Harmonic Mixing

The Camelot wheel used for harmonic mixingThe Camelot wheel, a chart that helps DJs mix harmonically There’s no limit to perfection, and this applies to DJing just as well as to any other craft. DJs are constantly on a lookout for new ways to make their sets more captivating, to direct the energy of the dancefloor and to work the crowd better. Harmonic mixing is just one of such ways. It’s a secret weapon of many superstar DJs, which leaves a lot of folks who have never heard about it wondering why those guys’ sets sound so damn good.

So what is harmonic mixing exactly? Even if you’ve mastered beatmatching, phrase matching and are an EQing pro, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of tracks just don’t fit together melodically. Listen to this transition, a pretty typical one:

Do you hear how the old track’s tinkling is out of tune with the new one’s chords, and how, instead of getting the tracks to compliment each other, the DJ ends up with a sour sounding blend? This is particularly noticeable between 00:16 and 00:31, where the new track is laid on top of the old one. You may want to listen the sample again to notice it – that’s how much we’re used to hearing key clashes in a lot of DJ sets.

At the same time, such clashes can be deliberately avoided. Here’s an example of another track fitting together well with the first one so that even a long transition sounds easy and natural. Hear the difference?

The secret here is in the musical keys of the tracks being mixed, and how well they go together. If you know the keys of two tracks, you can make a very educated guess as to how well they will come together melodically. And if you master a bit of music theory, you’ll be able to choose the next track of your set so that it’s guaranteed to work with the previous one. This is what harmonic mixing is all about.

In order to learn how to mix harmonically, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the basics of music theory that deal with notes, keys and scales. You’ll also have to sweat a bit, too, in order to master finding the key of a song by ear. No worries, though – I’ll make the learning as easy and painless as possible so you can take your DJing skills to a new level in no time. Let’s go!

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If you take a look at a piano keyboard, you'll see that it consists of repeating groups of seven white plus five black keys each. Each such group is called an octave (see picture below). White keys in an octave correspond to the C, D, E, F, G, A and B musical notes. After B comes C of... Full article »
In order to build your set according to the principles of harmonic mixing, you’ll need to know the keys of your tracks in advance. There are three ways to find the key of a tune: by ear, with software, or using special song key databases in the Internet. I’ll start off with finding the... Full article »
Key Detection Software When it comes to automatic track key detection, two pieces of software immediately come to mind. The first one is Mixed In Key, which gained a lot of publicity in the DJ community due to clever marketing. At the time of this writing, you could buy a copy of this program,... Full article »
After you’ve keyed your records, the real fun begins. In order to mix harmonically, you need to make sure that the incoming track’s key is compatible with that of the outgoing one. There are certain rules as to what keys go well with each other, but, fortunately, you don’t need to... Full article »

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