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128 note polyphony question
#2546406 06/04/16 10:40 PM
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Is there any known piece in classical music which would require more than 128 note polyphony? Is there any piano sonata, or piano concerto, or etude, or any other composition, where 128 polyphony of a digital piano would not be sufficient?

To me, it doesn't seem like there is, but I still want to hear some opinions. Some digital pianos praise their higher polyphony numbers, which is why I'm asking.

Perhaps this is only an advantage if you play a piano concerto with the orchestra playing in the background on the piano, or similar?


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Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546411 06/04/16 10:58 PM
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It depends on how much you use the pedal... wink

I suspect very high polyphony numbers are largely a marketing gimmick (like ultra high sampling rates in digital recording).

On the other hand, if you seriously intend using a MIDI rendition of orchestral music through the piano (rather than mixing in an analogue or digital track), then 128 won't be enough by a long shot if you want to have a serious orchestra with reasonably realistic decay timing (20 or so voices playing together means you run out of polyphony 6 notes into the piece, never mind the piano).

Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546416 06/04/16 11:31 PM
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It does depend on how much you use the pedal. You can easily hit 128 voices by putting the pedal down and doing a glissando. An acoustic piano does not suffer from voice limitations, therefore it is a reasonable objective of a digital piano not to suffer from note-cutoff/voice stealing.

Some digital pianos and keyboard instruments allow you to do splits and layers. For example - a string section sound along with the piano samples. The greater the number of available voices - the more capable the instrument is at performing splits and layers without note-cutoff/voice stealing. I've done many gigs with one keyboard where I layer acoustic piano, electric piano, strings, and brass instruments and use a volume fader on each layer to bring in or take out each of these sound groups. If I didn't have the poly, this would not be possible.


Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546419 06/04/16 11:48 PM
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I wouldn't be using layered sounds, MIDI or anything like that. It'd be piano playing only.

Now that both of you mention that it really depends on the pedaling, it does give me something to think about.

AFAIK, one stereo sample = two notes of polyphony. That means 64 would be the actual limit.

Can anyone name a highly advanced composition where this would be a problem? I need to decide between two instruments, one with 128 and the other with 196 note polyphony. I'm an advanced player.

I really thought 128 would be enough, until this thread.

Last edited by Stephano; 06/04/16 11:50 PM.

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Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546423 06/05/16 12:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Stephano
I wouldn't be using layered sounds, MIDI or anything like that. It'd be piano playing only.

Now that both of you mention that it really depends on the pedaling, it does give me something to think about.

AFAIK, one stereo sample = two notes of polyphony. That means 64 would be the actual limit.

Can anyone name a highly advanced composition where this would be a problem? I need to decide between two instruments, one with 128 and the other with 196 note polyphony. I'm an advanced player.

I really thought 128 would be enough, until this thread.
You mentioned "playing an orchestra through the piano". That's layering sound, though there are ways of doing it without affecting polyphony limits.

Stereo has nothing to do with polyphony; it's a recording/reproduction technique, not a characteristic of a musical instrument (a piano is neither mono nor stereo nor 7.1 - you can record it and play it back in all three and more - the number of notes you can hear at any one moment is very largely independent of how you record them).

Easy solution to your dilemma: play both instruments in fast pieces that require a fair amount of pedalling, and see if you can hear notes being lost. Some Chopin or Rachmaninoff Études would probably work well, though I don't know them well enough to suggest which ones. Gershwin piano concerto (3rd mov. especially) and Rhapsody in Blue too, I suspect.

If you can't test play either instrument... I would suggest you don't buy it independent of any polyphony limits.

Last edited by oldmancoyote; 06/05/16 12:29 AM.
Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546435 06/05/16 01:37 AM
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I once tried Pianoteq, pressing my forearms down on the keyboard and holding the pedal.

. . . I couldn't even reach polyphony=100 by doing that.

My guess is that polyphony=128 is enough to play anything that you'd ever want to play, or that you _could_ play, with a "straight piano" setup. But I can't prove it.




