Playing Soundfonts using sfz
sfz is a free software application that can be used to play Soundfonts from within most Windows based sequencer programs.
Mac users can use Garage Band, which has built-in support for Soundfonts.
sfz is included with recent versions of Cakewalk Sonar, and is currently available as a free download from their website.
sfz will operate in your sequencer as a VST plug-in. In Sonar, for example, you can simply load sfz into Sonar’s "Synth Rack" and Sonar will automatically create two associated tracks, one MIDI and one Audio, and then open the sfz application window shown below. Other sequencers work in a similar manner. (Refer to your operating manual for specific instructions on how to load "software synthesizers" and VST plug-ins with your particular sequencer.)
Clicking the “FILE” menu will allow you to search for and load any Soundfonts that you have on your system. In the example below, the 'JSD - Real Alto Sax' has been loaded. Note that sfz refers to "patches" as "programs."
The various patches of the Soundfont library can be selected under the “PROGRAM” menu. The example below shows that the first patch “Jas Short -solo” has been selected. When MIDI notes are played in the MIDI track, sounds from this patch will be played.
sfz control panel
Within your sequencer, the “sfz” program runs as a plug-in, and responds to MIDI notes played from an external MIDI controller (keyboard, guitar synth, etc.) or from MIDI note information on the MIDI track.
The figure below shows how the tracks in Sonar are set up to use the sfz plug-in. The MIDI track output is set to sfz, and the associated AUDIO track’s input is also set to sfz. Your sequencer will need to be set up the same way.
Now, any MIDI information received by the MIDI track is passed to sfz, which plays the Soundfont that it has loaded into the channel that has been set in the MIDI track. (In the example below, the MIDI track does not actually have a Channel assigned so it defaults to Channel 1.)
MIDI and AUDIO tracks set up to control the sfz plug-in