I am trying to write scores for some popular bollywood songs using lilypond. I am checking the correctness of score by playing back the midi file. I am observing that the playback quality by different midi players are vastly different. Specifically timidity on Mac produces a very "jerky" (for want of a better word) output. If I upload the same midi file to some online apps like bandlab the output is much more "smooth". I am unable to attach audio files to this question but if you visit https://test.meedee.in you can listen to the audio and observe the difference. I also observed that if I transpose the song up by an octave even the output from timidity sounds smooth.


I use a mac and timidity fits very well into my workflow but unfortunately does not produce kind of audio that I am looking for. Importing into bandlab every time is going to be painful. What other options do I have? I also tried timidity on linux and mediaplayer on windows. Both of them are atrocious.

Can I improve the audio on mac itself by using articulation? I tried including "articulate.ly" and using slurs. It made absolutely no difference to the midi output.

  • In the examples you attach, the rhythm is quite complex. There are overlapping pauses in the first and second measure, the third measure doesn't seem to add up to 4/4... moreover, the note grouping doesn't follow typical conventions. Is that all intended? Could it be it contributes to issues with playback? Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 6:19
  • Is there a specific reason why you don't use MuseScore? It has excellent playback for a free program and definitely is easier to use than lilypond. Of course if you want to make publishable scores than lilypond is better, but I think it would be faster to do 95% in Musescore and then finalise in Lilypond
    – Creynders
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 7:46
  • 1
    @Creynders I did try MuseScore. I found it excruciatingly painful to enter notes via GUI. I prefer text input.
    – kargirwar
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 12:29
  • @user1079505 I generally use autonotesplitting feature of lilypond. Sometimes it does produce weird looking PDFs. But it may not contribute to playback issues, because the same file plays fine with other player.
    – kargirwar
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 12:35
  • "I found it excruciatingly painful to enter notes via GUI." It may be, but it is best UI out there, much better than Sibelius. Use 3.6.2 version, not 4. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 12:38

2 Answers 2


Midi is not some kind of audio format, midi is a protocol that tells a synthesizer or sampler what notes to play. So it is quite expected that different synthesizers will produce different sounding results.

TiMidity is a sampler that uses Ultrasound patches or .sfx or .sf2 soundfonts. This is what provides TiMidity with the samples it uses. The soundfont that your Mac installation comes with probably has very small amounts of samples per instrument, meaning that e.g. on a violin vibrato will become slower the lower your notes are. This leads to what you consider "jerky" sound.

So the solution would be to find yourself a soundfont that sounds adequate to you. There are a number of popular free soundfonts out there.

  • "So the solution would be to find yourself a soundfont" The solution is to use a normal physically based renderer that does not have anything pregenerated... Pianoteq... Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 12:41
  • @Lazy Can you provide more info on where to find soundfonts and how to install ?
    – kargirwar
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 12:55
  • @kargirwar Checkout the Arch doc for this: wiki.archlinux.org/title/Timidity++ You will need to locate the config file on your system (I do not use Mac OS, so I cannot tell). Soundfonts simply need to be downloaded, and you need to specify the path to the soundfont in the config file. For soundfonts you might e.g. try schristiancollins.com/generaluser.php or simply google "general midi soundfont".
    – Lazy
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 13:11
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    @Lazy I tried a differnt soundfont and there was immediate improvement in the playback. Thanks!
    – kargirwar
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 14:58

For anyone who stumbles on this: I dumped timidity and started using fluidsynth. Getting much better playback. I am using FluidR3_GM.sf2 soundfont.

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