Faster way to test how a list of instruments sound adding each instrument?

• May 3, 2021 - 11:26

I can double-click the name of the instrument on the sheet, click "Change Instrument", change it to "All instruments", and then expand the tree, double-click an instrument, click OK, then add some notes to hear the sound, and repeat the whole process again for the next instrument, but there seem to be tens of instruments.

Is there a faster and more convenient way to hear the sample sounds of tens of selected instruments from the available instrument list?


In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Make a short piece - say 5-10 bars.
You might want to make it to demonstrate a range of notes, suitable for different instruments.
Select some of the bars.
Put them into repeat mode.
Open the Mixer.
Click on an instrument sound in the mixer, and get the drop down menu to show.
Then if you type the first letter or two of an instrument that should appear in the mixer, and the sound will switch within a few seconds, or by the next repeat.

Note the sounds that you particularly want to use or keep within a soundfont.

You can also combine this with different sounds from different soundfonts if you have the Synthesiser open at the same time - to switch between soundfonts - though strictly you don't need to do that as the Mixer should list all the sounds from all the soundfonts loaded.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

How is that faster? Doesn't necessarily identify the instruments in the soundfonts.

If you're lucky it might identify what instruments "should" sound like, which isn't guaranteed with the soundfonts. Some soundfont sounds don't sound like the instruments they're supposed to, and not all the soundfonts are good anyway.

I thought the OP wanted to test out the actual sounds of soundfonts - selecting some sounds out of a lot of possibilities.

In reply to by dave2020X

It's faster in that you don't need need to enter a bunch of random notes, and you can also build yourself a nice little playlist, and learn what the instruments actually sound like, not just what the soundfont you happen to be using today happens to sound like. If the goal is just to audition the soundfont, that's one thing, but I got the impression it was to learn what the instruments themselves sound like.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

If people want to hear what instruments really sound like - well that's difficult. For regular instruments - just go to concerts, or go out and about, to jazz clubs etc. and listen, listen, listen. For exotic instruments - hard - typically need air fares and hotels and stays in out of the way places. For marimbula, for example, one might have to go to Cuba and find a bar tender who happens to be a player!

Most of us end up relying on recordings or perhaps just trying out the soundfonts, which is what I was suggesting. I wasn't necessarily recommending a bunch of random notes either - that would be up to the person doing the evaluations.

I couldn't see anything in the original query to indicate a desire to hear real instruments.

Of course for my example "marimbula" - there is this - which as you suggest is quite easy to find quickly.

In reply to by dave2020X

To me, the lack of the word "soundfont" in the original post suggested they weren't interested in hearing specific differences between soundfonts, but much more generally wondering what the instruments sound like.

In any case, my advice stands, if the goal is to understand what the instruments actually sound like, listen to real music - live is great, sure, but recordings are convenient. If on the other hand the goal is to understand how the bassoon in soundfont A is different than the bassoon in soundfont B, then probably best to have a sample score with a bunch of common instruments already added with notes already entered, then you can simply swap the soundfonts and listen to the score.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I agree for people who are trying to write or work with music for "real" instruments - and I don't want to get into a discussion here about "real" instruments - as many people do consider synthesisers and electronic kit to be real instruments. Shal we say conventional instruments for the moment.

OTOH some people are trying to explore soundfonts and to experiment with what sounds are available in each soundfont, and for them it does really make sense to try the method I outlined, which is:

  1. Install soundfonts of interest.
  2. Make or load a piece which should demonstrate the instrument sounds.
  3. Select a fragment and put MS into repeat mode.
  4. Load up the Mixer view.
  5. Change the instruments at will to identify sounds in the soundfont which might be of interest or useful.
  6. Keep listening until bored, or you have found out enough, or possible change the piece or selection at step 2.

Future versions of MS will hopefully make identification of sounds in each soundfont easier - or at least make it clear which soundfont each virtual instrument is loaded from.

In reply to by dave2020X

How about this:
1. Music created to be realized by software. Notation or DAW.
2. Music created to be realized live. This could include the above and electronic instruments.

The main difference being that #2 would deal more with musicians playing things like tubas and violins.

I have spent more time than it is worth to me drudging through different fonts in MuseScore. It is an extremely taxing process. It is impractical to leave 2 or three fonts active all the time. And depending on the format, they can really slow the program down.

It is indeed a great thing that we can hear what different instruments sound like in a particular passage. This is more what I think the OP was talking about. Would a certain passage sound better on oboe or flute? And what about the flute from SSO or VPO? And, yes, wouldn't it be nice to be able to do that more easily? This is why I have extracted a few sounds from various fonts so I don't have to have the entire font, that I won't ever use, installed.

In reply to by bobjp

I think there are performance limitations with MS at the present - the time taken loading up a soundfont, and then on top of that trying to select instruments .... I can't believe it isn't possible to improve the performance of this program.

Of course if one has tried various instruments from several soundfonts and know which ones are needed for a particular work it should be possible to make up a dedicated soundfont - for example using Polyphone.

I feel sure that with modern computers there really shouldn't be any problem with having several complete soundfonts loaded, even if only a few VIs from each set is actually used in any piece. Modern computers should be at least 10 times faster (even 100 times) with proportionately more storage than equivalent ones a decade ago. Moore's law would indicate a factor of at least 64.

Having faster computers shouldn't be used as an excuse for inefficiently designed software, but conversely there is little point in trying to constrain software to hardware standards which are now outdated.

In reply to by bobjp

Depends how fast you want to go. For audio work most new computers are good enough providing one doesn't overdo things.

For music with a lot of tracks it is possible to overload modest computers - such as mine (dated 2019) - but it takes effort. Older computers might have more of a problem. I have several from the last decade or so, and on tasks like video editing those obviously fall short.

Selecting even a hundred or so instruments from backing store should take hardly any time on most computers. Getting the required data into main memory to enable playback could take a bit longer, and actually running the playback might cause glitches. My point is that there shouldn't be a significant overhead for instruments/channels which aren't actually active. Machines pre 2012 might have clearly slower CPUs, though another limitation for sound is the I/O channels. Main memory can be a constraint, but again most modern computers should be OK. If there isn't enough memory to hold the active data and machines have slow busses, then things can grind to a halt with memory swaps.

In reply to by dave2020X

My experience is that as soon as I load an SFZ font, things can slow down. MuseScore takes longer to start, and instruments take longer to load into a score. Once there playback is fine. I try not to use any sfz because they don't sound good enough to be worth the wait.

In reply to by bobjp

Gets really annoying with e.g. the MDL extension.
But this is the case with SF3 too, only those get loaded (actually: uncompressed) in background, so the delay is only in when you can start playback, not when you can start looking at the scoreand editing it.
That's why I use SF2 only ;-)

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