SFZ Users

SofSynths

How do all you SFZ users find this instrument, and how (i.e., for what specifically) do you use it? I’m after your own context, above and beyond the “How-To”.

I’m getting the MIDI idea past the dense outer crust of my heavy Cranial Barrier, into the softer grey tissue, trying to create a new wrinkle in there. I am interested in pursuing MIDI as a composition tool, so I have an interest gernerally- and am specifically into learning about this SFZ.

Thanks!

SFZ is simply a SoundFont player… so what’s a SoundFont? A sound font is essentially a format that allows you to package samples. So perhaps you have a piano SoundFont… Load N, load your MIDI track if not already loaded, load SFZ, load your SF into SFZ, output your MIDI track to SFZ in N, press play. That’s all there is to it.

More on SoundFonts… a sound font is a packed sample format meaning all the samples that make up the “bank” are in one file. How is this special? Think of it this way… when you load a font in Windows you load a single file that holds all the upper and lower and italic and bold versions of the font. Imagine if you had to load every single letter in every case and style… the same is true with samples. SFs make it conventient. Other samplers like Gigastudio and Kontakt require separate samples. Though much more powerful as they can handle nearly infinite sample sizes, they are also a bear to manage.

Sloom,

you might find it easier to start playing with some straight VSti’s rather than SFZ. SFZ is of course a special sort of VSTi that as Bubba says, can load soundfonts.

By just starting out with “straight” Vsti’s you can learn what MIDI can do for you without the complexities of having to understand Soundfonts and to deal with the differing quality of the SF’s out there.

For example… try the 4Front piano module

or maybe

the Organized Trio

And there are literally hundreds more out there…

$0.02.


Mark

That’s a pretty good run-down on SoundFonts, Bubba, nice and clear! And seeing as I like to take bites that are too big, I will just lay back on it and continue to explore the territory where I’m at. I’ve actually loaded a couple of the VSTi’s from Tweakbench, and am mucking around with those. I’ll have a look at your links Mark, thanks thanks thanks guys!

I’ve pretty much got the drill together as far as loading instruments, and am finding out how they behave in different layouts on the Piano Roll. You can get some funky interactions between notes, depending on where they lie in relation to each other. Polyphony gets a little blurry with these Tweakbench VSTi’s, so far. Synth “filters”, etc. really are their own animal!

Notation would be fun to get into- it seems a bit more ‘musical’, if you’re more used to looking at that kind of thing. The Piano Roll has a mechanical aspect I don’t “see” as well. Me and visuals get wierd- sometimes I cut things backwards at work! I tend to have fits of logistcal dyslexia (my made-up word)!

So, what do you guys actually use these for, as far as elements in a mix? What are your specific favorite ways to use these, if you don’t mind my asking?

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So, what do you guys actually use these for, as far as elements in a mix? What are your specific favorite ways to use these, if you don’t mind my asking?


Well I’m not a great keyboard player but I often use a Vsti to give me a Pad or “Pad++” in my song. I usually play my keyboard while monitoring its internal sounds, record the MIDI, tweak the MIDI, then throw it at a Vsti or two (or 3 etc) until I find the sound I want for the song.

I also have some keyboard tracks played by a “proper” keyboard player. I recorded those as MIDI too so again I can play around with the right sound for the song. Usually these tracks are a bit more upfront.

I have used VSTi’s for simple lead/melody lines. Recently I got a passable flute thing going in an acoustic song I was working on. Probably wouldn’t fool a real flute player, but I’m convinced!

And of course there’s drum tracks… either to play a track I’ve recorded from MIDI, or sometimes as a sound triggered from an audio track.

And then there’s Jamstix! A whole new world.

HTH


Mark

So you get sound-adjustable, tweakable elements- and you can edit them as far as their actual execution too? You can, for instance, move notes around in Piano Roll I guess…

That’s cool. Very handy! MIDI’s allright… :)

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So you get sound-adjustable, tweakable elements- and you can edit them as far as their actual execution too? You can, for instance, move notes around in Piano Roll I guess…


Yep.

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That’s cool. Very handy! MIDI’s allright…


Yep.

I use them as different things in different songs. If I need a choir background, I have it. If I want to add some strings, got it. Taiko’s, sitars, birds, violins…all the stuff I can’t play or replicate in some way, by using a VST, I can usually get a MIDI track to sound like whatever I need.
You can clone a track and make it sound totally different, but totally together, if you know what I mean.
I use Edirol Virtual Sound Canvas but have also used SFZ. It took me a while but now I use it all of the time. Sometimes not much, sometimes a lot. Like I said, when I need them, they are there…and they are very cool.

cliff
:cool:

Forgot to mention…I use an old Yamaha keboard and can play 3-fingered stuff on it well enough to create the MIDI tracks.

Hey Sloom !
Soundfonts, midi and VSTi’s open up your music possibilities.

I also use it as Mark suggested - I’m not a great keyboardplayer, but I get buy with fixing afterwards. I do keyboard (piano and electric piano), strings, a little B3’ish type of sound here and there, and then drums. Midi drumkit goes into N as audio and midi. That way I can ‘fix’ those false triggers (user error), missed (or hyperactive) kick drums (also user error) or just stupid / silly playing after the fact, or just to do certain things like changing a normal closed HH to an open one every now and then.

