Back in 1998 or so, the popular Sound Blaster series of audio cards received an upgrade (the Sound Blaster Live) that turned it into a sampler – a musical instrument that basically plays pre-recorded notes, often sounding more realistic than the synthesizers that were popular then. The format used for instrument samples is called SoundFont and the file extension is .SF2.
In the following years the SoundFont format became tremendously popular.
Maybe I am wrong, but I feel the SoundFont community is dying slowly. I myself have switched to free software and Linux (and I know some open source software can use SoundFonts to a certain extent), but I still keep my old SoundFonts here so people can download them.
I wish a strong community would form to create and share open samples (in various formats), using liberal Creative Commons licenses, but as of 2012 I don’t think it has happened yet.
Searching for free, high quality sounds on the net remains a frustrating experience.
All SoundFont loaders allow you to load layers of SoundFonts. Therefore, it is a good idea to load a nice small all-purpose GM bank and then better specific instruments on top of it. With this purpose in mind, the following patches are already assigned to the corresponding program numbers in the General Midi convention.
Filenames begin with the patch number. Easy!
000 Florestan Piano (7.8 MB) is a bright piano, but much better piano sounds now exist out there.
040 Florestan String Quartet (3.2 MB) contains solo violin, viola, cello and double-bass (patches 40 to 43). They are realistic for their small size.
048 Florestan Strings (1.1 MB) is a mediocre-sounding string ensemble.
052 Florestan Ahh Choir (785.5 kB) is a very realistic and useful mixed choir.
060 Florestan French Horns (4.1 MB) contains the heroic sound of multiple french horns at the unison. How many french horns? Who knows? Maybe 4... The samples come from a previous version of Fluid, a GM bank created by Frank Wen.
070 Bassoon Ethan Nando (4.8 MB) is a professional basson – with key-switching and a crisp attack of only 0.006 seconds – sampled by Ethan Winer. Without touching the samples, I have added a mono version to preserve polyphony. The original author even liked the idea. The mono version is at program 70. The stereo version is at bank 1, program 70.
Enjoy the downloads! If any files are down, please let me know.