SoundFonts and SFZ files

Updated 3 months ago

    MuseScore 4.0's Sound and playback support:

    • SoundFont (.sf2/.sf3): supported directly, no need to click load in the synthesizer anymore. Setup per instrument in the Mixer. Cannot select preset/bank in the mixer directly (yet). See SoundFonts.
    • SFZ (.sfz): supported indirectly through 3rd party VST. See SoundFonts.
    • VST, VSTi: supported VST3, some VSTs are reported not working properly. See Working with VSTi
    • MuseSounds: free high quality proprietary sounds from MuseGroup, installable thru MuseHub.

    The following describes MuseScore 3:

    Jump to a curated list of free soundfonts downloadable, feel free to add to the list.


    All instruments added onto a score is capable of creating audio playback without further setup. Audio playback is generated by the Synthesizer using virtual instrument techology. MuseScore 3 comes with the free MuseScore_General.sf3 which contains the virtual instrument and human voice sounds, drum/percussion kits sounds, and sound effects needed.

    You can also add and use custom virtual instrument files, Musescore 3 supports two types:

    Playback is generated in real-time, Musescore cannot save rendered audio into a score file. When Musescore cannot locate the required virtual instrument, it falls back to use the default soundfont. If you share your score and need the receivers to listen to the exact same score audio inside Musescore on their computer, you need to provide the virtual instrument along with your score. Alternative is to share the exported audio file.


    SoundFonts (.sf2/.sf3) are virtual instrument files. The SF2 format is invented by a now defunt company, but a copy of the format specification can be viewed online, see Soundfont, MIDI velocity and instruments.xml: Online Resources. Sound data is compressed in SF3 but not SF2, see Glossary. You can speed up Musescore program startup by using less soundfonts, esp. SF3 files, as Musescore need time to process them on startup.

    Musescore 3 understands and uses multiple instrument sounds inside one soundfont, see the Mixer, the Mid-staff sound (channel) change text and the Mid-staff instrument changes text.

    One soundfont is capable of embedding (packaging) all data required for multiple instrument sound generation inside MuseScore. You cannot edit the embedded data inside soundfonts in Musescore, try the free Polyphone editor. Polyphone converts sf2/sf3 into sfz and vice versa, but with some definition data loss.

    MuseScore 3 comes with the free default MuseScore_General.sf3. It is located in a system directory and should not be modified. This directory and its default SoundFont file is:

    • Windows x86 (32-bit) / MuseScore x86: %ProgramFiles%\MuseScore 3\sound\MuseScore_General.sf3
    • Windows x64 (64-bit) / MuseScore x86: %ProgramFiles(x86)%\MuseScore 3\sound\MuseScore_General.sf3
    • Windows x64 (64-bit) / MuseScore x86_64: %ProgramFiles%\MuseScore 3\sound\MuseScore_General.sf3
    • macOS: /Applications/MuseScore
    • Linux (Ubuntu): /usr/share/mscore-xxx/sounds/MuseScore_General.sf3 (with xxx being the MuseScore version)

    Internal structure

    a simplified illustration

    • SF2/SF3 file (embedding the following data)
      • instrument 1 sound 1 (eg guitar normal)
        • sound samples (various pitches)
      • instrument 1 sound 2 (eg guitar open string)
        • sound samples
      • instrument 2 sound 1 (eg piano)
        • sound samples
      • instrument 3 sound 1 (eg violin arco)
        • sound samples
      • instrument 3 sound 2 (eg violin pizz)
        • sound samples
      • instrument 3 sound 3 (eg violin tremolo)
        • sound samples
      • etc

    GM SoundFonts

    GM SoundFonts are sf2/sf3 files that conform to GM (General MIDI) program / preset numbering standard that Musescore use. If you remove the build-in soundfont from the Fluid tab in Synthesizer and setup the new one as 1st ordered item , staffs will create correct playback without further tweaking and picking in the Mixer.

    SND SoundFonts

    SND SoundFonts are sf2/sf3 files that contains sounds that response to MIDI CC 2 signals created by Musescore 3's SND mechanisms, see Glossary: SND.


    1. Unzip if required
    2. Double click on a sf2/sf3 file
    3. A dialog appears asking if you want to install the SoundFont. If not, right-click or Ctrl-click on the file, select to "open with ... MuseScore"
    4. Click "Yes" to place a copy of the SoundFont file in MuseScore's SoundFonts directory.
    5. Setup Musescore
    6. Use it on a score

    If you're having problem, move / copy the file manually. MuseScore's SoundFonts directory can be viewed or changed in MuseScore's Preferences, the default location is:
    - Windows: %HOMEPATH%\Documents\MuseScore3\Soundfonts
    - macOS and Linux: ~/Documents/MuseScore3/Soundfonts


    To uninstall a virtual instrument, delete it from the soundfont directory. This may change the virtual instrument ordering in Synthesizer, which affects all scores previously created with this Musescore program because the order of soundfonts affects playback. Score may play an incorrect sound even if it does not use the virtual instrument you just uninstalled. Only if Musescore cannot locate any data, a staff playback falls back to use default soundfont's "Grand Piano" sound.


