MuseScore 4.0's Sound and playback support:
Jump to a curated list of free soundfonts downloadable, feel free to add to the list.
All instruments added onto a score is capable of creating audio playback without further setup. Audio playback is generated by the Synthesizer using virtual instrument techology. 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.
You can also add and use custom virtual instrument files, Musescore 3 supports two types:
Playback is generated in real-time, Musescore cannot save rendered audio into a score file. When Musescore cannot locate the required virtual instrument, it falls back to use the default soundfont. If you share your score and need the receivers to listen to the exact same score audio inside Musescore on their computer, you need to provide the virtual instrument along with your score. Alternative is to share the exported audio file.
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. Sound data is compressed in SF3 but not SF2, see Glossary. You can speed up Musescore program startup by using less soundfonts, esp. SF3 files, as Musescore need time to process them on startup.
One soundfont is capable of embedding (packaging) all data required for multiple instrument sound generation inside MuseScore. You cannot edit the embedded data inside soundfonts in Musescore, try the free Polyphone editor. Polyphone converts sf2/sf3 into sfz and vice versa, but with some definition data loss.
MuseScore 3 comes with the free default MuseScore_General.sf3. It is located in a system directory and should not be modified. This directory and its default SoundFont file is:
xxxbeing the MuseScore version)
a simplified illustration
GM SoundFonts are sf2/sf3 files that conform to GM (General MIDI) program / preset numbering standard that Musescore use. If you remove the build-in soundfont from the Fluid tab in Synthesizer and setup the new one as 1st ordered item , staffs will create correct playback without further tweaking and picking in the Mixer.
SND SoundFonts are sf2/sf3 files that contains sounds that response to MIDI CC 2 signals created by Musescore 3's SND mechanisms, see Glossary: SND.
If you're having problem, move / copy the file manually. MuseScore's SoundFonts directory can be viewed or changed in MuseScore's Preferences, the default location is:
- macOS and Linux:
To uninstall a virtual instrument, delete it from the soundfont 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. Only if Musescore cannot locate any data, a staff playback falls back to use default soundfont's "Grand Piano" sound.
SFZ is a free virtual instrument format, see https://sfzformat.com . The SFZ definition files can be edited with any plain text editor, you cannot edit them inside Musescore. The free Polyphone editor converts sf2/sf3 into sfz and vice versa, but with some definition data loss. SFZ definition files do not embed (package) audio data.
Musescore 3 understand and uses one SFZ for one articulation sound of one instrument only.
SFZ does not embed audio data, audio files (WAV or FLAC format) are located in folder(s) next to SFZ:
If the sound you need is shipped with Musescore, use it by adding instruments onto a score instead, their sounds are already configured properly.
To add a custom sound, choose and add an instrument that use a staff style similar to one your sound would use, then change its sound in the Mixer.
To use custom sound more easily, config instruments.xml to create a custom instrument in the "Choose Instruments" menu. This link also provide 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.
File that contains common instrument sounds of the four families:
Since soundfonts are large, they are often zipped (compressed) into a variety of formats, including .zip, .sfArk, and .tar.gz. You need to unzip (decompress) these files before they can be used.
ZIP is standard compression format supported by most operating systems.
sfArk is a compression format designed especially for compressing SoundFont files. To decompress it, use Polyphone (cross-platform software); or this online service: https://cloudconvert.com/sfark-to-sf2
.tar.gz is a popular compression format for Linux. Windows users can use 7-Zip; Mac users can use The Unarchiver, or macOS' built-in Archive Utility. Note that if using 7-Zip, you will need to apply decompression twice—once for GZip and once for TAR.
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: