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Using Notation Software products with other (third party) products Find out from others, or share your experience, about integrating Notation Software products with sound libraries, audio processing software, and other hardware and software products.

 
 
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Old 06-09-2005, 04:05 AM
Sherry Crann (sherry)
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Default Howdy, Okey dokey, by popul

Howdy,

Okey dokey, by popular demand (well, at least a few guys ;) ) here goes. This is an amalgamation of other posts that I've made about soundfonts in general and SynthFont in particular. Therefore, if you spot redundancies in information, please forgive my editorial oversight for this one

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An option that you might want to try out for getting better sound quality for the performance of your compositions (and it can be free!) is that of soundfonts. Composer can use soundfonts for playback if your sound card supports soundfont use. If it doesn't, though, you can use a program called SynthFont ("donation" ware at www.synthfont.com) to use them.

Essentially, soundfonts are analagous to typefonts that you use for wordprocessing. Or, another way to think of it, it's like having various makes of instruments available, and you can use whichever one suits your purposes for a given project.

There are some soundfonts that are setup as General Midi soundfonts (ie, the patch names match up with the "map" that MidiNotate products, along with other GM standard programs, adhere to), but with much better sound quality than what a lot of soundcards come with. There are also soundfonts that may be one instrument, with varying technique or dynamics (such as double bass with arco, pizzicato, tremelo, etc).

If you want to try this out, first do all the work that you want to do on your file in Musician or Composer or Pro. Then, download and install the SynthFont program. There is a link on the SynthFont site to a very small size but nice sounding (so he says - I haven't tried it) GM soundfont that you can use for testing purposes.

From Musician, save your file as a MIDI file (and as your xxxx.not file), then open the file in SynthFont. You will need to designate a default soundfont (you will be given directions on how to do this) that will be the default for each track, unless you specifically change the font to something else for any given track. You can then hear how the file sounds with whatever soundfont you choose to use.

For example, I have a large number of soundfonts that I've downloaded for free. I play mostly steel and nylon string guitar, electric bass, whistle, and bowed psaltery (a bit of hammered dulcimer and some hand percussion, too). So these are the ones that I tend to be pickiest about :-) I have a couple of soundfonts that sound ok for guitar when I'm trying out a file, so I might load the drum kit from one soundfont, a guitar from a special "guitar only" soundfont, a bass from yet another "bass only" soundfont, and clarinet from another particular soundfont (if I'm doing this in Composer, I load GPO's clarinet :-) ). I then have some pretty decent sounding instruments to hear for playback. As a matter of fact, I've used soundfonts with Composer to record backing tracks for a CD of songs that we record for our youth group at church, and for some other projects that I've helped friends with.

So, depending on if you're more interested in getting a good performance, or if you just want something decent to listen to as you're composing something for printing, you can do it for pretty darn cheap (that'd be me :-) ), or you can also spend a lot of money and buy soundfonts from commercially available sources. Or you can buy a new soundcard. The beauty of SynthFont, though, is that it's a "soft" synthesizer. I.E., it doesn't rely on your soundcard, it uses your computer power to "make" the sound.

Also, SynthFont has the capability of "rendering" a file to an audio file (such as WAV, MP3 or OGG) that you can easily burn to CD. I know the "Music Minus One" type of CDs are popular to practice with. Using Composer to make your file, and then SynthFont to 'render' it, you can make your own "Music Minus One" for whatever songs in whatever keys you want!

Now, for some soundfont related related resource websites

The following site is a general overview of soundfonts and it has some links to some other informational pages:

http://mp3.about.com/library/weekly/....htm?once=true

Two of my favorite sites for finding free soundfonts are

http://www.hammersound.net/

and

http://www.sf2midi.com/index.php

Hammersound has a lot of info on soundfonts, too, along with a huge library to choose from. Downloads are free, and there is no registration. They have good descriptors, and Thomas Hammer usually does a pretty good job of having only pretty good fonts.

He also explains about the compression programs that are used, and the SFARK program, which was designed specifically for de/compressing soundfonts to minimize any loss of fidelity. There is a free unpacker available, and I'm pretty sure he either has it for download there, or at least has a link to it.

The second site requires you to register a name and email addy, but it's free, and I've never received any spam from them. They have brief descriptors of the fonts, along with ratings by users. You can search their database if you're looking for something specific.
Also, if you go to this site, and click on the "Software" link, they have the Vienna Soundfont Studio, sfArk, WinZIP and a Soundfont librarian all available for download right from their site.

The librarian is nice if you want to make a "custom" soundfont by pulling out sounds from various other soundfonts. For example, if you like the piano from one GM soundfont, the bass guitar from a different one, the sax from yet another, etc. etc, you can use the librarian to copy each of these favorite sounds from their original soundfonts and put only the particular sounds you want into your "dream" soundfont, then use that. I've done this a couple of times when I wanted to use a particular "sound set" for a number of projects - it just made things a lot easier. I think (I'd have to look to be certain) that you can set up a GM soundfont using this librarian Mine is a newer version of this one - the new one came with my soundcard, and this older one is one that I'm presuming they "let loose" for free distribution.


The following is another download site, but there are no descriptors readily available for the fonts

ftp://ftp.lysator.liu.se/pub/awe32/soundfonts/

The soundfont that I use as my default is the Chaos GM soundfont. Nice drum kits, and better sounds than the usual default GM banks. I use it as my "default" font for general purpose work.

I have a ton of soundfonts that I've downloaded for a test drive (oh, the glories of broadband!), and I've yet to purchase a soundfont. I've found some really nice ones, some very interesting ones, and some not so hot ones. You just have to check them out.

You can use the FREE Vienna Soundfont Studio 2.3 for previewing and editing soundfonts that you may find and d/l. The page for this download is http://www.soundfont.com/downloads.html, or the SF2 site listed above.

If that caught your interest, the info and links should keep you busy for a while

If anyone has any questions at all, please feel free to ask!

ttfn,
Sherry


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