Richard Semper

This section is dedicated to soundfonts, their application, and some useful links for soundfonts and utilities. I wanted to include this because Soundfonts enabled me to create all the instruments for my first album: they were my palette for sounds.



When I first started music on the computer (PC) sounds were limited to gm wavetable synths built into a soundcard. Hardware synths were expensive and complicated. Computers were used mainly to control external synths and instruments via gm midi.

Creative, along with its subsidiary E-MU, developed Soundfonts for Creative's Soundblaster range of cards. Basically this was a software based replacement for the built in wavetable, using sound samples loaded into the computer's ram. This meant that the entire set of GM sounds could be replaced and updated without changing the hardware. Any samples could be used, as long as the computer had sufficient ram.

The thing is, when they developed version 2 (the sf2 format) they created something decades ahead of its time. The format is extremely well specified and lets you manipulate samples (using suitable editor) to the nth degree, allowing very realistic emulation of real instruments and synthesizers, and even the creation of something completely new.

Advantages of the soundfont format:-

Thousands of free soundfonts are available on the internet. Also there are some good quality professional offerings out there, across all genres.

You can distribute your music in midi format along with a custom soundfont bank, to allow others to hear it exactly as you intended.

With a suitable editor you can manipulate your soundfont banks to work and sound exactly as you want, and create new ones from your own samples.

If you have a soundfont compatible soundcard (with enough ram) you can use many sf2 instruments simultaneously with little or no hit on the processor. Compared with VST instruments for example, which limit you to just a few before crackles and distortion etc become an issue. Unfortunately Creative has dropped the support for them from its latest ranges of cards so this is not the advantage it once was :(

For further information see Wikipedia Soundfonts Page. Also SF2Midi’s page article ‘How to build a bank of soundfonts