Cannot specify a custom Program/Bank in the Mixer

• Dec 24, 2022 - 00:06
Reported version
S3 - Major

In MuseScore 3.6, you could change each instrument to use a custom sound (Program Change) using a drop-down list in the expandabe dialog at the top of the Mixer panel. This was very useful for pop/rock songs with parts for drum kits and electric guitars, as each song would need a slightly different sound variation depending on mood/style.

MuseScore 4.0 removes that top panel entirely, so it's not possible to select a slightly different drum, bass or guitar sound anymore even when using the MS Basic soundfont, and all custom Program/Bank changes are not imported from 3.x projects as well, so any pop/rock score which depended on this functionality would sound very different in MuseScore 4.0.

Yes, there is support for VST instruments which could be noticeably better at emulating drum/guitar/bass instruments comp, however VST instruments require more effort to setup and the number of simultaneously running intruments is quite limited.


Frequency Once Few

I second this.
When the user focus (like in most of my use cases) is music notation, an even 'basic' soundfont (e.g. a GM one) is OK and being able to quickly change the (MIDI) programme (i.e. the sound) is a very useful feature. Another example is writing for voice but using a 'piano' sound.
Finally being on Linux where VST support is somewhat more limited the capability of using and customizing soundfonts as in Musescore 3 was very useful.

Status active duplicate
Workaround No Yes

This is a known limitation currently that is being worked on for a coming update. but note, using piano for playback is already simple, just select it from Muse Sounds. Same for anything else available in Muse Sounds. And for guitar, many of the different guitar sounds can be selected bia the appropriate elements n the Text palette. You can also use VST instruments, and also the free "sforzando" VST allows selection of sounds within SoundFonts. So plenty of workarounds meanwhile.

Reported version 4.x-dev 4.0
Workaround Yes No

I need to select a specific drum kit (power) and bass guitar tone (fingered, plucked and fretless). Text palette only allows you to specify a few rhythm guitar tones like distortion, overdrive and hardmonics.

BTW there are a plenty of similar requests from other users, these are just ones posted over the last month:

Can't change instrument through mixer/panel? (M4)

MuseScore 4 Soundfonts

How do I change a specific MIDI sound?

Change instrument sound in Musescore 4

Cannot specify a custom Program/Bank in the Mixer


Yes, as already noted, this is a known limitation currently, and a design is being worked on to add some version of this feature back in the future.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Please can you give us an approximation of the fix timeline. Going into all the soundfonts I use to edit them down to a single instrument is a ton of work. If this is only a near term constraint in musescore its not worth doing. In fact if its a long term constraint I (like many others it appears) will stick with v3 for now which would be very disappointing given all the other great improvements in v4 (thank you so much for those!)

Probably we’ll all have a better sense of the timeline for new features later in the month after the core team finished their planning meetings.

But, are you sure that you’ll still to use all those old Soundfonts given support for Muse Sounds and VST? And with tools like sforzando, you can access sounds within a soundfont with more flexibility than before (not available on Linux unfortunately).

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, thanks for the response. Here are some reasons why soundfonts are needed:
• The Muse Sounds instruments sound great especially for orchestral works, but the list of instruments is limited. I write jazz, latin and pop songs that need a range of instruments like electric guitars, acoustic guitars, bass guitars, and electric pianos just for starters. I have found many great soundfonts for most of them that I would like to continue using. VST plugins are great but they can only do so much.
• Even for the instruments in Muse Sounds, I often use different sfz's in different songs. It all depends on the sound I want e.g. warmer sax vs. rawer sax. I’ve attached my default soundfont list for reference – if you’re wondering why I have 3 general soundfonts its because for each song I might use the alto sax from one, the tenor from another, the jazz guitar from another and so on.
• I couldn’t begin any of my songs without access to notation for a standard drumkit, let alone one with other percussive instruments e.g. for latin pieces. Consequently any song I upgrade from MS 3 doesn’t play correctly due to different sound mappings for the percussion. (If I'm missing something about how MS 4 works, my apologies)
• Most of the sfz’s I use contain multiple instruments. E.g. the “Piano Steinways” sfz on my list has 12 Steinway pianos with varying characteristics. I’ve used 5 of these in the last couple years. I’d end up with hundreds of soundfonts if I had to strip out all the instruments I use into sfz’s with just one instrument, and I don’t think that's practical. It would also require a huge amount of effort and skill to recreate those Steinway piano sounds etc.

