Review: Keyfinder Key Detection Software

Review Summary:

unless you have a modicum of musical theory under your belt, all this is possibly going to have sounded a little confusing to you, which is fair enough. If so, going for Mixed in Key and following their very simple instructions is definitely the recommended route. Mixed in Key basically demystifies the whole process so you can get going, which is the key (pardon the pun) to its success. But if you know about these things, and just want simple detection of musical key, Keyfinder is good. Sure, it's a bit flaky on PCs at present, and it's a big annoyance that it can't work directly with iTunes playlists - but it's free!

Keyfinder Key Detection Software
Keyfinder detects musical key, but also lets you get under the bonnet to see how it's done it.

Keyfinder detects musical key, but also lets you get under the bonnet to see how it's done it.

Review: Keyfinder Key Detection Software

Intrigued by key mixing, or "harmonic mixing"? Want to try it out without spending money on an established piece of software such as Mixed in Key or beaTunes? If so, you may be interested in Keyfinder, an open-source key detection program for Mac and (in beta) for Windows too. It's not as polished as Mixed in Key or beaTunes, but it's easy enough to use, and anecdotally produced results which are in the same ballpark as far as accuracy goes. Let's take a closer look...

Background

Keyfinder started life as a university project, but has turned into a perfectly usable key detection program, at least if you're a Mac user. (There is also a PC version, but it's still in beta and as of the time of writing not as stable as the Mac version, by the author's own admission. We trialled the Mac version.)

The theory behind this kind of software is that you let it analyse your music, it decides the musical key of each piece of music, and then you can use this information to improve your mixes; if you mix into a piece of music in the same key the mix will likely sound great, likewise if you choose a related key. This way you can execute smoother, more musical mixes.

In use

Like Mixed in Key, Keyfinder is very simple. You drag your tunes onto a window, it analyses them, writing the results to a field of your choice in your MP3's metadata (grouping, key or comment field), and - well, that's it.

Keyfinder main window

The Keyfinder main window: It's similar to Mixed In Key, though not as attractive.

You can't drag tunes directly from iTunes playists, so you need to use the actual music files, which is a bit of a pain if you use iTunes to organise your music, but apart from that using it is straightforward.

There are two preferences windows. The basic preferences window allows you to specific PC load when analysing (good for whole-collection background jobs); to skip files that have already got key information in them; and to auto-write to files, or do so at the end. It also lets you specify custom codes to write as well as or instead of standard key information.

Under the bonnet

The Advanced window lets you get under the bonnet with all kinds of esoteric options that can fine-tune how to analyse your music - one for the anoraks, for sure, but proof that there's magic going on under the surface. One intriguing function of this software is that if you right-click on a file, you can show a detailed analysis window.

Software like this works by spotting patterns of notes within tunes that give away the musical key because they correspond to a signature musical scale. This window lines the notes the software has spotted up against a piano keyboard, where it's then easy enough to spot how it has made its guess. A nice addition.

Conclusion

Now, unless you have a modicum of musical theory under your belt, all this is possibly going to have sounded a little confusing to you, which is fair enough. If so, going for Mixed in Key and following their very simple instructions is definitely the recommended route.

Keyfinder advanced

Eek! Enough options for you?

That software uses a special method of tagging tunes so you can easily work out likely mixes without needing to really understand why they will mix well together, and while you can get Keyfinder to do the same thing, you need to understand it all a bit first. Mixed in Key basically demystifies the whole process so you can get going, which is the key (pardon the pun) to its success.

Alternatively, if you're after more involved musical management as well as key detection, you may want to look at beaTunes instead, which offers far more than just key detection. But if you know about these things, and just want simple detection of musical key, Keyfinder is good. Sure, it's a bit flaky on PCs at present, and it's a big annoyance that it can't work directly with iTunes playlists - but it's free!

Results-wise, in our non-scientific test it was right the majority of the time, but by no means all the time. This is in line with all such packages. As always, the golden rule is to trust your ears above everything else.

Product Summary

Review Summary:

unless you have a modicum of musical theory under your belt, all this is possibly going to have sounded a little confusing to you, which is fair enough. If so, going for Mixed in Key and following their very simple instructions is definitely the recommended route. Mixed in Key basically demystifies the whole process so you can get going, which is the key (pardon the pun) to its success. But if you know about these things, and just want simple detection of musical key, Keyfinder is good. Sure, it's a bit flaky on PCs at present, and it's a big annoyance that it can't work directly with iTunes playlists - but it's free!

