I'm considering buying a used piano (a Yamaha YDP-135R), but it has a polyphony of only 64 (I'm considering it because at $200 it feels like a bargain). However, I understand that some more complex pieces may hit the polyphony limit.

In your experience, can something like Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 be played well on a piano with a polyphony of 64?

Does one note on a piano eat up one unit out of the 64, or can it eat up more than one? I'm asking about plain piano notes, without effects.

  • related question.
    – guidot
    Sep 2 '16 at 8:26
  • Besides that the answers to the linked question indicate, that 64 voices can be exhausted: I consider it a mismatch between complexity of the piece mentioned, and the price tag with its associated quality of mechanics, which in my opinion is far more important than the number of voices.
    – guidot
    Sep 2 '16 at 8:47

I believe that, generally speaking, one note will occupy one of the 64 voices as long as it continues to sustain (while you hold the key or have the sustain pedal held or until the note runs out of steam on its own). I'm not sure about effects like reverb or echo, but I would guess that those do not have any effect on consuming voices, meaning that once the note itself is no longer sustained, the voice becomes available again even though the echo/reverb continues.

As a result, your biggest concern is generally going to be when there is a line of at least 64 notes without releasing the sustain pedal (unless you plan on actually pressing 64 keys at the same time).

Additionally, when you hit this limit, it is often unnoticeable, as the "oldest" (least recently played) note is replaced with the note you're playing now, and if there are 64 notes sustaining at the same time, it's difficult to hear the older, quieter notes "disappearing".

  • 4
    You can test the method used for note-stealing by hammering say an octave of the lowest C's, depress the sustain pedal, then quietly play a repeating arpeggio of a simple chord, 3 or 4 notes is all it takes over & over. If it has intelligent note-stealing, the bass notes will not disappear. If it is simple round-robin, you will hear them suddenly stop.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 2 '16 at 6:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.