As a DJ, you can use music to form a deep connection with your audience. You can tell a story, create an atmosphere, and take your listeners on a journey with you. The beauty of a well-crafted mix is that the sum is greater than the individual parts. Two DJs can play the same song, but it will sound totally different–and elicit a different reaction–in the context of a mix.
It’s also useful to keep in mind that certain keys can evoke specific feelings. For example, C minor can sound romantic and whimsical, while D major can sound triumphant, and D minor can sound gloomy.3 Generally speaking, major scales sound happy and elated (think of a peak-time David Guetta anthem), while minor scales sound sad and wistful (think of Adele’s “Someone Like You”).4
David Guetta, DJ Mag‘s 2011 Top 100 poll winner, has achieved success because his music contains harmonies that trigger a real emotional connection with his listeners.5 But what happens when you choose an uplifting, upbeat Guetta track in the key of C major and mix it with a darker track in the key of D minor? You might lose your audience completely and end up clearing the dance floor.
We created Mixed In Key so you can keep up that energy and still keep moving forward creatively. We think it’s vital for DJs to be able to experiment with harmonic relationships in their mixes. DJing is very much a musical art form, and harmonic mixing adds an exciting dimension to it.
Now that you understand what harmonic mixing is, you’re just a few simple steps away
from being able to use it with your DJ software. The easiest way to get started
is to run your music through Mixed In Key, and then update your DJ software to show
the key of each song you import. The key is notated in our Camelot format. This
is the typical process for most DJs:
Once your songs are labeled, it’s a good idea to organize them by key, or to create separate playlists with tracks that are harmonically compatible. As we noted in Chapter 2, the Camelot Wheel is designed to give you a deeper understanding of song keys and how they relate to each other.
We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to familiarize yourself with these harmonic relationships. Club environments can be hectic, so it’s to your advantage to be prepared in case you have to select tracks on the fly. Take a lesson from Kaskade, who labels all his music in advance. When he’s in a club or playing a festival gig in front of thousands of screaming fans, he doesn’t have to worry about conflicting keys in his mixes because he’s done all the preparation beforehand.
If you use iTunes to organize your music library–and we know many DJs who do–then you can use Mixed In Key to label your tracks so their key information shows up in iTunes. This is a pretty simple process:
We’ve worked with all the major DJ software, and have outlined below the steps you need to take to use each one with Mixed In Key. No matter which software you use, once your music is tagged properly, harmonic mixing is a snap.
Ableton Live is a little harder to use for harmonic mixing than other DJ software because it doesn’t show the metadata for each file. Here are three successful approaches that we’ve discovered:
Extra tip: Once again, preparation is essential in harmonic mixing, so make it easy on yourself. Whatever DJ hardware or software you use, make sure you can see your key labels clearly, even in a dark club environment.Next: Visualize The Structure Of Dance Music