Sound Quality

• Jan 4, 2013 - 23:16

Is there any way for me to improve the sound quality of the final outcome of a symphony? The only thing I know of is converting the MIDI to WAV, but surely there are other ways?


Hire a professional orchestra to perform the work and record the result.

Anything else will be subject to the wooden quality present in all computer generated audio.

In reply to by Lestrad

Assuming you are looking for ways of improving the sounds of orchestral or similar music, try the beta of MuseScore 4 (or wait a little while longer for the official release) and you'll get Muse Sounds for free - a pretty breathtakingly realistic orchestral library.

Converting from MIDI to WAV won't change a thing except make the file much, much larger. The sound quality will still depend primarily on the soundfont you are using. As suggested above, see the Handbook page for soundfonts if you are unfamiliar with them. I can vouch for the Fluid R3 soundfont that you can download via that page as being pretty good. The various Merlin soundfonts you can find if you search the web are also very good, although overall, I think I prefer Fluid.

My experience is mostly limited to GM-compatible soundfonts (like the above) that contain the standardized list of instruments used in MuseScore. There are other soundfonts that specialize in orchesteal instruments specifically - thus not necessarily providing the other instruments you might want (eg, no electric guitars, drum sets) and that might need some customization in instruments.xml to tell MuseScore which instrument is which. I would assume if you are willing to do that work, you could proibably do better than Merlin or Fluid.

BTW, regarding getting an orchestra to play your music - it's not necessarily as outlandish as you might think, but it's also no guarantee of better sound quality. I suppose what I'm going to say might be somewhat controversial, but so be it.

School or community orchestras might well be willing to give your music a read, but unless it's a very simple piece, you probably won't get much out of that - they might not even make it all the way through without it falling apart. If they like the piece enough, you might be able to convince them to program it on a concert and thus actually rehearse it. But you might find that even with rehearsal, they make enough mistakes and have enough intonation issues that you don't actually like the performance as much as you hoped. And while you can get a passable recording using a cheap handheld digital recorder held in fron of the orchestra, you might well find you prefer the more "in your face" sound of the computer-generated audio, which is more like the equivalent of close-micing every instrument.

Of course, you gain an awful lot from having the music played by real musicians, too, but as someone who has had some fairly large scale works performed by well-rehearsed student and community groups as well as by professionals more or less sight reading (because I can't pay them to rehearse), I have to say I always find there are tradeoffs. For most composers, it's sort of an ongoing challenge to try to get good recordings of their music.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I'm already using Fluid's soundfont. When I tried to import the Beethoven's 9th it sounded terrible, as I expected. Regardless of how complicated a piece is, if there are many instruments included, it gets all noisy and it's impossible (for me) to know how it actually sounds just by looking at the midi. I'm not a professional, and music is just a secondary thing to me, but it's still very fun to go crazy with the software and research amazing symphonies like the mentioned above, and a bit disappointing I can't actually hear them.
Hiring an orchestra is a bit extreme for me, I never planned to go that far with this hobby. I need to hear my composition every time I modify it in order to know if it was for the best, but then, no one hires an orchestra every time he modify his composition, and that's probably the difference between me and you, I can't rehearse notes in my mind, and you probably can thanks to years of experience.
Thank you for your reply, it somehow gave me motivation :)

In reply to by HolyEyE

What do you mean by "noisy"? MuseScore shouyld playback just fine even with a full orchestra worth of instruments. Have you tried adjusting your reverb and chorus settings? Some people find they get distorted playback until touching those controls (in display / synthesizer). Perhaps that is all that is goping on here. Or, if you are using Fluid, that is a pretty big soundfont, so you do need to have a decent amount of RAM in your computer and a reasonably modern CPU.

Definitely, being able to playback your composition as you are writing it is very important, and something MuseScore actually supports quite well. Here for example is a recording made directly from my computer; it sounds exactly like this each time I hit the "play" button in MuseScore:

and since you mentioned Beethoven, here's one someone else made the same way:

So if you get results you find "noisy", you should definitely get to the bottom of what might be going wrong on your system.

In reply to by HolyEyE

The immediate thing that strikes me is the complete lack of reverb which is making the sound seem dull and lifeless.

Sadly the reverb controls in Musescore are extremely primitive, but with care they can be set up to produce lifelike results.

This is one of my latest compositions recorded with reverb

and without

Hear the difference??

Sorry I've not been able to work out how Marc embedded his clips - any tips on this Marc?

In reply to by ChurchOrganist

Hi Michael -

I haven't used SoundCloud before, but it looks like an amazing service.

