Re: [linux-audio-user] how good are soundfonts and where do I find them?

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Subject: Re: [linux-audio-user] how good are soundfonts and where do I find them?
From: tim hall (
Date: Wed Jul 07 2004 - 23:14:36 EEST

Last Wednesday 07 July 2004 12:21, Michal Kostrzewa was like:
> Eh? I feel I don't quite understand you... What do you mean? What's the
> problem with getting this fonts or with the site?

Sorry, that was possibly an unnecessarily spiky comment. [trying to give up
coffee again ;-] - but seeing as how you asked ...

It's just that the site you mentioned is so Windows oriented, like so much
soundfont stuff, reading through lists of .exe .sfark and .sfwhatever that I
need to download yet another little application so I can decode them. I guess
I haven't really figured out the soundfont thing yet. I use Unison via qsynth
when I want a fake orchestra for writing purposes. I'm not sure how many of
the voices I would really want to use for anything more than a demo, perhaps
with the liberal application of a bit of LADSPA.

Qsynth has a slightly odd way of loading soundfonts to my mind, causing the
lowest entries in the list to overwrite the first few GM slots, it's not the
ideal behaviour.

Perhaps I would feel more comfortable if I learned to use smurf and
wrote/threw together my own selection, but so far I haven't been able to get
that application to produce any sound, which is a bit pointless if you're
editing a soundfont, surely? I can see how the rest of it is supposed to
work, I've loaded up the fonts I want to work on, but I'm finding it hard to
get under the bonnet of soundfonts.

Over half of the soundfonts I've downloaded either don't work, sound plain
awful or consist of just one halfway decent sound, the palette I'm looking
for is quite limited, basically a decent fake orchestra that will run
comfortably in 192M RAM, with possibly some classic keyboards (hammond,
farfisa, vox, rhodes, wurly, mellotron type stuff). i.e. the stuff that's
hard to synthesise. Is Unison basically the best I can expect off the shelf
for free on my system?
Fine if it is, I'll simply get on with learning how to make my own rather than
go trawling through a whole load of FrontPage enabled sites. The use of
soundfonts doesn't strike me as the most transparently open thing I've come
across since I migrated to GNU systems, but it is the only way I'm going to
simulate an orchestra on the resources I've got.

So, yes I was just being snotty because I didn't like the site. Nothing
personal. That has really brought to light my dissatisfaction with soundfonts
as I would like something a bit more than just a bunch of lame presets. I'm
sure soundfonts _are_ capable of delivering, I've read enough happy reports.

And yes, I am (becoming) familiar with ZynAddSubFX and pd and things like
that, but they hog the little resources I have and I tend to conceive things
with a broad palette (I'm really into weird chord voicings and part
arrangements) and I'm regularly pushing the limits of what JACK can keep i
sync. Duh, if only I'd be happy with doing 'Status Quo' arrangements ;-)

Wow, that was an extended whinge, I wasn't expecting all that to come out.
Answers on the back of a frying pan to the usual place.


tim hall

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