Some DJs do it all the time, while others do it only occasionally. Some DJs never do it and have no intention of doing it. We could be talking about hooking up with groupies, but in this case, we’re talking about mixing in key — also known as harmonic mixing. This is not an article on how to mix in key, but rather about key mixing in the real world of the professional DJ. We look at the advantages, disadvantages and downright pitfalls of attempting to mix for an extended period of time harmonically in key. Read on to find out how those keys can affect your performance when playing to a live audience, for example, in some instances they can make you sound awesome but sometimes they can backfire horribly.


If you want to:

* Perform longer mixes

* Without key clashes

* With win/win sonic result every time


Then you need to mix the records by key. Using this method, you can run the mixes for much longer, while they sound all the sweeter.

When a DJ first starts out on the long road to learning how to mix it is at first a massive achievement just to keep 2 tunes in sync for the duration of a mix. Once that becomes easy, the next hurdle is phrasing the mix so that things happen at the right time, for example the baseline of one record finishes just as the opening hook on the new track starts. After that, quite often a novice DJ falls into the trap of running the mix for too long — turning what started out as a good mix into the key clash from hell that sends even tone deaf customers diving for cover.


If you are musically trained you can find the key yourself by playing it on a keyboard. Otherwise, there are services like Camelot Sound, which for a small fee allows you access to thousands of keyed songs in a database that is updated monthly.

Also, programs such as Mixed In Key, Rapid Evolution and BeaTunes 2.1 analyze your music and report the key. But beware: in our tests, software has been proven to be around 60% accurate, which to me means that it gets it wrong 40% of the time.


By all means, spend the time it takes to learn how to key mix, but on many occasions, the right mix is not in the same key.

Let’s be honest: We are trying to rock the crowd, give people a great night and leave them wanting more. It’s the DJ’s job to watch the crowd to see what they are responding to and make sure the next tune is perfect for the moment. This is where harmonic mixing may fall flat on its face. What if your perfect next record is not key compatible with the one you are currently playing? If we were sticking religiously to the key mixing concept, the perfect track may not be playable for several songs, and the moment would be lost.

Remember that there is a two-way discussion between DJ and audience. If you don’t believe me, try this experiment:

Before your next set, write down 20 BIG records that you always play in the peak of the night and that you know always work with your regular crowd. Next, make a running order out of those tracks. At the gig, start to play your pre-planned set list in the peak of the night. I can say with confidence that you won’t get to the fifth record on your list before you have to change your plans.

When deciding to mix in key or not, consider the following:
• What’s most important: the mix transition or the playing the right music for the crowd?
• Would I be keymixing tracks just for the sake of doing it?

Ean’s Corner of Sometimes Useful tips:

“If the mood is perfect and the floor is rocking then maintaining the key is often a good idea. If the mood is poor and the song is not working then its almost always a good idea to change the key and play the right song.”



After many years of searching for the perfect formula of mixing music that has maximum impact on the crowd, I have discovered… there is NO MAGIC FORMULA. So, I do key my music, but like the EQ on the mixer, the loops in the CDJ or the effects in your software, I use keymixing just like any another tool.

Sometimes certain tracks in your set seem to group together in compatible keys, allowing you to mix in key for extended periods. Also, you may look through your list of keys, and it gives you inspiration to try a mix you might not have done otherwise. If you’re at home, keys come in very handy for experimenting to your heart’s content with creative combinations and remixes. But when you’re playing to a real live crowd, that next record has to be the right one first and foremost. If it key matches, that’s a bonus.

Lots of styles of music are well suited to harmonic mixing, including house, pop and R&B. Trance music, with its lush strings and sustained pads would really benefit well from keymixing, as well. Styles like rock might be less suited mainly due to song structure and live drummers. I also find that if you play a dance classics night where, all the tracks are already big and familiar to the audience, that allows more scope for harmonic mixing.

In a recent BBC Radio One documentary, the man voted by DJ Mag readers as the world’s number one DJ for three years running, Armin Van Buuren, revealed that he only uses key mixing occasionally, when he is lucky enough to find 2 tracks that he is already going to play, which also happen to have the same key.

About the Author: Tony Corless has been a professional dj for 23 years. If you enjoyed his first article for Dj TechTools, show some love in the comments.  Want to contribute your own ideas? Visit this page for more info.

