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Traktor Key Detection: Just How Good Is It?

We’ve gotten a barrage of comments, tweets, and emails this afternoon asking us how well the new Traktor key detection algorithm works – and before we’ve even gotten a chance to give it a whirl, one of our forum members ibsh has jumped on the question and made the below quick graph comparing it to Rapid Evolution, Mixed In Key 4, Mixed In Key 5, and Key Finder. He writes:

“Now Traktor has a key detection feature, it seems; sneaked it into the latest point release. Based on some very basic research, it’s a good algorithm, too. Higher number of exact matches than MIK and solid overall accuracy (…) Slightly fewer [compatible matches] than MIK.” ibsh

Traktor's Key Detection vs. the competition

Full disclosure: Ibrahim (forum username ibsh) actually is the developer behind Key Finder, the free open source app that’s the winner in the chart above. Additionally, the comparison is just results out of 100 songs, which doesn’t make it the ultimate answer to which is best.

That being said, Traktor’s key detection does seem hold up pretty well against the competition in this initial results!

Learn more about Traktor 2.6.1 here or more about Ibrahim’s Key Finder over here.

  • Ross Haggerty

    if i think two tracks go together, i play them, if they sound good, i decide they’re worth hearing. i’ll check after to see if they’re in key, a lot of times they’re not in key but sometimes sound even better together than if i had used, say, a tune that was in key for track b. and sometimes tracks mixed in key will sound bad to me so i don’t use them. I’ve heard djs stress that being picky about key is a good practice when you want to preserve the energy you’re at in your mix and make the blending more seamless. sometimes you don’t want seamless, you want abrupt, sometimes djs will even cut to silence, then start another track with a completely different energy. so i think mixing in key is just one aspect of being a dj

  • Peter Westberg

    This whole in key and out of key thing is rediculous. I was a club DJ for years in the late 80s and early 90s when clubs were HUGE. No one cared then about in key or out of key. It was all about thematics and building energy, keeping it there thru the night’s peak, and if the club was open late enough, bringing the energy down so the dancers didn’t get exhausted too fast. It was all about gut instinct, knowing the music and knowing the psychology of dancers….PERIOD.
    While mixing in key can perhaps match up compatible songs, that usually means no change in energy, just status quo…which *can* be useful. Building and manipulating energy on the floor does NOT equal mixing in key. Few DJ’s mixed in keys all through the hey days of night clubs, from the 70’s til the mid 90’s.
    Having said all that, there were a few amazing DJ’s that swore by mixing in key back then as well, but there were also amazing DJ’s that just didn’t pay any attention to it. Knowing that 2 songs go well together is hard wired into our brains, and we don’t need to know that one is C and another is C minor in order to figure it out. It’s a basic ability of our brains, otherwise we wouldn’t have music to begin with.

  • DJ_ForcedHand

    Time for the 2014 Re-match.

  • dongato


  • Ossia

    Rekordbox’s algorithm is also in the same ball park, I tested 50 tracks with Traktors and the results, although clearly different, were similar in terms of accuracy.

    I woud suggest you to look at my ios app ‘RekordKrate’ which makes harmonic mixing a joy.

  • what about beatunes?

  • What about rekordbox’s detection?

  • D-Lux

    I think there is far to much focus on harmonic mixing. Sure it has a place but there are so many other way to mix tracks with effective and creative outcomes, that if the whole set is only mixed harmonically it can become one dimensional. That said i am happy to see it as a feature of Traktor and also think Keyfinder is a fantastic FREE key detection tool.

  • Ginkgo

    Yeah, but where’s Traktor’s “Energy Level” detection algorithm, huh?

    Too bad that Mixed in Key has the copyright on the Camelot wheel. Also, admittedly, I have no idea what the hell the Open Key tags mean. All the tracks I’ve analyzed so far are just a number 1-12 with a lower case m or d after it. Not any more random that the Camelot tags, but I can’t find an explanation anywhere.

    • Koalafy

      All the Camelot wheel is is a circle of fifths. Mixed in key basically copied it and called it something new. If you spend a day or two learning music theory (key signatures, modulatin keys) the same basic principles apply. Moving left or right two spaces on the Camelot wheel is equivalent to modulating a major second up or down (eg C-Bb or C-D). Moving left or right one space on the wheel is equivalent to modulating a fourth or fifth (eg C-F or C-G). Google search circle of fifths and you’ll see the Camelot wheel is just an oversimplified circle I fifths.

