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Tutorial: How To MIDI Sync Your Tenori-On with Ableton Live

In this post I offer some tips on setting up the Tenori-On for use with Ableton Live as a Synth Rack. I’ll also cover how to compensate for MIDI Timing Issues.

When I use the Tenori-On with Ableton Live, I don’t use it’s internal synthesizer engine. Instead, I route MIDI output from Tenori-On layers to corresponding virtual instruments hosted out of Live.

  • To mute the Synth Engine in the Tenori-On use menu Preference Menu->Local Control and set the parameter to “OFF”
  • To configure Tenori-On as a MIDI Slave use menu Preference Menu->Syncrhonize and set the parameter to “SLAVE”
  • I then send MIDI to Ableton LIVE via a the MIDI ports on my Novation nio 2|4 Sound card. Any MIDI port that Ableton Live can see will do. The nio is configured to receive MIDI input, output and sync. image

Each of the 16 layers within the Tenori-On transmit on a different MIDI channel.



In Live, I configure corresponding MIDI tracks for each layer on the Tenori-On I want to receive MIDI data from. In the example on the left, you can see that I’ve created three tracks within Ableton Live with and instance of Gladiator, and two instances of Alchemy. Note that the MIDI from is set to the nio 2|4 and a specific MIDI channel is used for each device to isolate MIDI note data for each track.

Don’t forget, you could also use Instrument Racks, Sampler, or drum racks to map multiple samples and/or instruments to Tenori-On notes.

On January 14th I blogged about the Tenor-On 2.0 firmware update which included improvements related to MIDI timing. The release notes indicated that the Tenori-on “responds to the F2 MIDI Song Position Pointer message allowing it to be seamlessly integrated into all popular DAW systems.” Even with this improvement, I’m noticing notes are coming in late relative to Live’s timing.

This means by default, Tenori-On MIDI notes won’t be aligned with the output of clips in Live and if you attempt to record the in-coming MIDI it will record late into the clip as shown below.

Luckily, Ableton Live has a handy feature “Track Delay” feature to help compensate for timing issues. To access this feature click the small “D” button on the right side.


The premise behind Track Delay is to delay other tracks within Live so that they sync with the instruments that are late. In the example above I entered 100.0 MS as the delay time for a clip that is driving Impulse so now it’s synced with the Tenori-On.

To determine what the delay should be I programmed a simple pattern on layer 1 of the Tenori-On to contain quarter notes. Gladiator is set to a patch with a percussive attack. I hit play in Live which starts the Tenori-On (since Live is the Master and Tenori-On is the Slave). As the Tenori-On triggers Gladiator, I can hear the timing differences. I stop Live, then adjust the Track delay on the drum track and repeat until they are locked. Your delay time will vary based on your sound card, computer speed, audio device Driver Compensation setting (in Options->Audio) etc.

Once you determine your delay time, apply it to all the other tracks. At this point, the Tenori-On is synced and you can use it to perform in sync with clips.

How to Record Incoming Tenori-On Notes

  • Set the track delay on the Tenor-On MIDI tracks to the same Track Delay time as the other tracks.
  • In Live, set quantization using the menu “Edit->Record Quantization->Sixteenth-Note Quantization” image

By setting Record Quantization in Live to 16ths, then pushing track playback timing with “Track Delay”, Live will capture MIDI data then automatically move it back in time to line up with 16ths.image


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Composer, Sound Designer

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