You should get a little more cumfy with the piano roll.
Load a couple of midi files, mute all but one track at a time and look at it while its playing.

Also - if you are like me, there’s another reason for using it - quantize !

It can tighten up a midi performance a little (or mechanise it if too extreme - unless you want that)

Midi is your friend…

W

I use them when ever

A: I don’t have the intrument to record a real one. (Pianos, harpsichord)
B: It is to hard to record (think pipe organs and choirs)
C: I can’t play the instrument (Brass instruments)
D: I don’t know anyone who can play the instrument for me. (Bagpipes)

Or, just full symphonic stuff. I have done full records of nothing but MIDI. These have been kicked around here for a while , but here is a link to the songs on a Christmas record I did a year or so back with all MIDI. (Real vocalists of course) Hopefully it gives you an idea to the possibilities. It was tought to fit the 90 piece orchestra in the living room otherwise.


Link

Quote (Bubbagump @ Mar. 08 2006,12:09)
I use them when ever

A: I don't have the intrument to record a real one. (Pianos, harpsichord)
B: It is to hard to record (think pipe organs and choirs)
C: I can't play the instrument (Brass instruments)
D: I don't know anyone who can play the instrument for me. (Bagpipes)

Or, just full symphonic stuff. I have done full records of nothing but MIDI. These have been kicked around here for a while , but here is a link to the songs on a Christmas record I did a year or so back with all MIDI. (Real vocalists of course) Hopefully it gives you an idea to the possibilities. It was tought to fit the 90 piece orchestra in the living room otherwise.


Link

Another good reasons:

-You want to use some cool VSTi that dont exist in the "real" world, like sytrus, crystal, etc
-You will record that stuff with a real instrument, but you need a preview to let hear the player.
-You need Scores.
-Another one?

O.k., that’s all good- all fine examples of fun with MIDI! I totally see the sense in MIDI, especially when one is not working with all the elements in the real world one would like to have available. And the idea of unison lines, etc with audio recordings/parts is neat. Incorporating MIDI lines and VSTi sounds into horn parts, etc… MIDI… is… my friend!! I said it!! Hahahahahaha!!

(whoah- sorry…)

I’ve been fooling, as I said before, with some Tweakbench VSTi’s, which have been fun to learn something with. There are some cool ones too, but I’m going to start looking around for some better representations of actual acoustic items. Money’s tight, but I think I can find some free or cheep stuff around. Speaking of which…

Now here’s the next one: Is it possible to take audio files (samples) and load them into a VST instrument, as you would from a soundbank? Am I talking about something like soundfonts here?
For example: I have an old Arp Omni just back from a bench clean-up, and it’s got great bass-type sounds in it. I wonder if I could get this recorded from my bass amp (sounds awesome in the bass rig) into n-Track, and use it as a MIDI instrument sound? Is this what you could do with SFZ? Now the possibilities get pretty interesting for sampling, I think.

Quote (Sloom @ Mar. 08 2006,13:19)
Now here’s the next one: Is it possible to take audio files (samples) and load them into a VST instrument, as you would from a soundbank? Am I talking about something like soundfonts here?
For example: I have an old Arp Omni just back from a bench clean-up, and it’s got great bass-type sounds in it. I wonder if I could get this recorded from my bass amp (sounds awesome in the bass rig) into n-Track, and use it as a MIDI instrument sound? Is this what you could do with SFZ? Now the possibilities get pretty interesting for sampling, I think.

Yes, it is possible… but let me also tell you, there is a reason foks spend $1000s on pre-made sample libraries… it is long and painful for all but really simple sound banks. I would just setup a mic and record your Arp.


Also, so you know, SFZ is a player only… you would need Vienna (a SoundFont editor) to actually make a SoundFont. THink of it as the difference between Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat reader. One can read, the other read AND write.

In addition, there are a lot of other samplers out there for this in like Kontakt and GigaStudio which far surpass SoundFonts in their capabilities. (Think plain old text file versus a Word file… no smiley faces and underlines in a regular text file.) But if you want to just get your feet wet in rolling your own, Google Vienna.

I’ve just looked in the deep end of the pool! A bit more than I want to run into before I get acclimated to the basics.

Thanks for the education- I think I’m going to be keeping this simple. I’m into playing and recording mostly, but it would be nice to have a few tools. That’s probably where I’ll be at.

Thanks!

A good way to get comfortable using sfz is to import a midi file of one of your favorite songs and then output the audio through the sfz and apply different soundfonts for the playback. I do a lot of cover songs that way for the drums, bass and keyboards and then add live guitars and vocals.

You can find a ton of free soundfonts at the Hammersound Web page.

HammerSound SoundFont Library

Quote (ksdb @ Mar. 08 2006,17:28)
A good way to get comfortable using sfz is to import a midi file of one of your favorite songs and then output the audio through the sfz and apply different soundfonts for the playback. I do a lot of cover songs that way for the drums, bass and keyboards and then add live guitars and vocals.

