Harmonic mixing and mix charts are secret tools used by skilled DJs to create even more compelling and seamless DJ sets.
While it may seem daunting to beginners, these days it's actually super easy to implement harmonic mixing in your sets - thanks to powerful new software and mix charts.
Understanding harmonic mixing can unlock new levels of creativity, expression, and professionalism in your DJing, and is one skill that really sets you apart from your peers.
There are several charts to help you understand harmonic mixing - all of which are explained in this guide
TL;DR - DJ Mix Chart#
A DJ mix chart is a tool used to help with harmonic mixing.
Using harmonic mixing uses music theory to ensure that tracks flow smoothly throughout a mix.
DJ.Studio makes it easy for anybody to mix harmonically, even if you have no understanding of music theory - or DJing!
What is a DJ Mix Chart#
A DJ mix chart is an information graphic that makes it easy for DJs to understand how to mix harmonically.
These mix charts display how all the musical keys connect together, so a DJ can quickly see which keys are compatible with a chosen song.
The main type of DJ mix chart is a Camelot Wheel from Mixed In Key, which is based around the Circle of Fifths. It uses a clock-face style graphic, which shows how all the keys relate in a circular fashion.
You can move in a range of ways through the chart, and each type of connection offers a different shift in mood.
Essentially, learning how to use a mix chart is important for using harmonic mixing. However, these days you don't need to memorize or learn the chart, as software like DJ.Studio has smart features that do the calculations for you - and suggest which keys are the best choices.
The entire point of these charts is for harmonic mixing, which is explained in the next section!
What is Harmonic Mixing#
Harmonic mixing is an advanced DJ skill that involves using music theory - mostly the concept of musical keys, to help DJs make better choices when ordering and sequencing songs.
Whether you are mixing modern electronic music or oldschool classics, harmonic mixing is one of those advanced techniques that elevates the quality of your DJing.
To understand what harmonic mixing is, you first need to understand what musical keys are, and how they work.
Musical Keys Explained#
There are 12 notes in music - A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and their respective sharps/flats, which can be seen in the 12 keys in a keyboard octave.
Based on these 12 notes, there are 24 keys - one minor and one major for each note. A key consists of a certain selection of notes in a scale.
For example, the key of C Major uses the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, and B - with no sharps or flats. This corresponds to all the white notes on a keyboard. Alternatively, the key of C♯ Major only uses the notes C♯, D♯, E♯, F♯, G♯, A♯, and B♯. So you can see how the keys of C and C♯ have none of the same notes.
Due to the way keys work, some keys have more related notes than others - some keys are more compatible together than others. Certain key changes evoke different moods and energy changes.
For example, some key changes change the mood from happy to sad, others create a boost or reduction in energy, and some just sound awkward and clashy. This concept can be used by DJs to enhance their DJ sets.
How Harmonic Mixing Works#
Harmonic mixing takes the concepts of keys and related keys as explained above, and applies it to DJing.
Most tracks revolve around a single key for their duration - for example, 'Let It Be' by The Beatles is written in C Major.
This means that you can use key changes from track to track to manipulate the mood and energy of the audience. By picking certain key relations for your next song, you can guide the mood and vibe of the mix.
Implementing this technique into your DJing gives you more control over the vibe and feel of your DJ sets, and can create more professional and memorable mixes.
Comparing sets that are harmonically mixed, to sets that are, not reveals a large difference, and you will quickly notice which one sounds professional and which sounds amateur.
Advantages of Harmonic Mixing#
There are several benefits to using harmonic mixing in your DJ sets
Avoid Clashing Keys - One of the main benefits is that you won't accidentally mix two songs together which are in incompatible keys. This means you won't have any awkward mixes.
More Seamless Mixes - By mixing compatible keys, you can create incredibly seamless transitions. Sometimes you can even deceive the audience into thinking that it's the same song!
Energy and Mood Control - By using the energy change charts, you can work out how certain keys will change the mood and energy of your set. This gives you an extra layer of expression and excitement to bring to your mixes.
How To Use A DJ Mix Chart#
This section explains how to read and use a DJ mix chart. The information can be presented in two ways either in a circle/wheel or as a table. I'll explain both.
The Camelot Wheel#
The Camelot Wheel by Mixed In Key is a leading DJ mix chart that makes it easy to use harmonic mixing techniques.
In this chart based on the Circle of Fifths, there are two concentric rings, each of which is divided into 12 slices. These rings represent the 24 musical keys, with the minor keys on the inner circle, and the major keys on the outer circle.
The ordering of each key is also significant and reflects how closely connected the keys are.
Typically, the closer keys are in the circle, the closer their connection is.
You can make several movements around the circle to find potential key matches:
Perfect Mix - In this transition, you mix two tracks with the exact same key together. This is the most seamless and natural transition, and the two tracks will sound like they are one.
Scale Change - This switches from a major key to a relative minor, or vice versa. This is also a very seamless transition, as the keys use the same notes in a different order. For example, C Major and A Minor use the exact same notes, just the minor key starts on a different note and revolves more around minor chords.
Energy Boost - Here, the new key is 2 steps clockwise, creating a dramatic energy boost by shifting the key up by a Major 2nd interval.
