Virtual Playing Orchestra and SFZ files

• Mar 16, 2017 - 05:32

I was delighted today to finally come across a genuinely high quality set of SFZ sound files that you can find and download here:
Unfortunately, unlike using a soundfont, where you simply load the soundfont and the entire list of instruments in automatically loaded, you must load each SFZ file separately into the "Zerberus" portion of the synthesizer. That makes for a lot of work, and in addition, MuseScore "crashed" at one point when I had loaded about 1/2 of the SFZ files into it. I have not tried since to load the ENTIRE set, and have only loaded a subset that I needed for a particular piece of music, which worked fine.
The sound, however, is superb, and well worth the added effort, in my opinion. It blew me away particularly with the strings. You can hear an example of it that I uploaded at
Like I said, the best thing to do is to pick and choose ahead of time the instruments you want to use for a particular piece so you can upload to Zerberus just the files (instruments) you need to turn your music into a high quality MP3 when you are finished.


In reply to by Isaac Weiss

Loading SFZ is time consuming and all the files are kept in memory (If you go over memory, it will crash). So it's a good idea to load only what you need.

You can do that in two ways:
1/ If you compose always for the same ensemble, you can load the SFZ and then save the configuration in MuseScore with the "Set as default" in the synthesizer. MuseScore will load the sfz at startup and startup time will be increased by a lot...
2/ If you don't, then you can save the configuration with the score, and press Save to Score. You will need to go to the synthesizer again and "load to score" every time you load a new score.

The only way around that would be to read sample from the disk on the fly. There is some work done by hpfmn last year here but it's still some more work.

In reply to by Isaac Weiss

Yeah, Isaac, I had read that and tried it, but my experience was that even when holding down the SHIFT or the CTRL key as (or before and while) I clicked on the first selection made that ONE get entered. I was never able to select a range. And trust me, I'm experienced enough with computers that I know how to select a range or a sub-set using CTRL. Have you tried it yourself, or are you just relying on what you have read? I'm still using 2.0.3, though. So I guess I'll have to wait it out until 2.1.

In reply to by Timothy K Hamilton

I've been using 2.1 for 2 months now with only 1 major glitch that I was able to overcome rather quickly. Any of the programmers on this site could have fixed it for me in a few minutes. If there is a feature that makes it worth using a 2.1 nightly then do it. Even though 2.1 says it is not stable, it really is. The main instability is that the code is having bugs squashed on a daily basis, many of these bugs are also present in 2.0.3. You will be able to open all 2.0.3 in it and once 2.1 is released, it will open any files you make in a nightly.

When you tried to install the Virtual Playing Orchestra, were there some sound fonts that would not install?
I cannot install French Horn-SEC or a bunch of other ones. Why is this?

This is really superb SFZ soundfont, and I agree with Tim regarding the Strings samples. Particularly, I'm impressed by the realism of the tremolo samples.

In reply to by EnricoM

Hi EnricoM,

It works for me by just putting the corresponding dynamics mark in the score. For example, in a piece I've done with this soundfont ( I'm using for Violins the instruments "1st-violin-SEC-KS-C2.sfz" and "2nd-violin-SEC-KS-C2.sfz" loaded on my MuseScore 2.0.2 and without problems regarding the dynamics (they work from ppp to ffff as I can hear).

In reply to by mdi1972

The default tremolo has a very very poor rendering.
I was referring to specific VSO for tremolos that are available for each string sections, like "1st-violin-SEC-tremolo.sfz" since it's possible to have a specific mapping in the mixer for that.
In this case, although the rendering is definitely way better, the dynamics seem to be ignored and the volume sticks to "fff".
Any clue?

In reply to by EnricoM


I didn't tested this VSO you mention yet - it's the ones I told that do obey the dynamics, as I verified (in MuseScore 2.0.2 at least). I will check later and tell you.

In reply to by EnricoM

Hi EnricoM,

Well, I think there's something odd with the version of the VSO I'm using - not the latest one, as told by Timothy below -, because the -tremolo.sfz samples just don't play in my MuseScore (2.0.2). Just silence. I'm attaching a sample piece with the "CS-KS" samples I mentioned (and I saved the synth settings to that score too, for you to play in your installation). I uploaded the playback to . Tell me if this sound is the one (good) you refer, or the hammer-like you mention. I personally like it.

As you can see, the dynamics works well (well, there's too something odd also in this, as the fff bars in the first violins are way atenuated in subsequent bars, without any indication or adjustment from my side)

Attachment Size
test_VSO.mscz 18.67 KB

In reply to by mdi1972


Thanks a lot for that.
Once downloaded the mcsz file unfortunately the instruments were messed up, but I assume that you assigned the "KS-C2" to the main channel.
I ran your score in two different contexts:
1. with the normal channel for the instruments (and linked to that the KS-C2 SFZ)
2. by adding a "tremolo" keyword in order to activate the tremolo channel (i.e. for "pizzicato")
The results seem quite different and "more tremolo-like" for the tremolo SFZ.
I think because the KS-C2 SFZ has by default the "sustain" SFZ (i.e. 1st-violin-SEC-sustain.sfz) as I could read in 1st-violin-SEC-KS-C2.sfz.
Keeping the KC-C2 SFZ, in order to activate the real tremolo you should "press/play" the key C#2. I added such a note to the score in order to make the automatic SFZ switch but it didn't change sound type.
In any case the dynamics were respected... Strange, I remembered differently.

