Finding the The Best Soundfonts--Not Just Free Ones

• Jun 8, 2020 - 20:36

I have money, but not a lot of time. I need a great soundfont set for "classical" instruments. I'm struggling to wade through all posts on soundfonts because they seem to focus on low cost or free.

I can spend $500 or more if need be. My alternative is to go to Dorico. But I prefer Musescore. Any advice?

Thanks. P


Any notation software is still going to be somewhat limited. If you are really serious about playback, get a DAW and spend your money on libraries for it. Sure, there's a learning curve. Use MuseScore to prepare your score, so that you have one for real players. Then import into the DAW to get more the playback you want.

Getting good results in MuseScore is about more than just plopping notes on the page. You might be surprised.

In reply to by bobjp

I agree. MuseScore (at least, until Version 4 arrives!) is not a DAW. It uses SoundFonts excellently for playback, but it probably won't be what you use to produce a final =audio= file. Instead, you'll probably import the MusicXML into some other program that IS intended for that purpose, and now your options for [purchasing ...] suitable sounds are determined by that program ... which of course should also be able to handle SoundFonts as well.

This is generally how I work. I write the composition in MuseScore, then import it either to Audacity or Logic Pro X for audio finishing.

In reply to by mrobinson

I compose on Musescore. The playback is adequate, but I would like to use higher end sounds, like the stuff from Spitfire and elsewhere. Am I right that you are saying that I cannot have Spitfire fonts be a playback option for Musescore, and that I have to export the Musescore file into a DAW. But this is where I get confused. I'm not very familiar with DAWs, but I thought they input was through a MIDI keyboard. I don't want to use that. I just want my written score played back, player piano style. Will the DAW be able to do that with the higher end samples?

Hardly anyone sells soundfonts these days because they are primitive. You will want more advanced audio plugins, but they won't work with Musescore.
I've heard good things about Spitfire's BBCSO Pro. I don't have that kind of money, but if you do, this is what it sounds like:
It won't work with Musescore, by the way. If you want a cheaper option, Noteperfomer by Wallander is highly praised for having a decent, balanced sound and playing back the articulations from the score; almost hassle free, apparently. You'll need Dorico (or Sibelius or Finale) to use it.

In reply to by ♪𝔔𝔲𝔞𝔳𝔢𝔯 ℭ𝔯𝔞𝔣𝔱𝔢𝔯♪

Yup. Lots of people swear by NP. I've had some folks run my music through NP. It's different, but it's hard to say it's better than what I produced in Sibelius. They say that NP uses some algorithm to playback your score in a more natural way. But it's their algorithm, not mine. It's their idea of what my music should sound like, not mine. NP is supposed to make it easy to get better playback. Everyone is looking for the fastest, easiest way to make music. Any music making software is only as good as the person using it. That means that even with MuseScore, there are lots of things you can do to get better playback. But it takes time and effort. It takes knowing what you want the music to do. Software on it's own, can't breathe life into playback like you can, if you know how to use it. Making music is not easy.
A professional ran some of my music through his DAW with a few thousand dollars worth of libraries. The samples were spectacular. The sound of the music was, as expected, far superior to what i had made. The problem was that he ignored many of my markings in favor of his own. His right, to be sure. But it was not how I would have done it. Especially at one point where he totally missed a climax.

Have you tried any of the free soundfonts? Free doesn't have to mean low quality. I have played with quite a few guitar only soundfonts and some have excellent samples in them, very close to a real classical guitar, and you can achieve surprisingly decent results in MS.

As has been pointed out already, there are inherent limitations with soundfonts and I would suggest not spending your money on one without being able to trial it first with MS as I don't think any will come close to what a DAW can achieve – and they may be no better than the best free ones.

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