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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Hi, this is Mark Mosher. Welcome to my blog. I’m a synthesist, Composer, Producer, and Visualist living in Boulder CO. I’m also the founder of the Rocky Mountain Synth Meet and Synth Patrol.

I’ve been blogging wince 2005 and this blog is a mix of posts on artistic news as well as synth tech & technique posts under the category Modulate This!

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8 responses to “Tutorial: How To MIDI Sync Your Tenori-On with Ableton Live”

  1. First off, are you running the http://www.modulatethis.com/2010/01/v20-tenori-on-firmware-update-is-here.html.
    The info in the article worked when I wrote it, but these days I’m doing things a bit differently when I use Tenori-On with live. Here are two scenarios.
    1) Put all sequenced parts in live and use Tenori-On as a real-time controller to send notes to synths in Live. I don’t sync the clocks but instead just match tempos. If things get out of sync I use V2 firmware feature “Reset Loop Timing” by hitting the combination of L4 and R1 reseting to their original loop timing points.
    2) Sequenced parts only on Tenori-On to drive virtual instrument racks in Live. In other words just using Live as a synth.


  2. Hi,
    I recently got a Tenori-on orange.
    I tried to sync it with ableton live but it slowly goes out of sync. This is with one layer.
    I am using the Tenori-on as a slave to Ableton and when I sequence a four on the floor pattern it starts going out of sync arbitrarily with the ableton click. I know there are sync issues which can be corrected by adding a time delay on each track but if the delay keeps randomly changing how am I supposed to delay each track???
    Any help will be appreciated.


  3. It depends on your use case. I’ve found plenty of productive uses for it – as have others. Of course the beauty of competition is choice. Certainly if you don’t care for Teonri-On Cosimo there are many options with different features.
    Anyway, this post is not a review of the unit but discussion of timing and Live features.


  4. I’m only a beginner to say the least in ableton. I purchased the tenori-on to help my starting of making music but the notes are too simplistic. Read your tutorial on syncing it with Ableton and I’ve tried to follow your tutorial but haven’t had much success.
    Possible Video maybe if it wasn’t too much to ask.
    Just hurts and seems wasteful to not be able to use such a great product, you know.
    If a video isn’t able to be done would you possible clarify a few things by email if I had questions?
    Thank you


  5. Thanks.
    I think it’s partially the Tenori-On and partially Live. I’ve read in forums that other DAW’s don’t have as much of an issue but I can’t confirm for sure.
    I was surprised as well after the 2.0 update. I thought it would be better. I’m hoping for another update that improves timing even more, but now that I have figured a reliable work around it’s not that big of a deal.
    2.0 did also fix song position pointer issues. When I start Live it definitely resets properly back to beginning of patter. I’ve not tested it in the context of a Tenori-On song yet.


  6. Great tutorial.
    I’m surprised that MIDI on the Tenori On is still requiring work-arounds, though.
    Do you think that this is something that they’ll be able to fix in updates?


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