraphs are emulated using sliders. Note that these are passive
  controls which just display a value computed by the Faust unit. A different
  background color is used for these widgets so that you can distinguish them
  from the ordinary (active) slider controls. The values shown in passive
  controls are sampled every 40 ms by default. You can change this value by
  sending an appropriate message to the global ``faust-timer`` receiver.

- Since Pd has no "tabbed" (notebook-like) GUI element, Faust's tgroups are
  mapped to hgroups instead. It may be difficult to present large and
  complicated control interfaces without tabbed dialogs, though. As a remedy,
  you can control the amount of horizontal or vertical space available for the
  GUI area with the -x and -y (a.k.a. --width and --height) options and
  faust2pd will then try to break rows and columns in the layout to make
  everything fit within that area. (This feature has only been tested with
  simple layouts so far, so beware.)

- You can also exclude certain controls from appearing in the GUI using the -X
  option. This option takes a comma-separated list of shell glob patterns
  indicating either just the names or the fully qualified paths of Faust
  controls which are to be excluded from the GUI. For instance, the option
  ``-X 'volume,meter*,faust/resonator?/*'`` will exclude all volume controls,
  all controls whose names start with ``meter``, and all controls in groups
  matching ``faust/resonator?``. (Note that the argument to -X has to be
  quoted if it contains any wildcards such as ``*`` and ``?``, so that the
  shell doesn't try to expand the patterns beforehand. Also note that only one
  -X option is recognized, so you have to specify all controls to be excluded
  as a single option.)

- Faust group labels are not shown at all, since I haven't found an easy way
  to draw some kind of labelled frame in Pd yet.

Despite these limitations, faust2pd appears to work rather well, at least for
the kind of DSPs found in the Faust distribution. (Still, for more complicated
control surfaces and interfaces to be used on stage you'll probably have to
edit the generated GUI layouts by hand.)

For convenience, all the content-related command line options mentioned above
can also be specified in the Faust source, as special tags in the label of the
toplevel group of the dsp. These take the form ``[pd:option]`` or
``[pd:option=value]`` where ``option`` is any of the (long) options understood
by faust2pd. For instance::

  process = vgroup("mysynth [pd:nvoices=8] [pd:slider-nums]", ...);

Source options carrying arguments, like ``nvoices`` in the above example, can
also be overridden with corresponding command line options.


Creating Faust plugins for use with Pd has never been easier before, so I hope
that you'll soon have much joy trying your Faust programs in Pd. Add Pd-Pure
to this, and you can program all your specialized audio and control objects
using two modern-style functional languages which are much more fun than
C/C++. Of course there's an initial learning curve to be mastered, but IMHO it
is well worth the effort. The bottomline is that Pd+Faust+Pure really makes an
excellent combo which provides you with a powerful, programmable interactive
environment for creating advanced computer music and multimedia applications
with ease.


Thanks are due to Yann Orlarey for his wonderful Faust, which makes developing
DSP algorithms so easy and fun.

.. Appendix follows here.