What is the difference between polyphonic and multitimbral?

Posted by: Alyssa - PG Music

What is the difference between polyphonic and multitimbral? - 09/11/18 09:52 AM

8. What is the difference between polyphonic and multitimbral?

Polyphony refers to the number of notes the unit can play simultaneously. A trumpet is monophonic, while a guitar can have up to 6 note polyphony (six strings). Your synthesizer might be 16, 32, or 64-note polyphonic. Sometimes, in a complex MIDI file, there are more than 64 notes sounding at a time. In this case, a smart synth will use an algorithm to determine which note to suspend playing so that it might continue.

A 64 voice module can play 64 sounds all at the same time. Some synths use more than one sound/voice to create a fuller sound for some patches. The number of partials (combinations of sounds) a patch uses will determine how many voices will be used for a single note. For example, if you press one note on a patch that has 3 sounds in it (like a layer of piano, strings and brass), you would use up 3 voices of your 64 available. Add a Bass track, (1 note, 1 voice) Drums (4 notes in some places) Guitar (3 notes) ..... well, you get the picture. You are using up the available voices as you add layers to your MIDI song. Remember, this is fluid; as notes are released, more voices become available. It is really only an issue when all tracks play all notes all at the same time. A 64 voice module has a fair number of voices to use so running out of sound is not really an issue.

A synthesizer is Multitimbral if it can produce more than one type of sound at a time. This is usually set to the number of channels the unit has. For example, on a 16 channel unit with 64 note polyphony, the synth can play 64 notes at a time, spread out over 16 different instruments.