When you sample a monophonic synth, to create a pad, is the resulting sound considered polyphonic?

I could have asked this on Gearslutz, but I want the real answer, from somebody who knows.

If you sample a monophonic synth @ C-4, in the XNRI, and add 2 more samples, one E-4, and G-4… You should have a C Major Chord in your XNRI

However, are the samples considered voices? Do you know have a 3 voice instrument?

Does what I am asking make any sense?


True polyphony = each voice has its own oscillator (single-cycle waveform) AND it’s own env/filter/filter env. Yes, you can do that. it’s a lot of work, and it’s going to suck up a lot of processing power. Ultimately, somebody’s going to be able to do it better with less effort, but it sure is fun to lay it out on a slow composition day.

Paraphonic is a wider definition with varying forms of polyphony. Ultimately, paraphonic comes down to it’s method of voice processing, basically you’d have one env/filter/filter env at the end. So, you technically could have a separate oscillator for each voice, but only one way of adjusting how the synth ultimately sounds OR, in Renoise’s case, you could have one oscillator (single-cycle waveform) spread across all the keys, and one env/filter/filter env. That’s how I do it, usually. No sense in creating a ton of extra processor work for something that’s not going to need it.



Then I guess it would just be considered a layered sample, and not actual voices, because the audio would stack, but you wouldn’t have an oscillator generated waveform running through its own env/filter/filter env…

A stacked sample yes, but polyphonic voices no.

I appreciate that.


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You can, in Renoise, make a separate env/filter/filter env for each voice, it just takes a lot of time - not impossible, easy to do, but takes time and repetition of steps. In the end, that sound will eventually get buried in a small part of the mix. While a fun (kinda) undertaking, not completely useful. Nobody’s gonna know :slightly_smiling_face:

On the other hand, as mentioned before, maybe a fun undertaking if you’ve got the time?

To reiterate, yes, you can be fully polyphonic (in theory), with Renoise’s sampler.

A technical issue would be how you decide to control the env/filter knobs - a Doofer gets 8 control knobs only, and we don’t have stackable Doofers. A messy endeavor :smiley:

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Yes, if you play three notes at the same time and hear them all together, each contributor to the sum audio output is considered a voice and the three together are considered “polyphonic”. Poly=multiple, Phonic=sounds… overlapping in time. If each one interrupted the other and prevented the previous from sounding, that would be Mono=one, Phonic=sound… playing at a time.

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Hi voidshine,

Thank you for the comment. We are actually not talking about playing three notes at the same time. I was asking whether a multilayered sample is a polyphonic sound. Neuro… No Neuro gave a really awesome answer, and I kind of knew that, and I have to agree with him.

But what do you say? This kick drum is: 2 kick drums, and 1 snare drum; and layered together to create 1 kickdrum.

Is this an example of a polyphonic sound, or one voice? I believe it is one voice - as far as logic, and what Neuro contributed…

Likewise, if we sample a monophonic synth, 12 times, 1 time for each note on the chromatic scale, we have twelve voice… when we render them together, how many voices do we have?

This instrument is six saw waves sampled together to create one piece of audio. The resulting sample, is it polyphonic? If the answer is yes, then the Kick is also polyphonic.

So obviously, the answer is very likely no.

What is interesting is that the XRNI is polyphonic, so this pad, can be played polyphonically, but if you only trigger one key, than this pad must be one voice. Like an oscillator of such. Kickdrum Sample.2kicks.1snare.xrni (22.1 KB) Hamster Pad.xrni (149.5 KB)


I see what you mean. It’s all relative, really. A “voice” is defined in terms of the system producing an output signal. If you play three notes on separate acoustic instruments into a microphone, you have three voices summing to a single waveform. That chord sample can be played by a single voice in Renoise, and it will sound to a human ear like three but it’s just one logical sampler playback head contributing to the output. If you play that same sample simultaneously with different pitches or DSP effects, each of those is a voice. A good rule of thumb for determining whether something is a voice or just a sample: can it be changed independently? Each voice can usually be controlled to sound separate from others. It’s really down to logical semantics, starting from the output waveform and working backward. Each feed into a mixer signal could be considered a voice, and each of those signals might be composed of one or more sampler voices, and so on.

