Your Questions: Is There An Auto-Key Function In Traktor?

Traktor does have key rotaries, but you'll have to do the adjustments manually as there's no auto function.

Traktor does have key rotaries, but you'll have to do the adjustments manually as there's no auto function.

Digital DJ Tips reader Samuel asks: "Do you know of any kind of 'auto-key' function in Traktor? A function that automatically adjusts the key when I load a song in another key? I mean, Traktor has autogain and autosync, so why isnt there an autokey or autotune feature too? Do you think Native Instruments would be open to suggestions to add this function, as it's something I would definitely use!"

Digital DJ Tips says:

Hi Sam. The answer to your question is: Yes and no! Let me explain, with a bit of background for those who aren't sure what you're asking.

Key is related to tempo - if you speed a track up, it gets higher, and this means its musical key changes. Likewise if you slow it down, it gets lower, and its key also changes. If you apply the keylock option, you can alter the tempo while Traktor holds the key of the track the same. So really (for the sake of everyone else) what Sam's asking is: Is there a way of holding the tempo the same, while changing the key (or "pitch") of a track.

Why would you want to do this? Because it means you could "tune" tracks in to each other, to allow harmonic mixing. So, on to the answer. Yes, it exists, but it's not automatic. If you show the full internal version of the mixer in Traktor, there are key rotaries. These will alter the pitch, and one full number on the rotary is equivalent to one semitone, or moving the track up one key (there's a similar function in Virtual DJ Home). But no, it's not "auto" - while you can use software like Mixed in Key to analyse key and Traktor can display that information, it does not itself "know" what key a track is in, so in its current incarnation it can't do the work for you. You have to know the keys of your tunes and use your ears.

Would they add it?
Would they ever add this? Mmmm, maybe, but the problem with electronically altering the key of a track is that it can sound bad, especially when you change the key to a long way away from the original. If you do it manually, you at least get a chance to hear what it'll sound like, but an auto function implies it'll sound good, and with key-shifting, there's no guarantee this will be the case.

Best to use the manual function, and tread carefully, in my view. A blindly autokeyed set would sound pretty awful.

Would you like to see "autokey" added to DJ software? Or do you think key mixing is a dead-end street? We value your thoughts so let us know in the comments!

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  1. I would love to see this for Serato........I still wouldn't use it blindly but it could help with mashups tremendously.

  2. I would love to see a Key detection tool implimented into Traktor like it is in VDJ, and key detector that is actually right. Most of the Key detection tools dont work that great :(

  3. you can do it automaticaly in vdj by mapping "match_key" it will match the key to the other deck, I also don't recommend it, but it's available

  4. If they would just detect the key during analysis, that would already be awesome.

    • It seems a bit ridiculous that the world's leading DJ software doesn't at least tell you the key of a tune

      • sameoldsong says:

        1.) key detection is not ready for prime time. even state-of-the-art software such as MIK 5 gets less than 70% of keys right.

        2.) traktor doesn't need to be a Swiss army knife. people who require software-based key detection can rely on third-party tools. simplicity is a virtue. one should always ask if a new function which adds complexity to a software yields sufficient benefits to its users.

        3.) i, for one, think NI should direct the resources available for traktor development towards other, more important areas. NI is a Berlin-based company headed by people with roots in techno and house. many, if not most traktor users play techno and house, too. and those djs don't rely on software-based key detection (one reason being that a lot of techno and house is produced without adherence to the western chromatic scale).

      • Sameoldsong speaks truth, but the only thing I disagree with is that Traktor is is any way simple! I find it the most cluttered and complex of any of the major DJ packages.

      • i'm all for using your ears to determine if two tracks blend well together, but even for the most modest collections, it's impossible to test every combination. that's why key detection would be a very big help. just like level, bpm and downbeat detection. sometimes traktor gets it completely wrong and I have to correct, but god forbid if I would have to do this manually for every track. they have key lock, key indication and key change. why not key detection? that would also open the door for auto key correction. i don't agree with the simplicity argument. traktor is a complex beast, and it will get more complex, but that's just the way it goes. if NI can keep traktor fast and responsive, there's no reason they shouldn't add features.

      • StrangeMatter says:

        Mixed In Key is a good start... Failing that, look up the track on Beatport. They have track keys now.

        Just my 2p.

  5. Key lock/key adjustment separate from the bpm past very minor adjustments almost always sound awfull. There is nothing wrong with key detection for an indication but it should be up to the dj to put the right sounding tunes together not to get the software to force songs together in the same key. Mixing in key isn't the be all and end all anyways.

  6. 3 Bits of software that allow you to find the keys are

    Rapid Evolution (Free )


    Mixmeister (Fully Functional Demo that will store the keys)

    I find its Better to have 2 bits of sofware install to get the most accurate key

  7. I found that if you double click the key rotary's power on the screen, the key changes to match the other song's. give it a shot.

    • double clicking the virtual knobs in traktor just sets them to their level at 0. it just puts it in the center where it doesn't do anything for most of the knobs namely eqs, filters, pans and key. it's the same thing for faders too.

    • on double click the key changes somewhat but not really to the other key. what kind of scale did you use (like c,d,e or 1A,2A,3a)?? if this would work this would be totally the answer to my question in the first place :)

      • i don't use the camelot system... i do it by ear. double clicking the key works just as often as other software, but often times it does not. i guess i can't help you there, sorry.

  8. Anybody knows the relation (if any) between Mixed in Key and Native Instruments? (I don't know)
    My feeling is that, the moment Traktor starts doing this, Mixed in Key new sales and current usage will start dropping.
    I would not mind Traktor using this as a kind of offline functionality... I am convinced they could do it if wanted but there must be some "industry codes" that they are trying to respect.

    Once I sent an email to the Beatport CEO (guessed his mail from Linkedin)and this was one of the few ideas submitted to him.

    They are obviously aware of all this and always balancing (as smb said before) the risk on performance vs the added user value

  9. djay 4 by Algoriddim actually has a key match feature (adjusts the key of one song to the one on the other deck) as well as automatic key detection build into the library. I use it sparsely but it seems to work really well.

    Here is their website:

  10. I don't believe NI will be introducing key detection in to Traktor any time soon, I think there are many other things higher on their priority list they would want to focus on to keep them ahead of the competition.

    What NI could improve on in Traktor quite simply is to use the key value you have in your track and the value of the key control to show you what the playing key is (assuming the key you have in your tag is correct in the first place). E.g. my track is in A minor, my keylock is on and the key is transposed by +2 then Traktor could display B minor as the playing key of the track.

    If you have keylock turned on and only adjust the key control by whole numbers then it doesn't take very long adjusting the key control before you find either something that sounds good and isn't distorted by the keylock algorithm or don't find a setting that sounds good.

  11. The Teacher says:

    MIK tried to force you into making selections that don't go in my opinion. Having starred off on a pair of knackered old LAD turntables in my mates garage you just got used to putting tunes together regardless of their key, it was that they just sounded right! I use Traktor now with the Kontrol S4 and think that it's the best thing since sliced bread because it allows for syncing or the old skoool type of mixing. Just go with what sounds good is my advice. I still have mixed in key software but it is included in the 'there are unused items on your desktop' list!!

    Right, I'll get off me soap box!!

    • Ah yes but you can very quick spot matches without trying the tracks out with MIK. Of course you'll want to audition first in your headphones (it's not always right) but it's a great creative tool for mixing in that respect.

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