MuseScore uses virtual instruments to create audio for playback. SoundFont files (.sf2, .sf3) are one of the supported formats . An sf2 or sf3 file contains all the audio data for one or more virtual instruments.
MuseScore comes packaged with its own native SoundFont, MS Basic, which contains most of the instrument sounds you need for score playback.
You can also add and use custom SoundFonts—many are available free online. See also the list in SoundFonts and SFZ files (MS3 handbook).
Install a SoundFont
Once you’ve downloaded a SoundFont to your computer, there are two ways to install a SoundFont in MuseScore 4:
- Drag and drop the SoundFont file into MuseScore 4.
- Place the SoundFont file in the MS4 user directory named "SoundFonts".
Drag and drop installation
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File directory installation
By default, MuseScore looks for SoundFonts at the location [MuseScore4 Installation Folder]\SoundFonts. So, by OS, the default locations are as follows:
- Windows: C:\Users*username*\Documents\MuseScore4\SoundFonts.
- Linux: ~/Documents/MuseScore4/SoundFonts.
You can also specify in which folder(s) on your computer MuseScore looks to find SoundFonts. If a SoundFont is installed in a recognized folder/directory, it will automatically be available in MuseScore.
First, specify the SoundFont directory in MuseScore 4:
- Open Preferences (Mac: MuseScore > Preferences or shortcut Cmd+;. Windows: Edit > Preferences)
- Select Folders (under General)
- Click the SoundFonts folder icon
- Click Add directory in the dialog that appears
- Choose and Open the folder location where you want MuseScore to look for SoundFont files
- Repeat steps 1-5 to add further directories (optional)
- Click OK to finish. The specified directory (or directories) will appear in the SoundFonts text field.
- Click OK in the Preferences dialog to confirm your selection.
Once a SoundFont is installed, all you’ll need to do is choose the SoundFont you want for each instrument in your score. To do this:
- Open the Mixer
- Hover over the plugin slot next to Sound
- Click the dropdown arrow that appears
- Hover over SoundFonts
- Select the SoundFont you wish to assign to that particular instrument
Repeat this process for each instrument. In most cases, MuseScore will automatically map instruments to their correct sounds in the specified SoundFont, as long as that SoundFont is using the correct MIDI instrument definitions.
Uninstall a SoundFont
To uninstall a SoundFont, simply open the folder where its file is installed and delete it.
Selecting sounds with a SoundFont
When you select a SoundFont for a given instrument, MuseScore uses the General MIDI standard to automatically select the corresponding sound from within the SoundFont. However, this may not always be sufficient. The SoundFont in question might not be GM-compatible, or there might be multiple variants of a sound you wish to choose between, like fingered versus picked for electric bass.
When you select a SoundFont with only a single sound or only a single drum kit, MuseScore will use that. But for SoundFonts that represent collections of sounds, manual selection of individual sounds within a given SoundFont is currently not supported (as of Musescore 4.0). Therefore, if you need to select a sound for an instrument other than the one specified by General MIDI, you will need to employ a workaround:
You can use this special version of MS Basic that provides all of the individual sounds and drum kits as separate soundfont files.
A note on the Zerberus player and SFZs
Users of MuseScore 3.6 and earlier may be accustomed to using the Zerberus player, which supports the .sfz file format. In building a new system that now supports VST instruments, changes were required that necessitated the removal of the Zerberus player, as well as the Synthesizer found in previous versions of MuseScore. Consequently, some functionality has been lost in this process, including the ability to map specific instrument sounds like pizzicato and tremolo to specific MIDI channels. Our highest priority in future releases of MuseScore 4 is to again support this functionality for VST, SoundFont and the Muse Sounds libraries. Users who rely extensively on mapping .sfz sounds to specific performance directions are advised to continue using earlier versions of MuseScore until we re-enable this capability in MuseScore 4. It is worth mentioning that the new systems we are planning will be much more flexible, easy to use and powerful than those found in MuseScore 3.
For those who wish to still use SFZ sounds in MuseScore 4, good alternatives would be the open source VST samplers, Sfizz (Windows, Mac & Linux) or Sforzando (Windows & Mac), both of which support SFZ playback.
- SoundFonts and SFZ files (MS3 handbook)
Alternatives to soundfonts: