Saturday, May 8, 2010

My New and Unorthodox Step Sequencer - The Tenori-on

I just ordered a Tenori-on. For a long while, I have been wanting to round out the one thing that I really don't have, a step sequencer. Actually, I do in a sense. There is a simple one in the Korg M3 I have and KARMA can do a lot of sequencing but the problem is, I want to think a new way about my music.

The most enjoyable times I have had playing music have also been the times that I have played the best music. For example, for me to play a really good jazz solo over chord changes I have to spend a lot of time playing scales and cementing in my mind the chord changes for a song. But those times that I have played really good solos it was all natural. Once the foundation was laid the creative part became play which is what any pure creative act is.

When I first saw Tenori I thought of it as a toy and in many ways I still do but after years of using more complicated toys in music, I am not sure that the simplistic, visual and playful approach of Tenori is not exactly what the doctor ordered for my music.

One of the reasons I have never really learned Korg's KARMA is that reading the manual for it is like reading some sort of computer science journey. Sure, if you get to the 10th level of a series of menus you can probably make KARMA get up in the morning and make you morning coffee but its not elegant and its not playful. Tenori on the other hand is both.

Simple ideas often work best. Consider Beethoven's 5th. It's a theme on three notes, three notes! Think about that. Sure, I know, there is a lot more to it than that but the basic structure is three notes.

I love music but I find when music get's tedious for me it loses its flavor. I have longed since wanted to get into poly rhythms and add some sequences to my compositions. I don't want my music to get stale and I want to move it in new directions. Tenori is a way to do that.

Now I think Tenori is in many ways stage one. I hope Yamaha does not see it as a finished product but rather, the 1st installment on a way to think about music more visually.

So when I get my Tenori I am going to plug it right into my M3 and my Voyager. I also want to send Tenori MIDI messages into my MP201 and then control Moogerfoogers from this. The potential to get to some pretty sophisticated sequences that can change over time is tremendous.

So, I await to create new sonic gateways all by playing with a toy.


Mike Milton said...

I looked long and hard at the tenorion. I even got as far as the ordering page. In the end I was overcome by the many times I've been burned by Yamaha and the tenorion's limited sample size and flexibility as a controller.

I'll be *keenly* interested to see how you make out.

Newecho said...

I've love my Tenori-on. While I'm fluent in Ableton Live, there are times when the closed and simple nature of the Tenori-on are quite refreshing. The times when you don't want to boot a computer, when you want to sequence on the road.

While open controllers like monomes are fantastic, the do require configuration. Tenor-On is instant on.

I also like the the way you play it with your thumbs, and after some practice you can transcend it and just play.

I too have been using it to run a hardware synth - my Blofeld. I'm also using it with Ableton Live instrument racks. I think it's interesting how many modular hardware synth users are turning to the Tenori-On as a step sequencer. I'd imagine the fact that no computer is required must resonate.

I'm coaxing velocity out of if with Live using this method -

Looking forward to hearing more about how you use it.

Lux_Seeker said...

Sorry I have not posted until now. I have been on vacation the last two weeks.

I guess I see the Tenori as a work in progress. I am not saying it will be upgraded but rather, the entire music industry is realizing the important of interface, of from over function if you will. I think the Tenori is a limited but right step in the right direction with many more instruments of this type to come. I will get to why I call it an instrument.

I also did not buy a Tenori for it's sample set. It sounds cheezy like a game but I knew that before I got it. Although I have to admit that the nature of any sequenced sound calls for a certaint type of sample and I think that is also what Yamaha wanted. Well, that and a good sound set that can be used in a mobile way. The Tenori is focused on this clearly with its batteries.

Lux_Seeker said...


One of the reasons I got the Tenori was that more than anything else I looked at it has a natural way of creating polyrhythms. I can't find anything better as natural as it is for doing that and doing it in real time (one of the reasons I call it and instrument)

My music is very ambient and without a rhythm. I am ok with that but I also want to explore rhythms as well. I am not a drummer and have a limited ability to create polyrhythms in real time. I can do that on the Tenori because I can see it. Not only can you create polyrhthms but you can change them on the fly and the visual interface makes it possible to do this in perfect timing.

I have always loved Morton Subotnick partially for his use of Polyrhythms. I got the Tenori becuase it's a good way to explore these and I don't have to go to a computer to do it.

Lux_Seeker said...


I also love Buchla synths (a lot I just can't afford one). One of the aspects of just about all their synths as I also hear in Subotnick's work is the use of randomness. This is nothing new. Many classical composers disocvered this early on like John Cage but Tenori's random mode is diffent. I creates a kind of space that is hard to duplicate. The notes are random but structured. I like that.

Lux_Seeker said...

Other reasons

The Push Mode

This one intriques me. It creates another kind of space to be explored.

Lux_Seeker said...

Tenori as instrument

Finally, I have come to see the Tenori as a musical/rhythmic instrument. The Tenori does not use notes as much as rhythms and the musican does not play notes but rhythms.

You can change blocks on the Tenori very quickly and do it in real time in time with the music. That is an amazing compositional tool because you can play rhythms like you do notes.

Newecho - you talked about playing it with your thumbs and "transcending" it. Yes, I know what you mean by that. The Tenori is something new. It's not just a step sequencer its more of an instrument but that hard to explain without using it. I am not sure I would create an entire song on it but I would lay down a complex set of background rhythms and sequences which I would then have as part of a larger work. I would probably use the MIDI sequence to drive my VSTs rather than using the limited sound set but that's fine.

I would love to see a Tenori with a motiff sound engine but then if that were the case you may not be able to carry around. Tben again, if its just a matter putting a chip in, who knows. Then again, not all samples would work with the Tenori.

So, it the Tenori perfect? Far from it but can I use it in my music? Absolutely!