Review: Mixed In Key Mashup Software

Review Summary:

If you can DJ well enough, you can use this well enough. It won't help you if you have no idea about beats, and bars, and what might go well together, nor if you're tone deaf and aren't in a position to judge how good the results actually are.

Mashup Software
  • Mashup Software
  • Rating: 3
  • From: Mixed In Key
  • Price: $39
  • Reviewed by:
  • On February 8, 2012
  • Last modified:August 19, 2014
Mashups made easy? That's the promise of Mashup, from Mixed in Key. We thought the best way to test it was to take their "five minute mashup" challenge.

Mashups made easy? That's the promise of Mashup, from Mixed in Key. We thought the best way to test it was to take their "five minute mashup" challenge.

Review: Mixed In Key Mashup Software

Mashups are a bit of a holy grail, aren't they? DJs are always being told they should get into production, start making music, do more than just play records.

Trouble is, most DJs are still hooked on the immediacy of DJing. Great next tune, throw it on, find another, throw it on. To these guys, the music collection is everything. Production, with all its promises of long nights in the studio going over the same thing time and time again, no crowd, no reaction - well, it's just not particularly appealing.

Throw in the fact that you also need a level of musical theory knowledge that many DJs frankly don't have, and you begin to see the big divide that's opening up between "just play the music" DJs and the mashup, production and beat generating crews.

Into this divide comes Mixed In Key Mashup. The makers claim you can "make a mashup in five minutes" with it. Well I just had to test that out, now didn't I? (By the way, there's an iPad version too: Here's our Mixed In Key iMashup review.)

First impressions

Mixed in Key is the company behind the popular software of the same name, that uses digital algorithms to work out the musical key of your music, tagging it with a clever system to allow you to then have a go at harmonic DJ mixing without really understanding the theory. Our audience can't get enough of this particular piece of software.

So it'll come as no surprise to learn that Mixed In Key Mashup builds on this. To start with, it is simple in appearance - really simple, actually. Secondly, once you being to play with the software, you realise that it uses Mixed in Key's ability to guess the musical key of a track to do all that complicated stuff in the background for you. It holds the promise of your just dragging tunes into a window, and - well, and it doing all the hard stuff for you.

Mashup review

The "harmonic compatibility" percentage claims to tells you how closely tracks are musically matched.

The bottom half of the screen is where you drag the music you want to work with to. The software then analyses this (to basically see how closely related the musical keys are) and gives you the result as a percentage. So in theory you then drag a track from here into the top window, and it immediately tells you how well matched the other tracks are. It's up to you if you want to go for tunes it thinks are well matched or not.

(By the way, it never actually gives you the key, so if you want to know that, you still need to own Mixed In Key 5).

This analysing can take quite a long time if you have a lot of source material tracks, although the software "remembers" tracks, and can work with Mixed In Key 5's information too.

Whichever tunes you pick for your mashup, once you drag them to the top window, it lays the waveforms one above the other, "snaps" them to a beatgrid, makes the tunes the same speed, and attempts to harmonically match them for you. You then move them around until they are laid over each other where you wish, and in theory, bang! There you go - instant mashup.

In use

OK, let's start using it and reveal a few more features along the way. Firstly, you can't throw two finished full productions over each other and expect it to all sound great. This is software, not magic. So the first thing you need to do is choose wisely.

The classic cliche of mashups is to take an accapella and throw it over an instrumental or a track with few vocals, and that's exactly what I did for the purposes of this review, pairing Adele's Rolling In The Deep with the Guy J Falling Apart mix of Bent's As You Fall. These were the first accapella and the third musical track I tried, after less than 10 minutes of auditioning. Heavily worked out my example mashup certainly is not!

Mashup

Zooming in tightly on the waveforms allows for very fine phase adjustments.

Once your tunes are together you need to make it so that your second element begins at exactly the same time as your first element, so you use the zoom function to zoom right in to the part where you want this to happen and then clip the second track so it starts in the right place. While it will automatically "snap" to the beat, there are "phase" adjusters, which let you change milliseconds in order to make tiny final adjustments.

While Mixed In Key Mashup attempts to guess the BPM of tunes, and did a really good job even on the accapella (no mean feat, seeing by definition accapellas have no beats), it may not be quite right, and you can hear this easily enough by seeing if your vocal "drifts" forwards or back as you listen through. A dialogue box lets you make changes to the BPM, and again by zooming and watching the waveforms (and listening of course) you can keep things tight.

Each waveform has a three-band EQ and it's represented by a line for each frequency band, selectable via a dropdown. You can pin levels to various parts of the tune, by which I mean you can add a "pin" on the line then drag the level up or down before or after the line and it will alter depending on where the pin was (see the screenshot). This is useful for mashups, because for instance you may wish to drop the midrange out of a track to remove from significance the occasional vocal to allow the vocal of another source to drop in better.

Parallel waveforms

Parallel waveforms will be familiar to any DJ used to usual DJ software, but note the pins-and-strings for EQ.

Finally, you can mute sections of the tunes by selection the beats and bars (again, your selections snap-to-grid) and hitting "delete" - useful for trimming the end of a project or just dropping out unwanted elements.

Really, what's conspicuous at this point is the absence of pretty much anything else. There's no looping, no effects, no real cut & pasting. Even for a 1.0 piece of software, this is really very sparse. I get the impression the developers wanted to get it out there, get feedback and then work out what functions really matter to their audience, and then add them slowly without detracting fro the overall simplicity of the program.

