Are you mixing “in key”?

Some older DJs seem to have a sixth sense about mixing tracks. They will often mix similar songs to other djs but for some reason the sequence and timing results in a completely different feel. Promoters and dancers are left happy as the dance floor consistently explodes on the big tracks and chugs along between without any energy drops. There is no secret to their formula, many guys have just developed a keen ear and sense of when to play the rights tracks. Take a closer look by examining the musical structure of their sets and you might find they are often mixing in key and don’t even realize it.

So how you reliably tap into that knowledge without waiting for those random perfect mixes to pop up in your sets? Figure out all the keys of your songs and then learn how to wield that information to create a powerful dance-floor.


First, what is actually mixing in key? Technically its blending 2 songs that have very similar notes and when mixed they feel like a long lost friends that have finally found each other. Songs with the same key like Aminor will of course fit together quite nicely but often keys that just have similar characteristic will also create that feel good vibe. Mixing songs that feel right together is just the tip of the iceberg. Its figuring out which songs don’t feel right that will really make your dancers pop lock and roll.


Just like a classical composer or a finely tuned jazz band, a good DJ will weave in and out of keys constantly lifting up the energy or creating tension and release. One simple way of consistently “lifting” up the dance-floor is to mix the next song one step up the keyboard. For instance make a transition from Aminor to Bminor. Those 2 songs wont mix well harmonically but if you do a clean beat mix then it will end up feeling like a big energy boost just hit the dance-floor.


Although mixing up one step at a time is cool, sometimes just throwing on a random key will give the crowd a breath of fresh air it needs. When the energy is good, keep the key constant for a while but if you start to get bored chances are they are too, so change the key- Dramatically! One rule of thumb that some key djs teach is to not mix down a full step, for instance from Aminor to G minor. Not only is that supposed to clash but it also will result in a feeling of a dance-floor let-down. Well last night at Harlot in San Francisco, I dipped into a little hip hop for a moment and after playing Gold Digger (1A G#M), I really wanted to play Shoot to Kill “Jane Fonda” (11B A major). Not only is this moving down one step but its also going from minor to major, so in “theory”, it should have sounded like garbage. Instead, it worked wonderfully. Hip Hop is mixed in a short amount of time, often 16 or 32 counts. These kind of clashing mixes create tension and an interesting sound then boom, you are into the original song without any clash and it feels great. Result-very happy dance-floor.


You need to download a program to start reading your digital files and assigning them the correct key. Mixed in key is a popular program that is compact, easy to use and good at figuring out the right key for you. Unfortunately, at $58 its a little pricey, but well worth the money. So to help you out Yakov Vorobyev, the owner of mixed in key has offered to give away 3 free copies to our readers. In order to win you just have to be the first person to post an answer to the following question (be sure to include your email in the comment so we can send you the software!)

Question: You can mix a song in the same key and the melodic major of a key. What is the melodic major of E flat minor?

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