Additional Reading: Ean Golden’s “Are You Mixing in Key?”

Harmonic Mixingmixed in keytransitions
Comments (69)
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  • Justin Hollingsworth

    I like the main point of this article, and the advice about writing down the top tracks you want to play at the peak of the night is right on. But the article doesn’t distinguish key clashing from non-key clashing nonharmonic DJing. You don’t have to key your records or mix harmonically to avoid key clashes–this is why DJs have headphones. I cue up shit all the time, and then cue up something else because of a key clash (any DJ knows it when he hears it), swing of the tracks don’t work, or the blend just sounds bad). Also, sometimes a key clash sounds great–i have few combos that I keep going back to because I like the twisted fucked up trippy “we gotta hurry up this party before the cops get here” effect. And, who said the music has to sound “faster” “more uplifting” more and more consistently for the whole night? Maybe that’s why my least favorite trance and progressive DJs spin at theatres and sports venues–because if there was a dance floor people would have heart attacks. Good DJs know how and when to blow away the crowd by going deep. And the best DJs are like great sex–they don’t leave you wanting more, but instead leave you with sore feet or legs cramping in the taxi but feeling 100% satisfied.

  • -dylan

    I’m a relatively new DJ who is also musically adept, I have been experimenting for about a year with the stuff and find that the best time to harmonically mix is when a song that could match the atmosphere is also in key, even if it’s very slightly off from the mood, it has worked great.

  • DJ MDR - Boston

    When i first got on the decks (1998 or so), once I figured out how to key mix, i got a bit too anal about all my mixes, and it started to show. Although my sets were fluid and mixed well, by the time i got to play them live, I felt uninspired and just sort of felt like I was running through an exercise.

    Eventually, I sort of split the difference. As someone said above, after a while, your ear can more easily recognize whether or not the keys will work together VERY quickly, and you can mix on the fly, just sort of slapping wax down until you hear the right intervals. I only mix vinyl, so there is no time stretching or cheating iI can do. Once you figure out the BPM interval for a half step (changes slightly depending on starting BPM), you can quickly pull tracks you know are either around the same BPM, or around 6-8 BPM off if you need to move a half-step in either direction. You can tell very quickly if they keys will mesh (and really, only two intervals won’t, a half step and a tritone), and then you can either lock the track in or move on to another record.

    This is WAY more fun, interesting, and certainly more rewarding, or it was for me anyway. The theory knowledge eventually just sort of becomes second nature, and I spend very little time planning out which tracks with which keys I will put together. Also, many tracks are fairly DJ friendly, allowing a collection of “transition tracks” to emerge. These are tracks with long mix-ins or mix-outs that contain little or no harmonic content. keep these tracks in mind to “bail out” if you end up jammed, taking too long to get the correct track front and center. I use a lot of Oliver Leib (trance artist) tracks for this purpose, because they are usually banging, and they usually have tight, crisp mix-ins and mix-outs, usually without even a baseline for a few measures. These are escape-hatch records I use to buy some time and bridge over to different styles or a wildly different key when needed.

    Also, everyone loves Oliver Leib, right? 😉

  • Armand K

    What’s great about ‘key-ing’ your library is that you train your ear. You might not notice it but with all the practice you are putting in, mixing harmonically all the time, you are developing your musical ear unconsciously.

    I was essentially tone deaf when I started out as I have never touched an instrument, but after a year of key’ing my tracks, I ditched it. Not because I didn’t like, but because I didn’t need it!

    I ended up doing some back to back sets with a friend, who has his whole library keyed. Without me knowing what key he was in, any song I chose was ALWAYS harmonically matched with what he was playing (double checking after I finished selecting a track). It took another person for me to realize it. So I ditched it and enjoy the freedom of looking for the next track I want to play FIRST, rather than looking for what track I want to play in ‘these specific keys’. This is HUGE for following your intuition for a driving crowd.

  • Thiago Farane

    I luv it!! Thank you for your experience! 

  • Adamyarter

    I mix in key, but thee are hurdles around the ‘perfect’ track not being in key. Typically, I’ll find a progression of tracks that will get me a few keys higher. (I’ll mix the builds into each other, usually no more than a minute at a time within the length of a track, you’ll have modulated several spaces up that darned circle of fifths. Its like a puzzle & I love it! 

