I've been working on some music generating software, and have laid out the basic algorithms, now all I need are actual instrumental sounds. By instrumental sounds, I mean the sound that comes out of a clarinet or flute, not pure tones. I've been thinking about using a synthesizer , but all the synthesizers I've heard produce more or less pure tones. I've also thought about using a music library, recordings of many instruments at different volumes, different tonguing, different anything else, but so far, have found no libraries. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I could get the sounds? (I'm open to using anything, even a synthesizer if it can do what I'm asking.) Thanks.

Sorry if this is off-topic, but it seems to fit with the "usage of specific music software" requirement in the FAQ.

  • 1
    In the future it would be helpful if you provide details as to what platform you are working with. In your case it turns out that you are on an Apple Macintosh with GarageBand, and you already have Apple Logic Pro from your program at school. So what platform of music-generating software are you working with? Is it a commercial program, like MAX, goo.gl/Eq36e or are you writing your own code from scratch?
    – user1044
    Jul 23, 2012 at 14:33

4 Answers 4


What you need to be looking for are VST - Virtual Studio Technology - instruments. The good DAW's all let you use VST plugins to synthesise instrument sounds, using various parameters, including different breath pressure, volume etc.

Many libraries are available for free online, you tend to get free ones with Digital audio magazines (often a DVD full of instruments and drum samples)

VST is pretty much the industry de facto standard now, so making sure your software can use them would be recommended.

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    Mayhem, from subsequent posts, it turns out he has a Mac that already has GarageBand and Logic Pro and MainStage installed on it. So he needs to work with Apple AU instruments, not VST.
    – user1044
    Jul 23, 2012 at 3:13
  • @Wheat - I agree - always makes sense to go with what you already have.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Jul 23, 2012 at 12:25

You need to learn about sample playback software and virtual instruments for computers. There are hundreds of commercial products on the market that provide what you are asking about. The technology has been around for thirty years, although in the early days sample playback and virtual instruments required dedicated hardware keyboard instruments. These days all these sounds are available on personal computers.

What platform are you on? If you're on Mac, by all means play around with Apple GarageBand, which comes free with every Mac. It has a large library of virtual musical instruments like flute, saxophone, violin, cello, guitar, trumpet, bass, piano and organ that you can play from a MIDI sequence, keyboard or other MIDI instrument.

If you are on Windows, you could look at any of a number of software environments like Reason, FL Studio, Finale, Sibelius--the list goes on forever. All of them provide a basic library of virtual musical instruments.

Check out these lines of products

Native Instruments

Garritan Personal Orchestra

Apple MainStage

Vienna Symphonic Library



  • 1
    Are the sounds on GarageBand free for use? (I'm using a mac)
    – Russell
    Jul 22, 2012 at 4:46
  • I'd also like to add that I'm looking for a classical music based library, but Native Instruments is more modern based, and Finale uses the Native Instruments's library so, Finale and Native Instruments are not ideal. So far, my favorite is Sibelius, with its total focus on classical. Even if it ends up not suiting my needs, I'd buy it because it's such a useful tool. Thanks
    – Russell
    Jul 22, 2012 at 5:15
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    In the end, I've decided to go with Vienna Symphonic Library, when I get the money to buy it, but first, I'll be working with garage band. Thanks.
    – Russell
    Jul 22, 2012 at 5:27
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    If you want a symphonic library, you should start with Garritan Personal Orchestra. It cost only $150. Trust me, you'll get a tremendous amount of usefulness out of it, and it runs on modest computer resources whereas Vienna requires a massively powerful computer with tons of RAM and hundreds of gigabytes of disk space. Also consider simply buying the Finale notation program, which comes with most of the Garritan library already included.
    – user1044
    Jul 22, 2012 at 14:21
  • Yes, GarageBand and all these libraries let you use the music you make with the sounds for free. You can record a song and sell it for profit. The only thing you can't do is give friends copies of the sample libraries themselves, or try to sell the libraries. That's piracy.
    – user1044
    Jul 22, 2012 at 14:23

Great answers on this thread. I would caution that it's often pretty easy to tell if it's not a "real" instrument. One way to try to get around this is to record the synth, play it back (isolated) out of some decent speakers, and record that playback with a microphone. Do it in a room with a little reverb and you can get something that sounds much more real than the awkwardly-squeaky-clean sound of a direct-line synth.

(That trick is also handy if you're in high school and can only afford a $100 Casio keyboard:)

  • Or you could add reverb and delay with effects.
    – empty
    Jul 24, 2019 at 23:26

Allow me to disagree. In a good tone generator (or you may call it MIDI player if you are much a PC guy), the instrument sound is not always the same. It depends on the sampling quality. Having the 24bit, 32bit sampling etc doesn't mean it's always better.

The professional tone generator have different samplings on different range of tones, and on different velocity (how hard you touch on the keyboard), and also respond to some other non-note controller, e.g. expression pedal signal, pitch bender, etc. A very good sample of the case is that a decently good tone generator can simulate many modifications to the Hammond B organs, including the clicks, distortion, and the Lesley amplifier. One I know also sample the String ensemble in so many different configuration that you can actually produce the Mozart symphony No. 25 from the music library it provides without people noticing that it is produced by a single tone generator.

Having this in your arsenal means that you may utilize not just MIDI tone signal, but also the velocity, effects etc to add to your vocabulary.

Again, I disagree if you say that synthesizers only produce "pure" tones. But of course not all synthesizers as good as others.

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