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#2084323 - 05/17/13 05:15 PM Does polyphony affect single notes?
Daniel Corban Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/17/13
Posts: 197
Loc: Canada
I am very computer literate and understand polyphony and audio equipment. I recently had a salesmen make a statement that is very dubious to me, but I wanted to inquire if there is any possible merit from those who may know.

I was looking at two Yamaha 400 series digital pianos. One has polyphony of 128, the other 256. I made a comment that the extra 128 seemed rather extreme. He claimed that the extra sound channels are actually put to use by improving the sound of even a single note. He claimed the piano added more "overtones" on the lower notes. He was implying that the extra channels were being used to represent the resonance of the other strings and such. He tried to show me how the same note played on each piano sounded better on the 256 channel model, but they sounded the same to me once I compensated for the fact that the higher model was simply louder.

Is there any merit to his statement? Are the extra channels put to any specific use, or are they just there to support ultra high level players and pieces?
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#2084331 - 05/17/13 05:30 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: Daniel Corban]
Vid Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/01
Posts: 706
Loc: Vancouver, B.C.
I thought polyphony applied to how many individual notes a sound generator can process at any given point in time. If you are outputting more notes than what the processor can handle then some notes will drop out.

I never heard of polyphony referring to overtones so what he was telling you sounds like absolute bunk to me. Maybe he was talking about sympathetic resonance which would make more sense?

In general you are correct in that a higher polyphony is better for more complicated music.
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#2084334 - 05/17/13 05:35 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: Daniel Corban]
toddy Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/30/11
Posts: 1320
Loc: Portugal
It's probably true that pianos with resonance simulation do use extra tone generators, but this is only audible where the arrangement is of delicate single tones. But a lack of voices due to a mere 128 total rather than 256 would only kick in with heavily layered multi-timbral arrngements, I would have thought and in that case, you couldn't possibly notice the presence of a few overtones. Just possibly, it might effect the richness of pedal-depressed full glissandi.....but I wouldn't loose sleep over not having it. There are other far more important features such as the length and quality of the samples and the sound of the speakers, say.
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Mics: SP B1 & MXL V67g/ Alesis MicTube Preamp/ Xenyx302/ Yamaha HS7s .

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#2084342 - 05/17/13 05:55 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: Daniel Corban]
emenelton Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/02/09
Posts: 424
On my Kawai ES6, if I depress silently the keys an octave and a 12th above a note I strike, those samples will sound.

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#2084347 - 05/17/13 06:10 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: emenelton]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3337
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: emenelton
On my Kawai ES6, if I depress silently the keys an octave and a 12th above a note I strike, those samples will sound.


They will, but I don't think they are samples. I think they are modelled frequencies so they don't necessarily factor into the polyphony question. This is one of the reasons why it's so hard to compare a lot of DPs in terms of polyphony. We don't know how each brand/model uses tones or computes its polyphony. Best thing is to thorough play each DP you are interested in and make sure nothing strange happens.

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#2084349 - 05/17/13 06:17 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: Daniel Corban]
MacMacMac Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 3669
Loc: North Carolina
Given that no one has truly specified the meaning of the term as applied to digital pianos ... I think the term really means nothing at all.

But salesmen will pitch anything that sounds impressive, truth be damned. No doubt they'll be touting 512 polyphony next year. Shall we bet on 1024 next?

I think it's a spec we can ignore. Anyway ... has anyone noticed anything about today's mega-polyphony pianos that would distinguish their sound from that of their micro-polyphony ancestors?

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#2084353 - 05/17/13 06:26 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: Daniel Corban]
gvfarns Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3474
Loc: Pennsylvania
Yeah, there's no standard definition for polyphony, so it may or may not be the case that each key uses multiple counts of polyphony.

However, even if each key used several, we are a long way away from 128 or 256 polyphony. Polyphony is basically never a consideration in current pianos, so I would say his claim is probably B.S. and polyphony shouldn't be a concern. Not between those two pianos. One piano may sound better, but not because it has more polyphony.


Edited by gvfarns (05/17/13 06:26 PM)

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#2084362 - 05/17/13 06:34 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: ando]
emenelton Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/02/09
Posts: 424
Originally Posted By: ando
Originally Posted By: emenelton
On my Kawai ES6, if I depress silently the keys an octave and a 12th above a note I strike, those samples will sound.


They will, but I don't think they are samples. I think they are modelled frequencies so they don't necessarily factor into the polyphony question.


Why do you not think that?

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#2084373 - 05/17/13 06:57 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: Daniel Corban]
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5261
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
My GranTouch had 32 note polyphony. If notes dropped out when I played I never noticed.
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#2084405 - 05/17/13 08:03 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: Dave Horne]
Thomas Williams Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/18/04
Posts: 62
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
My GranTouch had 32 note polyphony. If notes dropped out when I played I never noticed.

I don't know about many different models, but some do use more than one voice of polyphony per note. My Korg uses two voices of polyphony per note for the main piano samples. Pretty sure there's at least one or two sounds that use three voices per note, and some that only use one. Using the reverb and chorus functions also reduce the polyphony somewhat. This information is explained in the manual -- that's how I became aware of these specifics. When this is factored in, 60 voices of polyphony (what mine has) isn't a lot -- especially if one wants to start layering two sounds together (or playing back MIDI files with multiple instrument parts through a single keyboard).
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#2084408 - 05/17/13 08:09 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: Daniel Corban]
Daniel Corban Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/17/13
Posts: 197
Loc: Canada
Thanks for all of the replies. It is helpful to know that some manufacturers have used multiple channels per note. I am not sure if Yamaha does such a thing. The models in question were the Clavinova 430 and 440.
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Playing: Yamaha CLP-440

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#2084430 - 05/17/13 08:54 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: Daniel Corban]
Mike_Martin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/21/09
Posts: 381
Sound channels?

An instrument using STEREO samples will use 2 voices of polyphony for each note you play. So an instrument that has 64 notes of polyphony as an example, technically only has 32 notes available for the stereo piano sound. Add layer strings with piano and you'll see why having more polyphony is a valuable thing.

Technically Polyphony has NOTHING to do with sound quality unless there is other technology being used besides simply playing back samples.

Products that reproduce nuances such as simulations of string resonance or other damper simulations are using additional voices of polyphony to produce those additional effects. It is likely that these types effects could be reproduced on instruments that have less polyphony but you'll hit that limit sooner.


Edited by Mike_Martin (05/17/13 08:56 PM)
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#2084442 - 05/17/13 09:23 PM Re: Does polyphony affect single notes? [Re: Daniel Corban]
Daniel Corban Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/17/13
Posts: 197
Loc: Canada
That could explain why the 430 does not have string resonance or the off-key samples, while the 440 does.
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Playing: Yamaha CLP-440

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