-1 Mix - In this change, the key of the new song is 1 step counterclockwise. This creates a slight drop in energy.
+1 Mix - Here, the new song's key is one step to the right, creating a slight upward boost in energy.
Mood Shifter - The key changes from minor to major (or reverse), while also moving three steps to the right. This creates a dramatic mood shift, but the keys are still connected enough to create a smooth and seamless transition.
Each of these (and other movements) can be harnessed to add more interest to your DJ set.
The Energy Table is a newer invention that takes information from the Camelot system and displays it in a larger table. This shows more information than the wheel and lets users instantly see which key will create what kind of energy and mood change.
This table is super useful for DJing and is the foundation of DJ.Studio's harmonic automixing system.
How DJ.Studio Makes Harmonic Mixing Easier#
DJ.Studio is a new tool that offers an unprecedented level of harmonic mixing integration. There are tools built directly into the software that make harmonic mixing incredibly easy - so you can harness its power and focus more on expression and creativity than a music theory headache.
There is a wide range of harmonic tools built into DJ.Studio which is based on the Camelot wheel and energy table.
Here are some of the features DJ.Studio offers which are built on harmonic mixing and the DJ mix chart.
Harmonic Analysis - DJ.Studio automatically analyzes the musical key of tracks imported into the library, working as key detection software. Mixed In Key is also integrated into the software to provide additional key software technology.
Harmonic Automixing - One of the main harmonic features is the automixing. After analyzing the key of tracks in your playlist, DJ.Studio can use AI to automatically work out the best order for your setlist, organizing them in a harmonic manner with powerful automixing.
Match Indicators - In the playlist view, there are indicators that show what kind of key match is made for each transition between tracks. This provides an easy overview of how well tracks are harmonically mixed in your set.
Solver - Sometimes, you might not have enough compatible tracks in your playlist to create a fully harmonic mix. In this case, DJ.Studio can identify tracks in your library to help you bridge the gap, or, it can suggest key signatures you can use.
These are unique features, most of which are not seen in any other DJ software. All of these tools (and other parts of the extensive feature set) make DJ.Studio a powerful piece of software for key mixing and creating DJ sets.
This means you don't need to learn the Camelot wheel and the Energy table - they are built in in DJ.Studio for you to make DJ mixing easy.
How To Mix Harmonically in DJ.Studio#
If you want to make harmonic mixes quickly, DJ.Studio is the ultimate tool. You can even start using it for free, in the unrestricted 14-day trial.
Follow these steps to start making harmonic mixes in DJ.Studio:
Download DJ.Studio and register a free account.
Open the app, and create a new mix.
Add tracks - choose a bunch of songs you want to use in a mix, DJ.Studio will automatically assess their keys and harmonic content.
Automix - Click the automix button, and set the preference to Key rather than BPM. Now, wait for DJ.Studio to calculate the perfect order based on the selection of keys available. You can click on the match indicators to determine what mood change was created for each transition. It also shows you how other key choices will react to the first song, letting you adjust and sculpt the harmonic flow of your set.
Solve - If some songs don't have any compatible keys with other songs in your playlist, DJ.Studio will notify you with an 'x' next to the track in the playlist. Simply click the X to open the solver, where DJ.Studio will show other songs in your library that can connect the gap, or it will show you keys to find songs to fix the issue.
Refine the mix - you can now use DJ.Studio's powerful editor to refine your mix. You can change the arrangement, add effects, and create super-expressive transitions. The transitions can be created using presets, or you can manually draw the automation lines to create unique blends.
Record and Export - When you are happy with your mix you can quickly record and export the final audio file. You can even export your DJ sets as an Ableton Live multitrack for more editing or as an audio-reactive video with trippy visuals - which can be uploaded directly to YouTube.
As you can see, DJ.Studio makes it super easy to start mixing harmonically, even if you have no experience. It doesn't work the same way as traditional DJ software and uses a revolutionary style that makes it much easier and quicker to produce mixes.
It enables beginners (and pros!) to access the expressive power of harmonic mixing with minimal effort, creating notably slick and visceral DJ sets that captivate the audience and stand out from the crowd.
You can see the power in action yourself for free!
Mastering the DJ mix chart and harmonic mixing skills is a vital stage for any serious DJ. Incorporating these techniques into your sets will quickly change the sound of your mixes from amateur to professional - helping you to gain more respect and interest from your audiences.
While harmonic mixing may seem complex to beginners or people who don't know much about music theory, DJ.Studio makes it incredibly easy to start reaping the benefits of using these techniques in your mixes.
You should spend some time to fully understand how harmonic mixing works, and while it's so important. We have a bunch of other tutorials and related guides on our blog, check them out and soon you will be a master DJ!
FAQs About DJ Mix Charts
- How do I find songs for a DJ mix?
- How to pick the order of a DJ set?
- Which keys mix well together?
Understanding musical keys is an essential skill for anyone working in music. As a DJ, this will take your sound from amateur to professional!
Using harmonic mixing makes your DJ sets stand out with a perfect flow - find out how to use it here. With these tips you will be the star DJ of the evening.
Mixed In Key is a powerful DJ tool, which is now integrated into DJ.Studio. Find out why this combination is changing the lives of DJs in here!