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Dave G

How do I get classic General MIDI synth sounds?

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In the mid-90's, I composed several MIDI files via GM1 synth, manually drawing notes into my DAW/sequencer's piano roll (no live instruments).

Eventually, after converting the MIDI's to MP3, I had foolishly discarded the .MID files because I thought I was done with them...

So now, if I wish to remix my MIDI files, I have to start them over from scratch and transcribe them into my DAW from memory. Doing this, I wish to use those original instrument patches (at least temporarily) as I remember them. However, as GM/TTS-1 has evolved over the years, I can't remember some of the instrument patches I used (and some don't even sound the same).

So I ask: in remixing my classic MIDI files from the 90's, is there any possible way to hear the General MIDI synth instruments the way they sounded "back then"? Or is this dependent on the sound card I used at the time (if Win10 supports it anymore?)

Any insight would greatly help. Thank you!

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I'm pretty sure the first bank of TTS-1 sounds are exactly the same as the old 24 note poly Roland GM synths at the time, but it sounds like you're talking about Microsoft's internal GM synth?

As far as I know, there's not been any changes to the Microsoft GM sounds either.  To use them though, you'll need to ensure you're running in WASAPI mode for Audio, and set your MIDI output to "Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth".

If you were using a 3rd party sound card at the time, it could be that you had the Yamaha XG sound set, which does sound different.  You can download an XG VSTi synth here: https://veg.by/en/projects/syxg50/  It's 32 bit, but it should work with BitBridge.  I personally use JBridge, but can't recall any issues with BitBridge when I last used it.

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Posted (edited)

This is awesome. Thank you for the information, as I'll be sure to look into this.

In relation to what you said, I do believe I was referring to the Microsoft Wavetable synth. And, for sure, my sound card at the time was the Sound Blaster AWE32.

Edited by Dave G

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Posted (edited)

EDIT:  Selecting WASAPI accordingly and using the Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth, I seem to have hit a snag. In the song in question (in which there are five TTS-1 instrument tracks), Cakewalk is playing the Distortion Guitar track as a piano, and the other tracks are not being played at all.

EDIT 2:  After exiting Cakewalk and reloading the project, confirmed WASAPI and Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth are still active. It seems every TTS-1 track is "playing" (volume meter is active), but no instruments are heard.

(Additional detail: I currently do not use a soundcard, I use onboard audio.)

Why am I getting no playback on the Microsoft Synth? Any ideas?

Thanks. 😊

Edited by Dave G

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If you really want to use the MS GS Wavetable synth don't use instrument tracks. Instrument tracks are designed for soft synths like TTS-1. 

Use MIDI tracks and set the channel and patch name using drop downs in the track header or inspector to initialize the track.

All MIDI  channels except 10 default to the first patch - a piano.

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Thank you, Scook and Abacab for the replies. I've created a MIDI track as such and I'm able to sample the patch set through there, but still can't confirm that what I'm hearing is pre-TTS-1/Microsoft GS Wavetable.

I still currently have WASAPI and Wavetable set in Preferences. Is there any way to set my project back to ASIO4ALL and still be able to access the Microsoft GS Wavetable on this one MIDI track (for testing)?

I totally intend on replacing these instruments with other synths, I just wish to start out with what I used back then. :)

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3 minutes ago, Dave G said:

I still currently have WASAPI and Wavetable set in Preferences. Is there any way to set my project back to ASIO4ALL and still be able to access the Microsoft GS Wavetable on this one MIDI track (for testing)?

Those settings should not have any affect on the actual sound, other than more or less latency or dropouts. The sound generator source would be exactly the same.

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Posted (edited)

I'm so confused. Upon experimentation, it's hard to confirm whether the instrument sounds played in the MIDI track using the Microsoft Wavetable are the same as these patch sounds from yesteryear. Some sound the same, but slightly different.

This may be a wash, but it was an interesting experiment! I still plan on using TTS-1, but it also encourages me to find other "synthtruments" that fit these tracks.

I'm going to go ahead and close this and move along. Thanks for your assistance! :)

Edited by Dave G

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4 minutes ago, Dave G said:

This may be a wash, but it was an interesting experiment! I still plan on using TTS-1, but it also encourages me to find other "synthtruments" that fit these tracks.

I'm going to go ahead and close this and move along. Thanks for your assistance! :)

Hey, before you spend any money, you may want to review this thread started by a forum member.

Freeware Instruments. There are quite a few good suggestions posted here by forum members!

 

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And be sure to check the growing collection of free instruments from Spitfire Audio, aka LABS. https://labs.spitfireaudio.com/#category=&search=&new=true

Spitfire Audio is a leading provider of professional sample libraries. If you install the free Spitfire Audio App you can access all of these.

Quote

An infinite series of free software instruments, made by musicians and sampling experts in London, for anyone, anywhere. Presented in our own plug-in, they are easy to use, and compatible with any DAW. And in case you missed it — they're all free.

 

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And not free, but currently on sale for $14.99 is the AIR Xpand!2 virtual instrument. This used to be part of Pro Tools, but is now available as a VST instrument for all!

It has 2500+ presets that cover 29 categories of instruments. Not GM, but it is 4-part multi-timbral, so it's a bit of a virtual old-school ROMpler synth. Good for getting started with sketching an arrangement because it covers nearly everything. It sounds good, but the sample size is rather small. The whole thing is like 1.5GB.

