June 29, 2011

Shit Just Got Real...

by Chris Randall

TNR-i, the Tenori-On clone for iOS created by Yamaha (so it would stand to reason it's pretty close) is now available in the US app store finally, a week after it appeared in Japan and the UK. You can grab it here. Note that I haven't purchased this yet, and am in no way endorsing it. We get iTunes gift cards as a reward from one of our credit cards, and I'm waiting for this month's to arrive so I don't have to, like, pay real money for it. If you've purchased the app, please let us know the good, bad, and ugly. Does it work with CoreMidi, or is the only way to sync it with that stupid Game Center method they came up with? And does it work in Landscape mode? Those are my two main questions.

Slightly related, the Alesis IO Dock is now available for ordering, $199 at Amazon. I played with this a bit at NAMM, and assuming the shipping version is the same as the one I fucked with, it's a solid little piece of kit, and turns the iPad from a cute but slightly annoying device to an actually useful musician's tool in one fell blow.

Now, it is worth mentioning at this juncture that I have it on good authority that, unless you're in any particular hurry, it might be a good idea to wait a couple months to make a purchasing decision vis-a-vis the IO Dock. I can't say any more than that, but I think you can figure out what I'm getting at, without me beating you over the head with it.


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Jul.01.2011 @ 4:53 PM
no op
The differences between the original and the app are mostly squishy ones about mood and feel. The feature list and software interface are nearly identical.

The thing I loved about the original was using it as a focused music sketchbook. I would sit down with it two or three times a day for ten or fifteen minutes, every day, and write a new little song. No distractions, no pressure, just play around for a while and see what came out, and save it. Then I could go do something else. After a couple months of that I had a lot of sketches and a good number of them were worth developing further. It also just felt great to be making new music every day.

The iPad version isn't as focused, when you sit down with the Tenori-On app on your iPad, you hear a beep that says you got email so you go check that real quick, and that email has an interesting link so you go check that, and... you get the idea.

You also aren't as invested when you load the app up, it's just another app, if things aren't panning out you know you can just come back later (you don't). Whereas when you pick up the Tenori-On you're making a little commitment to Make Some Music and play with it until you've thrown together something worth saving. The nice thing about that commitment was it never felt intimidating, because the Tenori-On felt like playing around. So on the one hand when you use the device you do end up finishing sketches and Making Music, but on the other you aren't intimidated that they have to be the greatest thing ever so you actually do pick it up on a whim and Create Things two or three times a day without it being a big deal. It's a nice sweet spot, with the end result being lots and lots of new song ideas.

The other big thing that feels different would be the interface. Which is weird because it's an exact rip, but it doesn't quite translate between the two devices. The original was designed with push-able buttons and LED-buttons in mind, and once you get used to it, it feels right. (That actually isn't completely true because I was never quite happy with how/when the LED-buttons triggered, it was never quite exactly when I wanted them to, unlike satisfying keyboard keys.) Not having that tactile feedback, even though it wasn't perfect, is noticeable. This is true of a lot of iPad music apps.

Beyond the tactile part, like I said they just lifted the interface straight from the original hardware, and it's not ideal for the iPad. It feels natural on the device, they were limited with what they could do with buttons and LEDs and designed it with that in mind. On the iPad though you just end up wondering why you have to do everything the hard way. You have a big touchscreen that can display anything, why force you to do these weird button press combinations that make no intuitive sense here?

When they do deviate from the original and put up a bigger menu, it also doesn't feel right. It's just a stock Apple iPad interface menu, and it's a little jarring... it reminds you that you're not holding a Tenori-On, it's just another app. Again, a squishy touchy-feely type thing. But one of the strengths of the original T-O was that it just felt right, and one of the strengths of the iPad is that at its best it also just looks and feels right. Somehow combining the two lost that.

In summary: the limitations of the original felt right, and had some songwriting benefits. All those same limitations all carry over, but somehow don't always feel right. Since the device is (for me) all about mood and feel and definitely not at all about specs, this is kind of a bummer.

I'm focusing on the differences though, and I loved the original. The app is still worth the $20! I mean, only twenty freakin' bucks! It does MIDI! Worth it for bounce mode alone. I paid over a grand for the hardware when it came out.

It's also possible I am finding faults with the app because I paid so much for the original, and want it to still be worth something since I didn't sell it a month ago. Or, I'm just so used to the feel of the original that any change is bad.

Jul.02.2011 @ 2:35 PM
Thanks for that good write up!!

Jul.02.2011 @ 5:36 PM
@ no op...excellent insights, and you're really describing well the whole hardware vs. the world of apps and plugins difference. I've been wanting to play around with the TenoriOn for quite a while, and naturally thought buying this app would be a great way to get my feet wet. Alas, you're out of luck if you only have an iPhone running ViOS...

Jul.04.2011 @ 1:32 PM
Adam Schabtach
@no op -- what they said; thanks a bunch for the excellent write-up. It makes me want to play with a real Tenori-on.


Jul.21.2011 @ 5:52 AM
Here is a reason one might choose to like TNRi
- it lets you do up to 4 player music jams live over the net

link [www.youtube.com]

As a Tenori on hardware user, I have done several videos about it, going into a lot of detail.

So far, I am quite pleased with TNRi

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