Now, the hammer-like effect was using the "normal" soundfont and the tremolo notation from the palette. This is perfectly fine from a notation perspective but it sounds horrible.


In reply to by mdi1972

you're welcome!

Now question is whether it is possible to add to specific notes the tremolo notation from the palette, but WITHOUT playing it .
So that at the same time a kind of "tremolo" keyword (set to invisible) can change the channel to activate the tremolo SFZ (and of course use another keyword to switch back to the normal SFZ)...
In any case it's definitely not a straightforward procedure to have a realistic tremolo effect in the playback.

In reply to by Shoichi

The problem with the master palette is that you must then move each tremolo to the proper spot. It gets rather tedious and IMHO is not worth the effort. It would be better to use an invisible instrument for tremolos in the sound font and silence the instrument with the tremolos on the notes.

In reply to by mike320

Hi Mike,
I think the biggest effort is not on the character to add from the special characters panel (as in Shoichi's example), but on associating the soundfont and the remove it by using a special keyword (i.e. for pizzicato effect).
The hidden instrument may work even if it means that there would be about 5 new staves to manage in a normal orchestral score.
But you will be still obliged to mark with a fake tremolo symbol the main staff for the sake of the notation standards.

In reply to by EnricoM

Associating a sound font to a channel in the mixer consists of a couple of clicks. You then add the text to the score, right click, and three clicks later you have the new sound coming out of the score. I personally have a custom workspace with a custom palette that has piz. and arco with the channels already selected for voices 1 & 2 (this allows for the most common divisi possibility I've seen). I don't use the tremolo command because I'm willing to live with the sound the ornaments give you, but this will work the same for tremolo. This turns the difficulty into selecting a note and double clicking the palette. If I change sound fonts I still have to set up the mixer, but as I said earlier, it's just a few clicks.

As far as managing the extra staves is concerned. Write the music as though you will not have any invisible staves. At the end, go back and add the staves that will eventually be made invisible, copy the notes from the filled staff to the invisible staff. Right click a tremolo (the symbol only), use select>all similar elements on this staff and press delete. Go back to the non-invisible staff, select all the notes with tremolo and in the inspector remove the check from "Play." This usually consists of selecting several measures and pressing the "Notes" button in the inspector. You only need notes on the invisible staff that will be played tremolo, and you can keep the tremolo in effect at all times on the invisible staff. This will make it easier in the long run.

I gave you my plan. If you make a plan, it will make it easier in the long run.

Hi Timothy, how did you manage to play the "virtual playing orchestra sounds" in Musescore. I did put them in the Musescore / sound fonts folder and I manage to get them in Zerberus but then they are not in the "fluid" section where you chose the sound fonts. I can open the .sfz files in the mixer but they are not played (silence). I tried two methods, first putting all files from the virtual playing orchestra folders in the sound fonts folder and secondly I did put them within the two folders - how they came after the download - in the sound fonts folder. The description in the Musescore manual did not help and I could not find something on that topic in the internet. Would be a huge help if you could tell me how you managed to do it. My memory seems to be large enough that it easily handles all files (32 GB memory). By the way I also cannot select multiple files with shift and I suppose it is a Mac vs PC issue.
Greetings from Berlin

Edit: I now manage to select the sample in the mixer, it is important that the "lib" folder is put in the same place with the folders of the .sfz files.
If anyone knows whether the key switches which some of the files allow for can be activated within Musescore please let me know.

In reply to by [DELETED] 34806763

Indeed. All sub folders need to be in one root folder. The version I have is from March. As is normal with SFZ fonts, it takes a very long tome for MuseScore to start and a longtime for the sounds to load into a score.The main problem I had with this font is that I would choose (for example) flute but MS loaded and played a trumpet. This happened for many of the sounds. However, it has a great solo horn sound, as well as strings. So that is all I use from VPO. Load in is still slow, but not as bad as if I used the full font. I don't remember if VPO fixed SSO's long note problem.

In reply to by [DELETED] 34806763

What is the "lib" folder? I'm having a similar issue in that I can't get the sounds to actually play within the score after they're loaded into Zerberus.

Edit: Ironically enough, figured it out right after I posted this. But now I have a different question.

What's the best way to get a "fluid" sound with the strings? It tends to sound choppy with the "default scroll wheel" sound for the arco channel. Is there a better way to go about it? TIA.

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