[solved] Can you recommend a good-playback classical MuseSore score?

• Nov 4, 2022 - 13:32

Can some of the MuseScore gurus here, please, recommend a good-playback classical MuseScore score for a symphonic orchestra? I've already listened to some, but the problem is many of them (especially those that are designated as professional scores) are probably written for the use in a real symphonic orchestra, so the authors didn't really bother to set up a perfect playback in the score. My case, however, is directly opposite - I am still in the initial stage of just playing with MuseScore and my "creations", of course, are not going to be played by a real orchestra, but that's exactly what makes the playback so important to me. It's been quite a struggle for me trying to bring several instruments to sound equally and yet distinctively. More often than not some instruments will either start "sticking out" too much or, on the contrary, get muffled by others. So, it would be good to take a look at some scores where such a problem was (or was almost) solved.


Probably the very best examples you will find in current or past versions of MuseScore will pale in comparison to even the most simplistic scores in MuseScore 4 using Muse Sounds. Plus, everything about how one goes about customizing playback is changing - whatever you learn from the hacks used in the past won't be relevant for more than a few more weeks and will need to be unlearned and then relearned.

So I wouldn't be looking atyears-old examples or even months-old examples for inspiration - I'd be looking at things posted in the past few days since the beta of MuseScore 4. But even then, it's only beta, and plenty of bugs, and not a ton of scores posted yet, so it's a bit premature. In fact, the ability to customize velocity for notes was added only yesterday, so basically, no scores on musescore more than a day old will show any customization of dynamics other than just overall mixer settings.

Basically, you're asking at exactly the wrong time to really get much value out of this.

Everything Marc said being the case, I'm also not sure I understand the problem. Which issues are you having that can't be solved by setting a different dynamic or mixer level? If it's too muffled, make it louder, and vice versa.

If you're struggling to get different instruments to sound "equal yet distinctive," you might be making their parts overlap too much or even choosing the wrong instruments. Those are artistic choices you mainly just have to learn with practice.

In reply to by Rose Egbert

This is certainly true. But, there are also some things one might normally want to do above and beyond this.

For one thing, there's no denying that the default soundfonts in MuseScore 3 don't really give as much distinctiveness to the instruments as you'd want (they all sound somewhat like their true selves crossed with a kazoo to me), and really, other soundfonts only improve on this slightly. Also the timing and volume of each is so precise and consistent within a passage that a melody doesn't "speak" the way it does in person. So people often go out of their way to introduce variation from note to note to give a more "human" feel. Even so, you're stuck with things like, staccato notes merely being shorter than normal notes but not otherwise being different in attack, similar limitations for slurs etc. That's next to impossible to solve using soundfonts, but can be done less painfully using VST instruments in a DAW.

These are all things that are much better right out of the box when using Muse Sounds. Better samples up front - including different samples for different articulations - plus some intelligence to how timing and volume are handled based on the position of notes within phrases etc. Still plenty of issues to be worked out, but the initial results I hear are extremely promising.

Here is an example I did before there was any ability to fiddle with note velocity. So it's really just all defaults other than a few mixer level tweaks here and there. It's the result of a MusicXML import from Finale, and some of the dynamic markings didn't make it through correctly and I didn't bother to fix them all. And you can hear any number of weird Muse-Sounds-induced inconsistencies here and there (horn inexplicable loud in a few spots), that will presumably be sorted out before release. And yet, I doubt it would be possible to get MuseScore 3 to sound this good overall, even spending hours customizing things:


In reply to by Marc Sabatella

-- Gosh! This one sounds so clean! In those parts where the score is close to tutti (pages like 9, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25) I was expecting to hear the usual overlapping. But I didn't hear it! In many parts the score sounds very close to a sound of vinyl record or a video record of classical music on YouTube. The coda in strings on the very last page (page 26) is worth a separate mention. To me the strings there sounded absolutely real! I instinctively rushed to download the score, but by MuseScore told me that it can't read it yet because "it was saved using newer version of MuseScore". So I guess all we need these days is patience.

In reply to by innerthought

Thanks! But, no reason to wait - just download a nightly build and start testing for yourself. The more that people help test, the more that bugs can be discovered, reported, and hopefully fixed before release.

If you haven't seen the announcement with info, see the Announcements forum, but also, instead of the beta - which is already getting old - download a nightly build, from the Download / Software menu top left (scroll to bottom of that page to access the development builds).

In reply to by Rose Egbert

@Rose Egbert:
"Which issues are you having that can't be solved by setting a different dynamic or mixer level? If it's too muffled, make it louder, and vice versa... Those are artistic choices you mainly just have to learn with practice"

-- I think in my case it's a combination of those two things, that is, I am still learning how to make three and more instruments to sound on par with each other by setting up proper dynamics for each one of them (and even for some separate notes) and I am also just starting to learn the art of choosing right instruments.