  • Mikey

    Great article.
    I also agree with the fact that is more important to get the right track at the right time , rather than choosing a harmonically resembling tune. After all, you can mix in such a way so the vocals or mids are not overlapped.

  • tony corless

    Hi Jared,
    What you would do is beat mix in your new song over a break[drums percussion quiet part] in the other track.
    Or you could mix in your new song and make sure the mix was finished just as the bassline or first musical part of the new song starts.
    Many DJs who are well know for their mixing ability have mixed for years without ever learning key/harmonic mixing.
    Although key mixing is a fantastic tool and can be used to great effect.
    If you are just learning its probably best to get a good solid mixing technique and then concentrate on playing the right music at the right time for the crowd.
    When this becomes quite easy to you should then consider key mixing in my opinion.
    Hope that helps!

  • Jared Smith

    I’ve got a question. I’m fairly new to the whole DJ-ing scene. I’ve been taking lessons since January and I haven’t really learnt anything other than key-mixing on CDJ’s. How can you mix a song well without using key mixing on CDJ’s?

    • Justin Hollingsworth

      If you haven’t read the book “How to DJ right: the art and science of playing records” get it from your library or buy it and read it. You will learn more about DJing than any CDJ key mixing course. Also, I’m not a vinyl-only DJ. For the shit $ I usually make I’m not dragging crates of records via taxi to the venue. But I tell everyone that says they won’t to be a DJ to buy Technic 1200s and start buying records, because it forces you to learn how to beatmatch “for real” and to listen to the tracks. (It’s hard to explain if you haven’t spun with vinyl, but once you have you’ll will hear the difference between a DJ who has only used a laptop and a DJ with a laptop that who can spin with vinyl if he want to.)

      Also good DJs became DJs because they were going out a lot and buying a lot of the records and love the music more than almost anything else in life. I bought turntables when I started blending songs in my head and then would later hear a DJ blend the same two tracks. At the time I lived in NYC, and was going out to clubs and the occasional rave 3-5 nights a week. If you are not obsessed with music there is no class in the world that can help.

  • D3RKIN

    I have been djing for about 15yrs and have never mixed in key maybe I do it but not knowingly. I try to think what tracks will go best with the track I am playing. I always wing it, and most of the mixes work out perfectly. Cool things happen too like double break downs and riding out two break downs and having them both hit in at the same time dead on is a good feeling, or tracks coming in at just the right time. I think the bigest problem with dj’s starting out is that they don’t know how to count, and play vocals over vocals or just don’t mix there tracks long enough to build up together. My opinion is it is more fun to be spontaneous than planning everything out, it gets me just as excited as the crowd to hear my mixes for the first time. Nice article gave me another demension and insight as to how other dj’s plan there sets.

  • Dimitri

    Harmonic mixing is what mash-up artists do. A good harmonic mix is basically a mash-up. I agree that harmonic mixing is more of a tool like any other djing technique.

  • Siddeffects

    Yes I do mix in Keys when I’m playing my warm up set, as people are getting hooked up to the sounds. For my main set, I hardly use it and stick to my favorite tracks irrespective of their keys.

  • jaurelio

    ….always in key is better than neither in key!!!

  • marnis

    There’s a moldover youtube clip where he explains a different approach to harmonic mixing.

    He uses only six keys (A, B, C, D, E, G – which he thinks are the most common), and songs in any of the other six keys he pitch-shifts up or down to a neighbouring key. So now he has far higher chances of playing songs with keys that work together – but he doesn’t have to spend time thinking about it.

    Seems like a very efficient and effective solution, and runs with the theme that it’s a tool to help, but not something that needs to be considered on every mix…

    • Andrew Marshall

      interesting. I’m pretty sure you’ll find more Bb and F than B.

  • a serra


    yea i stopped actively applying mixed in key a long time ago, but i still use it to keep my cds in order by way of the camelot numbers and i find that alot of time when i hit a really good mix i’ll go back and look and find that it is indeed two consecutive camelot numbers, although there are excllent mixes that don;t follow the rule of course.

  • Jonsafer

    I agree with many posters. It can be nice to mix in key but it’s a small tool like effects (which doesn’t have to be used every time). It’s definitely more important to find the right song instead of right key.

    Thanks Tony for the article.

