How to Use Harmonic Mixing in Your DJ Sets

BPM is not the only consideration when DJing. Many producers employ a technique called ‘harmonic mixing’ to change the key or pitch in their sets.

BPM is not the only consideration when DJing. Many producers employ a technique called ‘harmonic mixing’ to change the key or pitch in their sets.
Harmonic mixing, or mixing in key, is when a DJ mixes songs that are in the same key or in a related one. When two songs are out of key and they clash together it generates a dissonant tone. For example people with good ears automatically know when someone is singing out of pitch. The idea of mixing harmonically is to create a feeling of musical harmony for the listeners, which is another way to get deeper into your set. Depending on your DJ style you may choose one of three methods for harmonic mixing: the traditional way, the technological way or by using a chart.

Traditional Harmonic Mixing

Before the development of digital technology DJ’s had to detect the root key of each song individually by using the keys of a piano. With their knowledge of music theory they knew that root keys could be used to create mashups that actually sounded good. They also knew it would work to shift to subdominant, dominant and relative major or minor keys. More advanced harmonic mixing techniques involve taking advantage of modes or scales.

Mixed In Key DJ Software

DJ software such as Mixed In Key employs advanced algorithms to automatically detect the key of each song in your library. Then it suggests what songs to play next based on the key. Their technology also shows you the best places for cue points in sound waveforms. The program is compatible with Mac and Windows and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee for it’s MSRP of $58. According to famous EDM DJ Zedd, “I love Mixed In Key for its simplicity and functionality. I always use it before I add a new song to my set.”

Utilizing a Camelot Wheel

You don’t need to buy a software program to mix harmonically. The Camelot Wheel is a scientific representation of every key there is in the spectrum. They can be easily acquired through means of a Google search. To use it, first locate the key of the song playing. You can mix in any track in the same key, or transition to a subdominant or dominant key by moving to the adjacent space. But you cannot go diagonally.

Keylock or Pitchlock Features

As the tempos increases or decreases so too does the pitch of the music change. The keylock or pitchlock function in DJ software forces the music to stay in one key even when transitioning between two different tempos. Take advantage of this method when mixing harmonically to bend the direction of the music to your will. Read more about BPM.

With some basic knowledge of harmonic mixing it is possible to improve the quality of your live DJ sets. Remember to consider this factor when mixing.


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