Keyfinder Key Detection Software

Have you jumped on the harmonic mixing bandwagon yet? What program do you use? Have you tried Keyfinder? what are your impressions? Please let us know in the comments.

Comments

  1. Mark_Mashup says:

    Rapid Evolution 3.Very good key detection program.And free.

    • Also very crashprone (it usually crashes within minutes here, on various computers), and stubborn like an ass: it does what *it* wants, not what you want it to do. Also, it often complains about lack of memory even it’s got a full GB of RAM all for itself.

      I wish it was better than it is.

    • Me personally I use trains potter, being a dj that uses traktor this program is heaven sent not only does it have great key detection it also helps in organizing my playlist and folder and can also be used with iTunes.

  2. Ibrahim here, creator of KeyFinder.

    Firstly, huge thanks to Phil for taking the time to review KF, and to any DJs who are getting some use out of my project.

    Secondly, I wanted to point out that iTunes playlists can be used if they’re exported to XML or M3U formats; you just can’t drag straight from the iTunes app itself.

    Finally, the Windows edition is getting better but I really need user feedback (that goes for the Mac as well)! If you get a bug or crash, please email me with as many specifics as possible (OS and KF version in particular), and attaching any audio files that are consistently troublesome. There’s a contact link on my site.

    That said, have fun with KeyFinder!

    • Glad you’re getting some exposure, bro’!

    • Awesome product! i have really needed something like this for a while, and beauties and mixed in key, while cool, are pricey. This thing is just as efficient, if not more, and best of all free! Thank you so much for developing this.

      • BenjaminS says:

        Hi Ibrahim

        Thank you so much for a great bit of software. First I was using it sort of as an add on for Beatunes and Rapid Evolution but am using it instead more and more.

        I tend to use it for detecting the key of smaller samples more than whole tracks and it is really fast.

        I especially like the visual window with keyboard.

        All the best.

  3. Also free and running on PC, Mac and Linux (its written in Java) is RapidEvolution2 or 3 Beta. (http://www.mixshare.com/software.html)
    It delivers results as accurate as MixedInKeys 5.0 and offers some more functions as well (BPM-Detection, Tag-Editing etc.)

  4. DJ Manuel says:

    keyfinder is blazingly fast, accurate results and plain simple. Sometimes you just want to keep it simple stupid, if thats what you are looking for Keyfinder offers that.

    Don’t get scared by all the customizable options you get in the preference menu, if you are not a musician like me and don’t understand half of the things displayed there you can leave everything with the default options and it will work just fine.

    Enter your Camelot Wheel keycodes equivalents at the “Custom Tags” screen and you have your own Mixed in Key free app ;).

    Thanks a lot to Ibrahim for creating this neat tool!

  5. I have perfect pitch!

    • Congratz, one of the few lucky ones.
      Do you still key your tracks to find easier the matching ones? Or do you always match them on the fly?

      • Nah, i just pre-listen to the track to see what key it is before i mix it in since i know every chord scale on the piano. But i sort my new tunes in separate folders with different keys to my collection,saving them on a flash drive.

    • although you have perfect pitch I’m quite sure you don’t have perfect memory and remember what key every single song in your library is. therefore a program like this can come in handy as it can add the key into tag and since you know when the program guesses wrong you only need to correct those songs. But then again after you have most of your music labeled. it’s not time consuming when only adding a few new songs every now and then.
      I also much rather have they key displayed in the tags. dos not realy make sense to me sorting songs by key in folders. A folder could then have songs by Beethoven, Elvis, Madonna, Korn, Charlie Pride and Skrillex in same folder just because their songs are in G minor or what ever :D but hey might be fun to get thoses songs mixed in one set

      • >A folder could then have songs by Beethoven, Elvis, >Madonna, Korn, Charlie Pride and Skrillex in same folder >just because their songs are in G minor or what ever but >hey might be fun to get thoses songs mixed in one set

        Clearly you haven’t heard my new mashup .

  6. Gives me an advantage if i would desperatly be throwed into the dj booth with no tunes or own equipment with me.

  7. For those who dis harmonic mixing, let me say it’s just a blue print. You don’t have to actually follow it. I might try this software.

  8. Why not simply use the free version of Virtual DJ – it detects the key…

  9. The best recognition in the market yay!

    http://ibrahimshaath.co.uk/keyfinder/comparison.pdf

    An this is how I make it work with the camelot code:

    http://snag.gy/IKNQn.jpg

  10. I have been trialing KeyFinder against MIK and so far I am really impressed.

    Its very quick, accurate, easy to use, cheap AND it doesnt ask you to pay for an upgrade every time you open it.

