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So, PICO-8's built-in tracker has a startling amount of customization, but it can be kinda tricky actually making a custom SFX instrument when you want one - so a few of us on the Discord, me and @jo560hs and @bikibird, were thinking it might be interesting to look at the list of General Midi 1 instruments as a shopping list and see how many we can knock off.

And as a bonus, if we can complete the list, @jo560hs was talking about possibly making an sf2 soundfont for folks who like playing with those.

So, if you wanna jump in and add stuff to the catalog, the guidelines we decided on for convenience of people hunting down instruments afterwards are these:

  • tag the post with midilib
  • use a subject line of the format midi [number] [name]
  • (ideally, each instrument should be posted in its own thread, so specific ones can be found more easily)
  • embed your SFX there so people can hear it and copy it
  • let folks know if you have any special requirements (I generally assume something akin to CC-BY, where people can use them freely if they credit you, but let us know!)

As people create more instruments, we'll try to look in the midilib tag and update everyone on what people have been doing, so folks who feel like doing whatever can see what's missing.

I've made a text file with a list of all the GM-1 instruments and their numbers - feel free to ask questions, promote your threads, and so on here.

Clarifying note about duplicates

Quick heads-up, because it seems to have been the source of a little confusion: yes, we do want to complete the list of SFX ... but even when people have already made SFX for a particular MIDI patch, please share your versions! I can tell you right now: I have eight different pianos downloaded to my hard drive that I can use as instruments in LMMS, plus four more in each of the two big sf2 soundfonts I downloaded, plus a bunch of presets for LMMS's built-in synths, plus all the other soundfonts I have ... and I have zero regrets. Just as much as we want this project to create a PICO-8 sf2 soundfont for producers to play with, we want this project to create a library of sounds for PICO-8 composers to play with. And variety is great because it lets people choose the perfect sound for their tracks.

So, please, post duplicates when you have them. Having more options is terrific.

About channel count and SFX count

For this project, our focus is on single-channel instruments. Those tend to be the most useful, and you can do a lot with a single SFX instrument on a single channel.

With the addition of the waveform mode, however, a single-channel SFX instrument can use multiple SFX instrument slots: one for the instrument, one or more for the waveforms. The unmarked instruments on this page all use a single SFX; any instruments that use multiple will be marked with how many they require.

Compilations of instruments as of 2023-11-05

Gmlib by wasiknighit is a complete (!) 128-instrument collection, divided into sixteen carts with built-in utility to preview or copy any SFX.

Individual instruments as of 2023-03-16

midi 000 acoustic grand piano by jo560hs
midi 001 bright acoustic piano by jo560hs
midi 001 Bright Acoustic Piano by packbat
midi 002 electric grand piano by jo560hs
midi 003 Honky-Tonk Piano by packbat
midi 005 FM Piano by packbat
midi 006 harpsichord by jo560hs

midi 008 Celesta by packbat
Midi 010 Glockenspiel by dw817
midi 013 Xylophone by packbat

midi 019 Church Organ by packbat

midi 029 Overdriven Guitar by packbat

midi 034 Electric Pick Bass by Gabe_8_bit
midi 037 Slap Bass 2 by Gabe_8_bit
midi 038 synth bass 1 by jo560hs

midi 040 Violin by packbat
midi 046 Concert Harp by packbat

midi 050 SynthStrings 1 by packbat
midi 051 SynthStrings 2 by packbat
MIDI 051 Synth String 2 by dw817

midi 058 tuba by jo560hs

midi 070 Bassoon by wasiknighit

midi 073 flute by SmellyFishstiks
midi 073 flute by ericb
midi 074 Recorder by packbat

midi 122 Seashore by jasondelaat
midi 125 Helicopter by jasondelaat

midi 10:35 acoustic bass drum by jo560hs
midilib 10:36 Bass Drum 1 by jo560hs
midi 10:38 acoustic snare by jo560hs
midi 10:39 hand clap by jo560hs
midilib 10:42 Closed Hi-Hat by jo560hs
midilib 10:44 Pedal Hi-Hat by jo560hs
midilib 10:46 Open Hi-Hat by jo560hs
midilib 10:49 Crash Cymbal 1 by jo560hs
midi 10:050 High Tom by packbat (note: can be used for other toms)
midi 10:51 ride cymbal 1 by jo560hs

P#117163 2022-09-10 20:53 ( Edited 2024-01-19 15:35)


Going back through my old carts, I went ahead and uploaded SFX for midi 003: a honky-tonk piano and midi 029: an overdriven guitar. Probably go through and add a few more that I already have later.

(p.s. don't worry if you have duplicates! Duplicates mean that people can choose which one fits their project best.)

