SoundFonts and SFZ files

    Audio playback for MuseScore is provided by virtual (or software) instruments, which can be either of two formats:

    • SoundFont (file extension sf2/sf3). A single file containing one or more virtual instruments.
    • SFZ (file extension sfz). A collection of audio and definition files containing one or more virtual instruments.

    SF2 SoundFonts

    A SoundFont is a special type of file (extension sf2 or, if compressed, sf3) containing sound samples of one or more musical instruments. MuseScore 2 comes with the soundfont "FluidR3Mono_GM.sf3" already installed. This is a General MIDI (GM) sample library of 128+ musical instruments and drum sets suitable for a variety of musical styles—classical, jazz, pop etc. (previous versions of MuseScore (0.9.6 – 1.3), used a different soundfont, "TimGM6mb.sf2").

    Once your score is set up to play correctly through FluidR3, it should be able to trigger similar instruments from any other GM sound source. This makes it possible to share scores even with non-MuseScore users, by exporting them as MusicXML or MIDI files (see Export).

    Many different soundfonts are available on the Internet, both free and commercial. Larger SoundFonts often sound better but may be too large to run on your computer. If you find MuseScore runs slowly after installing a large SoundFont, or your computer can't keep up during playback, then look for a smaller SoundFont.

    Once a SoundFont has been installed, you can use it for playback in MuseScore (and control other aspects of the sound output) with the Synthesizer. To display the Synthesizer, go to ViewSynthesizer.

    Install a SoundFont

    After finding and decompressing a SoundFont (see →below), double-click to open it. In most cases, the SoundFont file type will already be associated with MuseScore, and MuseScore will start and a dialog will appear asking if you want to install the SoundFont. Occasionally an application other than MuseScore will be associated with the SoundFont file type; if this is the case, you will need to right-click or control-click on the file, so as to display a menu from which you can choose to open the file in MuseScore. In either case, when the dialog appears asking if you want to install the SoundFont, click "Yes" to place a copy of the SoundFont file in MuseScore's SoundFonts directory. This directory can be viewed or changed in MuseScore's Preferences, but the default location is:

    • Windows: %HOMEPATH%\Documents\MuseScore2\Soundfonts

    • macOS and Linux: ~/Documents/MuseScore2/Soundfonts

    In contrast to user-added SoundFonts, the initial default SoundFont installed with MuseScore is located in a system directory, meant only for that purpose, which should not be modified. This directory and its default SoundFont file is:

    • Windows (32-bit): %ProgramFiles%\MuseScore 2\sound\FluidR3Mono_GM.sf3
    • Windows (64-bit): %ProgramFiles(x86)%\MuseScore 2\sound\FluidR3Mono_GM.sf3

    • macOS: /Applications/MuseScore 2.app/Contents/Resources/sound/FluidR3Mono_GM.sf3

    • Linux (Ubuntu): /usr/share/mscore-xxx/sounds/FluidR3Mono_GM.sf3 (with xxx being the MuseScore version)

    Uninstall

    To uninstall a SoundFont, simply open the folder where its file is installed and delete it.

    SFZ

    An SFZ consists of a bunch of files and directories, an SFZ file and a bunch of actual sound files in WAV or FLAC format, with the SFZ file being a text file that basically describes what sound file is located where and to be used for what instrument and pitch range.

    Note: For full support of SFZ, MuseScore 2.1 or later is need, prior versions had only limited support, namely for Salamander Grand Piano

    Install an SFZ

    After finding an SFZ (see →below), you'd need to manually extract all the files that belong to the SZF (the SFZ file itself and all the subdirectories and the actual sound files within) into the directory listed above.

    Uninstall

    To uninstall an SFZ, simply open the folder where its files are installed (see above) and delete them all.

    Synthesizer

    The Synthesizer is MuseScore's central control panel for sound output. Once a SoundFont has been installed, it needs to be loaded into the Synthesizer in order for MuseScore to use it for playback. To make a different SoundFont the default, load it in the Synthesizer and click Set as Default.

    To display the Synthesizer, go to ViewSynthesizer. For more details, see Synthesizer.

    Synthesizer

    List of downloadable soundfiles

    GM SoundFonts

    The following sound libraries conform to the General MIDI (GM2) standard. This specification gives you a sound set of 128 virtual instruments, plus percussion kits.

    Orchestral soundfiles

    • Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra (503 MB uncompressed)
      Downloads: SoundFont | SFZ format
      License: Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0

    Piano soundfiles

    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, 58MiB uncompressed
      License: GNU General Public License version 3 or later, with a special exception
      Courtesy of Gonzalo and Roberto

    Unzipping downloaded soundfiles

    Since soundfiles 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. Use the special sfArk software to decompress it, or use this online service: https://cloudconvert.com/sfark-to-sf2

    • .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.

    Troubleshooting

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

    • Do a right-click on the menu bar and make sure there is a check mark next to the Transport Tools menu item. You can add or remove the check mark by clicking on the corresponding menu item. If this step does not solve your problem, continue below.
    • 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 is not able to handle the SoundFont being used. Two solutions:

    1. Reduce the amount of RAM (memory) used by MuseScore by using a smaller SoundFont. See list above for suggestions.
    2. 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.

    See also

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