A few weeks ago the Disquiet Junto (on Soundcloud and Twitter) held a project utilizing the app Nodebeat. I contributed a track, and I’ve been playing with the program in my spare time since. Creating music with the app feels like time spent in a colorful and vibrant playground.
Nodebeat is a very affordable app available for both iOS and Android (and a slightly less functional free desktop version). I’m using it on my HTC Incredible. To create sound, the user drags different objects on the screen. These objects are come in note and generator varieties. The generators pulse and create sound when the pulsations intersect with notes. Notes come in different colors for each scale note, and there three different octaves of generators as well as a percussion generator. The program offers a variety of controls to adjust the resulting sound, including allowing the notes and/or generators to move randomly, adjusting the scale, key, wave form, tempo, and much more.
The biggest strength of the software is how quickly it is to get started creating complex soundscapes. Interacting with the environment is extremely intuitive. The app’s simplicity also prevents one from having any workflow snags. It also clearly defines what the app is designed to do, more importantly, what it is not designed to do.
The app has a characteristic sound, built on the simple wave forms interacting with the sampled percussion. Things created inside Nodebeat sound like they were created in Nodebeat. I actually like this restriction because it forces me to try and push the software to its timbral limits. When I open up the software, its like walking to the same playground. My job is to find a new way to use the slide or swings while creating maximum fun.
So, what exactly does NodeBeat sound like?
A happy groove that keeps both the notes and generators static:
This clip uses the gravity feature, which reacts to the tilt of your phone/tablet.
The app is great at creating tension when work space is mostly empty:
Allowing the notes to float can create some anxious musical moments:
My first impulse when opening NodeBeat was to fill it up with lots of different notes, which creates a chaotic mess:
I discovered that limiting the pitches I deployed, but creating multiple instances of each could have a fantastic effect:
I really hope NodeBeat grows and develops. As much fun as it is to use the program, I’d like a beefier system for saving presets and recording audio. I can only record one track at a time. If I want to save a second moment of genius, I need to get the first one off my phone before pressing record again. The preset load/save system lacks “Save As…” and saving over works in progress, which is a little archaic.
I appreciate the simplicity of the program that allows a user to begin creating music immediately. That said, after using the app for a few weeks, I would like to be able to get under the hood a little more. Adjusting properties, such as movement or volume, of individual notes/generators would be great. It would also be nice to have more documentation. Most people might not care about the pitch sets for some of the program’s exotic scales, but I would appreciate having access to that information.
The app is still a blast to use, and I plan to continue playing around with it. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more sounds using it in the future at this page.
featured image: flickr