SF2 and SFZ soundfont limitations for deep notes

• May 26, 2017 - 09:12

I'm a hobby rock / reggae bass player trying to write scores with drums, bass and sometimes melody instruments. As my musical & composition & score writing abilities are quite limited I need the acoustic feedback to know what I'm doing and also to play along.

With the new & shiny MS 2.1 I decided to take a new try with soundfonts to get more realistic sounds for (E-)Bass. But after downloading & trying to install several sound fonts I've reached a certain level of frustration. It took me a while to find out that lots of soundfonts don't play deep notes (typically below C3 ... E3), even those targeted for bass. I guess there are technological limitations of the fonts or the synthesizer. Still, a warning message when assigning or playing would be really helpful.

I've attached a simple score with drums and bass giving me playback problems with most sf2 and sfz fonts.

Before starting to nag in detail: I really like MuseScore. The fact that even I can produce scores with drums, bass, melody instrument is proof enought for the excellent usability of MS. A big thank you for your work during the last years!

Still, I think the usability of MuseScore with respect to SF2 and SFZ sound fonts could be enhanced, probably without too much effort:

  • There is no way to distinguish which instrument is contained in which soundfont file in the mixer. If you have loaded several soundfont files with lots of instruments with unspecific names, selection of instruments is really hard
  • A separator between Fluid and Zerberus instruments in the mixer menu would be nice

The support of Zerberus & SFZ fonts seems especially bad to me, I would say at the verge of unusability for the average user. At least for me, it took quite some time & several trial & error runs until I found out:

  • You cannot install SFZ fonts with a double-click (at least an error message is thrown)
  • You have to manually copy SFZ-file and samples to the "secret" directory /sounds with admin rights
  • There is no option to select a different directory (and SFZ sample files can be in the GB range ...) or at least to find out the required install directory from the GUI.
  • There are no warnings if anything goes wrong
  • There is no way to upload *.sfz files to this forum

I installed the SFZ sound font from http://www.turtlesounds.net/Ibanez_roadstarII_series_fingered.zip but notes below E3 are muted. Is this a limitation of the sound font or of the synthesizer? Can I see the range limitation from the SFZ control file? It consists of sections like the snippet below for all twelve notes.

// Region Name: NOTE E_ 

lovel=111 hivel=127

lovel=86 hivel=110

lovel=71 hivel=85

lovel=0 hivel=70
Attachment Size
Refuse.mscz 20.31 KB


This sfz is poorly defined.

for example:
Key=52 (E4 on Keyboard ) should be Key=28 (E2 on Keyboard)

Here is corrected sfz file (Change the extension to sfz after download and put into the folder where the original sfz file is located.)

All notes are playable. No limitations.
Also sample names is poorly defined. But there's nothing to do for it.

for Soundfont folder:
You do not necessarily have to put Soundfonts in the Programs folder.

A "Soundfonts" folder is allocated for you.
in win7: C:/Users/-your_profile_name-/Documents/MuseScore2/

Anytime you can set additional soundfont folders.
Clik "Preferences" on "Edit" Menu.
on "General" tab, see near bottom-left.
Click on pencil icon and add desired folders (one by one).

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Thanks a lot for sending me a whole sfz file! This file works great, from comparing both versions I also learned a lot about SFZ-files and patched another one!

I know the "Soundfonts" folder in my User directory and use it for SF2 soundfonts. For some reason this didn't work with SFZ fonts and I found help on the internet telling me to put the fonts in my programs folder (which worked). As SFZ fonts now are found in the Soundfont order as well, I guess I made some mistake when installing the SFZ fonts - sorry for the confusion.

I would suggest you check out the Handbook section on soundfonts to learn more about how to use them. You should *not* be installing SFZ into any "secret" directory, nor do you need admin rights. Simply copy them to your own Soundfonts folder, right next to your Scores folder, or whatever folder you have listed in your soundfonts path in Edit / Preferences. So you 8can* choose your own install folder.

Anyhow, SFZ is far from unusable, they actually work quite well for the most part. there is, however, a known glitch with certain instruments including the "bass synth" in some soundfonts - see #197131: Regression: Bass synthesizer and bass guitar create popping sounds. Not sure if what you are experiencing is related or not.

Reorganization of the Mixer is definitely something that has been requested several times, and there has been some work done on that for incorporation into a future release, and I think several discussions of how it could be improved further still.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Sorry for the harsh words, I obviously made a mistake during my first unsuccessful installation of the SFZ fonts in the Soundfonts directory (see my reply to the previous post). After half a day of unlucky trial and error (more of the latter) I was a little on the grumpy side.

I have the problem with popping sound sometimes, but my main problem was that soundfonts were not found (my fault) and that those that were found were muted (some problem with the fonts with min/max keys). So, your book unfortunately couldn't help me there (it did help a lot in getting a grip on the concepts behind MuseScore).

The SFZ standard seems to be quite loosely defined which probably doesn't make things easier ...

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.