Edit: Speaking of duplicates, in addition to midi 013: a xylophone, I have just shared my best attempt at midi 001: a bright acoustic piano. I think that's most of the ones I already made.

P#117164 2022-09-10 20:56 ( Edited 2022-09-11 01:32)

One thing that might be interesting, @packbat, is to create a program in Pico-8 that will let you take a MIDI file, convert it to 6-bit, and then play it directly in Pico-8.

This means that all 256-SFX would be used in place of MIDI instruments.

P#117180 2022-09-10 23:47

I know bikibird made a MIDI-to-PICO-8 converter, but the eternal obstacle is that PICO-8 only has 64 SFX and four channels of polyphony.

I mean, it'd be an interesting project, making a MIDI player, but not a straightforward one.

P#117187 2022-09-11 01:08

Okay so two things:

  1. This is awesome! Thanks to you, @jo560hs and @bikibird (and anybody/everybody else who contributes instruments) for taking the time to do this and...

  2. Yes, please to sf2 soundfonts!
P#117199 2022-09-11 10:37

I'm having so much fun listening to all these instruments!

P#117309 2022-09-12 20:13 ( Edited 2022-09-13 16:12)

Thought I'd jump in with some of the more unusual instruments.

midi 125 helicopter: https://www.lexaloffle.com/bbs/?tid=49320

P#117346 2022-09-13 10:14

Updated the OP with the 13 SFX in the midilib tag so far!

P#117583 2022-09-17 18:14

I plan on updating Denote in January with custom instruments from midilib.

If you have a custom instrument sitting somewhere in a cart you made, please consider submitting it now. Thanks.

P#118515 2022-10-04 13:53

@bikibird ! Please consider my two instruments, Glass, and Synthesizer (the 3rd one that is just a single SFX). I will do more MIDI conversion. Thanks !

Glass (uses 1-sfx):

Synthesizer (uses 2-sfx and the 3rd is 1-sfx):

Also, @bikibird, please consider adding an option in your convert, the way the "Glass" song I wrote is. Where you have the option for the final song to play only one note at a time yet jumps from one track to the next to get a nice overlay effect. Failing that "Glass" won't sound so good.

If "Synthesizer" is too much cause it uses 2-SFX to create one sound, ah, lemme create one more instrument there ... OK, try pressing UP now to hear the 3rd sound. That only uses one SFX and it's at 2nd octave C to match the other midilib instruments by @packbat.

P#118521 2022-10-04 13:58 ( Edited 2022-10-04 15:10)

@dw817, Please you re-title your glass post to conform with the naming standards established in the original post above and tag it with midilib. Then it will be automatically included in the library.

Your synthesizer sound is super cool, but custom instruments as defined in the PICO-8 manual are limited to a single sfx. Therefore, it is not suitable for the midilib project, which is specifically for SFXs that can be selected as custom instruments in the SFX editor.

P#118523 2022-10-04 14:23

OK @bikibird. Let me do that now.

A shame about the other 2-sfx instruments. Blitz a different programming language gives you 256-channels. @zep, I wouldn't mind if Pico-8 went to 256-channels ! Ah well ...

P#118525 2022-10-04 14:25

I'll be honest - I feel like @zep did a great job with the constraints - I find it kinda inspiring of creativity. And honestly, it'll be a while before I'm a good enough producer to even know what to do with that much space.

Very much appreciate having filters to work with now, though. We coulda done this before, but it just opens up so many more sounds to work with while still having that 8/16-bit era feel.

P#118541 2022-10-04 18:28

i have updated the w.i.p. soundfont to include (almost) all the sounds we have so far
you can access it here along with the giant checklist/spreadsheet i made of all the instruments and the samples i exported
ill make a later update with the duplicates but for now have fun

P#121406 2022-11-26 06:16

heck yeah, soundfonts!

...awkward request: @jo560hs, would it be possible for you to upload these somewhere other than a Google Drive? Apparently Google just added a new "feature" where downloads fail unless you allow third-party cookies, and given that Google is an ad company and third-party cookies are regularly used for ad tracking, I'm not comfortable with whitelisting them.

P#121416 2022-11-26 14:34

thanks muchly!

P#121434 2022-11-26 20:43

I'm planning an update to Denote, a MIDI to PICO-8 converter, to be released late January/early February. Part of the project will be to include the custom instruments created under the midilib project. So, if you've been sitting on any custom instruments, now is the time to post them!

P#123077 2022-12-26 17:06

Thanks all, useful collection for someone who's just starting to read about custom instruments-- it's easier to try out instruments others have made first...

P#137957 2023-11-28 05:52

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