All that's left for me to add is that you can enter new metadata to describe your mashup, then export as either WAV or 320kbps MP3.

Conclusion

I really have to say, I thought this was way too minimal to be of any use to anyone when I first opened and tried it. That's why I decided the only real way to test it would be to make a mashup from start to finish.

Because the system matched the key instantly for me, I didn't have to worry about that (it is perfectly possible to match keys in certain other DAW software but to do it manually you need an ear for it and it takes time to get it note-perfect). Because the system also time-stretched the sources, again there was zero time spent sorting that bit out.

Adding metadata

Add metadata and adjusting the master tempo and you're ready to bang out a rough and ready MP3 for your DJ sets - and it can all be done in minutes.

I dropped the Adele accapella at the start of the musical information on the Bent tune, adjusted its overall level, removed a bit of the mid from the instrumental to dim the few vocals in it, altered the BPM of the accapella slightly (Mashup guessed it a bit too fast), made a few EQ adjustments as I listened through, and within 30 minutes, had a mashup finished.

Of course it isn't studio quality, and given more time on more powerful software I could start to polish it but that's not the point - the point is, it's done! Finished! Ready to test in a DJ set and see if it's worth any extra work or if it's a bum idea.

Yeah, sure, purists are going to say you can't time-stretch compressed MP3s and resample them to match the keys and then re-output it all without it sounding rubbish - but rubbish compared to what? Compared to a studio production, lovingly mastered by professionals (and lord knows there are few enough of those around nowadays)? OK, you're right - compared to such productions, anything made here is going to sound poor.

(Actually though, I asked about the algorithms and apparently it uses the same as Ableton Live's complex time-stretching, and the software works fine with WAV inputs as well as MP3s, so really the quality is in your hands.)

But compared to a DJ's performance? Remember what DJs do. They drop tunes over each other using volume and a bit of EQ. DJs don't worry about production-style nuances - they bang their live mixes out and move on to the next one. People dance. Everyone smiles. Now imagine if you can prepare a few little homemade mashups to add a bit of extra sparkle to that?

If you can do it with your whole collection laid out in front of you, and you can do it knowing that something clever will stop it sounding truly awful, and that it isn't going to take over your day (or your life), wouldn't that be good?

In a nutshell, that's what Mixed In Key Mashup does. If you can DJ well enough, you can use this well enough. It won't help you if you have no idea about beats, and bars, and what might go well together, nor if you're tone deaf and aren't in a position to judge how good the results actually are.

But as long as you're these things, Mixed In Key Mashup will allow you to basically drop accapellas over instrumentals, or some similar fusion of other source material, and make something passable.

Mixed in Key Mashup

Adjusting the EQs - one of the few bells and whistles afforded to you in this truly minimal software.

Now, is it worth the money? Well that depends. If Mixed In Key gets a buoyant community going for the product, listens to feedback and carefully integrates the features people want the most, rolling these changes out without extra charge at least until it's got a bit more functionality than it currently does, then yes, I'd say it is. There's nothing else quite like it out there, the harmonic mixing algorithm being the killer feature.

Personally I'd like to see some extra features (some better editing functions, definitely looping, a few effects including filters, a simple gain on each channel) thrown in for the price, and apparently at least some of those are coming. For instance looping - one of the biggest requests from beta testers - is due soon, and the makers assure us that all updates to v 2.0 will be free.

If you're itching to make simple, rough-and-ready mashups that you can use to make your DJ sets a little bit different, without worrying about most of the technicalities that normally make this kind of thing more time-consuming than many DJs can stomach, you should give it a go right now.

Oh, the mashup. I couldn't manage to turn out a mashup in five minutes, but in half an hour? A rough cut was indeed possible, and to be honest, most of that half an hour was working out how the program works. (It's a Flash widget, so for iOS readers here's a link):

Bent vs Guy J vs Adele - Falling In The Deep (Phil Speedy Mashup) by Digital DJ Tips

Product Summary

Review Summary:

If you can DJ well enough, you can use this well enough. It won't help you if you have no idea about beats, and bars, and what might go well together, nor if you're tone deaf and aren't in a position to judge how good the results actually are.

Mashup Software
  • Mashup Software
  • Rating: 3
  • From: Mixed In Key
  • Price: $39
  • Reviewed by:
  • On February 8, 2012
  • Last modified:August 19, 2014

Have you been looking for something that makes it really, I mean really, simple to make mashups? Do you think it's important that DJs try and improve their sets in this way? What do you use for this kind of thing? Please let us know in the comments.

Comments

  1. Hi Phil. Is there a trial version of this guy?

  2. So it is basically like mixmeister?

    I always have issues because I deal mainly with drum and bass. I like these “auto-snap to grid” pieces of software for planning sets. They seem to work well with stuff like house/breaks but it never, ever gets it right with more chopped up sounds like dnb. Any tips????

    I will give this a try and see how it goes…

    • No it’s not really like Mixmeister, it’s far far simpler. It’s not meant for set planning, just rough and ready mashups.

      • Aidan Johnson says:

        I get the mixmeister reference… to me this MIK software looks similar, albeit simpler. Therefore, why not just do a mashup in mixmeister?? After all MM it supports keying, looping, eq (I think) and FX (think).
        Surely MM would be superior to this MIK program for creating a mashup? I know it’s *designed* for set planning, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use it to plan a mashup. I cannot see any advantages to the MIK programme. In my eyes, MM does it all (although I would have never thought of using it in this way until your article Phil :) Your thoughts?

  3. For me, the killer feature would be to export result into Ableton or other full-feature DAW.

  4. