General MIDI sounds suck.
General MIDI has no sound, just suggested patch numbers for a set of common patch names.
Literally this is true, but I think we all know what they are referring to. The Roland MT-32 pretty much defined the sounds for each of the 128 choices, and so for a company to create a GM soundset that customers thought "sounded good" playing back MIDI files, the new company had to pretty closely match the MT-32. So we ended up with a sea of products with a GM mode that were all trying to sound as close to the MT-32 without being sued...
Perhaps another reason for this perception was the fact that for GM you could only have Chorus and Reverb, so when compared to "regular" sounds that could have insert effects and more diversity in general, the GM sounds were plainer.
Oops, see, I just did it. Because what else are you going to call those 128 sounds? The sounds found in the GM sound bank?
That's what I mean. (The MT32 is not GM BTW)
General MIDI simply designates the names of 128 patches. It doesn't even say what the voice is supposed to sound like. Atmosphere (100) on one synth can sound completely different on another. It's up to the synth manufacturer to determine what atmosphere sounds like.
I have GM patches that take plenty of continuous controllers, chorus, reverb, LFO, Sustain, Pan, Breath controller, Portamento, Brightness, Volume, Expression, Mod wheel, and so on. And I have others that are more limited. It depends on the synth maker, not the GM specifications.
I have a GM synth that by manipulating the MSB and LSB I can get 12 different 'clean guitar. sounds like Tele (front or back pup), Strat, 335, LP, and more, all with GM patch 28.
Both my Edirol SD90 and my Ketron SD2 have some fantastic General MIDI sounds (and some lesser ones as well).
MIDI has no sound. MIDI is the electronic fingers that play a synthesizer, and the synthesizer has sound. A good synth patch is good whether it is a GM patch number or not, and a bad patch sounds bad whether it is a GM patch number or not. Besides for that good or bad is actually in the ear of the listener. A lot of people like that DX7 extra bright Rhodes sound.
I still occasionally use a few TX81z and MT32 sounds because for the song I'm working on they sound perfect. Neither one is GM. I still use SC55 sounds that are GM. Plus I use other synths as well.
General MIDI sounds don't suck, because General MIDI has no sound - none - zero - zilch - nada. MIDI synthesizers have sounds, some good, some bad and it doesn't matter if the patch number coincides with the GM set or not.
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