    You cant drag n drop songs from iTunes but you can drag any m3u playlist exported from iTunes on, so a small extra step.

    Its easy to put the “camelot” custom key codes in and so you can get the camelot code and the key (if you want) which you dont get with MIK. eg: 7A – Dm.

    It also can write to multiple fields Key, Grouping and Comments.

    It doesnt need to be connected to the internet either to analyze songs!!!

    Awesome!!!!

  11. Hey guys!

    I got a little problem. Keyfinder is working well, it finds the key in a few seconds, but when I want it to write the key to the “comments” tag of the file, it does not work. The key is not visible in iTunes. I opened Traktor and even there I cannot see the Key in the “comment” section.. I updates the files to ID3-tags v2.4, but it won’t work..
    I have iTunes 10.5.3.

    Anyone got the same problem?

    Thanks!

    • It probably is there – in iTunes you have to refresh the library/ID3 tags. One way to do that and check it is there is to look at the information for a file (cntrl/cmd + I) which forces a refresh.

  12. Stefano Paganini says:

    Hi all!
    I think Keyfinder is a real good software, but I would like to understand the some advanced options:

    – Number of octaves: which value should be set here?
    – Other parameters: which ones are the most important that need to be set, and how?

    Thanks for your support!

    Stefano

  13. How does this thing work?

  14. I would suggest that if you are using automatic key detection software, you do a random analysis by ear of the results. You will find them inaccurate at least half the time on dance music, and the algorithms degrade as the musical style contains less of the full range of notes in the comparable diatonic scales. Dance music usually contains less than the full range of notes in the comparable diatonic scale it’s based upon.

    The end result can often be OK, after all if a tune has three tones in it, if you play another tune that also has those three tones in it’s scale, and that would include a good amount of them, it will mix without dissonance. It would have done that anyway, with or without the software analysis which was wrong (within a tolerable range).

    I prefer to check my tunes by ear, then I know they are correct. The human’s perception of music, and ability to fill in the gaps left by sparse tonal scales, can not be replaced by software yet. Many of the popular websites that I get my tunes from are also using the automatic key recognition algorithms I think, and their key information is also incorrect.

    Know your music, and work it out yourself. the more you do that, the more you will just know it without needing the software.

    • As long as you treat the more-than-half-the-time OK results from key software as a suggestion not a prescription, I think it is wonderful stuff. If it sounds crap in your headphones, you simply ignore it. It’s another tool in your box, a tool that can sometimes suggest jaw-droppingly relevant next mixes.

      I’ve only ever met one person who knew the key of a piece of music by hearing alone, so it’s a select few indeed who can know this stuff without either keying manually and recording the results, or trusting a tool to suggest matches.

  15. Ruben daCosta says:

    This software it’s a great help for when you’re composing a djset and then you canno’t make up you’re mind about wich one of those 2 or 3 tracks are you going to add to the mix, you already know one of those tracks is the right one but an outsiders opinion sometimes can be a good help, and if that outsider is a perfect key detector…

    But of course I’m basing my word in the fact that I only mix house and techno, which as long as you know how to equalize properly everything will sound great when mixed with everything else, in other music genres maybe that’s not the case.

  16. How do i get to the preferences on MAC? Its driving me crazy!

    • Top left of the screen, to the right of the apple logo; click on ‘Keyfinder’ > ‘Preferences’.

      That is what you’re asking right?

  17. Reticuli says:

    PC version is even worse than Rapid Evolution. Too buggy.

  18. thanks for the great article and to the commenters as well. I was disappointed with the performance of rapid evolution and will always try a free version first if there is something available. looks like keyfinder is doing pretty good so far. it detects files in subfolders so the iTunes issue isn’t a problem for me. keying 24,000 tunes right now… rapid evolution would have choked on this. so far so good. thanks again!

  19. Ok I used Keyfinder to key my entire library with a setting to prepend in the comments section. Now when I play a song in Itunes it changes the genre to a number and the tags I had in the comments section are either deleted or overwritten with mumbo jumbo. Any idea what went wrong? It took me forever to tag all of these songs.

  20. Ok I wanna thank you for this software. Im a little bit confused. I bought tracks from beatport. It gives me the key. When I run track through this orogram it changes it…. why please help. Have a gig this saturday :( dont wanna ruin it. Even though I know tracks im gonna play. Just rather have harmonically mixed… thanks

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