      • Phil Boorman

        Check this out
        Even the colours match the key text of Traktor, and furthermore, the new multi-colour waveforms of the tracks also reflect the key changes throughout the tunes, so you should be able to visualise where your mixes will work best.

  • Aaron Lamb

    Congratz man, I have been using this since it first surfaced on the Serato forums. Its a great piece of software to add to the tools even if you don’t mix in key all the time.

  • Pablo A.

    Does any one else notice that all of the options are less than 70% accurate in this test? Doesn’t that make all of them kind of bad at detecting the key anyways?

  • Nick

    Maybe I missed this somewhere below but can anyone tell me if there is a solution to getting the new key function to work with iTunes playlists.

  • Moritz Melber

    whats the difference between the “key text” and the “key” slot?

    • key = ni intern key
      key text = third party software like mik, key finder etc…

  • I just started using Key Finder. Damn I wish I new about this program a while ago. Already payed for MIK but I am pretty sure I’ll be moving to Key Finder.

  • I can’t believe how many top 40 Friday night mixes on radio are out of key and sound like crap!!! Just because everyone wants to be a DJ or Producer doesn’t mean all you need is software or we wouldn’t hear this complete armature music production and mixing on live clearchannel, comcast, timewarner radio owned stations. You don’t need software people, you just need ears!!!!!! If your ears can’t tell when two things don’t go together then you need to find a new hobby cuz you suck at mixing music.

  • lauti


  • KeyFinder is the truth fellas. don’t forget to donate!

  • Dilby

    What key detection do Beatport use?

    Whatever it is, it is super inaccurate. In my release catalogue of around 40 tracks more than half are listed as the wrong key.

    • Sambo

      I think the artist state it themselves when they upload the track don’t they? Which is EXACTLY why they’re wrong, because most of them don’t have a clue.

      • ibsh

        Nah, it’s an automated system but they wouldn’t tell me which one.

  • Darkside

    Key finder is a awesome piece of software! I’m kinda upset this is my first time hearing about it. I was actually thinking about buying MIK on Friday when i got paid….maybe I’ll donate to Keyfinder instead! 🙂

  • From MIK, that is. If only I knew, this was going to happen. I’m glad it did, tho!! 😀


  • ibsh

    Hey all, ibsh here.

    I didn’t expect this graph to get the front page treatment, so worth saying a couple of things. 100 tracks is not nearly enough to make any real conclusions. All it was designed to do was show that KeyFinder is in the right league, not give an absolute sense of accuracy. And 100 tracks is twice as many as 50, mentioning no names! =)

    I’d love to get a base of more like 1000 tracks estimated by humans (already 10% there!) so if any musically trained people on here are interested in keying a few hundred tracks, drop me a line on the website (

  • Hans

    where can i find a chart, where i can see which key fits into another?

  • Rüdiger

    The problem I discovered is, that you have to use traktor’s own playlist to work with the key detection. Different to MIK Traktor doesn’t write the key into the ID3 tag (comments field). So the key will not be shown when you are using the iTunes integration. Or do i miss something?

    • This is also my question…
      I use iTunes basically because of smart playlists and I dont want to fully migrate to traktor collection until it has some sort of smart playlist feature…

    • Phil Boorman

      The Traktor key detection does write to the id3 tag, and you have the option of specifying Open Key, or regular musical notation. It is great for a free upgrade.
      Furthermore, you can do a smart search using the key id, and this will show all tunes in your current playlist or filter that would harmonically mix, then you can do a bpm sort to home in on the most suitable suggestions.
      As with all software, these features should be considered as tools, not instructions. Use them to enhance your performance, not change it.
      A good DJ should be spending be spending at least some time looking up from their pc screen.

  • I just upgraded, re-analyzing my files and will check to see if its on the money.

  • Dj Narrah

    I moved away from MIK and key detection over a year ago and i found freedom again, I agree with Manuels point below about t he relationship between yourself and the tracks.

  • i dunno why appears as none in the key section, help guys?
    what do i need to do to start analyzing the tracks/keys?

    • Right click –> Analize.

      Than, select “Special” and put a “v” next to KEY 🙂 G’luck

  • Swift

    Does the Key detection work on PC??

  • HipsterTroll69

    I use this old fashioned thing called a Ear…

    • UrNameSukzlol

      You and your new school mixing. When I started DJing there were no such things as “keys.” Chords were barely a known thing and theory hadn’t been invented yet.

      • You were a DJ in the Stone Age?

        • don’t give me that. bloody new fangled ears. i use the cosmic vibrations, maaan.

  • Glad to see these results, and glad to see that key detection is becoming a standard.