I went to HolyEyE's composition on the site and clicked on the "Share" button above the big orange play button (tool tip: "Share this on other networks"). This displays a popup. Copy and paste the html text from the "Embedded code" field into your MuseScore entry, like this:

On the other hand, the MuseScore "preview" isn't showing this correctly, so it may not be that easy. (I'm curious to see what it looks like when I Save this response!) The SoundCloud "share" popup also has an "Edit your widget" button that may be worth playing with.

Hope that helps.


In reply to by ChurchOrganist

SoundCloud is indeed a great service. I know it's one of the models Thomas & company looked at in designing Note there is also a plugin (I think lasconic wrote) to upload directly to SoundCloud.

As for how to embed a SoundCloud widget here, I just hit the Share button on SoundCloud, grabbed the widget code, and pasted it here. As Sally mentions, it doesn't look like it will work in the preview, but does when you post - at least it does for me. I think I had at one time customized how SoundCloud creates its widget codes for me. If you click the little pen icon next to the widget code, I think you are supposed to get a dialog that lets you choose between different widget formats (eg, HTML5, Flash). That's not working for me right now on IE9, but it does in Chrome. And I can see that I am using the HTML version (iframe) rather than the Flash version (object).

Edit: oh yea, one more thing - you apparently have to select "Full HTML" under Input Format right below where you type your post here on That's the actual trick. Then it works for both preview and posting.

So, *now* here's is the OP's example:

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hi Marc -

I've looked and looked and I can't find "Full HTML" or Input Format.

Is that perhaps an option that isn't available to normal MuseScore Forum visitors?

Underneath where I type my message is a list of 26 "allowed HMTL tags", which I presume is to prevent malicious postings.



In reply to by Fifist

I guess I don't know if we see the same things. I suspect I probably have certain permissions because I've updated Handbook pages, added tutorials, and other things. Not sure if that affects what I can do in forum posts or not. If so, I wonder if there is any reason (spam control?) this shouldn't be extended? I guess maybe for bandwidth reasons they might want to limit it and I shouldn't be using this casually, either?

Anyhow here is what I see:

(The above is a screen video I embedded the same way).

In reply to by HolyEyE

I guess I still don't understand what you mean in calling your computer playback "noisy". I clicked your soundcloud link and hit play and it sounds totally normal to me. Sure, it doesn't sound exactly like a real orchestra, but of course it weon't - it isn't. But I don't hear any "noise" in the soundcloud recording you made. I couldn't play the youtube video but I assume it's a recording of a real orchestra, and yes, I know what they sound like :-).

I alsoi don't understand your question about what I mean by "playback your composition". By that phrase, I simply mean pressing the play button in MuseScore. PRessing play should produce results that sound just as good as the recording you uploaded to soundcloud. Are you saying it doesn't - thsat it sounds noisy when you press play in musescore, but fine if you save an audio file and upload it to soundcloud?

EDIT: I did look up a recording of the original to be sure, and the one thing I do notice is that for some reason your strings are holding each chord longer than the rest of the instruments. Also, the strings are supposed to be pizzicato, not arco. But I assume that's because the score was entered incorrectly, Would have to see the score itself (the actual mscz file) to say.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

If it sounds normal to you, then I guess I'm just expecting too much of the computer. I will settle for it and hope the quality won't bother me too much for the time to come. I actually kind of like how the piano piece I made sounds so much better when I played it on a real piano in comparison to the midi, so there are always the upsides :)

Attachment Size
symphony_1_1_(c)lucarelli.mscz 5.71 KB

In reply to by HolyEyE

Well, again, it doesn't sound right because the strings are entered incorrectly. They are playing with bow rather than plucking, and holding the notes much too long. Actually, when I look at it, it is entered *terribly* in terms of the note durations. I guess maybe this was an attempt to import a MIDI file, and that's why the note durations are all over the map? With all those strange very short notes and rests? That makes it very hard to see what else might be going wrong, but basically, I'd say whowever created the MIDI file did not do a very good job of it (or maybe it was the fault fo the software used). So that much of the difference between how this sounds and how you expect it to sound is unavoidable given the quality of the MIDI file you presumably started with - it just doesn't have note durations represented well, and yopu didn't do it any favors on import by not allowing MuseScore to quantize to say, the nearest 1/16th note ("shortest value on import", or something like that).

