Art of Deejaying, WK 5 – Harmonic Mixing

Welcome to SKAH DJ Blog! The article today is titled; Art of Deejaying, WK 5 – Harmonic Mixing. Lets dive straight into it.

Harmonic mixing is a DJ technique for mixing pre-recorded music tracks that are in the same key or in related keys. By so doing, there is a good blend of music or flow from track to track that is pleasing to the ears. Harmonic mixing is key to creating mash-ups and long blends with an aim of eliminating key clashes.

In preparing for harmonic mixing, it is necessary to analyze the tracks in your library in order to get the key of the track. Most DJ software now have key analysis algorithm though they are not all 100% accurate. Also, there are other non-DJ software that have more accurate key analysis algorithm such as Mixed-In-Key. The analysis also provides other information about the track such as the Beats Per Minute (BPM). All these information are embedded in the ID3 tag of the MP3 or WAV file. It is noteworthy to state that you can manually detect keys with a piano, a good ear and a background in music theory. However, this is not advisable for analyzing an entire library but can be used to correct errors.

So you now have the key of the song and tempo Beats Per Minute (BPM), the next thing is to determine which songs are compatible with each other. In other to determine this, Mark Davis created the Camelot Wheel, which is essentially a visual representation of which key are compatible with each other.

The numbering on the Camelot Wheel is similar to the hours of a clock. Each key is assigned a keycode numbered from one to twelve. The minor keys are in the inner wheel (As) while the major keys are in the outer wheel (Bs). It is recommended to start harmonic mixing with 2 tracks in the same key, for instance 5A, which is C minor or any other key of choice.

After a thorough understanding of the concept of harmonic mixing, you can now move around Camelot Wheel by selecting a compatible track with a keycode within one step of your current keycode. That is, if you are in 5A, you can select the next track with a keycode 4A, 6A or 5A (5A is staying in the same key). This will give a really smooth mix.

You can also move between the inner (minor keys or As) and outer wheels (major keys or Bs) within the same hour. For instance, 5A to 5B, you will notice the change in melody as you move from Minor to Major. Harmonic mixing should not stand in the way of your creativity or selecting the appropriate tracks for your DJ set. As a DJ nowadays, switching genres increases the energy level of the club. Hence, you should not use harmonic mixing to the detriment of your DJ set by creating a lukewarm DJ mix with low energy levels. It is more advisable to go round the Camelot Wheel to build the energy level.

Serato DJ has an expansion pack called Serato Pitch ‘n Time that can be used to sync or alter the keys of a track. This eliminates the limitation or restriction that stands in the way of a DJ’s creativity. So if the next song you want to play is 4 steps away (i.e. 4 keys away on the Camelot Wheel), you can use Serato Pitch ‘n Time to sync the keys of both songs or alter the key of the incoming song to a key that is within 1 step of the outgoing song. Serato Pitch ‘n Time license costs $29.00. You can also get it free if you purchase a Denon MCX8000 


Check out Denon MCX8000 on Amazon

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Technical Terms

ID3 is a metadata container most often used in conjunction with the MP3 audio file format. It allows information such as the title, artist, album, track number, and other information about the file to be stored in the file itself. (Wikipedia)

The Camelot Wheel, invented by Mark Davis and part of Mixed In Key, is a color-coded system that helps you figure out which keys are compatible. Each key is assigned a code number from one to twelve, like the hours around a clock. The wheel is visually designed to help you learn harmonic mixing. (MixedInKey)

Serato Pitch ‘n Time is a Time-Stretching and Key-Shifting algorithm built in to Serato DJ. The expansion pack allows you to shift and sync the key of your tracks as well as speeding up and slowing down your tracks to extreme tempos while preserving the key. (Serato)

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