In search of the one Grand Piano Soundfont to rule them all *PLEASE HELP*

• Feb 16, 2016 - 11:49

Hey guys, this is kind of embarrassing for me, but im a first-time poster and I have had MuseScore for a few months now. I'm REALLY dead set on making my own compositions, but for this one original work I am trying to do, I hit a snag....

I want to create a piano piece. I have this BEAUTIFUL melody in my head, beautiful chords, everything! It's already about a verse or so completed score-wise, but there'd just one problem...i'm not satisfied with the quality of the Piano. it doesn't sound realistic enough with any SF2 I have tried! My composition isn't that complex--at least, no more complex than say, "Good Company" from Oliver & Company (From which i'd say my song draws at least some inspiration.) However, no soundfont I have come across gives the piano a full, rich stereo sound like what I desire. I need something that sounds REAL. Not a keyboard, not a yamaha. A real, honest to God old timey grand piano, so I can fully bring out the tenderness of the song. Each one I try is either too muffled, meaning that even with the volume up it sounds like it's in the next room, or like a yamaha keyboard with an overriding sense of synthesizer to it. I'm looking for a nice, high quality sound that allows you to HEAR the elegance of the piano, not just imitate a similar sound.

I've tried SF2's from all around, and still cannot find the sound i'm looking this too much to ask of museScore? If so, what program should I consider? It is imperative to me that I bring this song to life, and while I understand we're dealinf with synthetic music here, I know there are ways to achieve what i'm after.

ANY help would be GREATLY appreciated. :)


In reply to by Matt Edwards2

You have to be on the "Zerberus" tab, not the "Fluid" tab, of the Synthesizer dialog. And apparently the soundfont can't have spaces in the names of any of the files within it. But Zerberus definitely works . If you continue to have problems, please say exactly at which step something goes wrong: what you are clicking, what you expect to see happen, what happens instead.

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

How are you asking MuseScore to install the soundfont if ypu don't have MuseScore open? That doesn't make sense. There are two ways of installing a soundfont. Either open MuseScore and go to View / Synthesizer and press Add then select it, or else double click the soundfont from Windows Explorer or Finder or Linux equivalent, which is asking you *OS* to install it, and if you see an error message there, it is because your OS doesn't know how to do it because file associations are not set up properly.

So please detail - step by step - exactly what you are doing, what you expect to see happen, and what happens instead, so we can see at which step you are getting confused.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I try to install .SFZ files the way I usually install SF2 files.

When I install SF2 files, I do the following:

- Download the soundfont

- Find it in the folder I download it in. I already have musescore listed as the default program to open SF2 and SFZ files with.

- Open file

-Musescore will open and i will receive a notification saying, "Do you want to install "Insert soundfont name here"?

- click yes.

- "Soundfont has been successfully installed!"

- Open Synthesizer

- Add it from the "Add" menue under the Fluid tab, where sf2 fonts go

- Select sound in the mixer (f10 key)

- it plays!

However, with SFZ files, musescore behaves like this:

- When i click on my newly downloaded font, Muse score will not recognize the file. instead of asking me if i wish to install it, it will claim SFZ is an unsupported format.

- I have been able to get ONE sfz to play by manually placing it in the folder where the soundfonts are, then, in the synthesizer, make sure it's selected

- However, most others do not have sound using this, the only working method. Even when the sample files do not have spaces (but underscores. the same as the one that does work)

What am i doing wrong? Why was only one SFZ the exception? Why can musescore not simply read the filetype and install it, as it does for SF2? Where should i put the sample folders, because im sure i did for the others just what i did for the working one.

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

It may well be true that the file association is not set up for SFZ so the "new" method of opening them directly from your file browser might not work. But the "usual" way of adding them directly form the Synthesizer window should work.

SFZ files that contains spaces in the name of their samples are known not to work, and support for SFZ files is limited to basically just enough to get Salamander to work. But Salamander definitiely *does* work, so you should be able to load it from the Zerberus tab of the Synthesizer window.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

One other point.

SFZ files should be unpacked into the SFZ folder in your MuseScore default directory together with the associated sample folder. If you do not also place the samples there the SFZ will not work.

If you prefer you can add the folder where you keep your SFZ files to the list in the Soundfonts section in Edit Preferences, which, IMO is a slightly better way of doing it.

Have you tried the Salamander Grand Piano btw? That is known to work with MuseScore's Zerberus SFZ player, and is a considerable improvement on the default soundfont.

In reply to by ChurchOrganist

What folder is the default directory for SFZ?

