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Soundfont help

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2004 3:23 am
by Geoff the Medio
Seeing as I have actually taken a few music courses, that will hopefully add up to a minor in a year or so, I thought might make an attempt at some musical contributions to this project.

I have a minor problem however, in that my new (month old) laptop doesn't have a Creative soundcard, and I'm unable to find any way to load soundfonts other than programs that require Creative hardware. A half hour of googling was fruitless, alas... and there's no way I'm going to try writing anything with cheapo laptop built-in default soundfonts... *barf*

Anyway, my question is: Does anyone know of a good free soundfont loader (WinXP)? Preferably something that just fills up the wavetable with my choice of soundfonts, and then lets other midi programs work as normal, but with (hopefully) better sounds. I don't want to have to load soundfonts into a special program and only play midis back from in that program, or worry about loading the midis into notation software I'm using...


(I might add that the problem is "minor" because I do have a Soundblaster-equipped desktop over on the desk there, but I'd like to be able to work on the laptop as well, if possible)

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2004 7:41 pm
by vishnou00
You could try Yamaha XG. It's not soundfont, but it can be run in pure software mode.

IIRC, SoundFont must have a hardware wavetable, and most laptop don't (the "cheapo laptop built-in default soundfonts" are very small (<1 MB) software wavetables, usually coming with the OS).

There may be alternatives for playing software digital midi. A while ago, there was something called gigasampler. Somebody also told me about superquartet.

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2004 7:53 pm
by drek
I know there's a Fruityloops generator plugin that wraps soundfonts, but of course it only plugs into Flstudio/fruityloops.

There's probably a Vsti or Dxi plugin that plays soundfonts as well, but I can't think of any off hand.

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2004 8:02 pm
by drek
via google found this:

It has a demo version.

And this:

Seems like it has a demo version too.

(edit: there are hundreds of generators: fruity, vsti, dxi, buzz machines, trackers. So long as you aren't loading soundfonts into a blaster, might be a good time to explore a bit. ModPlug is a decent free tracker, Flstudio has a demo version.)

Posted: Fri Jun 25, 2004 12:24 am
by Zanzibar
What would be really spiffy-cool and junk is a program that gave you a blank staff, allowed you to set the tempo, then add notes onto the staff as needed for multiple instruments. The output of course, would be a MIDI sound file. I used to have a program like this for my old comodore 64. Too bad I can't find one for windows anywhere!!

Posted: Sun Jun 27, 2004 7:11 pm
by StratCaster
try a cakewalk product... Home Studio or Music Creator.

You can write in graphic mode(piano roll) and/or on a staff. Its pretty easy to switch instruments as well. And it allows you to use Soundfonts...

Soundfont help

Posted: Wed Jun 30, 2004 2:42 am
by guiguibaah
Hey Geoff, you might want to consider this:

It should work on any sound card, irrespective if it's .sf2 compatable or not.

You might also want to consider these sites: - An old bank of soundfonts - Bank of soundfonts - demo soundfonts

As for using Gigastudio, I'd recommend against it unless your card is GSIF compatible. That, and if you are using win XP, you should have at least 768mb of ram for streaming of samples.

Good luck!

Posted: Wed Jun 30, 2004 3:15 am
by Geoff the Medio
Zanzibar: There are lots of notation programs available. The best for making publishable scores, in my opinion, is Sibelius. Other options include Finale, Encore and many others. Cheaper options include Noteworthy. There are also lots of programs focused more towards making midi files specifically (and less with how your score looks or prints). Cakewalk seems quite popular, but there are various others.

guiguibaah: I think Synthfont plays midis, or saves the to .wav format. What I want to do is use my current notation software with soundfonts, which it doesn't seem to do on its own. The other sites you gave mostly seem to be soundfont download sites, but I already have a bunch of soundfonts I like.

