Please - Best Soundfont addon for Piano and strings

• Feb 9, 2021 - 16:11

In advance, I apologize if this question has been asked and answered in the past. I am a complete novice to MuseScore and soundfonts, and even writing music.

Years ago, I composed 30 or so instrumental piano songs on my old keyboard, and laboriously wrote the notes down on blank sheet music. I never studied music, cannot speed read music, and did all of this by ear, learning just enough about writing music notation manually, to create something my family could follow. I am now retired, and have vowed to start anew, using MuseScore, to convert all of that old error-filled music onto real sheet music, then play it back either through my MIDI keyboard, or through my computer speakers. I also hope to perhaps, add some strings and choral voices to each piece, once I have rewritten all the songs in MuseScore.

From this forum, it is my understanding that a person can download and install a much more elaborate, more beautiful set of instrument sounds than comes with my Windows 10 computer as a new soundfont. On this forum, I have found folks referencing some of the ones available. My problem is, at this stage, I don't know anything about soundfonts, how to install them, or IF I even need the crem-de-la-crem font? So, I am hoping to at least get started by asking this simple question:

"Is there a 3rd party soundfont, preferably free, that I can download onto my computer to really boast the tinny sound of my existing MIDI Grand Piano and Strings, to a really rich sounding spectacular piano and strings?" At this point, all I expect to play are piano and strings, and maybe choral voices. Perhaps later I can add the full range of instruments. In short, what downloadable soundfont would you recommend for a piano/strings guy and how do I get it? Further, does the MuseScore manual explain how to install it onto a Windows computer, or is there a set of steps I need to find elsewhere?

Thanks so much in advance.



In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks Marc:
I am just learning how to download a soundfont and get the synthesizer in MuseScore to use it. The directions are a bit complex. Hope I can master it. It appears there are just three piano soundfonts mentioned in the MuseScore manual. I've listened to two of them. Neither is really that Steinway sound I was hoping for. Do you use a particular Symphonic soundfont that you really like, or does anyone else have a suggestion for a really top notch Steinway grand piano font I could download and get the MuseScore synth to play?

In reply to by fsgregs

I'm perfectly happy with the default soundfont; I'm more interested in getting the notation right for human musicians to play than I am in the computer-generated playback.

Generally speaking though, the piano included in most soundfonts is probably sampled from a Steinway, because, why not? Sio don't limit yourself to the soudnfonts that are piano only, try any of the more general ones. But, don't be expecting them to transform your computer speakers or earbuds - the quality is only going to be as good as what you listen through. Maybe that's obvious, but it certainly isn't to everyone.

There's not much involved in installing a soundfont - download it, load it into the Synthesizer. Takes half a minute tops, other than the time for the download. Well, a bit of a wrinkle if the soundfont needs to be "unpacked" first, I guess.

EDIT: I see quite a few more than three piano soundfonts listed in the Handbook, though.

In reply to by Jonky Ponky

I've just added a new Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Piano soundfont which is perfect for Musescore.
The "MasonHamlin-A-CloseMic-v5.2" soundfont can be download from my site or direct from here:…
This beatifully sampled Grand is courtesy of Dore Mark who allowed me to edit it for the soundfont format.
Edits include more virtual velocity layers , longer release and new attenuations from pp to ff.
I've tried it with a few piano pieces and the results are pleasing.

In reply to by Jonky Ponky

Jonky Ponky:

Thank you for your effort to help me out.

(1) I tried your MasonHamlin Model A soundfont out. It is very nice, although a bit muted when played in the MuseScore Synthesizer. Does MuseScore's Synth have an equalizer that can boost the Treble or brighten the sound slightly?

(2) Also, I intend to soon add some violin strings to my piano score. I plan to use the MuseScore Synthesizer for playing back all of my compositions. Your website combines the Mason Hamlin piano to a strings soundfont, called "MasonHamlin-A-PlusStrings-v1.1". If I install it into MuseScore's Synth, is there any way to add a "strings group" to my song so when I enter a single note using strings, the synth actually plays back a group of strings together, kind of like a keyboard's "strings" voice rather than just a violin voice? I want to enrich the sound of the strings so that it sounds like 5 or 10 violins are playing the note together, like an orchestra. Does MuseScore have such a capability? Is that the "Violins" instrument I find in the "Instruments" menu, or is there some other trick?

