Making music with free samples

Create music and sound effects for mainline or user-made content.

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West
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Making music with free samples

Post by West » May 5th, 2009, 7:05 pm

As there has been some talk about making music with free samples and tools here lately, I set out to determine if it's possible to make music of mainline quality using only free samples. So, I dived into my samples folder and plucked out some of the highest quality freebies I could find. In the example clip below I used the following ones*:

Gothic Harp
Ixox Flute
Stereo Oboe
Bassoon Ethan Nando
Project SAM True Strike Basic Percussion
Strings DXS Super Orchestra
Violins 0.0.3
Douglas Concert Timpani
GenieSys Voice L.C. Glockenspiel (?)
U220 Clarinet (?)
PC88 Pizzicato
Violin version 0.1 (also known as AAViolin?)
Westgate Studios All Percussion

This is what it sounds like.

Up to mainline standards in terms of sample quality? I don't know. Quite possibly. What do you think?

The biggest problem with relying on free samples is that you will be limited by what you can find. Unlike a pro library that has all the stuff one could possibly need for making orchestral music, using free samples only will give you far fewer options and you will have to let the samples dictate the kind of music to write. You can't do fast runs or detache passages with a string sample that has a slow attack. You can't use a pp trombone section if you can't find a sample of a pp trombone section. And so on and so forth. Your palette will be limited to only a few select colors. Will this prevent you from making good music? Hell no. Just don't expect to be able to do anything.

Finally, another point I'm trying to make here is that there is no excuse for using GM soundfonts to make orchestral music. None whatsoever. GM banks are compromises between size, quality and range of instruments. They generally try to cater for all styles of music which means that they can't do any single style really good. As you can see there is a great deal of good soundfonts/gig samples/ect available for free (and the above is just a selection, there is lots more), so if you're serious about making music for Wesnoth -- please get rid of that old GM bank now and get some good samples. :)

* Can't be bothered to add links. I'll create a more comprehensive list later on if anyone's interested.

Spi
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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by Spi » May 6th, 2009, 11:17 am

Wow. Much better than the ones I use anyhow.
What you say about variety and choice is true though. We won't have the same maneuvering space as professional app/samples-users will, but as far as I'm concerned this could be mainline quality.
What's more, maybe we can create a sizeable freebie library by putting in common our best quality samples and seeing how far we can go.
That way potential contributors could use decent quality instruments; we'd just have to judge their melody, arrangement etc... that's what I'm imagining. I know I've got time to dig around for stuff and one day I might just get lucky.
Up to you though, West.

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West
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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by West » May 7th, 2009, 5:19 am

Spi wrote:What's more, maybe we can create a sizeable freebie library by putting in common our best quality samples and seeing how far we can go.
If you mean collecting all good free stuff that is out there and putting it on a server so people can download it, I doubt that's doable. Many freebies, like the ones from Project SAM for example, are demos of commercial libraries and there is likely restrictions on how they may be distributed. Putting together a list of where everything can be found is probably the best solution. I also dislike the idea of presenting people with some ready made package as I don't want it to be too easy. If musician X can't be bothered to go download a bunch of samples from various locations and build a nice little setup from it, he's probably not serious enough to contribute something worthwhile either. I mean... it's free stuff. All it takes is a little time and effort. A person who a) is too lazy to get the free stuff because it's not a single package, and b) is too cheap to get a commercial package... well, let's just say I don't want to hear his music anyway, because he lacks the proper motivation :)

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CheeseLord
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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by CheeseLord » May 8th, 2009, 7:16 am

Hi West.....I've downloaded a few of the ones you have suggested, but a lot of them have a sf2 extension. I'm just wondering if Vienna Soundfont (which I think runs sf2) is freeware - it takes me to a screen with products when i click on download. If so, are there any free alternatives?

.......sry if it's a bit of a stupid question, but i've never used this sort of music software :oops:

Thanks in advance!!

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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by West » May 8th, 2009, 8:17 am

CheeseLord wrote:Hi West.....I've downloaded a few of the ones you have suggested, but a lot of them have a sf2 extension. I'm just wondering if Vienna Soundfont (which I think runs sf2) is freeware - it takes me to a screen with products when i click on download. If so, are there any free alternatives?

.......sry if it's a bit of a stupid question, but i've never used this sort of music software :oops:

Thanks in advance!!

