Using the QuickTime Music Synthesizer (to access the GM1 Sound Set)

• Nov 28, 2018 - 02:13

Is there a way for MuseScore to use the QuickTime Music Synthesizer instead of its own internal synth to play scores? This would allow MIDI files (and scores) to be played using the General MIDI Sound Set sounds. I have a group of old MIDI files that were designed using a GS/GM synth, and they sound different when played through the MuseScore synth (and the GarageBand 10 synth for that matter). I'd love to be able to hear my old MIDI files the way they were designed to sound (and to see a score of the file on MuseScore). Thanks for your help!


The default soundfont in MuseScore is GM-compatible as well, so it sholdn't really sound particularly different, other than in the details of the particuar flute sample was used for the flute instrument, etc. But if for whatever reaosn you particualrly want to hear the QuickTime version of those same sounds, then you will need to figure out how to get QuickTime to response to MIDI innput. No idea if that's possible, but if so, you can then enable MIDI Output in MuseScore via Edit / Preferences / I/O, or you can setup JACK which might possibly provide an alternative if QuickTime doens't support MIDI input directly.

Failign that, you can simply export your score to a standard MIDI file via File / Export, and then have QuickTime play that file.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thank you for your reply, Marc. It's interesting; the internal synthesizer in the Mac OS that honors the GM 1 Sound Set is called the QuickTime Music Synthesizer; yet, the QuickTime app cannot natively play MIDI files (at least not my MIDI files, and at least not in macOS Mojave). There is another app that does play my old MIDI files just the way they sounded when I created them years ago, and that is MIDIPlayer X; I was just hoping to open those old MIDI files in MuseScore, see a score of the music, and play the music (and hear it the way I expected it to sound).

Anyway... after having had a few conversations like this one with others, it is becoming clear that the GM 1 Sound Set (or at least the way it was implemented back in the 1990s by companies such a Roland with their GS Sound Canvas) may be a thing of the past. Thanks anyway. :)

In reply to by wagill

That all looks correct to me except for the fret noise on track 6 - what MIDI program was it using? Fret noise is supposed to be program #121 - is that what your MIDI file uses? Can you post the MIDI file?

Other than that it all seems correct. I mean, the names int he left column are not the standard GM names, but they would seem to correspond pretty obviously to the same basic sounds as those in the MuseScore soundfont as per the column on the right.

You say GM may be a thing of the past, but on contrary - it's alive and well, and again, the MuseScore default soundfont implements that set exactly as per the spec: Eg, program #1 is grand piano, #74 is flute, etc. Go to View / Mixer and open up the list of sounds - you'll see it is exactly that given by the GM spec.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Actually, the names in the left column (from my MIDI file) are indeed the program/instrument names shown in the GM1 Sound Set specification (at ""). The names on the right column (from MuseScore's synth) do not seem to match the GM1 specification. For example, program #121 is shown in the spec as "Guitar Fret Noise", which is what my MIDI file shows; MuseScore shows "Concert Snare Drum". As another example, program #54 is "Voice Oohs", which is what my MIDI file shows; MuseScore maps that to just "Voice". Yet another example, program #26 should be Steel Guitar (GM), not Acoustic Guitar (MuseScore).

I do realize that the GM spec allows each sound source (synth) manufacturer to implement each sound as they prefer; however, it used to be that if you played a MIDI file on a Roland Sound Canvas, or on a Creative Labs Sound Blaster, they would sound fairly similarly, the main difference being how "realistic" (true to the real thing) each instrument would sound.

I have attached my MIDI file for your review.

On a side note, thank you, Marc, for indulging with me in this conversation; after not having done much with MIDI, synths, and scoring for years, having found MuseScore has lit a fire in me to start doing some more of that; I appreciated your help and you sharing your wisdom. :)

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In reply to by wagill

These are not from MuseScore's synthesizer but from the instruments list, entirely different beast. Well, not entirely, as those instruments use a MiDI channel for their sound, and that's what you see in the other column.
Except for the cases where it goes wrong here, the fret noise and maybe the steel guitar (which is an acoustic guitar, just not a classical one).

In reply to by wagill

Check the list again. You will see, for instance, that the spec doesn't list anything "called Steel Gtr.". Program number 26 is listed in the spec as "Acoustic Guitar (Steel)". It's fine if whatever you used previously called that "Steel Gtr." instead; implementations are allowed to choose their own naming. MuseScore, like most notation programs (as opposed to sequencers) makes a distinction between the name of the instrument and the name of the sound. If you go to View / Mixer, you will see that MuseScore calls the sound "Steel String Guitar", but the instrument is called simply "Acoustic Guitar", because that it how it would more often be actually notated in scores. Same with "Voice Oohs" vs "Voice". "Voice Oohs" is the name of a sound, and that is indeed what you will see MuseScore is using in View / Mixer, but no one would actually publish a score with the voice part marked "voice oohs". It's just called "Voice" from a notation perspective, so that is what MuseScore calls the instrument using that sound. Similarly, no one writes "Acoustic grand piano" in a score, they just write "Piano", etc. Instrument names are different from GM sound names. MuseScore uses the sound specified in the MIDI file, then chooses an appropriate instrument to use for that sound.