I have created a folder marked SFZ which i have set as my default soundfont folder location, and i have the samples and sfz files layed out together in spaces....what am I doing wrong? do Underscores count? It wouldn't make sense if so considering the one I have that works has em

Here's a link to one that will not work for me at the moment (Meaning no sound is heard):

I removed all the spaces in all of the samples, and even converted them to .wav, the same format as the working sfz.

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

What *specifically* goes wrong when you try to install this as I described? That is, you go to View / Synthesizer, you click the Zerberus tab, you hit the Add button - do you not see the soundfont listed? Are you selecting the soundfont but nothing happens? Do you get an error message? If all appears to go well and the soundfont says it is laoded, what happens if you go to View / Mixer and check the sound selected for the instrument? It's possible you will have to select the sound from the drop down if the soundfont is not General MIDI compatible - which is to say, MuseScore won't know how to find the desired sound within the soundfont if you don't tell it.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I put the soundfont....AND the sample folder which contains sample files with no spaces...into the SFZ folder.

I open musescore and the score i want to work on

I open the synthesizer

Go to Zerberus

click add

select soundfont

It's added.

go to mixer (f10)

select the sound

play score

no sound.

I feel like i'm going crazy! What on earth is the problem? :(

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

Dear Matt Edwards2.

I've had that problem with Piano in 162 as well - you have to use high velocity values for that thing or you can't hear it at all, I find.

There's another one that's lovely if you're in 64-bit Windows - Piano Amore. You'll have to Google it cos they keep changing its hiding place but it's legal and I find it rich and warm in its demos-sadly I can't use it cos I'm still in XP SP3 for my disability software, can't afford to upgrade it all. But the demos are lovely.

If you've got $20 spare, check out Pianissimo too, that's another lovely one I use all the time. If you get clicking on the higher notes (usually left-hand!) that's because of too-accurate volume changes. You have to park the volume change just BEFORE the note, not right ON the start of the note, then the clicking tends not to happen (or if it does, it's nowhere near as noticeable.) But for twenty bucks you cannot complain about it, it's gorgeous.

As far as your tune goes, get it written on any piano before you forget it. You can use MIDI to swap the pianos at anytime, but get it down on the harddrive. The amount of tunes I've lost by thinking 'Oh, I'll remember that later....!'

Yours respectfully


Starting a new sub thread at the bottom here for clarity :)

Regarding the Ivy Piano-in-162 sfz.......

I have just been doing some testing with that.

The first basic problem is that the Folder at the top level of the Samples folders has spaces in the name.

If you change the spaces in this Folder name to underlines, then you can get the soundfont to load into Zerberus by hacking the SFZ file in a text editor, and changing all the sample definitions from beginning Piano in 162 to beginning Piano_in_162_

This is a huge soundfont, however, over 2Gb for each SFZ in compressed format, and whilst Zerberus attempts to load it it coughs after around 1GB and gives up with a "Cannot load file" error, which suggests that it imposes a memory limit.

In fact the only SFZ player (of which I have several) I have managed to get it to load and play properly in is Sonar's Dimension LE synth. Even Plogue's free, standalone version of the Aria SFZ player wouldn't play the samples without distortion (I suspect it was trying to play the samples in DFD mode, which wouldn't work well with FLAC compressed samples).

Now I have 8 GB of RAM and Task Manager was reporting 79% of RAM used after Dimension loaded the Ivy piano, so, for practical purposes this SFZ is not suitable for anything but single paino use provided you have more than the usually supplied 4GB RAM.

BTW it is a nice piano but not that hot IMO, and the resource requirements make me think it is not worth the bother.

So I should look elsewhere Matt.

Have you tried this one??

PS and then there are these........…

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

But as I explained - that is easily overcome.

Just use file rename to change the spaces to _

Then open the SFZ in Notepad or another text editor and use Find & Replace to change the sample definitions.

If you use Notepad++ I can even let you have a definition file which will highlight the opcodes so it is easier to which samples path names need changing.

I checked Timbres of Heaven (version 3.00 final) and the Bright Piano indeed has a strange problem in Musescore 2.0.2 - the muffled sound appears one you augment pitch velocity over 63. Below that, it's a very good piano soundfont. So the muffled appears for the "mp" and stronger dynamics (if one uses their default velocities in Musescore)

¿Which version of TofH are you using?

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

It is not as simple as SF2 as the whole directory structure of the SFZ soundfont needs to be where MuseScore can find it, and each SFZ soundfont has a different number of samples associated with it, and in a varying complexity of directory structure; so installing an SFZ soundfont is better done by a human, who will know how many files need to be transferred.

Did no-one teach you how to copy & paste files?