  • Joao Marcos Soares

    I’m a musician and I really like to get everything in key. I’m starting as a DJ and didn’t think that the crowd’s feeling is more important than my need to get everything in key.

    I’m brazilian and this is one of the best blogs that I’ve read.


  • dishevel

    @ D3RKIN, my friend, who’s much more experienced than I am, always says the same thing.

    @ Mark Davis (Answering that question posed to D3RKIN), I used to try to plan everything beforehand, but it takes FOREVER. Also, I’ve noticed that the mixes tend to come off as better when I go on the fly (from the programming perspective, I mean). So I’ll have a general sense of what sound I’d like to go for and then just wing it. I’ll then re-listen to the set, decide if I still like everything, and then re-record it with possibly a few track tweaks and to clean up the mixes.

  • Mark Davis

    D3RKIN: If you planned to record your mix for others to hear, would you plan your mix in advance or just wing it?

  • D3RKIN

    I always believe that the best way to mix is know your tracks like the back of your hand. If you know your tracks you will know what goes well together. You get the best results by playing on the fly and not havinging any set. Bring what you want to hear, and just know what track you want to start with and that’s it. After that just go with it and if you know your tracks well enough you will know what goes well together. The best set are not planned or programed, programed sets sound robotic and monotonous. Feel don’t think….

  • Roc

    I think an understanding of how keys mix and the effect those mixes have on the listener is an invaluable tool for digital DJ’s. In this age of digital Djing where tempo and pitch can be manipulated seperately there are many more opportunities to mix in that track you think the crowd will like. Not harmonically compatible? Raise or lower it’s pitch until it fits better.

  • dj master p

    I usually prepare a base set for my evening of performance (new songs only), then I have a side list with all the bangers I know the audience like.

    My base set is key matched, and usually i stay on this set for 3 – 5 songs before mixing in what will rock the audience.

    I have however had people commin up and thanking me for particular good transitions.

  • djerikt

    mixed in key is really dope, and big props for people who use it. I remember seeing RazorMaid cd’s in the early 90s with key info on it. I don’t use mixed in key for my sets, since my choice of songs goes by rhythmic energy or impact of hit. Other criteria moves my sets in different directions, not key. I have heard it used in soulful house and trance where it was amazing.

  • dishevel

    hey guys, i’ve been working on a few mixes and i’m really noticing that some of my flexibility is suffering. i feel like i have a really high standard with synths not clashing, and have been making way too many picks based on key.

    getting away from that, can anyone recommend some good resources for learning how to mix better with melodic tracks (example: trancy-progressive house)? i’d love to read how to better use the xone:92 filters in traktor to get more seamless mixes.

    maaaaaaybe someone can write an article on more effectively mixing with hi/lo pass filters (pretty please)?

  • jsizzle

    When I first discovered keying software like MIK, I went a little overboard with key mixing. Just as many others have said, I quickly realized that basing your track selection solely on harmonics is a HUGE mistake and can make for soulless boring sets. There is absolutely no better DJ skill than just truly knowing your music library inside and out and basing your track selections on your gut feeling.

  • Mark Davis

    Great article! Slight correction: We only say that our Camelot Sound harmonic mixing database is 95% correct, because nothing is perfect.

  • tony corless

    >[quote post=”5337″]calvin01
    >>March 24th, 2010 at 1:50 pm Quote
    >nice one tony.i’m now thinking of gettin mixed in key…….you >mention the software only gets it 60% right.if i want to find >out if the software has correctly analyzed the file/ >would you suggest i go about this?.[/quote]

    Ok so lets say the software has reported it as the key of C but you are not sure if its correct.
    On any keyboard play the C note along to the music, it should blend in as should the perfect fifth of C which is G.
    If both notes blend in with the track the software is correct.

    Lets just say that C sounds off but G blends in
    Find the perfect fifth of G which is D if both these blend in the key is G.

    Alternativly camelot sound {mentioned in the article} allow you to subscribe to a database of keyed music,the music is keyed by a professional musician and is 100% correct.
    Hope that helps

  • music1

    Great article Tony,I agree it’s more important to pay attention to your crowd than worrying about mixing in key.I think all this digital technology and various music programs that are out are great.But for some of us that have been spinning for over 20 years never mixed or maybe even new about harmonic just learned what records went well together and always pay attention to your dancefloor and new when to drop certain tracks.