So anyhow, what you are seeing is just ordinary differences in naming of sounds and instruments from one program to another, but the actual sounds used are completely correct. Just press play and hear for yourself! Even the staff labeled "concert snare drum" (I have no idea how that happened, that much is probably a bug in the naming algorithm) uses the correct sound, as you can see if you go to View / Mixer and hear if you press "Play".

So again, this should sound virtually the same in MuseScore as with any other GM-compliant implementation. Did you try actually playing it? It sounds just as I imagine it should given the notation and the sounds originally specified. It's absolutely using the correct sounds - just listen!

Now, if you happen to want to hear it played with different samples for acoustic guitar or strings or whatever, that's fine - MuseScore supports that too. You are also welcome to simply try a different GM-compatible soundfont. Click Download in the menu above then Soundfonts for more information.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thank you, Marc, for explaining to me synthesizer sounds vs. score instruments; it makes sense, and I understand.

I did, of course, listen to my MIDI file, several times over, and it just doesn't sound "right"; and by that I mean that it doesn't quite sound the way it does when played on a Roland GS/GM synth, which is what I originally used to develop the sequence. Now, I do realized that each manufacturer is free to implement their own sounds, and that there will likely be differences between how different synths make the sound for a given instrument; however, if you play the file on, say, MIDIPlayer X, or if, when using GarageBand 10 I take the time to switch each track to use the "QuickTime Music Synthesizer" plug-in, then the song sounds just right! So, while I understand that MuseScore is free to implement each sound how it sees fit, there are some apps out there that somehow play the song the way it sounded originally, however it is that they manage to do so; maybe it's a matter of using the right sound font library.

Thank you for letting me know about the ability to download sound font libraries in MuseScore; I will do some research and see if I can find the "right" sound font library to make my file sound the way I want it to in MuseScore.

Thank you again for all the information and help.

In reply to by wagill

You're welcome! If you can describe which sounds in particular you don't feel is right for the piece and what you think would make it sound better maybe someone could suggest a soundfont that meets your specialized needs better. But as it is, clearly, the voice sounds like voice, the stirngs sound like strings, the guitar sounds like guitar, the fret noise sounds like fret noise - each sound is just as I'd expect. I guess you might also try playing with the levels in the Mixer; the fret noise is pretty obviously way too loud to me (not surprising since the notes are all set to maximum velocity - 127!)

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Yes, those guitar fret noises are way over the top when played on MuseScore; I'm surprised to see that their velocity is set at 127; it's been a long time since I look at the MIDI data (must find me a good MIDI editor and play with that again). On the other hand, I was able to see on my Roland synth while playing the file that that part (set to the fret noise) has a level of 35 in the MIDI file; not sure why MuseScore sets the level so high.

Anyway, I was able to coax GarageBand 10 into changing the software instruments for all tracks to the QuickTime Music Synthesizer plug-in (which for whatever reason is the software synth that sounds "right"), and was able to export the file as an MP3. I also made an MP3 of the song from MuseScore, just in case my installation somehow differs from yours. I have attached both files (the website would not allow me to upload an MP3 file, so I turned each file into a Zip archive, which is allowed (I also tried to upload a single zip archive but it exceeded the maximum size of 4 MB per file; go figure)).

Finally, yes, I have been doing some research on getting a SoundFont library that will sound the way I like it; still looking... (other than purchasing the Roland Sound Canvas AU library that sells for $125; but hey, that is the real thing).

In reply to by wagill

Aha! I found out that OS X’s DLS / QuickTime synth in CoreAudio uses Roland samples! That’s why my MIDI files played through an app that uses CoreAudio’s DLS synth sound just the way they sounded when I sequenced them on my Roland synth.

Is there a way (configurable or programmable) for MuseScore to use CoreAudio’ DLS synth (on a Mac) for its synthesizer?

I’m also looking into an app that uses the DLS synth and that will provide a virtual MIDI port for MuseScore to output into it.

In reply to by wagill

As mentioned previously, if whatever you want to use can either use MIDI input directly or be connected through JACK, then yes. That's totally up to that program, though.

FWIW< I thought I remember someone posting a soundfont in SF2 format that uses the Roland samples, might look for it, that's by far the simplest.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I purchased an app, DLS-MIDI-Synth, that serves as a front-end to the DLS synth in macOS (that uses Roland samples); it creates a virtual MIDI port; however, MuseScore doesn't seems to see it. I did try another app where you can select the synth to be used for playback, and it does see the virtual MIDI port created by DLS-MIDI-Synth. I guess I must use JACK MIDI to bridge the gap for MuseScore; I may try that next. Just reporting my findings...

Apple's instrument bank (which I think is the same one QuickTime synth uses) is available in DLS format in…

It is the file called "gs_instruments.dls" in the zip.

I haven't tried but it should be possible to convert dls to SF2 (see for instance…)

And once you do that you could import the SF2 file into MuseScore's Synthesizer, and it will play the MIDI file with the same sound bank as the QuickTime synthesizer.

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