(3) Lastly, most strings have a vibrato option. When they are played, the violinist shakes his/her finger to give the sound a vibrato effect. I realize that MuseScore is mostly a notation program, but since I am using its Synth exclusively, can I enter some command to get my strings notes to vibrate, just as a true violinist would?

Thanks for humoring my ignorance.

In reply to by fsgregs

The built-in synth does not have any tone controls. You might be happier running MIDI out to an external device or program for that level of control.

An "instrument" in MuseScorte is just a group of settings to set up the name, how many staves, what clef, what transposition, etc - and which MIDI sound to use. The Violins instrument uses a sound that in the default soundfont at least is indeed sampled from several strings playing together. i donm't know that they are all violins, though, because it also allows notes lower than a violin can play. So I suspect it's really a more generic "strings: sound that maybe favors violins where it can. "Strings" is a General MIDI standard sound, so any GM soundfont will include some version of this.

As for vibrato, the soundfont was either recorded with it or not. Most probably are. Maybe some soundfonts include multiple versions, some with and some without. If you use suych a soundfont, you could switch between these sounds using staff texts just like you do for arco and pizz.

In reply to by LeBeginner

Thanks. I checked out the site and found that the Estate Grand LE is based on the larger Estate Grand soundfont. I know nothing at all about soundfonts, or sfz. Am I correct to assume that if loaded the LE into the MuseScore Synth, the program will play it as well as the free player that comes with the download? If not, what would it sound like? Also, the website says the Le soundfont download is a whopping 650 MB in size, and warns that the file can slow down some programs. Does it work OK on MuseScore?

In reply to by fsgregs

MuseScore loads soundfonts into memory fully, so the performance will depend on how much free RAM you have, and/or how fast your swap device is and how well your OS handles that/ Which is to say, how it works on one system, won't be a good predictor of how it performs on another.

In reply to by LeBeginner

Does this piano soundfont also include ALL of the other instruments in the default Windows MIDI soundfont? I ask this because I installed another soundfont recommended by someone above, but when I tried to use another instrument (chimes), the instrument sounded as a poor screechy violin instead of a chimes. Something did not go right with the font, and I had to switch back to the default Windows sounds.

Actually, what I am seeking is a soundfont that really upgrades ALL of the symphonic sounds played by the Synth in MuseScore. I know there are probably 20 or more out there, but which one would you say is the best, (preferably free domain) font?

In reply to by fsgregs

Most piano soundfonts incldue only the piano, but that's fine, just use that soundfont for piano, but a different soundfont such as the default) for other instruments. You can select which sound is used for which in strument using the Mixer. Easiest method is you only want to replace the piano is probably to put the piano soundfont at the end of the list of soundfonts in View / Synthesizer. Then to use it for your piano, scroll down to the bottom in the Mixert and select it. The instruments will still be using default soundfont since it is first in the list.

Note that there is no "default WIndows MIDI soundfont" - at least, none that MuseScore would know about our use. The defaults sounds in MsueScore are provide by MsueScore, it doesn't rely on anything built into your system.

If you are looking for a soundfont that you consider subjectively to be an improvement over the default, there is really no substitute for tryign them one by one to see which you personally prefer. Everyone has different preferences here. One personal might prefer soundfont A over soundfont B, another B over A. The ones listed on the Handbook page are some of the most popular choices. If you're looking for one that includes sounds for all instruments, limit yourself to the ones listed as General MIDI compatible, and then be sure to put that soundfont at the top of the list so it replaces everything and you don't need to mess with the Mixer.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc: I was aware that in the Synth, you could change the soundfont used, and use the Mixer to select different instruments within that same font for different instruments. But, if I understand your reply, it suggests that I can load and activate two different soundfonts for the same song. To quote, "... just use that soundfont for piano, but a different soundfont (such as the default) for other instruments."

I know I can choose different instruments from the same soundfont for different instruments, but can I use a piano sound from font 1, and strings sound from font 2... in the same song? How do I do that? If not, no problem but this needs clarification. Thanks

In reply to by fsgregs

Yes, you can load as many soundfonts as you want. The sounds they provide are all there in the Mixer. The sounds from the first soundfont listed in the syntehsizer come first, then those from the next, etc. So all sounds from all sounds are available to all instruments - you just need to select which you want for more info, please see the Handbook.

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