  • Markku Uttula

    [quote comment=”28633″]Also, don’t go past the +-2 mark in Traktor, that’s when things start sounding flat & unnatural.[/quote]
    Keeping in mind that when you have +-2 semitones of margin in both of your players, you can go pretty much from any key to any other key. If you can’t get the keys to be the “same”, at least they should be in the “compatible” range with that amount of correction.

  • DJ Moonie

    I think its been pretty much covered, but like anything else, harmonic mixing is a tool and nothing more.

    Its up to you as a DJ to decide when to use what, and how!

  • Dlarson

    Good stuff, keep it coming.

  • tucci

    For those of you who have a bit of music theory knowledge, here are my favorite intervals to use when mixing:

    1. Up a perfect 4th (harmonically works great 90% of the time)
    2. Up a Minor Third (gives a feeling of going forward)
    3. Up a tritone (similar to the jazz tritone substitution concept)
    4. Up a half step (needs to be a quicker mix)
    5. Up a perfect 5th (although the bassline tends to feel pretty different after a change like this)
    6. Up a Minor 6th (often pretty comfortable)

    these are obviously not rules as a good dj can mix pracically anything but these are the things i’m often thinking of in the booth with some degree of success

  • calvin01

    nice one tony.i’m now thinking of gettin mixed in key…….you mention the software only gets it 60% right.if i want to find out if the software has correctly analyzed the file/ would you suggest i go about this?.

  • Anthony Jacobs

    Great article! I could write a whole book on mixing in key using different approaches utilizing either DJ software, CDJ’s or vinyl. I believe once a DJ becomes savvy with basic music theory and is able to accurately key his/her tracks, it’s much easier to learn how to also “break these rules” as well. ;o) Btw, I have many great examples of fluid creative key mixing here –>

    Again, great advise here… thanks! Ean sums it up best

    “If the mood is perfect and the floor is rocking then maintaining the key is often a good idea. If the mood is poor and the song is not working then its almost always a good idea to change the key and play the right song.”

  • sean

    good story…

    so if the apps you tested only score 60/40 (you might as well say 50/50), what does that really say about using them to analyze the key…dont use them?

    My advice, get yourself a basic fundamental understanding of music (its not hard, they teach it to 11 year olds you know), use your EARS and do it correctly! You will thank yourself for it 🙂

    Of course if your mixing Dubstep all you need to know is its all in Cminor and 140 BPM, just leave that pitch slider where it is!

  • EmP

    Love comment!! hahaha

  • Tyler

    Great job. I like the multiple quality reasons for either mixing in key or not mixing in key. The Armin fact is really interesting too. I think it is important to watch keys to keep from really bad clashing but looking for exact matchs really does take away from the main thing djs are hired for, playing the right record at the right time. I also agree that this is just another tool to add periodically to a set.
    One other cool thing I do harmonically that really adds energy is move up chormatically between keys when i do a fast transition between songs ex. C Major to C# Major. You can’t mix 2 songs this way because they will clash horribly but it really adds a nice effect. I think Ean has mentioned this before.

  • Meo

    Very nice article.

    Iv been using MIK for a good while and love to mix harmonically. It is however very true that harmonic mixing is far from some ultimatum. Instead harmonic mixing tends to give the listeners something more ear pleasing rather than energetic. It works wonders in tapes but during actual sets it might not be that great a thing and actually when over used might end up like a soufflé gone wrong. Effects, being similar tools, work the opposite most of the time.

  • Ian T

    There’s something to be said for playing with the “vibe” of the music, and not fussing over key. If you solidly know the library you have with you on (X) night/gig I can, at least, generally have a good idea of what will mix in nicely next-even if it isn’t a pre-set order/playlist.
    That said, I like to keep say-200 songs with me for shows. Not a stupidly large library. This way I know them really well.

    My 2 cents.

    Sweet Article.

  • jasonmd2020

    [quote comment=”28615″]I think this is a very genre heavy thing as well. Some genres you can flip keys all over the place…. others, its usually a more gradual thing.[/quote]

    I agree. With styles like house, trance, and the more pop oriented stuff, key mixing is a good idea. But when I mix I’m usually lean twords, industrial, drum-n-bass, illbient, experimental things. Where dissonance and unexpected changes are part of the style. So it really depends on what you’re spinning.

