How to use soundfonts with ProTools?

First, you are going to need to know what soundfonts are. I’m assuming that if you are wondering how to use them, you already know what they are, but you know what they say about when you “ass-u-me”. So, a definition of “soundfont”: it is a file that contains one or more banks of sampled audio data, which can be re-synthesized at different pitches and dynamic levels. Basically, it is a sample format. Large collections of them can be found on the internet, in varying degrees of quality.

OK, now that we’ve established that you know what they are, you need to know how to make them work in Pro Tools. For that, you are going to need a sound font player to load them into. (They don’t play themselves, y’know.) A soundfont player is a “virtual instrument” that can access and process the sounds in a soundfont, and allow you to use a MIDI keyboard and/or sequencer to play back those sampled sounds. Pro Tools does not include a soundfont player, so you will need to obtain one. There are several options:

  1. Native Instruments Kontakt 5 Player – a free (yeah, I said free!) sample player that will play soundfont files (.sf2), as well as a host of other sample formats.
  2. RGCAudio SFZ – a free (yeah, I said free!) soundfont player, but it is only in VST format, so you would need to convert it to the Pro Tools RTAS plugin format using the VST-RTAS wrapper by FXPansion. It’s also Windows only, so if you’re on a mac, this isn’t the solution for you.
  3. Reason – One of the most useful and used softsynth programs on the market, basically the “swiss army knife” that includes a host of options for softsynths, one of which is the NN-XT sampler, which will play soundfont files.
  4. Many others…

Once you have decided on a player, and made sure you’ve read that particular player’s instructions on it’s use, all you basically have to do is use it like any other softsynth in Pro Tools. You just load up the soundfont you are trying to use into whatever soundfont player you have chosen, and play away.