StratCaster: I want to use my current notation program, not cakewalk... If I had no other choice, I probably would use cakewalk, but I do have the other computer that has a soundblaster card, so if there's no easy and free way to use soundfonts with other programs on this computer (no soundblaster), then I'll just use the other one.

drek: I did spend a bit of time with google, but didn't want to spend a lot of time downloading and installing a bunch of programs without getting reccomendations first...

Posted: Wed Jun 30, 2004 4:19 am
by vishnou00
I didn't test extensively (as I have no midi editing software installed) but SynthFont has an option to output to a audio device, and it also has an option to select an "External MIDI editor" so I guess it would do the trick (enabling you to use your MIDI editor of choice with SoundFonts through an ordinary laptop's audio device).

I don't think it would be suitable to "play" midi in real-time, as the shortest buffer is 0.5 sec. (the norm for software wavetables).

Posted: Wed Jun 30, 2004 6:20 am
by Geoff the Medio
hmm... that sounds promising... maybe I'll check that out again.

What's the significant of the buffer length? What do you mean by "suitable to "play" midi in real-time" ?

Suitable to play

Posted: Wed Jun 30, 2004 9:23 pm
by guiguibaah
The delay ratio is the time a note is played after a key is struck. Hardware synths have very low (if any) delay, while software synths can range from good to really horrible. This also makes timing DSP effects especially tricky. If you do a lot of 'playing by ear' as I do, you'll find that when you compose on a slow software synth, you need to quantize your staffs so everything doesn't sound jumbled.

What helps? Faster computes have lower latency, as well as more memory (for memory intensive software synths.) Also if your card/drivers have ASIO support, delay time is significantly reduced.

Hope this helps!

Posted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 8:18 am
by Geoff the Medio
With the delay, is everything fine once the midi playback has started, but it just takes a half second to actually get going? I can deal with that...
Hope this helps!
It did. thanks.


Posted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 1:24 pm
by guiguibaah
Yes of course - if what you are only unsing is the same software synth, then it doesn't matter if the delay is 0.01 seconds or 3 seconds - it'll still all be synchronized in midi playback.

Now if you had a software synth with a hardware one, you'd have to set the hardware synth to play back at X seconds the software synth takes to play. I know cakewalk has a 'time' column which will let you set it for each track, so that's pretty easy as well.

If your laptop is a pretty decent one (IE: something over a pentium 1) then you probably shouldn't get any noticeable delay to begin with.

Good luck!

Posted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 8:48 pm
by StratCaster
don't confuse MIDI playback latency with controller latency.

I think what guiguibaah was talking about was latency when entering notes with a keyboard or controller? I do think that would be the biggest problem. if there's a lag between the time you hit the key and the time you hear it, it could screw you up if you are playing to other tracks, or even a click...

I guess what I am saying is that yes, the computer will record the attacks when you depress the key, but you will hear them milliseconds after your attack which could screw up your performance. Meaning you will have more clean up to do in a note editor.

I would think if you recorded one track at a time, without playing others you'd be okay...but I could be wrong. Then you could bounce each one at a time to audio...but I'm not sure of your setup...

Re: Delay

Posted: Fri Jul 02, 2004 12:30 am
by vishnou00
guiguibaah wrote:If your laptop is a pretty decent one (IE: something over a pentium 1) then you probably shouldn't get any noticeable delay to begin with.
Maybe you would have to tweak the code and recompile SynthFont, but in the binaries, the minimum output buffer is 0.5 seconds. But all the sounds pass through that buffer, so every notes will be synchronised.

It only matters if you use an input device such as a keyboard: there will be a (constant) delay between the moment you press the key and the moment you hear the sound. I shouldn't be a problem since many people compose by putting the notes on a notation software. I doubt you will use a MIDI keyboard with a laptop!

If your computer isn't powerful enough (cpu, ram, IO), the sound will kind of stutter and the midi playback may desync... had some weird effects with yamaha XG on a 486/33, where all the "notes" (midi messages) of a bar where played on the last beat.