  • Phil Morse

    It’s a great way to match acapellas with instrumental tracks too. If you know the keys of your acapellas you can drop them in, secure in the knowledge they’ll work over related or same-key tracks every time. All you need is a list of your acapellas all ready keyed-up and you’ll appear to get it right “on the fly” every time. (Still have to use master key though.)

  • Mr.Nicklebe

    Great article first off.

    I purchased mixed in key about a week ago to make song selection slightly easier. It’s made a massive difference tomy mixing, i find songs that i would never of guessed work well together. However i am starting to realise that it’s probably not worth mixing like this constantly.

    What i thought was going to free me up to find new tracks actually in a way started to limit me because i was always trying to mix into the correct key.

    As this article says though its good to mix in key when its appropriate and ‘sounds right’.

  • Rob Ticho

    I was mixing in key for awhile, then got bored with it. It’s very useful for mash ups and remixing.

    The reason I’m over mixing in key, is that I found mixing in timbre to be so much more important and interesting. I like to mash a lot of tech house with similar sounding textures.

    I think it would be awesome if someone developed a camelot type system for timbre or even a piece of software such as mixed-in-key to help tag songs. Then again, it’s pretty easy to do manually.

    Also, keep in mind, a lot of what I play is somewhat atonal to begin with.

  • ridim

    the Camelot Sound sound link is great

    can’t w8 to get home and create some mashups

  • Alien2k

    Mixing is key is nice, but to be honest it is kind of a huge turndown. I really dont enjoy much neither listening nor playing all prepared studied sets, for me mixing in key has not worked it just restricted my sets. I love digital djing but a dj that carefully needed to analyse all his tracks in order for him to make tht proper choice… mmm not my style. Free your mind and listen to the music.
    In my memories the greatest moments that I have had listening to a dj perform is when he really mixes tunes that nobody could thought of, I am sure that mixed in key did not propose him those tracks…(I think that using all this software you will never give time to yourself to think about music).

  • Shane

    Great article Tony. As technology progresses it’s important not to get lost in it. As stated in the above comments it’s imperative to be in tune to the crowd rather than sticking to a rigid “rule” like always mixing in key.

  • baze

    i’m a traktor scratch pro user
    I personnally don’t use the key
    i do it manually with turntables pitch
    i put manually 2 songs in the same bpm
    sometimes it works, sometimes not but it’s sure that i dont use the key lock even it gain you lot of time using the key lock…
    but good dj’s dont use it !

  • Anonymous

    Good article.
    One thing to remember is to use your EARS since all those key detection proggies only get it right 60% of the time (this is where my years of guitar playing finally pay off). Basically, if it doesn’t sound good don’t do it or wait for the break.

    Also, don’t go past the +-2 mark in Traktor, that’s when things start sounding flat & unnatural.

    I used to key mix alot but gave it up after a while because it just made everything too perfect. You need the tension or else it just sounds boring. But for extended jams, it really helps.



  • Gary Hipperson

    Thanks for the article,

    I have been a DJ for 8 years and have recently got into harmonic mixing and this helped me decide how to use it, because i was unsure about using it all the time or just like you said as another tool!!

    This has helped

  • Abyrne7

    Great article. It’s exactly what I thought. I don’t mix in key myself because I tend to always be looking for that track that the crowd wants to hear.

  • DJSDive

    Some food for thought: I wonder if you guys look at your playlists who do not mix harmonically but who do have key information on your tracks, do you notice that things tend to follow the harmonic mixing concept non the less? As in .. if harmonic mixing makes sense, wouldnt good DJ’s naturally gravitate towards it? If a song fits another song by key and we are saying that harmonic mixing makes for a good sounding mix, chances are we will be favoring mixing in key even if we do not actively apply the theory.

  • re-edit

    Umm – what ever happened to using your ears to tell if 2 tracks go together?

    on a plus side – at least soon you wont have to use headphones :s


    Nicely balanced and fair article there Ean, Although Harmonic Mixing can be advantageous, it should only be used sparingly, definitely not to be relied on. You can plan a set but you can never really stick to that plan. DJing is about doing what feels right at the time and the best DJs will be able to react to what is happening right now and build accordingly. Key mixing can help but even the best trance DJ’s (to which harmonic mixing lends itself to best) don’t use it that much.