But still, it would help if you could explain what you really by "noisy" here. I can certainly easily tell it's not a real orchestra, but no possible stretch of my imagination can grasp what you might mean by "noisy" here. I can hear everything clear as a bell - much clearer than in the real orchestra, in fact. It just isn't as *realistic* as one might hope, plus the notes are all the wrong length because they were apparently that way in the MIDI file.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Sorry, I don't know how to explain it really. I guess I'm referring to the same unrealistic element in the sound you spoke of. It makes the sound less tender and uncomfortable for the ear.

Edit: and I can't recall where the midi is from, I'll be sure to search for an alternative.

In reply to by HolyEyE

The thing to realize is that MIDI is a very bad format for communicating notation. It isn't designed for that at all. It is designed for performance, not notation. And to some extent, these goals are contradictory. Sometimes, the things one might do in a MIDI file to make it *sound* better will also make it *look* worse when imported into a notation program, and that will then cause the notation program to not play it as well as it would a file that was created to to look, as opposed to sound, good. Basically, there is really nothing to be gained by taking a MIDI file like this and loading it into MuseScore. If you just want to play the MIDI file, use a dedicated media player like VLC that won't mess things up by trying to coerece it into notatable form. And if the goal is to get something your can print, there is basically no possible way to get there from this file or anything at all like it. If you want to create a score using a source created by someone else, find a MusicXML file, not a MIDI file. MusicXML *is* designed for notation, and MuseScore imports MusicXML files much more reasonably.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I never thought of printing a sheet out of a midi import, my aim was to simply research the symphonies, as in the structure and the connection between every note and every instrument etc.
And, VLC does not play midi (not mine anyway), but I know what you mean, I use windows media player for midi.

In reply to by HolyEyE

Well, the same thing applies to studying it on screen as to printing. What you see on screen here is *nothing* like what Beethoven wrote. Those rhythms should have been extremely simple - half notes and qarter notes, etc, not all those tiny little notes tied together. That's because MIDI does not presevre the original intent of the score at all. Even things like, is a chord spelled D-F#-A (easily recognized as a simple D major chord) or D-Gb-A (very strangle looking, even though it *sounds* oike a D chord) are things that MIDI just can't be expected to get right - it wasn't designed to be looked at, period.

For example, go here and see how this *should* look:

and compare that to the results you got when you importing the MIDI into MuseScore. Scary, no? You'd nbever recognize it as the same piece.

So again, if your goal in importing into MuseScore has anything to do with notation, do yourself a gigantic favor and don't even think about MIDI except as a last resort. But for playback, VLC *does* play MIDI, and it uses the same sounfont format as as MuseScore, which is why I mentioned it. With a decent soundfont installed, it will sound *much* beter than Windows Media Player.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

That was the next topic I planned to post on the forum, but since you've already started:
I knew Beethoven wouldn't write what I was looking at, and I wondered how did it get to such condition. I will heed your advice and study the original notes. Actually, when I wrote my own piece I sometimes wondered how is all of that mess going to become a shiny PDF. I guess I need to rewrite the piece in another program that makes it all neat.
VLC gives me an error when I try to drag the midi into it, I never bothered reading what it is since Windows Media Player was always there, but since you claim VLC can produce better results, I'll look into it.

In reply to by HolyEyE

Well, if you write the piece in MuseScore, *you* are in control of how neat it looks. That's the point. If you create a piece using a MIDI program then import it, it's unlikely to look neat (and if it does, ir's unlikely to sound right - note values will have been rounded off beyiond recognition).

As for VLC, I guess the deal is you need to install a soundfont. Check the documentation or search on line for how. But as I said, it uses the same format as MuseScore, so if you're using, say, Fluid R3 with MuseScore, you can set up VLC to use that too. It would then produce results as good as Fluid with MuseScore, which is a ton better than any version of Windows Media Player I've tried.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

With a little help from the bugs, and the division of the notes with each modification of a note that crosses bars with a tie, it would be a waste of time to start cleaning it all.
When I go to Tools -> Preferences (Show settings = ALL) -> Input / Codecs -> Audio codecs in VLC, it tells me "Settings for the audio-decoders and encoders." I probably can't install a soundfont in my version.

In reply to by HolyEyE

As fate would have it, I juist had to wipe out my disk and reinstall everything from scratch, so I just had to set up VLC again too. You're almost there. You just need to expand "Audio codecs" at left then select FluidSynth. That's where you'll get a control to allow you to load a soundfont.

I gather soundfont support is not in some very ancient versions of VLC, but of course, this is free / open source software, so no reason you shouldn't be able to update. I suspect, though, that it's just a matter of you epxnading that "Audio codecs" item at left.