CheeseLord
I'm not sure what you're asking. Vienna is a soundfont editor, but it will only work if you have a Creative soundcard. If you need some software to play back soundfonts, get SFZ.

...and just now, when I was going to add a download link to SFZ, I realized it'g gone. Removed. What the hell is going on? Why would Cakewalk stop distributing the absolutely best s2f player around?

I don't have time to look for an alternative d/l location right now, but it should be out there somewhere. If not, I'll have to upload it myself to some location. And I will continue offering it until the asshats at Cakwalk tell me to stop.

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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by CheeseLord » May 9th, 2009, 8:14 am

Thanks for clearing that up West......I thought Vienna was a Soundfont player :roll:

I've looked around for another download location......and I've found it!!! (http://www.kaosaudio.com/cakewalk-sfz-sample-player/) :D . Hopefully it's not a virus :P but I'll post a image of it just to make sure.

Oh, and finally....are there any tutorials for using SFZ around for beginners?? I'd prefer not to spend a week or so prodding at it :)

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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by West » May 9th, 2009, 12:45 pm

Yep, that's the one.

As for tutorials I don't know of any, but SFZ is dead easy to use. To change a setting, just click on it. Left and right click cycles up and down through the values. Or, you can click on the small arrows to bring up a menu.

MODE: Sets which mode the player uses for loading the soundfonts.

- SF32 loads the entire soundfont (i.e. all samples) into memory, in 32 bit quality.
- SF16 does the same thing, only in 16 bit quality which means less RAM used but higher CPU load.
- PR32 loads only the selected patch of a soundfont, in 32 bit quality. I recommend this one.
- PR16 is same as PR32, but in 16 bit quality.
- DFD streams samples directly from disk. This used to work for me in the past, but for some reason it just gives me crackles and stutters these days. YMMV.

Important: always select the Mode *before* loading a soundfont, or it will not become active. If you have a soundfont loaded already, just change the Mode and load it anew.

CHANNEL: Selects midi channel. SFZ is multitibral and can load and play back 16 simultaneous patches. They all need to be in the same soundfont though, i.e. you can't load different soundfont files for different channels. This might seem to be a problem, but it isn't really. You can load as many instances of SFZ as you need into your DAW.

FILE: Selects which file to load. SFZ will accept sf2, sfz, wav and ogg files.

BANK: If a soundfont uses banks, this is where you switch between them.

PROGRAM: The program, or patch to use.

POLY: Sets how large polyphony you need for an instance of the player. That is, how many notes that can be played back at once. Higher polyphony means higher CPU load, lower polyphony means notes will be dropped if the number of notes being played back exceeds the poly limit. I can't recommend a setting for this, it all depends on what's being played and how many different patches SFZ is playing back.

QUALITY:
Sets the playback quality of the samples. Draft is the lowest setting (with the lowest CPU usage) and is fine for playing and composing. When rendering a song to disk, always switch to 72 for maximum quality.

EFFECTS: Switches the built in reverb and chorus on and off. I recommend always keeping this off, as the SFZ effects aren't excellent and quite CPU hungry. Use send effects in your DAW instead.

V/L: I'm not sure what V stands for, but L displays the current number of layers playing back.

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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by CheeseLord » May 10th, 2009, 8:28 am

Thanks for that quick walkthrough :D :D :D !!!

Just one more question......can SFZ convert a midi file with a version with a soundfont instrument?? Or do I download something like Synthfont (which I think is freeware but not sure :? )

Thanks for all the help!!

CheeseLord
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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by West » May 10th, 2009, 10:40 am

CheeseLord, what is it you're trying to do? Do you want to use SFZ for making music or playing back midi files? If the former, you need a DAW program to load it in. If the latter, no, it can't "convert" midi files. Not in the sense that I think you mean at least. It would be easier to answer your questions if you could be a bit more specific about what you're trying to achieve here.

