HARMONIC MIXING: ALL THE TRICKS IN ONE ARTICLE

Cédric Finkbeiner DJ TIPS

Oyez good urban fellow, welcome to the fabulous kingdom of the Camelot wheel…

USUAL TRICKS, ADVANCED TRICKS, EXCLUSIVE TRICKS, ALL THE TRICKS!!

Everything you need to know as a DJ about harmonic mixing is in this article, from the basic to the most original combos. We even offer you an exclusive easy-to-use table to prepare all your mixes, what else?

NO TIME TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE?

Go directly to point 4 to grab your table, I won’t say it to the author :P

YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING? CHECK THIS OUT…

1. HARMONIC MIXING; A CLEAR EXPLANATION FOR THE BEGINNERS :

When you practice your mix at home, you notice that some tracks match better between each other than others: you can understand this phenomenon well if you know how a track is produced: the artist basically chooses a main note, called the “key” of the track, and revolves all the sounds around this note. There are 12 keys in total and guess what: some keys match better together than others…

For a DJ, mixing tracks consists also of “mixing keys”, with the goal to avoid clashes of melodies and make an harmonious mix!

More than that: If you identify the key of each track of your music collection, not only you can see faster the best matches, but you can also operate subtle changes of energy toward your full mix thanks to dope combos, developed below.

2. TELL ME YOU BOUGHT “MIXED IN KEY“…

Even if you are Mozart’s triple great grandchild with a very strong musical ear, having a key detection soft can save you a lot of time, as it analyzes all your music collection at (almost) one click… Now, except if you’ve been living in a cave since 2006, I’m sure you’ve heard about “Mixed In Key“:

… said your mama (and every possible DJ forums).

Let’s be more precise:

Among all the key detection softs, Mixed In Key gives you by far the highest pourcentage of correct analysis (experts are not even sure that the tiny amount of fails ARE fails + in worst situation, the fails are so close to the correct keys that it may not damage your mix).

There are two reasons which make the soft step above all the others:

  • As of 2018, the team has been working 12 years on its algorithm, which makes it the most fully developed key detection soft ever ;
  • A track is not exactly analyzed in your computer: its signature is sent to the powerful servers of the enterprise for a more accurate analysis. It’s the reason why you need to be always connected while using the soft, which is binding, but for a good reason.

Mixed In Key is not a free soft but it’s not expensive, particularly knowing how often you use it. If you still didn’t buy it, you can find it…


RELATED : If you want to learn how to detect the key of a track using the piano, check out my bonus article about it in my Facebook page (link at the bottom of the article).


3. PSST, DON’T FORGET THESE PRINCIPLES…

  • Trust your ears first of course: even if there is a temptation not to to so, double check your mix in your headphones still.
  • The key of a track changes when the speed changes, so to avoid any mistake and make it simple, use the keylock function:

You can mix without keylock, but must then have in mind that ±6% brings one key higher or lower.

  • When the quality of a mix must be evaluated: the primary endpoint is the track selection, followed by the lack of clash of melodies. The best way to avoid them reminds to mix segments of “free beats” (= minimalist percussive parts of the tracks). Give an absolute priority to this principle, before risking some mixes “of melodies” based on key codes.
  • Harmonic mixing is only one aspect to build great overlays, it’s of course not enough: DJing, as an art form, is also about synchronizing 8-bar blocks, bringing subtle FX, mixing textures, vibes, energies, colors, moods to create a great musical experience… (you know that, but reminders are always good for the health :P)

RELATED : If you are interested about how professionals evaluate your DJ mix and how to improve them, read our full article about this topic here.


4. THE CORRELATION TABLE :

Once you’ve set the key of each track, you need a reference table to see the compatible keys. Here, instead of introducing the famous “Camelot wheel” which you already saw one billion times: we use it to propose you this exclusive super clear correlation table:

Download it (right click/Save As) and open it behind your DJ soft each time you start mixing.

As you can see, some keys have a great level of compatibility and other combos allow you to provoke particular emotions to your audience: for instance, a strong boost of energy may “bring the hands up”, while a slight drop can create a deep effect and “give shivers”, a mood change can brighten or darken the atmosphere, etc. …

In use, we notice that while the keys boosting the energy are efficient, the corresponding ones dropping the energy remind very subtle: there is not much difference between “-“, “- -” and “- – -“.

Globally, pay particular attention to the keys which are not in the “Perfect match” column, as their compatibility is not always guaranteed (especially the keys in brackets: very risky! —> mix segments without melodies and/or mix fast with these!). Pay also attention to the natural energy of a track: you can’t mix tracks with various energies and expect the combos of keys to work well: besides your key notation, you need also an energy notation in your tags (if you are struggling with that, you can find a great one in my Facebook page (link at the bottom of the article)).

Note: David Guetta remarked that if you add or subtract 4 keys, you get sometimes an interesting combo. In use, we noticed that it does work sometimes, but too rarely to be mentioned in the table.


RELATED : If you prefer to use Rekordbox or Traktor’s key notation: you can find the converted tables in my Facebook page (link at the bottom of the article).


5. JUST FOR FUN: WHICH KEYS ARE THE MOST POPULAR?

A study of the “Top 100 Tracks on Beatport” revealed that the most popular key is 8A, followed in 2nd position by 7B, then 10A in the 3rd position.

It’s not as absurd as it looks like: the human sensitivity is naturally better connected to particular frequencies (as we tolerate more the bass freq than the high freq for instance). I already noticed that “8A” is an amazing tonic note for the human ear, no matter if the track is mainstream or not. Listen to this one for instance and hear by yourself how pleasant it is in terms of freq: Joachim Spieth – vurt. [Affin, 2018]

[To purchase this track: click here ; to explore Affin’s dope catalog: click here]

Such information gives you an idea of between which and which keys you could navigate in your set (take it easy…)

CONCLUSION :

One of your biggest jobs as a DJ is to order your music in a way that you don’t need to scan all your library after each mix: you probably found some tricks such as grouping your tracks by genre, mood, energy, speed… “By key” is a simple extra system to reduce the field of possibilities. You are not “prisoner of these infos”, but as they can potentially make you earn some time & effort during the mix, why not using them?

WANT TO GO FURTHER?

—> Try complex transitions using more than two tracks (bring a loop of a third track with a matchable key for instance).

—> Make harmonious mashups thanks to the method (will be covered in a full article soon).

—> Use the method to produce your own tracks (have you heard about Mixed In Key’s Captain Plugins? They are perfect to help you build your melodies harmonically. Check them out here if you still didn’t).


WANT TO KNOW WHEN’S THE NEXT ARTICLE OUT?

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