Polyphony is one of the most important features of any new digital piano, keyboard, or synthesizer.
You’ll hear the word “polyphony” a lot while looking for a keyboard. It’s a crucial piano feature that many users don’t completely grasp and frequently ignore. This article will explain what polyphony is and provide guidance on how much money you’ll need to spend on the finest digital piano for your requirements.
First, what is polyphony in music?
- 1 Polyphony Explained
- 2 What Does Polyphony Mean For Digital Pianos?
- 3 How Much Polyphony Will I Have? Examples
- 4 What Is Polyphony? – Conclusion
Poly = Many
Phony = Voise/Sounds
Poly-phony = Many sounds
Polyphony determines how many notes you can play at the same time. You may be wondering why this applies to piano playing. Surely you can’t play more than 10 different sounds at the same time because you only have five fingers on each hand!
This is not entirely true. You see, the pedal on a piano is what greatly increases the amount of sound produced. The sustain (right) pedal lengthens the sound and prevents the keys from stopping when the key is released.
Thus, if the pedal were to be depressed and each note were played individually, 88 different sounds would result.
An acoustic piano has potentially infinite polyphony because the sound is created dynamically by the instrument, rather than being recorded like a digital piano.
What Does Polyphony Mean For Digital Pianos?
What polyphony do digital pianos have? Although it is possible to find polyphony as low as 64 notes (Yamaha P45) or even 48 notes, modern digital pianos typically have a polyphony of approximately 128 or more. Literally, this means that 128 separate sounds can be played simultaneously.
The instrument will simply stop playing some sounds once you exceed the threshold in order to add more new sounds. Depending on the musical piece you are playing, you may or may not notice it.
What Uses Up Polyphony?
In addition to playing melodic notes, many other elements affect keyboard polyphony. The amount of polyphony used is highly dependent on the sustain pedal. When using the sustain pedal, multiple notes are played simultaneously until the pedal is released. Accordingly, the polyphony number increases for each note played from the moment the pedal is depressed.
Please note that on a digital piano, polyphony includes not only keyboard keys but also different sounds (strings, organ, harpsichord, etc.)
What is an example of polyphony? If you play a melody of 5 notes with a piano sound, this is a polyphony of 5 melodic notes. If you add the sound of strings in the same melody, this is already 10 notes. When you add a pedal, drums, and metronome, they all add new sounds to your polyphony and so you can very soon go beyond the limits of your piano.
Note! Some keyboards with stereo patches use twice as much polyphony for each note. Pianists soon approach their limit due to doubling the polyphony, which can lead to unsightly note dropouts.
With certain digital piano functions, users may record a few songs and play them back as a personalized background track. You may probably guess that enacting it requires a lot of polyphony.
The same goes for keyboards with MIDI capabilities, they will also use more polyphony. Polyphony can be used to create very complex MIDI recordings, especially when multiple audio tracks are overdubbed.
What Is The Most Common Polyphony In A Digital Piano?
The most typical varieties of polyphony are as follows:
The maximum will depend on the price, as you see from the example below. In order to give you an idea of what to anticipate in terms of polyphony, I looked at the most well-known digital pianos at various pricing ranges.
How Much Polyphony Do I Need In A Digital Piano?
I advise 64 notes of polyphony as a minimum. But in this case, the more the better.
Note! When stereo samples are introduced, the polyphony becomes a little more difficult. For every note, stereo samples may require the use of some additional notes in polyphony. For each note that is pushed, we now have three notes of polyphony if we add one piano, a synthesizer, and a bass.
You will probably use the sustain pedal or play chords that are larger than the digital piano’s polyphony capacity if you do. There are even 2-4 layers per note in some of the finer digital piano examples. This implies that you will want a considerable quantity of polyphony.
I would advise beginners to use a digital instrument with a minimum of 64 notes of polyphony.
For advanced students who have been studying for some time – no less than 128 notes.
But I would recommend 192 or more because that’s the maximum number of notes that most digital pianos in my price range contain.