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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by marcusvinicius » May 10th, 2009, 3:03 pm

Just one more question......can SFZ convert a midi file with a version with a soundfont instrument?? Or do I download something like Synthfont (which I think is freeware but not sure :? )
Hi cheeseman! Synthfont is realy free but its a weird app, I'm sure you'll not like that. It can "convert" MIDI to sf2 as well but it'll not give you good results. I think you need a Sequencer app what loads VST, you'll load the SFZ in that and you'll make some tweaks in the sound. There is a simple app, you can download at:

http://lmms.sourceforge.net/

I think you'll need a lot of help, its normal.
Listen to the music
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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by CheeseLord » May 12th, 2009, 3:05 pm

marcusvinicius wrote:I think you need a Sequencer app what loads VST, you'll load the SFZ in that and you'll make some tweaks in the sound.
Hi. I've downloaded the app, and loaded it up, but I've become really confused :(
The impression I was getting from various websites was that the steps to making a composition is:

1. Compose piece in something like Sibelius (In my case, Anvil Studio)
2. Save as MIDI
3. Load the MIDI into something like Synthfont and then replace MIDI instruments with Soundfonts.
4. Convert into OGG, and you're finished.

I'm trying to work out how a sequencer goes into all this.........

Are these all the steps you use? If so, can you tell me how a sequencer fits. Or am I getting it all wrong. Please help me..........I'm really, really confused :? :? :?

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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by West » May 12th, 2009, 4:20 pm

CheeseLord wrote: 1. Compose piece in something like Sibelius (In my case, Anvil Studio)
2. Save as MIDI
3. Load the MIDI into something like Synthfont and then replace MIDI instruments with Soundfonts.
4. Convert into OGG, and you're finished.
No. No no no.

First of all you need a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that can load VST plugins. A DAW is a program that can record and edit midi and audio ('sequencer' is an older term, referring to apps that can only do midi; DAW is more widely used today). There are no really good free ones, period. Anvil Studio has VST support as an optional feature that you need to pay for, IIRC.

VST plugins can be divided into two main categories, instruments and effects (or 'processors'). An instrument can be a synth, a piano, a sampler/sample player etc, IOW things that generate sound. An effect can be a reverb, a chorus, a compressor and so on -- things that modify sound in various ways. SFZ belongs to the instrument category, as it's a sample player. Meaning, you load SFZ into an instrument slot in your DAW, then load a soundfont into SFZ. Then you can play it like you play a normal synth or whatever hardware instrument. It works exactly like when you select the midi output that you use in Anvil Studio (I'm guessing it's the midi sounds on your soundcard?), only difference is that it's all software.

Then you can record midi directly in your DAW, using the sounds loaded into SFZ. You can add as many instances of SFZ as your DAW will hold -- so no need for using a soundfont bank with a ton of different patches -- and assign these to as many midi channels you want. Forget about General MIDI. No serious musician uses it in the way that you describe. In fact, no serious musician uses General MIDI at all.

So, in short:

1. Get a good DAW. REAPER is cheap yet powerful, though maybe a bit too advanced for a beginner. There are other alternatives though. Google it.

2. Put the sfz.dll file in the DAW's plugin folder.

3. Load an instance of SFZ in your DAW*

4. Load a soundfont into SFZ

5. Create a midi track and assign SFZ as its output*

6. Record.

Repeat steps 3, 4, 5 and 6 as many times as you need.


* How this is done differs from program to program.

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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by marcusvinicius » May 14th, 2009, 1:51 am

'sequencer' is an older term, referring to apps that can only do midi; DAW is more widely used today
Sorry man. I was calling Cubase as "sequencer" :lol2:
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West
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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by West » May 14th, 2009, 5:07 am

marcusvinicius wrote:Sorry man. I was calling Cubase as "sequencer" :lol2:
Cubase is a sequencer. It's also a lot of other things. :)

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Re: Making music with free samples

Post by Tyler Johnson » May 14th, 2009, 7:29 am

Cubase Essential 4 - $74.99 :

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/5 ... al_4_.html

Everything you need for MIDI editing (unless you want to use the score, but it's useless in my opinion in Cubase, Sibelius is FAR superior).

EWQL Silver Edition - $195.00 :

http://www.soundsonline.com/product.php ... tid=EW-177

Or you can go with the free samples West has, but in my opinion EWQL Silver is a great deal and a starter kit. I still use it actually and I used it to compose "casualties of war".

So save up some dough and you can get a nice rig for $300, that is of course you have the right computer to run everything smoothly. I would reccomend 4GB RAM on either a 64-bit version of XP or Leopard.

Beastly computers under $500:

http://www.byopc.com

The deals are out there, you just gotta find 'em :wink:

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