So Xpand!2 is pretty much a no-brainer for the price! https://www.pluginboutique.com/product/1-Instruments/64-Virtual-Instrument/1560-Xpand-2

As far as freeware instruments go, there are not really any complete high quality band or orchestra instrument collections. So if you are expecting that, you will either need to pay up, or assemble your own collection from free bits and pieces.

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@Dave G   

Here's how you can play any midi file with Cakewalk driving the MS wavetable synth. 

For this to work you need to use on board audio and preferably WASAPI mode. Asio4all is no longer needed for on board audio and is actually inferior to WASAPI for performance. It is recommended you totally remove it from your computer including in the registry under ASIO devices. 

Always OPEN the midi file. 

There's 2 ways you can try and results will depend on what format the original files were saved as and other things like system exclusive data. 

1- The easy way---  go to preferences/ MIDI/ Devices and only check the GS wavetable box.   the file will open and create all the midi tracks and play the wavetable synth. But for some files I found there were no channels they were all on channel 1. I think that's Mid 0. This gives me the same sound as when I play a midi file in Media Player or Win Amp. 

2-  In preferences / midi / devices.  uncheck GS Wavetable and all output boxes. 

Open the midi file and you will have the TTS-1 and the file should play as a GM file. By rights this should be what your after if the file was a true GM file.  

If you want to play this through the wavetable synth go back to preferences and re check the GS Wavetable box. 

Delete the TTS-1 so there's no doubt about the sound source. 

Now use CTRL A to select all go to TRACKS ( found at top of track inspector) in the bottom of the drop down you'll find "selected track outputs" open and under midi select GS wavetable. Now the song will play via that. 

The other part of your puzzle might be that I too used to have a Sound Blaster and I remember it could play midi files using it's own SFZ ( sound fonts) sounds. This was one of the selling features of the card for midi users. You might have used those and there's probably no way to duplicate it without using the original card. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, John Vere said:

@Dave G   

Here's how you can play any midi file with Cakewalk driving the MS wavetable synth. 

For this to work you need to use on board audio and preferably WASAPI mode. Asio4all is no longer needed for on board audio and is actually inferior to WASAPI for performance. It is recommended you totally remove it from your computer including in the registry under ASIO devices.

Thank you for the wealth of information!

Would you please explain to me the advantage of WASAPI (Exclusive/Shared?) over ASIO4ALL? I thought it provided better performance and lower latency? I'm still an amateur with this, and I just seek an elaborate answer. I'm prepared to omit ASIO4ALL from my arsenal if highly suggested.

I tried switching from ASIO4ALL to WASAPI, and now I cannot hear playback from my TTS tracks. (Also I used to use MME in the Driver Mode.)

Edited by Dave G

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ASIO4All was originally designed for use with Windows software that only worked with ASIO.

ASIO4All is not a driver, it is a wrapper that presents WDM drivers as ASIO to ASIO hosts.

In addition to ASIO, Cakewalk also works with MME, WDM and WASAPI drivers directly, no wrappers required.

Usually audio interfaces with a manufacturer supplied ASIO driver perform better using their ASIO driver.

The RealTek audio chip is an exception. It's ASIO driver is not very good. When running Win10 the WASAPI driver is the best choice.

When switching driver modes, review the rest of the audio preferences and make sure they reflect the change.

Some find it easier to validate their audio setup using an audio clip in a project before moving on to MIDI and soft synths.

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All of this is covered in my tutorials which are found in my signature. 

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" General MIDI" is not a specific sound, but a standard protocol intended for interchangeability; so that a song done on my gear will sound reasonably similar on yours.

https://www.midi.org/specifications-old/item/gm-level-1-sound-set

1 is always  "piano,"   53 is always " choir, " etc.

I am unaware of any reason why  GM sound set can not be compromised of high quality samples on the level of Spitfire Audio or something. The GM sounds in my old Korg X3 are actually pretty decent, as are the ones in TTS1. Neither is going to fool anyone into thinking they're hearing a real orchestra, but they don't sound like pure unmitigated crap either.

As far as the MS wavetable, I can really think of no worse sounding GM sound set than that. But, hey, if that's your asthetic, go for it and don't let me dissuade you.

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41 minutes ago, bdickens said:

" General MIDI" is not a specific sound, but a standard protocol intended for interchangeability; so that a song done on my gear will sound reasonably similar on yours.

https://www.midi.org/specifications-old/item/gm-level-1-sound-set

1 is always  "piano,"   53 is always " choir, " etc.

I am unaware of any reason why  GM sound set can not be compromised of high quality samples on the level of Spitfire Audio or something. The GM sounds in my old Korg X3 are actually pretty decent, as are the ones in TTS1. Neither is going to fool anyone into thinking they're hearing a real orchestra, but they don't sound like pure unmitigated crap either.

As far as the MS wavetable, I can really think of no worse sounding GM sound set than that. But, hey, if that's your asthetic, go for it and don't let me dissuade you.

It's been a while since I fired it up, but my hardware Roland rack JV-1080 had a decent GM set, as I can recall. It blew away any Sound Blaster sound fonts that I ever heard!

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6 hours ago, scook said:

The RealTek audio chip is an exception. It's ASIO driver is not very good. When running Win10 the WASAPI driver is the best choice.

When switching driver modes, review the rest of the audio preferences and make sure they reflect the change.

I was using MME just fine before I switched to ASIO4ALL. But when I just switched to WASAPI, I couldn't hear any playback.

Would you please elaborate your second statement here? "When switching driver modes" -- what other settings should I look to modify to make WASAPI work for me?

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