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Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546445 06/05/16 02:29 AM
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Listen to the famous pianist Andras Schiff on Beethoven - http://download.guardian.co.uk/sys-audio/Arts/Culture/2006/11/22/03_14CSharpMin.mp3

He talks about playing sonata no. 14 in C# minor first movement with the sustain pedal held one-third down throughout the entire first movement. You may disagree with Andras Schiff, but if you take him at his word, then the sustain dampers are off the strings 6-7 minutes long through the whole of the 1st movement more than any DP's polyphony capabilities.

I think the important question is how many notes could the human ear (brain) really continue to hear as they fade with much louder new notes being made? I personally don't know, but at some number we simply lose track I'm guessing. If you cannot hear it anymore does it matter?

Re: 128 note polyphony question
8 Octaves #2546449 06/05/16 03:24 AM
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Measured by apples and oranges. Polyphony is defined differently by various VST's and DP's depending on how they count stereo samples, release samples, sustain samples (on some VSTs), etc.


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Re: 128 note polyphony question
Charles Cohen #2546464 06/05/16 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
I once tried Pianoteq, pressing my forearms down on the keyboard and holding the pedal.

. . . I couldn't even reach polyphony=100 by doing that.

My guess is that polyphony=128 is enough to play anything that you'd ever want to play, or that you _could_ play, with a "straight piano" setup. But I can't prove it.




Well, i guess this math is easily done, since a piano only has 88 keys to be played at once, so you could have had more forearms handy, to play even more keys, whitout actually reaching the limit. Though that is, without pedal.

Problem rather arises playing complex chord pieces with pedal. Think Rach, or anything comparable to 23 5.

Last edited by Bellicapelli; 06/05/16 05:53 AM.

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Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546467 06/05/16 06:02 AM
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Note stealing has been perfected long before polyphony increased to the hundreds. You can play pure piano with just 32 notes polyphony without audibly losing notes. In fact the software piano Ivory II starts you up with a default setting of 24 notes polyphony.


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Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546489 06/05/16 07:45 AM
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I have tried to play the Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptue with a virtual piano which displays the number of used voices. The number of voices hardly get over 100 in the heaviest measures.


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Re: 128 note polyphony question
JoeT #2546491 06/05/16 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by JoeT
Note stealing has been perfected long before polyphony increased to the hundreds. You can play pure piano with just 32 notes polyphony without audibly losing notes. In fact the software piano Ivory II starts you up with a default setting of 24 notes polyphony.


My GranTouch had 32 note polyphony and I never noticed notes dropping out.

I suppose there will always be someone who thinks 512 note polyphony is better than 256 note polyphony because the number is bigger, and bigger is always better.

If you can't hear the difference, is there a difference? smile


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Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546492 06/05/16 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Stephano
...I need to decide between two instruments, one with 128 and the other with 196 note polyphony. I'm an advanced player.

I really thought 128 would be enough, until this thread.


Almost everything else, when comparing two digital pianos, is more important than polyphony in my opinion. Enough is enough and once you have 'enough' it ceases to be an issue. For stand alone piano playing, without layering etc, I think 64 note polyphony should suffice for advanced repertoire. I suspect 32 would probably be enough too in the vast majority of circumstances. Polyphony has just become a meaningless number whereby manufacturers can differentiate (and justify higher prices) between their own models or make boastful claims about their products versus other makers.

Choose on sound/touch/features/appearance/after-sales support and of course price. Not polyphony.

Cheers,

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Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546498 06/05/16 08:27 AM
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The more advanced software pianos and digital pianos require extra polyphony to generate release samples, per note, sustain pedal resonance layers, and most importantly sympathetic string resonance which may add dozens of "extra" sound layers if individual "harmonic tone" samples are used whenever needed.

On some instruments, stereo samples require 2 notes of polyphony, whereas mono sampled versions are more economical with limited polyphony.

If you watch the polyphony count in Kontakt, you can see up to 3 poly voices for a single played note. It shows what's going on behind the scenes with the piano's layering to create a realistic sound.

Repeated strikes of the same key building up, playing with sustain pedal, glissando etc, all consume large polyphony. I've regularly seen over 200 poly on the counter when I'm playing software pianos in Kontakt, eg. Vintage D.


