Classical Music with MIDI?

So, I’m taking some classes online about writing music for so called classical instruments, strings, horns, orchestra etc … counterpoint, all that fun stuff.
Now, as a first exercise I have written some kind of a fughetta (2 violins, 1 cello).

While MuseScore does kind of a decent job playing my score, I wonder if it would make sense to import the midi files into Ardour and get some more or less good sound fonts (free ones seem to be available) and try to re-construct the piece in Ardour.

And no, I don’t have the budget to pay for an orchestra or even a string quartet, not talking about the hassle to record the stuff myself.

Well, is there anybody with some experience in that subject, who could point me in the right direction?

Thanks in advance, PZ

1 Like

If your goal is to work on composition for classical for classical instruments, I’d say you can stick to musescore, although you could do it in Ardour as well. I don’t know about the sound quality of musescore but there are for sure plenty of satisfying free soundfonts (Virtual playing orchestra for example, or spitfire’s bbc orchestra, VSCO2 orchestra, some instruments from decent sampler’s library…)

If you want to produce this music to a good sounding level, you should definitely switch to ardour but none of these soundfonts will provide you with a realistic and satisfying sound only by writing midi notes. You would have to spend a good amount of time humanizing it all, probably by recording yourself playing each part and adding automation to bring it to life. Nothing impossible, it’s just out of the scope of “composition” itself.


If you are interested in learning more about processing the sound, read through Mattias Westlund’s excellent articles about virtual orchestration.

Try using sfizz, Virtual Playing Orchestra, and Dragonfly Hall Reverb. These will give you a pretty decent orchestra sounds without spending any money.

Here’s a demo track I made in Ardour with virtual playing orchestra and dragonfly reverb: Stream Towering Granite - Rough Draft by Michael Willis | Listen online for free on SoundCloud


I also used sfizz and Virtual Playing Orchestra for this. It’s the best option I found.

1 Like

Great work. I like that very much. Sounds very pleasant to me.
Did you start on Musescore and transfer it to Ardour later on? Must have been a lot if work tweaking it to the final result.

Here’s one mixed audio and midi tracks from me, with I think decent sounding woodwinds. Played them all on a keyboard so there’s the humanization. Did it directly into Ardour

1 Like

No, I started in Ardour.

It depends. :slight_smile: You could tweak it endlessly to make it sound more “human” but at some point you have to stop. Getting sfizz and VPO to work was also hairy the first time but it is relatively straightforward if you know what you’re doing. (I had to compile sfizz myself because of a minor error but I think that got fixed. The nice thing about sfizz is that it also reads FLAC without complaining so I compressed VPO to a tenth of its size without any quality degradation.)

I’d like to say thank you for your responses.
Save the world, make music!!!

I compose in Rosegarden and then export/import MIDI to Ardour. I ended up compiling my own orchestral soundfont in order to get all the sounds I want. I also wanted to turn off all effects on the instruments, (sometimes these are baked in), so I can then apply a unified hall sound (using dragonfly reverbs and a little IR), plus some additional EQ and compression using Ardour.

Mattias’ articles are very good indeed. Thanks for that pointer!

@timhawthorn I’m curious about the collection of orchestral samples that you put together. Where did you get the samples? What plugin(s) are you using to render them in Ardour? Is this a collection that you can share, or are the samples proprietary?

Also, if you’re interested in discussing virtual orchestration with Mattias and some other folks, he runs a forum specifically about that subject:

I downloaded quite a lot of them from and similar sorts of places, then used Polyphone to put together my favourite voices. I’m still fine-tuning it. I’m just using the Calf or ACE fluidsynth plug-in to render them in Ardour. Depending on the piece I often do an audio bounce-down of each track with minimal corrective processing to mix from

This topic was automatically closed 91 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.