In reply to by innerthought

That is understandable for sure. But then, I would question your original statement "many of them (especially those that are designated as professional scores) are probably written for the use in a real symphonic orchestra, so the authors didn't really bother to set up a perfect playback in the score". If the question is just how to choose instruments and how use dynamics to achieve good balance, that doesn't require any special tweaking of the score. Picking good instruments and using good dynamics is the same whether writing for real instruments or synthesized ones. There might be some additional tweaking here and there in special cases, sure, but the basics are the basics, so start with those.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I have downloaded the latest nightly build and played the "Dusk" in it. For some reason, it didn't sound as natural as the one you've posted here on this thread. And one thing was especially disturbing - a kind of scratched-vinyl sound almost at every beat. Is that normal for a nightly-build playback or is it perhaps a problem with my computer?

In reply to by innerthought

Probably you will need to increase your buffer size in Edit / Preferences / I/O. Also, you didn't say if you've installed Muse Sounds - you have to do that separately (see the beta announcement for the links and instructions) But assuming you have Muse Sounds installed, and have a buffer size that works for your system, it should sound identical to what you hear online.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

"Probably you will need to increase your buffer size in Edit / Preferences / I/O"

-- I've increased it to 4096 and most of the "scratchy" sounds disappeared! The ones that are left don't bother me much at this stage. It may have to do with my sound card.

"Also, you didn't say if you've installed Muse Sounds ... it should sound identical to what you hear online."

-- I've downloaded "Brass", "Percussions", "Woods" and "Strings" packs. To say that I was mesmerized by what I heard then when I tried to play back the "Dusk" with these new sounds is to say nothing. It was just unbelievable! At first I literally couldn't believe my ears and had to check if any other music files were being played on my computer. Each instrument sounds so realistic! I couldn't have imagined that the jump from MuseScore 3 to MuseScore 4 could be so big and so successful! The "Dusk" now really sounds like on this thread and even better! Only the harp seems to be a bit louder than others. Having played the "Dusk" for quite a few times, I became kind of addicted to it. The two "storms" - the one that develops on pages 14th through 19th of the score and the short one in the very end - are very impressive. Very nice instrumentation. The main melodic phrase that is present in the beginning and that is repeated partially by the harp later in the score is catchy and beautiful. Another big surprise to me was that there was no panning done yet! Panning was my last resort in MuseScore 3 to try to prevent instruments from "eating each other up", especially in tutti parts, and here this trick was not even applied! Just amazing!

I spent the whole day celebrating by playing back in MuseScore 4 various scores that I used to play before in MuseScore 3 and by doing so discovering these new soundfonts. Then I played my stubs and I noticed that MuseScore 4 "ruined" them to a certain degree but I am not at all upset about it. I am more than ready to spend time now to readjust them all now for MuseScore 4. The main thing is that the sound quality now is so good - no kazoo-sounding instruments, no hissing piccolos anymore!

In reply to by innerthought

Fantastic, glad you're enjoying it! FWIW, they've been improving Muse Sounds steadily since the initial beta, and every so often I update the audio for "Dusk" on the website. Just did that again yesterday as there were some nice improvements in the winds over the last few days.

I'm actually pretty lazy when it comes to tweaking for audio. The only thing I did in this score is adjust a few levels in the mixer slightly. Originally I had done more adjustment, but as they've made improvements, I've found I need less and less adjustment. I think the harp at one point accidentally got reverted to the default MS Basic soundfount and got too loud as a result, it might be you need to set it back to Muse Sounds. [ EDIT: oh, it looks like you didn't download the harp, so you'd need to do that first ]

Anyhow, glad you're seeing the point here - if you have good sounds to work with, and good dynamics in your score, you really shouldn't need to spend much time tweaking things beyond that.

In reply to by innerthought

Panning helps spread the sound out before you. Like you are sitting before a real orchestra that is on stage. I use a European setup where first violins are on the left and second violins are on the right. It produces a full clear sound. Don't think of it as a trick or a coverup.
Yes, every time you put one of your pieces into a new software, you will need to make adjustments.

I also write orchestra music for playback only. And that is totally unlike writing for real players. And the process differs depending on what software you are using. Using a score by Beethoven isn't going to help you write for software playback.
BTW, don't forget to pan your instruments. Very important.
One simple rule might be if something doesn't sound right to you, then don't do that thing. You kind of are at the mercy of the software. No matter what the software is.
It is totally possible to write great sounding music with MU3. But that doesn't mean it will automatically sound even better in MU4.
I started a piece in MU3. Because I couldn't get the punch I wanted, I finished it in Sibelius. That version in MU4 sounds almost as good.
Another piece that I wrote in MU3 doesn't work in MU4 without major rewrite. Sure, Muse Sounds are better in general. But some of the decisions playback makes are not what I want, and can't be overridden. An example of this is I opened a piano piece that is going along at mf. At one point, I put p marking because I wanted a sudden volume change. But play back starts to get quieter a few bars before the p, and ruins the effect.
I am in the process of writing a new piece in MU4. It's slow going because of how different playback is.
Those of us who write for playback only, have an interesting job. Good luck.

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