Re: 128 note polyphony question
Dave Horne #2546510 06/05/16 09:23 AM
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It's refreshing to see a dose of sanity brought to this subject.
Originally Posted by Dave Horne
I suppose there will always be someone who thinks 512 note polyphony is better than 256 note polyphony because the number is bigger, and bigger is always better. If you can't hear the difference, is there a difference? smile
Originally Posted by EssBrace
Almost everything else, when comparing two digital pianos, is more important than polyphony in my opinion. Enough is enough and once you have 'enough' it ceases to be an issue. For stand alone piano playing, without layering etc, I think 64 note polyphony should suffice for advanced repertoire. I suspect 32 would probably be enough too in the vast majority of circumstances. Polyphony has just become a meaningless number whereby manufacturers can differentiate (and justify higher prices) between their own models or make boastful claims about their products versus other makers.

Choose on sound/touch/features/appearance/after-sales support and of course price. Not polyphony.

Re: 128 note polyphony question
propianist #2546555 06/05/16 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by propianist
The more advanced software pianos and digital pianos require extra polyphony to generate release samples, per note, sustain pedal resonance layers, and most importantly sympathetic string resonance which may add dozens of "extra" sound layers if individual "harmonic tone" samples are used whenever needed.

But you won't notice those missing once you reach polyphony limits and those subtle special effects diminish in favor of new notes. This is the same how MP3 compression works by removing the inaudible parts of the sound.

Quote
On some instruments, stereo samples require 2 notes of polyphony,

Technical details are irrelevant. There is only one interpretation for "32 note polyphony". If using stereo samples halves it, then it's simply "16 note polyphony" for the matter of this discussion. A note on the staff (and sent through MIDI) played with a stereo sample is still a note, not two notes. Instruments being advertised wrong doesn't change this.

Last edited by JoeT; 06/05/16 12:06 PM.

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Re: 128 note polyphony question
JoeT #2546565 06/05/16 12:24 PM
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Thanks MacMacMac, but looks like you just spoke too soon...!

Originally Posted by JoeT
Technical details are irrelevant.


In that case Joe, I won't explain to you why you're wrong.

Re: 128 note polyphony question
propianist #2546573 06/05/16 12:51 PM
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I'm with Joe here. In it's original meaning, the polyphony count means the number of notes that can be played at the same time. Many DP manufacturers have changed this meaning in their marketing material (to be able to boast a higher polyphony count). The meaning they use, is that the polyphony count means the number of available sound generators.

But if you need two sound generators to play a single stereo note, then if the marketing material boast a 256 polyphony (because there are 256 sound generators), then, with the original meaning, the instrument actually only has a polyphony of 128 while playing a stereo voice. The full polyphony of 256 can only be reached when playing a mono voice.

Wikipedia explains it like this:

A "sound" (also called a "timbre" or "patch") may be generated by more than one oscillator or sound-source to allow more complicated sounds to be produced. A synthesizer with 16 oscillators may be capable of 16-note polyphony only when simple, single-oscillator sounds are produced. If a particular patch requires four oscillators, then the synthesizer is only capable of four-note polyphony.

Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546580 06/05/16 01:03 PM
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Ah, a variety of opinions on this matter. I didn't expect it to be that way.

To clarify, I'm not interested in any orchestra playing on the piano, or any kind of layering sounds whatsoever. My question about 128 note polyphony only pertains to playing complex classical music using the piano's highest quality stereo sample.

Yes, I use lots of pedal sometimes. It depends on the piece, but generally with Beethoven and Chopin, I need to use it frequently.

The instrument in question is the Yamaha YDP-162 with 128-note polyphony.

I inquired on this forum at the end of 2014 about buying a digital piano. Well, some unforeseen have caused me to put that aside at the time, so now I'm back and researching as much as possible before I buy an instrument.


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Re: 128 note polyphony question
Stephano #2546586 06/05/16 01:14 PM
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To clarify, I'm not interested in any orchestra playing on the piano, or any kind of layering sounds whatsoever. My question about 128 note polyphony only pertains to playing complex classical music using the piano's highest quality stereo sample.
...

The instrument in question is the Yamaha YDP-162 with 128-note polyphony.




If you like that piano, buy it, 128 note polyphony is more than adequate.


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