(a classical soundfont)

* latest versions: Sinfonia 3.6 and Sinfonietta 3.6, 16 April 2003 *

SINFONIA is a classical, orchestral soundfont geared towards the MIDI sequences posted at Floating World, and for classical MIDI music-making more generally. Itís laid out as a partial GM bank, and experienced soundfont hunters should note that it doesnít use original samples (unlike, for example, projects like Frank Wenís Fluid), but is compiled and revised from all sorts of free soundfonts available on the net. Iíd like to record my gratitude to Jeremy Levy for permission to incorporate a couple of his brass soundfonts into Sinfonia (see the text file in the archive for details).

The full collection is a biggish download these days, and Iíve also posted a smaller collection, Sinfonietta, which simply offers all the instruments from Sinfonia which are used in sequences posted here at FW, so that soundfont users with slower connections can hear my sequences the way I do when making them.

See below for contents and details on how to install, use and edit the soundfonts, and for some new mp3 demos. If you donít know what a soundfont is or whether you can use it, check out

NOTE: To break up the download, Iím putting the Sinfonia executable into a multi-volume RAR archive. To decompress this, youíll need WinRAR 3.xx or its equivalent for other platforms (time-limited shareware available from RarSoft). Or try the free UltimateZip, which can decompress .rar files. Download all the .rar files into one folder and double click on one of them to open the archive. Note: it seems that older version of Netscape can corrupt these files in the downloading; the current version is fine. I recommend GetRight for large downloads.

Sinfonia soundfont orchestra (version 3.6) 16 April 2003
(14.8 Mb compressed, expands to 43.3 Mb)

sinfonia36.part1.rar (4,000,000 bytes)
sinfonia36.part2.rar (4,000,000 bytes)
sinfonia36.part3.rar (4,000,000 bytes)
sinfonia36.part4.rar (3,590,761 bytes)

Contains: grand piano, bright piano, harpsichord, celesta, glockenspiel, xylophone, church organ, nylon guitar, solo violin, viola, cello, double bass, tremolo strings, pizzicato strings, concert harp, timpani, string orchestra, mixed Ďaahí choir, trumpet, trombone, tuba, muted trumpet, French horn, brass ensemble, oboe, cor anglais, bassoon, clarinet, piccolo, flute, recorder, wood block, percussion banks 0 (standard) and 48 (orchestral)

Sinfonietta (version 3.6, zip file) 16 April 2003
(3.7 Mb compressed, expands to 6.8 Mb) (3,980,970 bytes)

For those whoíd prefer a smaller download, this soundfont consists simply of those instruments from Sinfonia which are already used in sequences posted on my MIDI page. Iíll provide updates whenever I use a new instrument.
Contains: solo violin, viola, cello, double bass, pizzicato strings, timpani, string orchestra, mixed Ďaahí choir, trumpet, trombone, tuba, French horn, brass ensemble, oboe, cor anglais, bassoon, clarinet, piccolo, flute.

Now youíve got the soundfont, what are you supposed to do with it?

How to get at it

Once youíve decompressed the archive (a set of .rar files for Sinfonia, a single .zip file for Sinfonietta), you should have an .exe file, which is a self-extracting archive made with sfArk and sfArkxtc. (Visit the makers at
Melody Machine.) The sfArk software itself is not needed to decompress Sinfonia.

How to load it (for SB Live users)

  1. Firstly, make sure youíre using the soundfont-capable synth, not the wavetable one, which uses low-quality onboard samples. To do this in Windows, open Control Panel (under Settings on the Windows start menu, or in Win XP in the root start menu), select Multimedia (Windows 98) or Sounds & Audio Devices (WinXP) and go to the MIDI tab. Under ĎMIDI outputí (Win98) / ĎAudioí (WinXP) select Single Instrument and choose ĎMIDI for Creative SB Live! MIDI Synthí.

    (Note that this may be called ĎA: SB Live! MIDI synthí in some versions of LiveWare. You can also choose ĎB: SB Live! MIDI synthí, which sounds identical; itís what enables the Live! to play 32 rather than 16 channels of MIDI music.)