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

MuseScore contains only very limited support for the SFZ format. As far as I know, it was added specifically so that we could use Salamander. But many / most SFZ simply won't work correctly. Someday it might be nice to have improved SFZ format, but it's hardly a *need* - the majority of users are perfectly happy with the SF2 option. No one is forcing you to use the SFZ option, but Salamander *does* work.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Actually, the majority of SFZ soundfonts I have tried do work in Zerberus, but you have to be prepared to hack the file a little in order for Zerberus to understand it.

The usual problem is spaces in filenames, although really big soundfonts will refuse to load because of memory limtations.

As far as I can tell Zerberus simply ignores an opcode it doesn't understand, although I haven't tested this exhaustively.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella


If you're wanting to apply a load of LFO, Filter and Envelope Generator parameters to the sound then you will be disappointed with Zerberus.

Or if you are wanting to do round robin sampling to provide realism, then again you will find it lacking.

But if you are simply wanting to play samples of real instruments and map them to various keys then Zerberus is perfectly adequate.

The only slight diappointment is that Zerberus doesn't properly follow the SFZ loop mode spec, which should default to continuous, whereas Zerberus appears to default to one shot.

In reply to by ChurchOrganist

For future reference, here is the bug report about spaces in sample names #21891: SFZ with space in sample paths cannot be loaded.
About the "SFZ loop mode spec", it would be very helpful to have a small SFZ soundfont (even single sample, single instrument) + a MSCZ and clear instructions to reproduce the problem in the issue tracker. I guess it's more a feature request, meaning Zerberus just play the sample once currently and nothing is done to loop it, but still, with a small example, it would be easier to implement. It could be a perfect job for a student willing to prove his skills for GSoC.

So guys, for some clarity, I got the Salamander piano to work (not my first choice so far)

Now, I compared that in notepad++ to this:

As far as i can tell they are the same, yet the above will not sound when loaded (I even took out the spaces in the SFZ file)

So can someone get this font to work, or is it not compatible like the one I tried earlier? The creator assured me it works for MuseScore but I don't get how this and Salamander are configured any different....

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

OK the problem is that Zerberus doesn't understand the "default_path" opcode, so consequently it can't find the samples :)

You need to make a copy of the SFZ file, copy the default_path value after the "=" in each sample definition, remove the the section and then save it.

But I wouldn't bother - I've just checked the basic piano out in Rapture LE, and it is nothing special, and if my new Behringer Studio 5 monitors can't make it sound good, it's not worth the effort.

Incidentally I had to try 4 sfz players before I got it to work - it seems only Rapture LE can cope with the default_path opcode and the Ogg compression.

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

Yes it does sound like that.

Which is fine for Coldplay, but for Adele or Michael Bubeley there just isn't the expression there in the soundfont.

It only has one set of samples, and therefore only one velocity layer - velocity timbre is controlled by tracking the filter with velocity.

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

If you want a "dry" sound - one that resembles how an instrument might sound if played in a padded room instead of how it sounds in the audience of a recital hall - then you need to turn off/down the reverb in the effects section of the synthesizer window. Although I wouldn't be surprised if most piano soundfonts don't have some amount of reverb already present, because I think most people would want the sound of the piano as it sounds to the audience, not how it might sound in a padded practice room.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I was going to say exactly the same thing Marc :)

But I have had a busy day, and you beat me to it :)

If I were you Matt, I would concentrate on writing the music.

I would then save as a MIDI file and load it into DAW software where you can use VST instruments and effects to make the piano sound exactly as you want it.

In reply to by Matt Edwards2

Have a look at this Wikipedia article - it may help you :)

It is perfectly possible to save your strings and piano out to an MP3 directly from MuseScore, but be aware that the result will only be good enough for a demo.

You will need to make sure that the instruments are balanced in the mixer.

Then just make sure you click the "Save to score" button on the synthesiser page before you export the audio from the file menu.

Be aware, though that Zerberus is currently not exporting audio on Windows, although that is fixed for the next stable release.

I am not sure if that's the info you're looking for but "Presonus Studio One Prime" is a free DAW
that manages Soundfont instruments (within it's "Presence" integrated player).

OK I know this threads getting a little old but if you are looking for an expressive, clean sounding piano you should give the Steinway from University of Iowa a go. I have modified it to give it extra expression and it is now my favourite piano. I have Ivory Grand (Korg module) and other software pianos plus an expensive Korg keyboard but the Steinway still beats them all in my opinion.
It available free from my site.
Its 370 mb in size and includes a few different presets.
Hope you enjoy.

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.