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I think Neuro… was a bit closer to confirming what I was asking.

We were talking about synthesis architecture, and what makes a, “voice,” ie a true polyphonic synth will have independent oscillator, filter, amp and envelope generator boards for each voice…

Therefore, a sample of a polyphonic synth chord, is just a sample of the chord, and loses polyphony if played monophonically.

On an accoustic instrument, when you record a guitar chord - a harmony of several notes, you wind up with a sample. That sample routes into the mixer, etc, etc.

In music theory, the individual, “voices,” that make up a chord, are actually notes. However, chords can have different voicings, “inversions, add_9, minor 7, sus4, etc,” When you record them, you get an audio sample, and not a voice… :slight_smile:

But my question was really weird, and limited in scope to synthesis architecture… and sampling architecture, and if the sample, in a sampler, was a polyphonic voice.

In the XNRI, the sample can be played polyphonically, but you get 1 voice a note. Regardless of whether the sampled sound was originally played mono or polyphonically on a synth, or whether a mono synth has been sampled a dozen times, and had the multiple samples rendered to one chunk of audio. The chuck of audio is just a sample…

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I like the question, it makes for a fun discussion of synth & sampler architecture. Especially after some wine on a Friday night…“Oh I know this one, let me be helpful!” :laughing:

My concept of what constitutes a voice is more abstract, fully depending on the frame of reference. If you imagine a giant block diagram with live signal flowing through it to produce the master output, you’ll see repeated sections that join together – in code these are effectively “instances” of some structure. Each of these could be considered a voice from the point of view of the larger section that combines them – and this is recursive, so that multi-voice output may itself be a single voice for its containing structure.

Under my definition even a single recording could be considered to have multiple voices, if the sample contains two channels or more. “Channel” = “voice” from the point of view of the sample. Played through a basic sampler, the stereo sample would be just one voice. If the sampler plays other samples at the same time in the same way, summing their outputs, each of them is a voice from the point of view of the sampler. If the sampler output with N voices is recorded to its input format and played through the same sampler, it’s back down to one voice. … until it plays them all together, then you’ve got N + 1 voices at double the original amplitude. :slight_smile:

That’s a very basic sampler, though. Most sampler instruments instantiate many such samplers, and each of those may be considered a single voice from the point of view of that more powerful instrument. The voices might be routed through filters and envelopes, or not. There may be “global” effects applied to the sum of voices to produce one output, or the voice separation might be preserved by routing to separate outputs.

I’m still learning about the Renoise sampler architecture, so I appreciate the comments here. It’d be cool to see a structural diagram of Renoise signal flow as a whole, considering tracks, effects, and how the sampler combines samples, modulation, etc.


Yes, if you can play a chord with a sample, it’s called polyphonic.

If you can control the timbre of each distinct note, ie different volume, or cutoff setting per triggered note, it’s called multi-timbral.

So some analog synths are polyphonic, because they have 4 or 5 oscillators and thus you can play a chord with it (always wanted to use the word thus), … but this synth is not multi timbral, because all these oscilators go through one filter, or adsr, or anything else that changes the timbre. All these notes in your chord have the same timbre, only the pitch is different.

For a synth to be multitimbral they also need a filter per voice, or a pwm per voice (or any other modifier that can change the timbre) wich can be adjusted by i.e. the velocity per distinct pressed note. So now when you press multiple keys, you can have different pitches and different timbres per pressed key.

Same goes for a sampler like renoise, if you can play multiple instances of your sample with your sampler, it’s a polyphonic sampler. If you can play only one voice at a time, it’s a monophonic sampler, doesn’t matter if you sampled 15 notes at once.

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