The Term poly refers to many and phony refers to sound and polyphony is the maximum number of notes that the keyboard can play simultaneously. It could range from 16 to 256 notes and pianists can choose instruments with their desired number of polyphonies while buying the digital pianos.
It is important to look for the number of polyphony notes in the digital pianos, as it is one of the unique features that differentiate the digital piano from an acoustic piano and is an important component that fosters one’s musical journey. Let us discuss this unique feature in detail and how much polyphony is just right to foster the pianist in you.
Table of Contents
Polyphony is the number of notes that can be played on a piano at one time. Though logic says that with ten fingers in both hands, we can play only 10 notes at a time, with the sustain pedal in the digital piano that stops the notes on the piano and elongates the sound as the key is released, we can play more than 80 separate sounds. You only have to leave the sustain pedal down and play note by note. Comparing the acoustic piano with the digital piano, the former has unlimited polyphony as its sounds are not recorded as that of the digital piano.
Digital pianos generally have a polyphony sound of 128 or above and some even have 256 or even 48 different sounds to play at once. When we say phony or sound, it could refer to two different things, the number of individual notes that we are playing and the number of voices that we are using on the piano such as the harpsichord, strings, vibraphone, etc., depending on what the digital piano offers.
For instance, if we are playing five notes with only the piano voice and start using strings with the piano sounds, it not becomes ten notes and while concurrently using the pedal, we can add up the polyphony and have as many notes on the piano as possible. Even the tracks and other instruments that play in the background sound can add up to the polyphony. In the duet mode, for instance, where two people can play the piano at the same time, there are 20 fingers now to explore the maximum possibility of the polyphony.
Importance of Polyphony in a Digital Piano
Polyphony matters to all pianists who are playing in the different music genres and with lower-end pianos that have limited polyphonies, the sounds keep cutting off and hinders the progress of the musician beyond a certain level. Thus, having a digital piano with maximum polyphony is beneficial as it helps in playing different styles of music and will not deceive the performer on stage.
Polyphony is mandatory for mixing voices in music and can be highly beneficial for pianists sliding up their professional cadre. They are important for music performers who create music or do stage shows and for music teachers to teach different genres of music to the students. Thus it becomes mandatory to buy a piano with at least 128 polyphonies though there are pieces with 192 or 256 polyphonies at a higher cost.
Above all, it helps music students to learn fast and makes their music learning journey all the more interesting. Many beginners find that having a metronome or a background track with drum beats helps them to learn the piano lessons better and also enhances their music playing interests.
Applications of Polyphony in the Digital Piano – What Uses Up Polyphony?
There are many different aspects in the piano that makes use of polyphony, though they render their maximum contribution for playing piano notes. The sustain pedal is one of the biggest factors that influences how polyphony is been used. While playing with a sustain pedal we get multiple notes layered on top of each other until the pedal gets released.
Thus, every single note that is been played while the pedal was depressed contributes to polyphony. Also, patches in some keyboards carry a slow decay that lasts long even after the key is released. These sounds can also build upon each other requiring additional polyphony.
Piano notes feature lasting reverbs and sympathetic string resonances and though these are not recognizable, these minor nuances also contribute towards the number of polyphonies that are been used. For doubling effects in music, while attempting to layer the piano sounds with the string sounds, we can witness the use of polyphonies. For recording new tracks and to play them as a custom backing track, we have to use a large amount of polyphony.
As a pianist, if you want to play many instruments in your notes and wish to record different tracks on your digital piano, then you need a higher note polyphony. Pianos from Casio, Korg, Roland, and Yamaha are moderately priced but feature higher polyphony for budding pianists.