You can find a ton of free soundfonts at the Hammersound Web page.

HammerSound SoundFont Library

So... you record the song into n-Track (rip, import CD tracks, etc); and how do you get it to be a MIDI file?

And when you play it through SFZ and apply a soundfont, what is this result?

WAIT!! I'll stop- and try some stuff, before I end up with enough notes to take a final exam! I've asked for more than I can handle at one time here. I'll be back when I'm ready to get into SFZ with some confidence.

Thanks ksdb, everybody.

Good questions and understanding the answers will put you right where you want to be!

When you create a MIDI track, any stuff you record on that track is MIDI data and gets saved in the .sng file. If you want, you can always export all the MIDI in a .sng file to a standard midi file using “File -> Export MIDI”. For now, though – no need. That would be useful if you wanted to print a score, though (which n-Track still doesn’t do, right? sorry I’m still on V3).

So, you recorded MIDI data. When you play the track, the VSTi (e.g., sfz) turns it into audio.

Once you’re happy with the MIDI (maybe not done, just done for now), I recommend you render it to audio. That’s easy: just “Freeze” the track (in V4 – in V3 just solo it and mixdown, but remember to zero the master fader, etc. etc., and import it) With the MIDI track frozen or rendered, you’re now just playing the audio (wave) recording of the VSTi’s output. This avoids CPU overuse, and also avoids “midi jitter” – the notes will always play in exactly the same spot, rather than varying by +/- 4 msec on most systems. Sorry, talking too much …

Sfz totally rocks. If you want to have some real fun with it, try the best goddam totally free Rhodes in the world (if I do say so myself) jRhodes3 soundfont. Start out with the stereo one, it rocks and I use it live every week. If you don’t like it, double your money back.

Another good one if you like grand piano is “spendid grand 136”, just google to find it.

You may find with these bigger soundfonts you get dropouts. If so, try “SF16” mode on sfz’s panel – that just means it loads the whole sf into memory in 16-bits per sample mode. Helps if you have lots of free RAM, of course. If you have 512M or more should be no problem, but with less you may need to reboot and shut down anything that’s not necessary.

sfz is an excellent sample player. Vienna is a crappy tool for creating decent soundfonts, and you have to have a Sounblaster or Audigy card to run it, so forget that crap. Building soundfonts is very technical and terribly tedious and one of these days I’m going to write a program to make it fun and easy (for nerds that is).

Here are two other VSTi’s to DEFINITELY check out: MrRay73 (which is a lot like my Rhodes soundfont, only smaller, faster, but not quite as sweet) and Organized Trio (hammond organ simulator). These are “donationware”, and you make a small donation for one and it licenses you for all of Guido’s way cool VSTi’s. Find them at http://soundfonts.it. Despite the site name, Guido doesn’t do much with soundfonts any more.

MIDI is way cool, but warning: time sink – as bad as recording and more. If you have no life at all, it’s the perfect thing! :wink:

The biggest problem with VSTIs and soundfonts is finding good ones. Hopefully I saved you a lot of work for acoustic piano, Rhodes, and hammond.

Thanks for the run-down, Jeff. This is a “printer”- all these MIDI, etc threads go to ink and are the breaktime (work) and sleepy-time (home) readings. And yeah, okaaaaayyyyyy,… I’ll humor you and download your soundfonts! I went to hear 'em and they sound pretty farking good, actually. Downloaded a couple. Nice Rhodes!

I am looking forward to working with this, I think it’s a good thing to get into. A keyboard’ll be next, and I think I’m going to look for one of those 25-key thingies with the knobs and faders on it- for controlling VSTi’s and sequencing apps (like n-Track). I am going to have to play something! I think Evolution makes a cool one.

The Arp Omni is going to be ‘key’ for a while, I really like the bassy sounds that thing makes, and dig the idea of using it to double bass parts. O-M-N-I- that spells Phat bass sounds. I’ll plug that in to the BBE 383/Crest FA901 bass head and mic the Ampeg 2x15 with the ADK A-51 I just picked up. Can’t accuse me of turning my back on my analogue roots!

I’ll check out your other link too. There are a few that have come up, so I’ll have enough to do for a bit, it looks like! I’ll post a result of some groovy inspiration I come to, hopefully, in the MIDI realm when I get it together.

Thanks all!

Quote (Sloom @ Mar. 08 2006,19:57)
1) …And yeah, okaaaaayyyyyy,… I’ll humor you and download your soundfonts! I went to hear 'em and they sound pretty farking good, actually. Downloaded a couple. Nice Rhodes!



2) …O-M-N-I- that spells Phat bass sounds. I’ll plug that in to the BBE 383/Crest FA901 bass head and mic the Ampeg 2x15 with the ADK A-51 I just picked up.

1) Jeff, did you play those? Pretty good… my favorite Rhodes part of all time is the soundtrack to “2001: A Space Oddyssey”- it was also used in “Being There”, when Peter Sellers (the Butler) leaves his employer’s house for the first time. Yep, good sounding axe there.

2) Sloom is a Geek!