  • emzero

    Could someone explain what MIREX compatibility? I can’t find anything about it

    • ibsh

      MIREX is an academic forum (offhand I’d guess Music Information Retrieval Exchange) who ran a few competitions for key estimation algorithms. Their scoring method takes into account the fact that some “wrong” keys are a lot closer than others, essentially.

  • Requires OSX Lion. -_______-

  • Requires OSX Lion -_______-

  • emzero

    Ibrahim is a genius. I will still use KeyFinder because is far more accurate than the competition. At least for what I play (psytrance) it’s like 90% accurate.
    But he doesn’t want to improve it, it was just a project for his university. So hopefully Traktor will keep improving key detection.

    • ibsh

      Easy there! I would love to improve KeyFinder’s algorithm and have several ideas for doing so. But I also have a full time job etc =)

  • If bringing songs into Traktor that have already had the id3 tags changed by MIK, I’m assuming that Traktor overwrites whatever MIK wrote? Is this an option when Traktor is analyzing (such as when importing new music) or an automatic preference (Check a box in preferences and songs will automatically be analyzed for keys) – is there an option to keep keys the same if already written in the tags and analyze if no key is present? Just wondering what the options are and seeing what everybody’s saying before I go and snag the download.

    • There is a new section in the settings menu under the Analyze Options sub tab called Musical Key which lets you set the way Library view mode shows the key (musical, musical w/ sharps, open key) and if, when analyzing, what type of key to write to file.

      When you analyze now, the dialog box that pops up for analysis options has a tick box, “Replace Locked Values” which overwrites whatever was previously in the field.

      Hope this Helps

      • Thanks Raw! Kind of inconvenient to be forced to lock each track that you know the key is correct for, regardless of if the BPM is checked correct – but since Traktor seems to be on par with MIK5 I guess it doesn’t matter too much!!

  • Guest

    even if the above graph is only halfway correct, it means the death of the competitors.

  • does traktor’s key detection work on aiffs?

    • Spacecamp

      Just tested this: the answer is yes!

      • RockingClub

        Btw: If I already noted the trcks key in the “key” field will it then be overwritten by Traktor?
        Wouldn’t be that cool…

  • Well, I used Key Finder a long time and just played “in key”. Since a few weeks I stopped this. I missed the relationship between me and my tracks. I just had eyes for the keys. For sets on a radio it’s okay to play in key, but I think it’s much better to play without key detection to play your set’s like you feel them – and not what the key feels.

    • Jake

      I Disagree completely. Listen to nearly any big DJ’s set, and it’s mixed in key. It depends on your style of mixing for sure, but if you want to play two tracks at the same time, they should be in relative keys otherwise it’s going to sound like crap. Simple music theory.

    • emzero

      Agreed with Jake, it depends a lot on what genre are you playing. You can avoid mixing in key hip-hop or any other kind of music where the set is not really constantly flowing, where you can change from say 3A to 12B without problem. People is not expecting a harmonic set in some styles. But for example, I play psytrance and mixing in key is a must, you can’t break people’s trance by changing the key abruptly or playing two tracks at the same time when they are clashing the hell out of everything. It’s simple music theory, C and C# will sound like crap when played together.

      • Tyler

        yeah but sometimes those one semitone jumps (as long as you do a break cut and don’t actuall mix them) can have a really cool energy boost effect.. like in bon jovi – livin on a prayer

    • davyykun


    • coral422

      I somewhat agree, mixing in key feels bland sometimes. But its nice to have both options available.

    • I agree.
      While it’s obviously helping to blend two irrelavent songs more ‘bravely’, the problem is sometimes it can be a total mood killer to keep checking keys when you are DJing live.
      It’s like a harmony police starring and saying to you “Yeah i know you wanna play this song after, maybe it will be bomb. But look at the keys its a no go!” =)

      I prefer checking keys when i’m at home practicing (its very good for ears to understand why they are good blending together etc. i think) or recording a live mixtape etc.

  • Lets not forget that Rekordbox also has key detection now

    • Spacecamp

      For sure – as well as Virtual DJ and beaTunes, it’s getting a bit crowded out there.

      • john

        That could be a good thing for Traktor in the long run. With a large amount of choices, people will prefer to stay with the Traktor in house software instead of trying to search for a 3rd party software. It will also be another hassle that new comers don’t have to worry about when switching to digital or picking their software for the first time.

    • Jake

      Yes! I’m curious to see how Rekordbox holds up against these others. At first I thought mixed in key did better than Rekordbox, but now I think I’m finding that Rekordbox is more accurate.