How to add soundfonts to a Cakewalk Sonar MIDI project


Monday, April 02, 2007 
By Stephane Brault


Soundfonts are a good way to make your MIDI-based projects sound a lot better. Not always great but better. Not all instruments can be sampled efficiently. Lots of music playing techniques, like string attack on a guitar, are hard to replicate.

For the following guide, I have used Cakewalk Sonar 6 Producer Edition and a Soundblaster Audigy SE 24 bit on Windows Vista Home Premium. My computer has an Intel Core 2 1.86Ghz with 2Gb of RAM.

Note : On Windows Vista, you must use driver version 5.12.1.512 from Creative (dated 2005-07-08). Newer drivers have compatibility problems with Creative's softwares (Creative Surround Mixer, Soundfont Bank Manager, Device Control, etc). If you run Creative Software AutoUpdate, chances are you won't be able to use soundfonts.

We will use the following files:

  1. Extract sf2 files from all .sfark and .rar files you've just downloaded using the sfArk extraction tool and WinRAR.
  2. Open Metallica's Fade To Black MIDI file within Sonar. ( What is a MIDI file? )
  3. Press Play to hear what it sounds like. It should actually sound something like this (mp3, 259kb).
  4. Now to associate soundfont with a track, you must know which MIDI channel is associated it. Double-click in the "empty area" of the first track to show it's properties (or right-click and select Track Properties).

    Cakewalk Guitar Track 1

  5. Take note of the MIDI channel associated to the first track and click on Cancel.

    Cakewalk Software - Track Properties

  6. Now that we know the channel, click on Options > Soundfonts... from the main menu.

  7. Select channel #1 and click on Attach. Browse to the directory you've just extracted the soundfonts downloaded previously. Select the Acoustic Ibanez guitar soundfont.

    Cakewalk Sonar - Guitar Soundfont Selected 

  8. Now edit again the first track's properties. In Bank Select Method, select Controller 0. In the drop-down menu Bank, select 1-SF: [1] Acoustic_Ibanez1. Drop the key down to -12 (only for track #1). Select the Ac1StereoChorus path and click OK.

    Cakewalk - Guitar track properties

  9. Press Play to hear the song. You should hear the difference in the opening intro's guitar. It should sound something like this.

  10. Repeat previous steps to add the Tama Rockstar soundfont to channel 10 on track number 3, with patch #0. Add also the Fingered Bass soundfont to channel 9 on track number 10 (hi Cliff!) and select patch #33 (fingered bass). When done, you should have the following soundfonts :

    Cakewalk Sonar - Selected Soundfonts

The final result should sound like this (only tracks with soundfonts are enabled).

Of course you can go and search for other free soundfonts to populate other tracks. You'll find out soon that some type of instruments are hard to be sampled.

Don't forget to save your project as a Cakewalk Project file (.cwp) otherwise you'll end up losing all soundfont configuration.

Good luck!





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