Hi HolyEye,

Yes better sound quality is possible with Musescore. Fluidsynth, which Musescore uses for audio, utilizes the outdated sf2 format. There is nothing wrong with the format itself; however, since it is abandoned technology it is limited by the fact that PCs themselves were limited when sf2 was being actively developed. Since Terabyte hard drives were not even on the horizon, most of the sf2s had to be very small. This was not only because of small drive size but also because of the limitations of the PCs processing power. In short bigger files would take up too much room and be beyond the computer's ability to use them properly, so most of the Sf2s that you find are going to just have single velocity layers and not very good sound quality.

Musescore is capable of using Linuxsampler as a backend. I have been doing this for sometime now. I have placed two recordings on my website for you to hear. One is labeled Fluidsynth and one labled Linuxsampler. Both of these were recorded with Ardour and have Ir:Lv2 convolution reverb on the same exact setting. Both of these recordings were made Directly from Musescore into Ardour with the exact same score, so this is exactly the sound quality that I get while composing. Just go to and you can hear the two samples.

I am currently working on an orchestral library that will be in SFZ format for use with Linuxsampler. The library will be free to download and literally blows away anything that has been offered for free before, as the instruments are sampled chromatically and in three velocity layers. The Linuxsampler mp3 on my website utilizes the wooodwinds, brass, and percussion from my new library so you can already get an idea of how good the library is going to be when finished. There will be a host of articulations included---crescendo, decrescendo, staccato, etc. all from real sampled instruments. I hope to be able to release this library in the next few months. It will be a large download, but as I have said, this library will be vastly superior to anything that has been offered for free thus far.

I will also post a video on youtube of how to connect Musescore to Linuxsampler and Ir:Lv2 using qjackctl, so please keep an eye out for that.

Cheers and Happy Composing,


P.S. I am only leaving those clips up on my website for a few days, so be quick if you want to hear them.

In reply to by AnthonyDeaton

I listened to the clip, and agree it sounds promising. I wonder though - why not simply provide this soundfont in SF2 format so MuseScore can use it directly? As of 2.0, MuseScore will no longer require a single monolithic file, but will be ablke to support multiple soundfonts, so you could break it up into woodwinds versus brass etc to keep individual file sizes and memory requirements more manageable. Have you followed any of the discussion in the SoundFonts forum ?

The real trick, as I see it, will be getting MuseScore to actually take advantage of the sampled articulations. It presently has no real means for doing so. Meaning, even if the soundfont has samples for staccato or slurring or whatever, MuseScore is not going to play them, and that's true whether using FLuidsynth or Linuxsample as far as I know.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hi Marc,

I may convert it to SF2 at some point, especially if I get enough donations to make it worth while; however, as of right now Fluidsynth can't make use of some of the things I am coding in SFZ. Fluidsynth has been talking about adding SFZ support and many other features that I could use for sometime but it hasn't come to fruition.

Using keyswitching with Linuxsampler makes changing articulations possible, and I use this quite a bit. Also, Musescore has some instruments that can change midi channel, such as strings. If you notice you can switch to pizzicato and tremolo. Actually what this is doing is changing the midi channel, so in Musescore you can switch to pizzicato but use a crescendo, trill, or other sample in Linuxsampler to achieve the desired effect. For example, lets say the first instrumet in your score is a violin. This will be in the first channel in Linuxsampler. If you switch to pizzicato in Musescore it will be on the second channel in Linuxsampler. So, if you want a trill at some point all you have to do is load the trill sample on channel 2 and when you switch to pizzicato in Musescore...there is the trill. Then perhaps you need a crescendo at some point, so you load a crescendo patch into channel 3 and switch to tremolo in Musescore.

I made indeed make some simplified SF2 as you suggest, but right now I am concentrating on SFZ, as it is a much more advanced format. I also like supporting both Musescore and Linuxsampler as I think they are both terrific projects.

Also as a last thought, Linuxsampler is amazingly easy on computer resources when it is configured properly. I have never been able to get close to the performance of Linuxsampler with Fluidsynth, and I am not just speaking of Musescore but even using Fluidsynth with Nted or Noteedit as a standalone, it is very resource hungry comparatively speaking.

In reply to by AnthonyDeaton

Not a lot of difference to my ears.

The fact that it is computer generated sticks out like a sore thumb.

You need to do a lot of massaging of the basic MIDI data in a sequencer such as Sonar or Cubase before you can even begin to get orchestral stuff like that sounding good.

Hopefully we can get a big step forward in MuseScore 2.0 with the ability to assign controller data to stave text :)

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