Working with soundfonts, free soundfonts, and commercial soundfonts resource listing.
Soundfonts for musical instruments are analogous to typefonts for letters. Just like you can use a Courier or Arial typefont for different styles of letters, you can use different "soundfonts" for different styles of instruments. The different soundfont instruments will still play the same notes, but various qualities of the sound will be different. Even though the qualities of instruments in various soundfonts may differ widely, they are all a leap in quality over the "hard card" sounds on virtually all computer sound cards. The Soundblaster(tm) sound card line is capable of loading soundfonts and using them for playback of MIDI files.
Below are many resources for soundfonts:
- General information about soundfonts and the utilities you can use with them.
- Free soundfont sources
- Commercial soundfont sources
- Information for manipulating soundfonts (ie, "tweaking" the sounds)
What's the difference between a General MIDI (GM) soundfont and an non-GM soundfont? "General MIDI" means that the soundfont has all the sounds of the generally accepted MIDI standard group of instruments, which includes 127 different instruments. A non-GM soundfont is one that is perhaps a collection of specific instruments (eg, a collection of brass instruments, or various acoustic guitars) or of a specialized sound (such as a "pad" or mixture of instruments), and so does not include the entire set of GM instrument sounds.
What is sfArk? It's a lossless audio compression format optimized for SoundFont files. sfArk is free for non-commercial use. Programs to decompress sfArk files currently exist for Windows, MacOS X and Linux platforms. See Melody Machine for downloading, and more information. sfArk almost invariably outperforms typical compression programs such as WinZip and WinRAR - See their comparison.
What is SFPack? It's another compression format that is still used by some sites, but is no longer fully supported. You can still download the software from some websites so that you can unpack the soundfonts.
What is Vienna Soundfont Studio? It is a program that allows you to preview as well as "tweak" existing soundfonts, and also create your own soundfonts from audio file clips. Available for free download directly from Creative. You must have a soundfont-capable sound card to use Vienna Soundfont Studio.
What is Soundfont Librarian?It is a program that allows you to arrange the instruments of a soundfont into the order or "patch numbers" that you want. It will also allow you to create a "custom" soundfont, by copying instruments from other soundfonts into your "custom" font. By using the program this way, you can take various instrument sounds that you like from various fonts, and put them all together into one single "custom master" font that you might use most often. This can save you time when you set up your files, as well as memory when you load these fonts into your sound card or soundfont application. Available for download directly from Creative.
What do SF2, SBK, and SFZ mean? These are types of soundfont formats. SF2 and SBK are the most common, and are recognized by Vienna Soundfont Studio and Soundfont Librarian for manipulating soundfonts. SFZ format files require the SFZ player to use them.
|Hammer Sound||A great free resource made available by Thomas Hammer, with contributions from many enthusiasts. Free sounds, as well as other soundfont information. Follow the navigation menu on the left hand side.|
|SF2Midi||Huge site, with free soundfonts, MIDI files, and software (such as Vienna SF Studio, Soundfont Librarian, SFPack, and SFArk). You must register your email address and a user name, but it's free. Use the horizontal menu, or the left-hand search tool to find files of interest.|
|Soundfonts.it||Another large site, with lots of GM banks as well as individual instrument fonts. Click on the category you want to see all the available fonts.|
|SoundFonts at Personal Copy||A small collection of well-done fonts for a variety of instruments, especially various keyboards (including a great harpsichord), by various contributors.|
|Free Classical Sound Samples||This is an archive of a soundfont source that no longer is active. Not all the listed fonts are still available, but the available ones are quite good.|
|Home Musician||Some individual as well as General MIDI (GM) soundfonts made by members are available for free. Do not click the "soundfonts" link at the top of the page, but scroll to the bottom of the page to access the free fonts.|
|Lars Ahlzen's AWE32 Page||A small collection of small instrument groups.|
|RKhive||A collection of GM banks , instrumental, and vocal fonts. Use the navigation buttons at the left of the page to go to the various categories of fonts available.|
|Piano Sounds||A large (25 Mb) Steinway Grand SF2 font. You can also buy a larger (ie, higher quality) version for only $5 by clicking the link on this page.|
|MidiSoft||A small collection of various instruments.|
|Lysator FTP site||A large collection of older soundfonts. No descriptions, but if you're looking for a specific font that you know the name of, it may be here.|
|The Jazz Page||A nice collection of instruments used to play Jazz. Click the "Download" button in the menu at the top, and then the "Soundfont" link in the right-hand panel. Lots of nice MIDIs to use those fonts with, as well!|
|Matonaxe Soundfonts||A small collection of bass fonts, drums fonts, and a grand piano font.|
|Allanah's Soundfont Collection||A large collection, in two groups (compressed and uncompressed), listed alphabetically on the right hand side as you scroll down a bit. These were collected from other locations on the Internet, some of them now long gone. Contains the Jeux Organ soundfont, prized by those who have composed organ music with this font specifically in mind.|
|Johannes.fr||Interestingly, the fonts are available free after listening to one of his recorded songs. A wide variety of fonts are available, including single instruments, pads, and some voice.|
|General User 1.4||A large, very good General MIDI soundfont by Chris Collins|
|Melody Machine||A variety of non-General MIDI (GM) soundfonts for sale (some free demo versions), sfArk (soundfont de/compression software), and other resources for musicians and soundfont users.|
|Creative||From the originators of soundfonts - General MIDI and specialty soundfonts for sale.|
|Voice Crystal||Very reasonably priced "specialty instrument" soundfonts.|
|SONiVOX||General MIDI and non-GM specialized soundfonts|
|Smart Loops||These are drum loops, available in SFZ format.|
|Analogesque||"Vintage" electronic soundfonts, mainly taken from early synths and drum machines.|
|Electronisounds||A few massive collections of SF2 files on DVD. Click each cover to find out the details of the fonts that are on that disc.|
|NTONYX||GM, ethnic instrument, and "other sounds" fonts available.|
|Papelmedia||Very reasonably priced GM soundfont set generated from live instruments. The free demo orchestral instruments were very well done.|
|Samplecraze||Loads of drum kits, mapped to GM in SF2 format.|
|SF2 Files||Wide variety of fonts available, some free demo sample fonts.|
|Sound Burst||They have the Techno Lab and Poly Six Anthology fonts available for purchase - dance and synth musicians will enjoy these.|
|Jayzen Sound Design||A couple of collections, and some individual instrument fonts.|
|Creative||From the originators of soundfonts - information about soundfonts: what they are, how to create your own, how to tweak existing fonts using Vienna Soundfont Studio, and other tutorials.|
|Samplecraze||Scroll to the middle-to-bottom of the page to find tutorials on sampling, as well as setting up good stereo mixes using your equipment, and other aspects of putting together a good performance.|
|Soundfont Tutorial||A step-by-step tutorial by Ian Wilson at Analogesque on creating a soundfont from scratch. It uses Vienna SF Studio 2.3, but the concepts are the same as using 2.4. This tutorial is also handy if you merely want to use Vienna to "tweak" an existing soundfont.|
|How to Build a Bank of SoundFonts||A very detailed tutorial by "Rich the Tweakmeister" for building and tweaking soundfonts. The information is also helpful in understanding why some soundfonts are much better than others.|
|Sharky Extreme||This article is not about soundfonts per se, but has useful information about sound cards and drivers, and some good basic information about audio/MIDI on a PC, which of course affect the sound of your soundfonts.|