How Important Is Polyphony In A Digital Piano?
Polyphony is very important for a digital piano, especially if you are serious about playing difficult, beautiful pieces. But it is not the main factor when choosing a digital keyboard.
While the polyphony is undeniably significant, the key action, in my opinion, is more significant. The key action will ultimately be the one that gives you the feeling of playing an acoustic piano.
Why Polyphony Matters?
Polyphony is very important in a digital instrument, no matter what genre or style of music you play.
First, this is especially important for classical music, where you will often use large chords, passages, and a sustain pedal. The same can be said for jazz music, which often uses the pedal, many difficult harmonies, and long passages and chords.
But what if you take the opportunity to add different instrument sounds to your piano and use it for live performances?
You cannot let a low-quality piano compromise your performance whether you are using it for playing, as a stage keyboard, or in concert. This is especially true if you’re mixing voices, such as when you want a ballad or anything else to look like it’s being performed by piano and strings.
Polyphony is an important parameter that should be considered very carefully when choosing a digital piano.
How Much Polyphony Will I Have? Examples
Many entry-level, inexpensive pianos only have 64-v0ices polyphony. 64 is a surprisingly little number, even for novices. Despite the fact that beginners won’t necessarily be playing big chords and running across the keyboard, they could be interested in several other piano aspects that use a lot of polyphony.
A metronome, drum tracks, or the accompanying feature are often helpful for novices as they learn new material.
It is advisable to immediately buy an instrument with a polyphony of 129 voices or more so that you do not have to change your instrument to a new one soon.
We’ll examine several popular digital pianos’ highest levels of polyphony.
Casio Privia PX 780
A noteworthy development in the Privia digital piano line’s ongoing progression is the new PX-780. A revolutionary keyboard action and a potent new sound engine work together to deliver a new level of detail, nuance, and expressiveness for an improved grand piano experience in Privia’s signature attractive appearance.
It has a polyphony of 128 and should be capable of supporting its two-track recorder, rhythms, user songs, and layering functions. 128 might be a nice starting point, even for a newbie.
Roland GO: PIANO
One of the best budget options for beginners from Roland is the Roland GO: PIANO.
Roland also has 128-voice polyphony and is of excellent quality. But its best feature is a set of accessories. The instrument comes with a Roland DP-2 pedal, power adapter, Gearlux Double X keyboard stand, 3 months of free lessons, Gearlux piano bench, and piano book.
A great choice for a beginner! Please note that some models of this piano have a 61-key keyboard and are not suitable for advanced and professional levels.
The KDP75 Digital Piano is the latest addition to Kawai’s renowned line of award-winning home instruments. It combines a weighted keyboard with grand piano sounds in a stylish economical design.
The KDP75 keyboard of 88 height-weighted keys responds like true acoustic action, and the rich tones of a concert grand piano are sure to impress. With additional features such as a USB-MID connection, preloaded study material, and a convenient song recorder, the KDP75 is a great option for beginners looking for a beginner instrument as well as more experienced players.
This instrument has 192-note Polyphony.
What Is Polyphony? – Conclusion
Here we come to the end of our article. We can draw the following conclusion:
From my perspective, at least, the answer is straightforward. Purchase the digital piano that best fits your budget and has the highest polyphony you can manage — at least 128, but ideally 192 or 256.
And keep in mind that polyphony is not the most important parameter when choosing an instrument. A more important parameter, especially for a beginner, is the action of the keyboard keys. It is important to choose an instrument that is closest to the mechanics of an acoustic one.
Here you can find a comparison of the top 10 Yamaha pianos.
I wish you great musical success and productive studies!
Hello! My name is Lucy.
I am a musician, pianist, and piano teacher with over 10 years of experience. I, along with my professional team, created this website. Here I want to share my experience and knowledge with you. I write articles about learning the piano, its features and history, and reviews of the best digital pianos and accessories.
I hope my site will be useful to you!