  2. To install Sinfonia, open the SoundFont applet from AudioHQ. Make sure thereís enough free memory by setting the cache size on the Options tab to maximum (you can reduce it again later). Next, return to Configure Bank, and if you have a soundfont already loaded as your synth (bank 0) select it and choose Clear. Now choose Load and browse to the folder into which you decompressed sinfonia.sf2. Highlight it and choose Select.

    You can now return to the Options tab and bring the memory slider back to the left.

  3. Choose suitable audio settings. I tend to set the treble fairly moderate, and leave the bass a bit higher, which makes the strings in particular sound mellower, but this will depend on your taste and audio setup. Youíll also want a fairly reverberant environmental audio preset -- I include different versions for the Live, Audigy and Audigy 2 in the archives.

Audigy Users: most of the above applies. Under Multimedia properties (ĎSound and Audio Devices Propertiesí in WinXP) in Control Panel, the synth to use is SB Audigy Synth A (or B). Note also that with the Audigy you can now load separate soundfonts for Synths A and B: look on the Options tab in Audio HQ / Soundfonts for ĎSoundFont Deviceí.

Audigy 2 Users: again, the method is similar. AudioHQ is no more however; you now load soundfonts in the new soundfont bank manager - thereís a shortcut to it in the Creative folder of the Start menu.

And now your MIDI files will play with Sinfonia. Of course, as itís only a partial GM bank, it wonít be suitable for all kinds of music, so perhaps you want to combine it with instruments from another soundfont bank, to make a new GM bank? You can do this easily, using the dreaded Vienna soundfont editor supplied with the SB Live or downloadable from the Goodies section at Creativeís website. Alternatively try E-muís SoundFont Librarian, downloadable from HYBRID.

Additional note: Since I started work on Sinfonia, all sorts of things have developed. The Audigy 2 soundcard is a big improvement on the Audigy in terms of MIDI support (or at least, the current A2 drivers are a lot better than the A1 ones.) Meanwhile, soft synths are increasingly offering soundfont support in software for non-Creative/E-mu users. And ĎAliveí is a more sophisticated soundfont editor that may replace Vienna as the application of choice – itís been developing rapidly, and though I havenít really got to grips with it myself, Iím sure itís worth investigating.

Finally, of course, lots more soundfonts have been created. Samples are getting bigger and better – Iím not sure that the standard of editing is improving commensurately, but thatís another rant... well, OK, letís summarize it here. A lot of classical soundfont instruments sound fabulous when you play a few notes in Vienna, but then when you try to use them in a sequence, you discover that they lack flexibility: canít phrase, or can only phrase in a certain way. This means that Sinfonia is using some instruments that have definitely been well surpassed in terms of sample fidelity (such as my oboe), simply because I've yet to find a replacement that can actually play the music Iím sequencing. Any instrument that can't articulate cleanly and play legato is, as far as Iím concerned, for occasional use at best, and has no place in an all-purpose classical collection (which is where you frequently find the offenders). To some extent these problems in phrasing and articulation are fixable with a wave editor, and Iím increasingly doing this: for example my string section and flute had problems with slow speaking in certain samples that Iíve been able to correct, and Iím hoping to be able to come up with a workable oboe, and at least improve some of the other weaknesses in that department. Stay tuned!

audio snippets from my MIDI sequences using Sinfonia 3.4 (mp3 format)

(I mean to upgrade these snippets to higher quality recordings from Sinfonia 3.6 soon.)

   Brahmsís Tragic Overture – towards the end (0:47, 1.08Mb)

martial and dramatic, building to a climax with massed strings and woodwind/brass chorus used antiphonally, then subsiding

   Stenhammasís Serenade for Orchestra – opening (1:00, 1.37Mb)

more of a chamber orchestra sound, using more-or-less classical forces (double woodwind, four horns, strings Ė no percussion): a fleet, scurrying Allegro soon moving into a slower, romantic section with lots of instrumental solos and duets

   Nielsenís Second Symphony – opening (0:35, 820k)

full symphony orchestra at full tilt

   Tallisís Spem in alium – extract, ‘Praeter in te - Qui irasceris’ (0:46, 1.06Mb)

mixed choir in Tallisís famous 40-part motet