My Tenori-On is finally useful!

I’ve had a Tenori-On for a couple of years, now: the cheap “Orange” one, made of plastic; not the metal framed “White” version.

After an initial period when I couldn’t put it down, I soon found myself disappointed that the volume of the device was too low for any kind of performance without additional amplification. There was also the fact that the Orange version could only be powered from a mains adapter, lacking the White’s battery compartment. (I believe this was purely to justify the price difference between the White and Orange – aside from the cosmetics and the lack of battery power, the two are identical in function and sound).

But it was mainly the volume issue that did it for me – I found that even playing it at home, any attempt to play alongside other instruments just ended up being frustrating.

Recently, I had cause to unbox my Tenori-On to generate a quick and dirty music sequence, and it’s been on my desk all weekend. With a bit of googling, and delving deeper into the menus, I uncovered the following:

1) The “hardware volume” is set by default to 96 out of 127. I already knew this, and had set it to 127, and managed to make that setting stick.

2) The song layer volume is also set to 96 out of 127. I was aware of this, and knew how to change it, but it cannot be permanently set – when you switch the Tenori-On of, it will revert to 96. Also, setting it to 127, while making it louder, still wasn’t particularly loud.

3) However, as well as the song layer volume, each layer has its own individual volume, also set to 96 out of 127. As before, changes are not permanent. This bit, I didn’t realise.

4) All three volume controls are cumulative in effect. If you think about it, this means that the volume of a layer was – by default – set to 42% of maximum volume (96/127)x(96/127)x(96/127). (Yes, that is assuming a linear volume profile, but you get what I mean).

Setting all 3 volumes to 127 gives a clear beautiful sound that can be heard over a 12-string guitar, and is fine for acoustic performance. Obviously, having achieved a max volume, it is easy to tweak it downwards, as appropriate.

Furthermore, although setting (2) & (3) cannot be made permanent, I have learned a push and swipe menu combination at can set the thing to maximum with minimum effort, and without having to work through the menus.

So I have just ordered a 3rd party battery pack, for the princely sum of £3.50, which will finally make this into a useful portable tool. Others have done the same, and say they can get 6-8 hours play out of a set of 8 AA batteries. The pack will be velcro’d to the back – not pretty, but practical, and the pack can be removed when not in use.

I won’t be bringing this along to any music event soon, as I still have a lot to learn about how to use it creatively. But now I can actually hear it, I might play with it a bit more.


  1. chris
    August 10, 2014

    Heh. Subsequently, I have been told of an “advanced mode”, unpublished by Yamaha, that allows you to alter the defaults.

    The joys of the internet!

  2. chris
    August 10, 2014

    “Advanced mode” has other advantages. There are 16 layers, each of which can be assigned to different sounds.

    In “normal” mode, 6 of them are what are called “Score”, which is the most useful sequencer style mode, 1 is “Solo” and 2 are “Push” – also useful modes. But the rest are modes that I wouldn’t use, like “Random” (not as random as it sounds, but about as useful) and “Bounce” which is literally a bouncing ball the makes a note each time it bounces.

    Advance mode lets me assign 10 whole tracks (or more) to Score (sequencing), keep the Solo and Push, and reduce the Random Bounce to 2-3 tracks.

    It also allows me to move the drum-assigned Score track to track 10, which is the common track used for drums in MIDI. This is not only easier on my brain, but it means when connecting it to a MIDI device, it plays nicely.

  3. chris
    August 12, 2014

    Further playing with the Tenori-On, I found a firmware upgrade and applied it, which meant I had to make my changes again.

    I’ve now decided that with regard to volume, it is loud enough for casual use if the hardware and overall layer volumes are set to full. So I have left the individual layer volumes at 96. It is easy to change it, now that I am not changing 3 different volume settings, and it means I can bring in a new instrument layer softer, and then take it up a notch.

    I’ve also reset some of the default instruments, which all seemed to be variations of a synth whistle. So now I have piano on layer 7 and steel drums on layer 6.

  4. chris
    August 19, 2014

    Battery pack arrived today. Takes 8 AA cells, and works perfectly.

    Most people seem to be fixing the battery pack to the rear of the instrument, which makes it truly portable, but a little heavier. For the moment, I am leaving it loose, until I decide whether to velcro it to the Tenoro-On, or simply splice in a longer power lead.

    Either way, it is now portable!

  5. Brad
    June 8, 2022

    I dont really understand what your problem is with the volumes just plug the damn thing into a mixer and monitor speakers

    • Chris
      June 8, 2022

      That assumes a particular way of using the instrument. Not everyone will be using it the way you might do.

      From the original post: “Setting all 3 volumes to 127 gives a clear beautiful sound that can be heard over a 12-string guitar, and is fine for acoustic performance.”

      Acoustic performance.

      At the time, I was using it to improvise (and occasionally pre-record) accompaniment to my singing, in a singing circle. That is a hall with chairs in a circle and people with either acoustic instruments or instruments loud enough to be heard – electric piano etc. No mixer, amplifier or monitors.

      And with the “Advanced Mode” I learned about, I could do this, perfectly well. So surely that is worthy of not.

      By the way, did you notice this post was from eight years ago? 😀

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