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Yamaha Tenori-On

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The Yamaha Tenori-on is an electronic musical instrument designed and created by the Japanese artist Toshio Iwai and Yu Nishibori of the Music and Human Interface Group at the Yamaha Center for Advanced Sound Technology. It consists of a hand-held screen in which a sixteen-by-sixteen grid of LED switches are held within a magnesium plastic frame. Any of these switches may be activated in a number of different ways to create sounds. Two built-in speakers are located on the top of the frame, as well as a dial and buttons that control the type of sound and beats per minute produced.

There are two versions of the device available. The original TNR-W (Tenori-On White) features a magnesium frame, 256 rear panel LEDs and can run on batteries whilst the more affordable TNR-O (Tenori-On Orange) features a white plastic frame, has no rear LEDs and does not take batteries. The modes and sound sets in these instruments are the same.

Both devices have an LCD screen on the bottom edge of the frame. Using the connection function, it is possible to play a synchronized session, or to send and receive songs between two of the devices.

Official Product Information

An innovative digital musical instrument for the 21st century.

Media artist Toshio Iwai and Yamaha have collaborated to design a music composition tool called the Yamaha Tenori-on that earned PC Magazine's 25 Most Innovative Products Award at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Tenori-on literally means "sound in the palm of your hand" and is equally an art-piece and music-making gadget.

Tenori-on is a hand-held interface with a surface of 256 LED buttons that glow as you access different sounds and textures ('Layers') over an infinitely repeating sequence of notes. The 16x16 matrix of LED switches allows everyone to play music intuitively, creating a "visible music" interface. Tenori-on uses a host of internal sounds as well as samples loaded from external sources. With a musical device where sight and touch are every bit as integral as sound, the Yamaha Tenori-on makes musical possibilities endless and the composition process a lot of fun.

DJs & producers can use Tenori-on as a unique performance tool that enables them to perform using MIDI and load the Yamaha Tenori-on with samples to 'jam / improvise' within their set BPMs. The Tenori-on 16 x 16 LED button matrix is simultaneously a performance input controller and display. By operating and interacting with the LED buttons and the light they produce you gain access to the Tenori-on's numerous performance capabilities.

The Yamaha Tenori-on provides six different performance and sound/light modes for broad performance versatility, and these modes can be combined and used simultaneously for rich, complex musical expression. By holding one of the ten function buttons located on either side of the Yamaha Tenori-on and operating the LED buttons you can change voices, change octaves, and apply a variety of effects and variations to your performance. This unique visual/tactile interface has been specifically designed to allow intuitive, instantaneous operation of a variety of functions.


Tenori-on layers can be thought of as "performance parts" or "recording tracks." The Tenori-on has a total of 16 layers. Separate notes and voices can be assigned to each sound layer, and all layers can be played together in synchronization. The 16 layers are divided into six performance mode groups (Score, Random, Draw, Bounce, Push, and Solo). The six modes have different note entry methods and operation. Up to 16 layers created using different modes can be combined for rich, complex musical expression.


Once complete set of 16 layers is called a "block." The Yamaha Tenori-on can store up to 16 programmed blocks (16-layer groups) in memory, and you can switch from block to block instantly during performance. You could, for example, create a musical composition in one block, then copy that composition to another block and edit it to create a variation of the original composition. Or you can load a number of previously-created compositions into separate blocks from an SD Memory Card and switch between them to create variation during playback.

Technical Specifications
Type: Digital
Synthesis: ROM, Sampling
Oscillators: 1
Waveforms: ROM
ROM Resolution: 16 bit
Osc Modulation: Input, Sequencer, Velocity
Sampling: 8 bit, 16 bit, 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz
Sampling Notes:
16 x 1 second samples
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 64
Timbrality: 16
Tuning: Standard
Modes: Polyphonic
Patches RAM: 3
Patches ROM: 253
Multipatches RAM: 16
Storage: Internal, SD Card
256 note grid sequencer
Mode: Score, Random, Draw, Bounce, Push, Solo
Case: Desktop
Case Details: 256 buttons
Keyboard: Buttons, Non-weighted, Plastic
Controls: Velocity, Buttons, Mod - Wheel, Sequencer
Display Type: LCD, LED, Backlit
Display Count H: 20
Display Count V: 4
Dimensions (WxDxH): Width 205mm (8-1/16") Height 205mm (8-1/16") Depth 32mm (1-1/4")
Weight: 700g
Audio Output Connections: 1/8" Phone Jack, Stereo Main
Audio Output Count: 2
DAC Bits: 16
DAC Frequency Rate: 48
Power: DC 12V PA-3C, 6 ‘AA’
Year Released: 2009
Design Notes:

Designed by Toshio Iwai and Sony

Tenori-on was demonstrated at SIGGRAPH 2005 held in Los Angeles in August, 2005. A detailed discussion of the design of the Tenori-on is given in a paper presented at NIME 2006 conference held at IRCAM, Centre Pompidou in Paris, France in June, 2006.

Toshio Iwai has been using the Tenori-on in live performances (such as at Sónar in Barcelona, in June 2006, and Futuresonic in Manchester, in July 2006, the Futuresonic 2006 live show had some good feedback from the audience and that was one of the most important triggers to make it a real product). The instrument was launched in London on September 4, 2007 for a recommended retail price of $1,200 (£599). To promote this launch, three prominent electronic and experimental musicians -- Jim O'Rourke, Atom Heart, and Robert Lippok—were invited to compose "demo" tracks utilizing the device. These tracks have since been released as promotional MP3s from the Tenori-on website.

Iwai's intention was to create an electronic instrument of beauty. In days gone by, a musical instrument had to have a beauty, of shape as well as of sound, and had to fit the player almost organically. Modern electronic instruments don't have this inevitable relationship between the shape, the sound, and the player. What I have done is to try to bring back these elements and build them in to a true musical instrument for the digital age.

The instrument builds on Iwai's previous work, such as his Electroplankton software for the Nintendo DS in the blending of light and sound, as well as the aesthetic elements of the interface.
Manuals & Documents
MSRP List Price: 599 GPB - convert
References & Sources

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