    SFZ is a free virtual instrument format, see . The SFZ definition files can be edited with any plain text editor, you cannot edit them inside Musescore. The free Polyphone editor converts sf2/sf3 into sfz and vice versa, but with some definition data loss. SFZ definition files do not embed (package) audio data.

    Musescore 3 understand and uses one SFZ for one articulation sound of one instrument only.

    SFZ structure

    SFZ does not embed audio data, audio files (WAV or FLAC format) are located in folder(s) next to SFZ:

    • SFZ definition file 1 (eg guitar normal)
    • SFZ definition file 2 (eg guitar open string)
    • SFZ definition file 3 (eg piano)
    • etc
    • folder(s) next to the SFZs contains all samples

    Install an SFZ

    1. Unzip if required
    2. Move / copy SFZ files and the folders containing audio samples manually to MuseScore's SoundFonts directory shown above. Leave the sub-directories and their contents as they are.
    3. Setup Musescore
    4. Use it on a score


    Same as in soundfont uninstall

    Setup Musescore to use a custom SoundFont or SFZ

    Once the files has been installed on your system, they also need to be loaded into the Synthesizer.

    Use a custom sound on a score

    If the sound you need is shipped with Musescore, use it by adding instruments onto a score instead, their sounds are already configured properly.

    To add a custom sound, choose and add an instrument that use a staff style similar to one your sound would use, then change its sound in the Mixer.
    To use custom sound more easily, config instruments.xml to create a custom instrument in the "Choose Instruments" menu. This link also provide info on how to make a soundfont more compatible with MuseScore 3 such as adding sound change text (eg pizz.) support, adding MIDI CC response etc.

    List of downloadable SoundFonts and SFZ

    All sounds

    Orchestral sounds

    File that contains common instrument sounds of the four families:

    Piano sounds

    SF2 Pianos
    SFZ Pianos
    • Salamander Grand Piano
      Downloads: version 2 | version 3
      Description: Yamaha C5, 48kHz, 24bit, 16 velocity layers, between 80 MB and 1.9 GB uncompressed
      License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
      Courtesy of Alexander Holm
    • Detuned Piano (244 MB uncompressed)
      License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0
    • Plucked Piano Strings
      Description: 44.1kHz, 16bit, stereo, 168 MB uncompressed
      License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0
    • The City Piano
      Description: Baldwin Baby Grand, 4 velocity layers, 696 MB uncompressed
      License: Public domain
      Courtesy of Big Cat Instruments
    • Kawai Upright Piano, release 2017-01-28
      Description: 68 samples, 44KHz, 24bit, stereo, 2 velocity layers, 58 MB uncompressed
      License: GNU General Public License version 3 or later, with a special exception
      Courtesy of Gonzalo and Roberto

    Drumset SFZs

    Unzipping downloaded soundfonts

    Since soundfonts are large, they are often zipped (compressed) into a variety of formats, including .zip, .sfArk, and .tar.gz. You need to unzip (decompress) these files before they can be used.

    • ZIP is standard compression format supported by most operating systems.

    • sfArk is a compression format designed especially for compressing SoundFont files. To decompress it, use Polyphone (cross-platform software); or this online service:

    • .tar.gz is a popular compression format for Linux. Windows users can use 7-Zip; Mac users can use The Unarchiver, or macOS' built-in Archive Utility. Note that if using 7-Zip, you will need to apply decompression twice—once for GZip and once for TAR.


    If the toolbar play panel is greyed out, or not visible, follow the instructions below to get your sound working again:

    1. Right-click on the menu bar and make sure there is a check mark next to the Playback Controls menu item. If this step does not solve your problem, go to Step 2.
    2. If the play panel disappears after changing the SoundFont, go to EditPreferences...I/O tab and click OK without making any changes. After restarting MuseScore, the play panel should reappear.

    If you are setting up a SoundFont for the first time, please use one of the recommended SoundFonts listed above.

    If playback stutters, then your computer may not be able to handle the SoundFont being used. The following advice may help:

    • Reduce the amount of RAM (memory) used by MuseScore by using a smaller SoundFont. See the list above for suggestions.
    • Increase the amount of RAM available for MuseScore by quitting all applications except MuseScore. If you still have problems and a large SoundFont is important to you, consider more RAM for your computer.

    Drum notation and Unpitched layout sound requires MIDI Bank number set to 128

    See also

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