NodeBeat describes itself as "the intuitive and fun visual music app for all ages." The app, available on iPhone for US$0.99 and separately on iPad as NodeBeat HD for $2.99, uses visual "nodes" to build rhythms. Generator nodes send a pulse to its connected notes and the notes then emit sound. The more nodes you drag onto the screen, the more complex your rhythm will be. It sounds advanced, but the learning curve is delightfully minimal.
When you open the app for the first time, NodeBeat asks you if you want to start off by creating your own music from scratch or listening to randomly generated tunes. I recommend listening first to get a feel for how the app works. Each visual element contributes to the sound in some way. The large square sends out a drum sound, the large circles send out regular sounds and the small circles are the notes that produce what's sent to them.
Each color is assigned a different pitch. For instance, among the circular generator nodes there are three colors: red is high-pitched, yellow is in the middle and blue is low-pitched. Then among the eight smaller note nodes there are another eight colors. According to NodeBeat, this combination is able to produce a range of 7 octaves, or 56 different notes. Even Mariah Carey can't compete with this.
Even just mentioning these features you'd be able to get by using NodeBeat pretty well. The possibilities are endless with the combinations of notes and sounds, but pop open the settings drawer by tapping the icon on the bottom right to reveal an entirely new world of customization options and features.
The stand-out feature here is the record button, which brings up a list of your saved records and enables you to record the music playing by tapping "Start Recording." When you're done, you can play it back, share it through email or SoundCloud and even export it to other apps like iMovie.
The audio tab is for advanced users who want to dig deeper into the musical aspect of NodeBeat with options to edit the waveform (basically the harshness of the sound in my experience,) key, lowest octave, scale, echo, attack and more. In the rhythm tab, additional tweaks can change the tempo and which note gets a beat. Even the Node tab enables less conventional changes like whether a note or generator can float freely.
Virtually everything a music junkie could ask for is available in NodeBeat. Anyone is able to toy around to achieve the exact sound they're looking for down to the finest details, and I find that utterly impressive.
Apart from the audio, the visuals are also just gorgeous in the app. I can imagine setting my iPad down on my dock in the living room with friends over and letting NodeBeat deliver ambient music paired with a stunning graphical representation. Plus, anyone could walk over and have fun with it by customizing the nodes or even just pressing down anywhere in the app to add some notes like an invisible piano.
NodeBeat is in the App Store as two separate apps: the iPhone version for $0.99 and the iPad (HD) version for $2.99, but truth be told not much sets the two apart other than size. That said, size matters with NodeBeat as I greatly preferred the experience on the iPad. The extra space allows for more freedom with your hands to play around with the music.
While I do wish NodeBeat was a single universal app, both versions are well worth their respective prices. NodeBeat is fun enough for any inexperienced music enthusiast to play with and enjoy, but also has an abundance of advanced features to cater to power users and professional music lovers. NodeBeat easily shines among other visual music apps in the App Store and lives up to its aforementioned self-description. Purchase the iPad app or iPhone app and fall in love with it like I did.