Marimba sound very elusive

• Jul 28, 2022 - 13:51

It is VERY frustrating when the inspiration for music comes, and in 2-3 minutes you have your score ready, and start entering notes. Oh, you want a vibraphone and a marimba? Sorry doofus, chase the elusive marimba, you won't get it working.

I use either the default .SF2 soundfont, or the Aegean Symphonic Orchestra .SF2 soundfont. Aegean has no marimba. A vibraphone instrument/sound is easy to achieve. The marimba (single staff or grand staff) just won't sound like a marimba, no matter what soundfonts are present. The marimba only sounds like a piano.

Copy some marimba .SF2 files into the 'Soundfonts' directory? Select an individual marimba.sf2 file for assignment to EITHER single staff or grand staff. A marimba sound comes alive. But the vibraphone now goes silent, and assigning any instrument (e.g., clarinet, organ) to the vibraphone stave remains silent.

3 minutes to start, 70 minutes to try and get two mallet percussion instruments to work at the same time. WHY??

Attachment Size
Etude_for_Vibraphone_and_Marimba.mscz 15.53 KB


Not quite sure what the issue is here. It seems OK in my system with the MuseScore_General.sf3 sounfont.

I can change soundfonts in the Synthesiser - Fluid panel - and indeed then the instruments become different or won't play properly - but it works with the MS General SF3. Maybe you want better sounds - that's another matter, but to me these sound OK.

I'm guessing you don't have the default soundfont - or some other GM-compatible soundfont - at the top of the list. If you do, marimba is marimba, right out of the box, no fiddling required. if you are using a non-GM soudnfont at the top of your list - not normally recommended - you need to select the desired marimba sound via the Mixer. Then it should work perfectly.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

(+ Dave2020x) So I searched my Ubuntu Linux 18.04 filesystem for MuseScore* and found the one mentioned in this thread. Went to View->Synthesizer, it was not listed, only the Aegean 3rd party. Chose 'Add', saw MuseScore*, added it, moved it to the top of list, and "made it default". Went to both instruments to set their sounds matching the staves, and alright, both work and sound OK.

Thank you both. If & when I want to use the Aegean 3rd party .SF2 soundfont, will I need to move it to the top of the list and make it default? Or just choose it in Mixer (or Measure, Staff/Part properties)?


In reply to by Are Jayem

Totally depends on your goals. If you intend to use the default soundfont for most instruments, definitely keep it on the top of the list. But if you intend to use some other soundfont for most instruments - not just for this score, but every single score you ever play - then you can certainly put something else on top. Just know the whatever soundfont is on top, that is what is used by default for every instrument of every score. Soundfonts below that can be used by individual instruments in individual scores if you go to View / Mixer and select which specific sound from which specific soundfont you want to use instead of whatever the default is. You would need to do that for each instrument of each score that you don't want to use the top/default soundfont.

Only soundfonts compatible with the General MIDI standard will work correctly out of the box as default soundfont. So if you choose to place a non-GM soundfont at the top of your list, you will indeed need to change every instrument of every score. Standards exist for a reason - to save you the trouble of customizing everything that way.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

For right now, I was glad to fix my particular vibraphone & marimba piece. Without knowing enough, I haven't yet (for a large score) assigned some instruments to soundfont 'A' and other instruments to soundfont 'B'.

Not to muddy up the water, but with the default MuseScore soundfont (which brought the marimba back to life), in a different composition, I've specified cajon. That doesn't appear in the default MuseScore .SF3 so for now I've picked the closest sound called 'ORCHESTRA', giving varied pitch 'tom' drums. I have yet to try different drum note choices in the percussion stave.

Rolling Stones: "You can't always get what you want"... :)

In reply to by Are Jayem

INdeed, the General MIDi standard doesn't have a cajon, so GM soundfonts won't include one. And oddly enough, MuseScore list of instruments doesn't include one either. So you'll have to add another instrument - whichever comes closer to the sound, probably a tom as you say - then change the name.

In reply to by Are Jayem

Aegean Symphonic Orchestra v4.x is fully compatible with SND and GM. It contains only the General-Midi instruments required in Classical music (and other unique instrument variations). But it doesn't include other instruments that are not necessary for Classical music

Anyway, the purpose of ASO is not to replace the default soundfont. It is an alternative (and a gift) for those who write Classical music with Musescore software.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I actually thought about doing this a few times.
The Xioad-Bank sound font was suitable for adding missing elements (as well as a license) and could be added with very little effort. I have intended this several times. But each time I gave up. Because I cannot support additional instruments (patches) other than my own creation.

Right now, it's useful for some users who are "only interested in classical music". All attenuation and mixing settings were already done by listening to many classical music scores written in Musescore (yes, I worked on mixing more than anything else). This soundfont can play any classical music written in Musescore, out of the box, without ever touching the mixer and any other settings. That's why it's an alternative. It can even be used to listen to a piece from a different orchestra/with a different timbre. Or it may not be used at all.

But you're actually right: a soundfont with all 0-127 programs and all 6 drumsets would be more useful for everyone. And so it could be used more widely.
It's good that it wasn't. Thus, I avoided getting into/seeing the very unnecessary "Which soundfont is better" arguments.

Maybe when Musescore-4 comes out and Musescore-Sampler is also available, I'll complete this soundfont for general use. And so it will still be a non-competitive alternative.

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

I wonder how feasible it will be to use "Muse Sounds" (seems to be the name-of-the-month) within a soundfont, though?

Anyhow, I'm not trying to denigrate your soundfont - just helping the OP understand why they are having trouble. But FWIW, seems if Aegean had a marimba, it would have worked as easily as it was supposed to, and certainly marimba should count as a "classical" instrument, so that at least could be worth adding.

But for the OP, to be clear: if Aegean is at the top of your list, then you won't get marimba sounds by default apparently, but as long as MuseScore General or some other soundfont containing marimba is there in the list somewhere, you can certainly get your marimba to play, just by going to View / Mixer, selecting your marimba track (by clicking the appropriate channel strip at the bottom), then using the dropdown at the top to set the sound to marimba. Type the first few letters of "marimba" to jump there quickly, or just keep scrolling until you find it. if multiple soundfonts provide marimbas, you can select whichever you want; they will be listed in the same order as your soundfonts list.

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