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Monophonic polyphonic, monotimbral, multitimbral


Dan South

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Most traditional keyboard instruments are polyphonic and monotimbral. Early synths were monophonic, and that left keyboard players wanting for more. When polyphonic synths came into being, they were cool, but they always had compromises - simpler voice architecture, additional expense and weight, etc.

 

If someone were to introduce a mono synth today (like the Yamaha VL-1), I get the feeling that most keyboard players would dismiss it. But why? There are a lot of monophonic instruments in the world (brass, woodwinds, modular synths), and there are other instruments that are capable of polyphonic sound but are usually played one not at a time (strings, electric bass, solo guitars). And the human voice is monophonic.

 

I cringe when I hear recorded brass or string parts that were recorded with a keyboard with a polyphonic patch. After recently going back and listening to what Wendy Carlos with with monophonic Moog modulars in the late 60's and early 70's, I'm becoming more appreciative of the power of the multi-tracked monophonic voice. Of course, this presents problems for live performance, but I'm wondering whether the default (M1, D50) voice model of several notes with one patch is not too much of a compromise. If every note could easily be assigned to its own timbre, as with the Oberheim 8-voice, polyphonic synth parts would sound more "alive," IMO. And maybe people wouldn't complain about their romplers if they were capable of assigning a different timbre to each note in real time.

 

Sorry to ramble, but the power of the monophonic voice seems to be growing on me in my old age.

 

;)

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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I guess a trumpet is a trumpet, and a piano is a piano.

 

Most experienced keyboardists know better than to play horn/string sections all in one pass with chords. It just sounds cheesey.

 

A lot of patches in todays synths are monophonic anyway, harkening back to ye olde days.

What we record in life, echoes in eternity.

 

MOXF8, Electro 6D, XK1c, Motif XSr, PEKPER, Voyager, Univox MiniKorg.

https://www.abandoned-film.com

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Polyphonic synths typically don't behave like other polyphonic keyboards, which adjust the timbre subtely based on note choice, dynamics, and note interactions. (e.g. sophisticated voicings using resonant interactions in jazz piano, intermodulation distortion on any mono-vca eletromechnical keyboards). This is because of the separate signal chain for each voice in the polysynth, and the limited use of note specific mod sources such as note #, note position (in chord), and poly-aftertouch. Take those constraints away, and provide some monophonic and logic based processing of polyphonic voices, and the poly synth becomes a more expressive instrument. We are closer to that frontier, in these days of modular, polyphonic, dsp synths.

 

The problem isn't polyphony, but the lack of control offered with the polyphony.

 

Jerry

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Dan:

 

I think players need a polyphonic instrument in numerous applications and your right, the current sampler playback instruments can't give you the flexibility of an Oberheim 8 voice modular synth. However, there are still a lot uses for mono sounds, for example, a sax solo. A friend of mine had an Oberheim 4 voice that he upgraded to an 8 voice, and then bought a program unit (memory storage) for it later. Incredible synth. But it was big and heavy, and so was the price. He must have had almost $15,000 tied up in that synth, in 1979 dollars. It was almost comical because he drove a beat up old car worth about 4 or $500 bucks. But a least his heart was in the right place. :)

 

I already own two vintage mono synths and you're right, I wouldn't buy another one. Anyway, at the price Robert Moog is selling his mini Moog clone, I can get a DSI Evolver KB, and have a whole lot of money left over. :D

 

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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A lot of keyboardists have trouble with monophonic solos. It is such a different mindset than piano or organ that many do not realize what they are missing. I think anyone that wants to play a monophonic synth should spend some time playing or just trying to play lead guitar and sax. You realize a whole new dimension on playing notes that no amount of classical or jazz training on piano will teach you.

 

Robert

This post edited for speling.
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Originally posted by Rabid:

A lot of keyboardists have trouble with monophonic solos. It is such a different mindset than piano or organ that many do not realize what they are missing. I think anyone that wants to play a monophonic synth should spend some time playing or just trying to play lead guitar and sax. You realize a whole new dimension on playing notes that no amount of classical or jazz training on piano will teach you.

 

Robert

True. Soloing aways seems smoother for me on mono synths. Makes you think more about what you're going to do next.

What we record in life, echoes in eternity.

 

MOXF8, Electro 6D, XK1c, Motif XSr, PEKPER, Voyager, Univox MiniKorg.

https://www.abandoned-film.com

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