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Mixed In Key Review: A Digital Music Tool for Improving Your Mixes

Mixed In Key 5.5 Reviewed

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Mixed In Key

Mixed In Key

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Mixed In Key is a digital music software tool (for PC and Mac) that identifies tracks that work well together. It does this by analyzing your tracks to work out what musical key they are in (via their melody and harmonic attributes). This can be uber useful for ensuring that songs you want to mix together are harmonically compatible and not just beat matched. As well as being useful as a DJ tool, Mixed In Key also has applications in other areas such as crossfading songs in iTunes or music production where samples for instance need to be harmonically compatible.

But, is Mixed In Key really that good? And is it essential to have in your digital music toolbox?

For a more in-depth look, read our full review of Mixed In Key.

Pros:

  • Accurate results detailing information on key, tempo, and energy level.
  • Great time-saver for harmonic DJ mixing work.
  • Wide application in audio production where harmonic compatibility is a crucial element.

Cons:

  • Needs an Internet connection to analyze songs.
  • Upgrade cost from previous versions is quite steep.

Getting Started With Mixed In Key

Interface: Once installed on your PC or Mac, Mixed In Key displays a simple but effective user interface. It is incredibly easy to learn and didn't take us long to be comfortable with the program's features. The graphical user interface (GUI) is clear and intuitive with the main menu being within easy reach at the top of the screen.

Analyzing Tracks: Before you can use Mixed In Key, you need to tell the program where to find your digital music files. You can add single files or complete folders to analyze. This works well and the file analysis rate is very quick. However, one downside to the program is that to analyze all your tracks you'll need to have an Internet connection. According to the maker's of Mixed In Key this is necessary because the program needs to use, "very expensive technology that is not available in offline mode." The problem is, if you travel around quite a lot and need to analyze new tracks on the move without an Internet connection, then the program's lack of offline processing could dissuade you from purchasing it.

Features for Harmonic Mixing

Viewing the Results: To create great mixes, mashups, and music (using loops etc.), you probably already know that just relying on beat matching alone isn't enough. To help you choose files in your library that can be used together without horrible sounding key clashes, Mixed In Key's Browse Collection menu gives you essential information. This screen details audio attributes such as the key, tempo (BPM), and even energy level of each analyzed track. This last attribute is a measure of how 'danceable' a track is. According to the developer's of Mixed In Key, this scale ranges from 1 to 10, and gives you a predictable idea of how an audience or crowd will react to it on the dance floor.

Overall, we were impressed with the accuracy of Mixed In Key in detecting the correct music key on a range of tracks.

Key Notation Wheel: rather than having to know music theory and match your digital music files by ear, Mixed In Key comes with a handy notation wheel. By default the program uses the Camelot Wheel to help you work out tracks that harmonize well. However, you can change this 'circle of fifths' type chart via the Personalize menu to either Sharps or Flats. The great thing about Mixed In Key is that using this system you don't have to be knowledgeable on harmonic mixing even if you're already a professional DJ or musician.

Using Key Tags

In order to use Mixed In Key with your favorite DJ software, you'll need to configure the program to write special key tag metadata to each file. This music key information can then be displayed in your DJ software program for harmonic mixing. Currently Mixed In Key gives you instructions via the Personalize menu on how to correctly configure tagging for use with: Ableton Live, iTunes, Pioneer Rekordbox, Serato, and Traktor. Even if you just want to use crossfading in iTunes (or other software media players), Mixed In Key makes it easy to see which songs in your library work well together. We tried it with iTunes and found that transitions had that professional edge and didn't suffer from key clashes.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether you're a professional DJ / musician, or just starting out in the world of digital music production, there's no doubt that Mixed In Key is an essential tool for harmonic mixing. Traditionally, you would have had to use a keen ear (and piano) to key-match tracks, but with Mixed In Key's features this process is far easier and quicker. One thing that might stop you from purchasing Mixed In Key is that an Internet connection is a must for analyzing tracks. If you've got a mobile studio and travel around a lot without Web access, then you might want to look elsewhere. If you already have a previous version and want to upgrade, then the cost of upgrading is quite steep too.

However, even with these minor downsides Mixed In Key is still an essential program for your Digital Music toolbox when harmonic mixing is crucial. Whether you use professional DJ mixing software, a loop-based digital audio workstation (DAW), or want smooth transitions between songs in iTunes, Mixed In Key will save you heaps of time.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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