    For a beginner it can be a useful tool to help you learn but once you get it, you are probably best trying to learn how to do it naturally.

  • Sarasin

    Great article!!!


    I been doing it for a while, but needed to hear peoples thoughts on it!



  • Ondra

    Tracks keys is a nice tool to play with, but they require to use the master tempo function (or whatever-it-is-called-in-your-DAW-or-DVS). If you play tracks with the same key but with different tempos, the keys will class again, unless you switch master tempo / master key on.

    In my experience, all the master tempo algorithms are pretty poor when applied to the whole song. There are many artifacts that pop up, the tracks sounds flatter and muddier than before. I’m no hifi purist, but the result is audible even on a mediocre soundsystem.

  • dj professor ben

    Really good article. One thing that should be clarified though is that mixing in key doesn’t necessarily mean just playing song after song in the same key. You can go up and down the keys in sequences that work to avoid clashing. If you move up or down one or two semitones at a time you can influence the perceived energy of the mix. This how-to is a really good resource on the topic: .. On the camelot wheel this means going up or down in 2 or 7 steps, not just 1.

    But the gist of this article is correct — when the crowd is ready for that bangin track you’ve got, don’t worry that it’s 4 steps up the Camelot wheel; find a way to bring it in and go for it! Playing the right track is way more important than your key. Frankly, it’s way more important than your mixing. Hope I just didn’t start a holy war, heh.

  • Taz

    Good article, its hard sometimes to break from what you feel would be the best song to mix into and from what the crowd needs but it is essential.

  • superfly

    [quote comment=”28616″][quote comment=”28613″]

    I’m somewhat pitch/tone deaf, so I have to use the software, though I always manually confirm it with a piano synth in Ableton.[/quote]

    how exactly do you go about manually checking the key in ableton? i just got live 8 so im pretty new at it.

    also, another great dj tt article[/quote]

    I just use Ableton for the piano and play the chord the software chooses, then play the adjacent chords from the Camelot wheel. As DJTT showed in its key software comparison article, none of the software programs are perfect, but they are usually close and at least provide a starting point.

    For example, if the software tells me a song is in A minor, I’ll play the song and just play A minor, and the various chords adjacent, E minor, D minor, C Major, even G major and F major, and just listen to which one just sounds right. I’m not totally tone deaf, so I can tell when it sounds right, I just can’t pick the key out without the starting point the software provides. And even if I’m wrong, at least it’s all my ear, so its consistently wrong and should still work.

    The more I do it, the more I figure out songs chord progressions, and see the various overlapping notes between the chords, and how songs could probably be considered to be 2 or even 3 different keys, though I suppose real musicians know the “right” key, but for DJing purposes, I don’t have to know the one and only “right” key, since its about songs being in compatible keys.

    Hope that helps.

  • Anonymous

    another good read. btw the pic gave me an idea for a cool shirt.

  • DJ MAP

    [quote comment=”28613″]

    I’m somewhat pitch/tone deaf, so I have to use the software, though I always manually confirm it with a piano synth in Ableton.[/quote]

    how exactly do you go about manually checking the key in ableton? i just got live 8 so im pretty new at it.

    also, another great dj tt article

  • Anonymous

    I think this is a very genre heavy thing as well. Some genres you can flip keys all over the place…. others, its usually a more gradual thing.

  • KJærbo

    Big up Tony, thanks for a good virgin article 😉

  • superfly

    I learned to mix from a guy who was a musician as well as a DJ, and he was very into keying his music. He tried to explain it to me, but I didn’t care. 25 years later, I’m totally into it.

    I’m somewhat pitch/tone deaf, so I have to use the software, though I always manually confirm it with a piano synth in Ableton. I could usually tell when songs would flat out clash, and would avoid mixing them, but now that I can key everything, I really prefer to stay in key, especially with long remixes.

    It was also nice to find out that some remixes of songs I’ve been doing for years were in compatible keys.

    Good article, thanks.

  • Ron Solo

    Thanks Tory for the article. I actually don’t usually read all the articles beginning to end, but this one struck my interest so i did. Just wanna give you a shout cause i enjoy the subjects which you chose to introduce to bring more depth on the topic of key mixing. Thanks again