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Interview: What The Hell Does Mixing In Key Mean?

We break down what it means when someone is mixing in key.
What The Hell Does Mixing In Key Mean?

So you have learned to beat match with some degree of accuracy but you still can’t seem to get those mind bending mixtapes together? You go to the club and hear seasoned veterans like Kaskade or Louie Vega or Richie Hawtin and they just seem to do no wrong? Well don’t worry, becoming a great DJ takes a lot of practice. The Traktor sync button is not going to solve your problems or deliver a “panty-dropper” set over night. Be fucking patient young Jedi!

So there are two ways to start kicking up your skills a bit as a noob in the DJ booth. First you can start to mix your tracks in key and slowly move the key of the mix up and down to bring in that tension that the pros do so well.

One really simple way of consistently bringing up the energy on the dance-floor is to mix the next song one step up the keyboard. For example you can mix from A minor to B minor, but you must do this with the intros and outros of the track, otherwise you are going to sound like a Roseanne Barr singing the national anthem.

When you are building up a steady vibe you want to keep the mix in key so you can really get a good groove going and songs will really flow seamlessly into one another. So how the hell do I do that you are asking?

Well, technology is making life a lot easier for you young DJ, you just need to buy and download a copy of Mixed In Key.

Mixed in Key will show you the musical key of every track, just drop it into the program and it will instantly give you the scoop if your tracks will go well with one another. Goodbye screeching cat mixes!

Remember, your set doesn’t always have to be exactly in key, you will sometimes need to transition with just the beat intro/outro to bring up the energy. If you are using CDJs or Traktor you can just loop the outro beats and bring in the other track over the loop, this will give you the flat and smooth transition you will sometimes need.

Another way you can deliver a better set is to make sure your tracks, most likely MP3s, are sounding their best. If you are playing crappy files the sound quality will make dramatic drop and that will really throw your mix off if you are not watching your levels diligently.

The way around this is to prep your tracks with Platinum Notes or play clean tracks you downloaded from Beatport or play WAV files.

Like most of us you probably download a shit ton of music, so Platinum Notes is a really good alternative to get your tracks prepped and sounding their best.

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A quick Q&A from the founder and President of Mixed In Key, Yakov Vorobyev:

How did the idea of Mixed In Key come about? How many times did it take to get it perfect?

When I think about how Mixed In Key started, it has a lot to do with my dad. When I was in college, my dad would sit down with me, and we would find the key of all my music together. I would put the needle on the record, and my dad would play an old RadioShack Cassio keyboard to find the root note of each track. After hours of work, we'd make an Excel file that helped me become a better DJ.

When I moved away to a different city, I couldn't always meet my dad for our "keying sessions." I decided to automate the whole process. I licensed a piece of technology from a German company called zplane.development, and that became the foundation of my Mixed In Key software. Over time, we developed our own algorithm, but that first piece of code was essential.

Mixed in Key has changed the way people DJ, do you have any new tricks up your sleeve for future releases or new programs?

We just created a new algorithm that shows you the Energy Level of your tracks on a scale from 1 to 10. The value tells you how danceable that song is. For example, house music is usually around 6-8. The biggest anthems can be 9 or 10. Deeper music might be a 5.

It's an amazing way to predict how the crowd will react. Our software analyzes the rhythm, the bassline and the melody to give you a lot more insight into your music. This algorithm will be part of the free Mixed In Key 5.5 update coming out soon.

Tell us a little bit more about Platinum Notes and how that program works to enhance the quality of your MP3s?

The idea is simple: take all your music files drop them into Platinum Notes, and it will fix any acoustic problems with your MP3s. For example, the volume will be consistent across all your tracks. Everything will be "in key" with nothing off-pitch. It will fix clipped peaks and distortion as well.

I designed the app to be like a professional "studio engineer in a box" for your entire music collection. The results are spectacular, and I would never play in a club without running my music through Platinum Notes first.

Even though people consider it to be Mixed In Key's little brother, it's an incredibly successful app in its own right.

We're about to release Platinum Notes 4.0, which adds a "vinyl analog warmth" filter to make your music sound even nicer.

MashUp is a relatively new product for you, how can an entry level DJ use this product most effectively?

Here's my advice for anyone learning how to make remixes and mashups: Pick a song you love, and load it up into Mashup. It'll show you which other tracks are 100% harmonically compatible. You might discover a great combination. For example, I bought some house music in Ibiza this summer. I dropped one of those tracks into Mashup and discovered another awesome track from a few years ago that sounded perfect with that Ibiza track.

I think Mashup is about having those discovery moments. It takes a few tries, but you will find magic. It feels amazing to create something new from the pieces you sampled.

If you had any advice for a DJ just starting out what skill would you tell them to master before playing in front of an audience?

Yes, here's the most important skill: Have a backup. I've had numerous times in clubs where something went wrong. I was always prepared to keep the music playing so the clubbers didn't notice. My advice is: bring a backup of your music. Bring a second audio source if your laptop dies, even if it's just an iPhone with your own DJ mix. Whatever you do, be prepared to play in any circumstances. Nothing makes you feel like a king like rocking the club... and being 100 percent sure, that you are in control under any circumstances. You own the night.

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