Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Have you ever played a complex layered combi on your Kronos and notice notes drop out all of a sudden? Every now and then, in spite of its processing power and dynamic allocation of resources, you hit the Kronos's polyphony ceiling. Polyphony being the maximum number of synth voices you can play at one time. In most cases, it's a minor annoyance, but during a gig, it could be embarrassing and even be potentially disastrous to your performance. Here are...
11 Effective Ways to Maximize Polyphony on your Kronos:
1. Set Timbre Priority
In the MIDI Tab in Timbre Parameter, you can set Timbre Priority. In instances where voice-stealing occurs, timbres with this feature enabled will not drop out and will only occur on timbres that don't have this setting enabled.
2. Set Maximum Number of Notes
For less audible or dominant sounds, you can limit the number of active voices so as to prioritize the more audible or dominant sounds. This setting can be found in Timbre Parameter OSC Tab.
3. Use Key and Velocity Zones creatively.
When playing multiple layers in one combi, the sounds you play may not all need to be playable throughout the full velocity and key range of the keyboard at all times. Take for example a combi with piano, strings and bell layers. While performing, you probably wouldn't need the strings and bell sounds in the bass register of the keyboard while the bell sound could be restricted to the higher octaves. Also, you could trigger the bell sounds only if you play harder and keep that sound silent when playing lightly. The Orchestra and Timpani combi illustrates this perfectly. Play lightly, you have strings and woodwinds, play hard, you get timpani, brass and cymbals. Flutes play in the higher register of the keyboard while the timpani is restricted to the lower notes.
To set-up, in Combi Mode, go to the MIDI Filter Zones Tab> Key Zones and Velocity Zones tabs.
Setting Key Zones- In the Key Zones tab, set your top and bottom notes for a given timbre by highlighting the note value, press the ENTER button while playing the note on the keyboard. You can also assign the note by using the data wheel or INC/DEC buttons.
Setting Velocity Zones-In the Velocity Zones tab, set your top and bottom velocity for a given timbre by highlighting the velocity value, press the ENTER button while playing the note at the velocity you want on the keyboard. You can also assign the velocity value by using the data wheel, INC/DEC buttons and the number pad.
4. Deactivate unnecessary OSC's.
Combis are made up of timbres located in Program Mode. Programs can be considered as combinations by themselves as they can have 2 active OSC's (OSC1 & OSC2 for HD1 programs and EXi1& Exi2 for EXi programs). Some programs can have 2 distinctly different layers while other programs have OSC's that are identical or have minor differences between them. Fine tuning or pan position are parameters commonly used to spread out or "thicken" the overall sound of a program with identical or very similar OSC's. Also, some programs have a dominant OSC which more prominently defines the sound than the second OSC which can sometimes be considered as non-essential to the sound. So, in Combi Mode, to minimize note drop outs, you can go to Timbre Parameter, OSC, then change the value from PRG/BOTH to OSC1 or OSC2. That way, you can double the polyphony of a given timbre within a combi by eliminating the non-essential or non-dominant sound.
5. Set Mute Mode to Live.
Mute Mode gives you two choices: Studio and Live. When set to Studio, "timbres" in Combi Mode or "tracks" in SEQ Mode that share the same MIDI channel remain active even when muted. Even if these timbres or tracks are inaudible, they continue to use up polyphony. Setting this parameter to Live however, disables timbres or tracks if they are muted which allows you to conserve the number of notes being played.
6. Use programs whose synth engines have higher polyphony...when possible.
Each of the 9 engines of the Kronos has a different maximum polyphony value. For instance, the MS20EX has a maximum polyphony of 40 while the PolysixEX has 180. If your combi makes use of several MS20EX timbres, you're likely to run out of notes more quickly than if you had a combi with predominantly PolysixEX timbres. If you're running out of notes constantly, you can replace a processor heavy program with a similar sounding program using an engine with higher polyphony.
Here's the polyphony specification of each engine:
SGX-2: 100 voices (100 dual-stereo notes is equivalent to 400 mono voices)
EP-1: 104 voices
HD-1: 140 voices
AL-1: 80 voices
CX-3: 200 voices
STR-1: 40 voices
MOD-7: 52 voices
MS-20EX: 40 voices
PolysixEX: 180 voices
7. Turn off performance meters.
Performance meters show you the active timbres/tracks within Combi Mode/SEQ Mode with animated graphics on screen. This makes use of the Kronos's system resources and can affect the instruments performance in the polyphony department. You can disable performance meters in Global Mode to help reduce the strain in the Kronos's processing power.
8. Reduce the number of effects.
Too many processor heavy effects can reduce the performance of your Kronos and thereby affect polyphony. You can reduce the number of effects in your iFX chain by routing timbres to the same iFX slot if they make use of the same effect. For instance, if you import a piano sound that makes use of an O-verb to your Combi or SEQ and a strings sound also using an O-verb, you can then just route the string sound to the same O-verb effect slot and delete the second O-verb slot it was originally assigned to. Also, some programs make use of several iFX that are unused until a controller such as a knob or joystick activates the effect. Inspect your iFX chain for non-essential effects and remove them from the iFX chain. Same goes for MFX and TFX.
9. Work on your damper pedal technique.
The damper pedal allows you to sustain notes in the moments that you let go of keys. Overuse or misuse of the damper can severely impact polyphony and cause notes to drop out, not to mention affect your performance causing chords to sound muddy or convoluted. Practice proper pedal technique to ensure clean transitions between chords and notes not only to avoid hitting the polyphony ceiling but also improve your musical performance.
10. Eliminate MIDI loops
When using external MIDI devices, sometimes MIDI note messages go through a feedback loop causing your Kronos to play notes twice. Inspect your connection to your DAW to ensure that this does not happen to avoid unnecessarily doubling up played notes.
11. Play Fewer Notes.
When you've done everything... or nothing to maximize polyphony, the most obvious and immediate solution is to play fewer notes. This is how they solved the polyphony limit for for decades. Still works.
Check out the video I presented for the Korg Product Support team and don't forget to subscribe to both the Korg and the Narf Sounds Youtube Channels: