MuseScore 4.0's Sound and playback support:
Jump to a curated list of free files downloadable, feel free to add to the list.
All pre-defined instruments added onto a score is capable of creating audio playback without further setup. MuseScore creates audio playback by using the Synthesizer and the virtual instrument technology. MuseScore 3 comes with the free MuseScore_General.sf3 which contains the virtual instrument and human voice sounds, drum/percussion kits sounds, and sound effects needed.
To use custom sounds, install a custom virtual instrument file, enable it inside Musescore, then configure a score to use a sound inside the custom file. The two sample-based MIDI synthesizing virtual instrument technologies supported by Musescore 3 are SoundFont (.sf2/.sf3) and SFZ (.sfz).
Creation of audio playback starts with processing of score notation into MIDI data. MIDI exchange utilized includes sound preset/patch/program, MIDI velocity, MIDI CC etc. To edit sound preset usage, see Mixer chapter. To choose whether Musescore use MIDI velocity or MIDI CC or both, and the MIDI CC number used (CC2 by default), see Synthesizer chapter. These data are used together with SF2/SF3/SFZ data.
SF2/SF3/SFZ data consists of sound samples in (PCM (WAV), OGG, or FLAC format / container) and algorithms that handle MIDI data provided by Musescore (sound volume response / attenuation modulator). MuseScore does not offer functionality to edit any data inside SF2/SF3/SFZ, including the MIDI handling algorithm. How MIDI data such as MIDI velocity affect sound volume is determined by the file but not Musescore, it is solely engineered by the creator of SF2/SF3/SFZ file. The free Polyphone editor can be used to edit them, it can also convert SF2/SF3 into SFZ and vice versa, but with some definition data loss. The SFZ definition files can be edited with any plain text editor.
Install a custom file by copying it into the custom virtual instrument directory, which is configurable in Edit → Preferences: General tab, see Preferences chapter, it is by default:
Then enable the custom file by setting up Synthesizer window. Scores refer to virtual instrument files by their ordering in the list in the Synthesizer window. Scores do not create correct playback, unless the ordering is identical to the ordering used last time. To save and load the ordering setting, see Synthesizer chapter.
Musescore creates playback audio in real-time, it does not use or save cache. A score using a custom virtual instrument will not create identical playback on another machine unless the custom virtual instrument is also installed on that machine. To export audio as an independent file, see Export chapter.
SoundFonts (.sf2/.sf3) are virtual instrument files. The SF2 format is invented by a now defunt company, but a copy of the format specification can be viewed online, see Soundfont, MIDI velocity and instruments.xml: Online Resources. SF3 offers sound data compression, see Glossary. One soundfont file is capable of embedding (packaging) all data required for multiple Musescore Instrument sound generation, see the Instruments, staff setup and templates and Mixer chapters.
Musescore need time to process soundfonts at startup, especially SF3 files. Removing unused files from the list in the Synthesizer can speed up program startup.
If you're having problem, move / copy the file manually to the custom virtual instrument directory.
To disable a virtual instrument, remove the file from the list inside Synthesizer.
To uninstall a virtual instrument, remove the file from the directory. This may change the virtual instrument ordering in Synthesizer, which affects all scores previously created with this Musescore program because the order of soundfonts affects playback. Score may play an incorrect sound even if it does not use the virtual instrument you just uninstalled. When Musescore cannot locate particular data, a staff's playback falls back to use the first sound of the first file, that is usually the "Grand Piano" sound of the pre-installed SF3.
a simplified illustration
SFZ is a free virtual instrument format not related to sf2/sf3, see https://sfzformat.com . SFZ files do not embed (package) audio sample. Musescore 3 understand and uses each SFZ for one articulation sound of one instrument only, see the Mixer chapter.
SFZ files do not embed audio data. Audio files (WAV or FLAC format) are usually located in folder(s) next to SFZ file(s):
If the sound needed is shipped with Musescore, use it by adding instruments onto a score instead, their sounds are already configured properly.
Advanced users could create custom instruments, see developers' handbook instruments.xml chpater. That chapter has info on how to make a soundfont more compatible with MuseScore 3 such as adding sound change text (eg pizz.) support, adding MIDI CC response etc.
The list below are different from other sf2/sf3/sfz online depositories, in that these virtual instruments contains at least one Musescore 3 compatible attenuation modulator. That is, they are engineered to at least responds to one volume-affecting MIDI data exchange practice used by Musescore 3, such as MIDI velocity. Community handbook editors updating this list should be mindful of the distribution aspect of the SoundFonts or SFZ's license (wikipedia)
File that contains common instrument sounds of the four families:
If the toolbar play panel is greyed out, or not visible, follow the instructions below to get your sound working again:
If you are setting up a SoundFont for the first time, please use one of the recommended SoundFonts listed above.
If playback stutters, then your computer may not be able to handle the SoundFont being used. The following advice may help:
MuseScore 3 comes with the free MuseScore_General.sf3. It is located in the directory shown below. This directory should not be used for installing custom files, the custom virtual instrument directory should be used instead.
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