I’m sure you already have a feature list for this functionality but if I put on my product manager hat, I’d like to see these:

Must have:
- Ability to apply any instrument in a soundfont
- Ability to apply any drumkit

Really nice to have:
- Ability to string search for instruments in a soundfont (e.g. sax) – instruments don’t have standardized names such as “guitar – xxx” so finding the ones you want in a long list is currently painful

Nice to have:
- Add soundfonts to the bottom of the list in the synthesizer by default (not the top) – if you leave the one you added at the top, all the mixer mappings get screwed up and it takes forever to move the added soundfont to the bottom of the list to correct that
- Ability to rename soundfonts either just in musescore or in the OS itself
- Ability to designate a default sound mapping (from either Muse Sounds or sfz’s) for each instrument so you don’t have to redo it for every piece.
- Ability to edit drumkits

Thinking out of the box a bit, maybe turn things on its head? Shouldn’t there be just 1 place to access all the virtual instruments. So instead of a being presented with a menu of MS Basic and Muse Sounds and Soundfonts etc., how about starting with the 2nd menu in MS 4 (brass, keys etc.) from which I would be able to access all the appropriate virtual instruments regardless of their source. I could add a virtual instrument to the list by “linking” it to a soundfont, for example, and hide instruments (e.g. from Muse Sounds) I have no interest in using. That way I’d always have a concise list of instrument choices I regularly use at my fingertips. This seems a bit more user-centric rather than us users being a slave to the technology. :)

Thanks again for such a great product.

Attachment Size
soundfonts.PNG 7.22 KB

Yes, indeed, it is knonwn that there are some special use cases for which selecting sounds within a soundfont is still useful despite Muse Sounds and VST support, and this is being worked on. I just wanted to make sure you knew just how many options do already exist, because many people use soudnfonts simply out of habit and don't realize there are now much better alternatives for most cases. It's still not clear to me if you've looked into sforzando, which should solve almost all the issues you just mentioned.

The whole business of the order of soundfonts mattering is luckily gone in MuseScore 4 - there is no more worry about which soundfont is listed where. That simply is no longer an issue. You don't need to load soundfonts at all any more; MuseScore simply presents them all to use and allows you to use whichever you want for whichever instrument you want.

I am not understanding what you are saying about percussion mapping - that hasn't changed a bit. MuseScore 4 follows the General MIDI standard for sound, and uses the same standard for assignment of noteheads and lines/spaces as MuseScore 3, no changes at all. So if you are having some sort of issue there, best to start a new thread I the Support forum to ask for help.

I am also not understand your proposed new structure for selecting instruments, but feel free to start a new discussion in the Feature Request forum and describe it in more detail. That would be the more appropriate place to discuss these ideas, flesh them out and refine them, and aif a consensus develops among a large cross-section of users that it provides some sort of advantage over the current design, it can be formally proposed over on GitHub.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc, at your urging I dedicated time today to better understand VST's. It took the better part of 3 hours to:
* get sforzando working and then understand what it does/how it works (there doesn't appear to be much in the way of user guides that I could see).
* installing sfizz with similar effort/understanding challenges.
* learning how to apply these tools in MS 4. I got it mostly working but then I ran into problems with MS 4 constantly crashing after making several switches between Muse Sounds, VSTs and soundfonts, so I gave up. The crashes were random so I don't think I have a test case to file a bug against. Also, it could just be user error but I couldn't make changes I made (e.g. changing the volume of an instrument) in the VSTs take effect in MS 4.

I get the theory of what you're saying and I can see how VSTs could work out better at some point, but the reality in my experience falls short of that being feasible. I'm a techie and it was not a no-brainer to make it all work. I have pity for non-technical users trying to do this.

Re percussion mapping: What happened is that when I upgraded my score, a Muse Sounds percussion instrument was assigned to my drum part by default, so all that plays in the part is that instrument. It took a while to figure out this was the problem. Also there does not appear to be a way to change it to an MS 4 drumset as the MS Basic option in the mixer menu is now over-written by the Muse Sounds instrument. I opened a forum thread on this. I am aware there are drumsets in MS 4, but I couldn't see how to use them in this case. I realize there are workarounds like creating a new part etc.

I created a feature request for my proposed design change as you suggested. I attached a rough UI of the concept to it if you would like to check it out. Hopefully that explains it better.