Monotimbral (from the root prefix mono meaning one, and timbre meaning a specific tone of a sound independent of its pitch) is usually used in reference to electronic synthesizers which can produce a single timbre at a given pitch when pressing one key (if the synth is monophonic) or multiple keys (if the synth is polyphonic).

An electronic musical instrument may be multitimbral,[1] which means it can produce two or more timbres (also called sounds or patches) at the same time. Instruments which may be multitimbral include synthesizers, samplers, and music workstations. A multitimbral instrument might be configurable in a variety of ways:

  • Splitting the keyboard at a given point allows a musician to play, for example, a bass guitar sound with the left hand and a piano sound with the right hand.
  • Layering timbres allows a musician to play, for example, a pipe organ sound and a string ensemble sound together.
  • Combinations of keyboard splits and layers may be possible.
  • An external sequencer might play an accompaniment of bass and drum sounds on the instrument (actuated through MIDI) while the musician plays a piano part on the keyboard of the same instrument.