The TENORI-ON from Yamaha is a digital musical instrument that was designed to bridge the gap between making music and drawing pictures. It encourages playful experimentation with its unique integration of light and sound. While it may look like a device used to operate a spaceship, the TENORI-ON is actually very easy to use, while at the same time offering great depth with its powerful sequencer and layering capabilities.
It's an instrument that wants to be touched, and pressing one of its 256 illuminated buttons results in a pleasing tone with a corresponding light reaction. The TENORI-ON has 259 sounds (14 of which are drum kits), and the ability to sample and save sounds to SD cards. The reactive light show isn't just for the musician. The opposite side of the instrument has 256 LEDs that share what's happening in the TENORI-ON with the audience. Aside from its other-worldly design, what really sets this instrument apart are its modes.
The modes offer 6 different approaches to how the unusual interface of the TENORI-ON can be used to create and manipulate sound and light. Draw Mode allows you to build and layer sequences much in the same way a toddler creates finger paintings. Imagine you're standing in front of a large Vibraphone dropping balls of light on its keys, and the height at which you drop the balls determines how often the notes sound. This is kind of what it's like composing with the Bounce Mode feature of the TENORI-ON.
You can take matters a step further and superimpose several layers of modes on top of one another. Once 16 layers have been sandwiched together, they become a block. The TENORI-ON can save up to 16 blocks, and the musician can switch from block to block during a performance. A MIDI output allows you to sync two TENORI-ON's together, or to send the MIDI information you're creating to a computer or another instrument. If you're looking for a fresh and inspiring approach to creating and performing music, the TENORI-ON is the 512 lights at the end of the tunnel.
- Score Mode
- Press an LED button briefly to play the sound assigned to it. At the same time the lights will flash outward from the played sound. If you hold the LED button a bit longer it will remain lit and will become an active note that will play repeatedly. Press and hold an active note to deactivate it. The loop indicator will be continuously cycling from the left to right edge of the LED button matrix. Active notes will play when the loop indicator coincides with their positions on the matrix.
- Random Mode
- If you press an LED button long enough to enter an active note in the Random Mode, the active note will play back repeatedly. If you then enter a few more active notes, the lights will "travel" from note to note, in the order entered, and the active notes will sound when the traveling light passes over them. The Random Mode thus produces a totally different type of loop from the Score Mode. You can even spin loop-shapes you create in the Random Mode by holding the [L4] button and running a finger around the matrix in the direction and at the speed of the desired spin. The pitches of the notes will change accordingly as the shape spins, producing loop sound effects. To stop rotation, press and hold the LED button or press the same LED button twice while holding the [L4] button.
- Draw Mode
- In this mode you can press individual LED buttons or draw lines or curves on the matrix, and those actions will be played back and repeated. You can keep adding to your "composition" during playback to build up thick sonic textures. In the Draw Mode you cannot clear only a part of the performance. The entire layer can be cleared by pressing the [CLEAR] button.
- Bounce Mode
- Press an LED button and the light will "drop" from that button, bounce back from the bottom of the matrix, and repeat. The corresponding note will sound when the light bounces at the bottom row. The higher the entry point, the longer the interval between the sounds. In the Bounce Mode the pitches are arranged horizontally, like a piano, with the lowest pitch on the left and the highest on the right.
- Push Mode
- In this mode if you press and hold an LED button the sound of the corresponding note will begin to change gradually while the flashing surrounding that button gets brighter and wider. If the button is held briefly the note and flashing will stop when you release it, but if you hold the button for longer the note and flashing will continue even after the button is released.
- Solo Mode
- Press an LED button and the corresponding note will repeat until the button is released. In the Solo Mode the pitches are arranged horizontally, like a piano. You can change the interval between repeats by pressing or sliding your finger to a lower (longer) or higher (shorter) LED button in the column. If you press the lowest LED button in a column the note will sound once without any repeats.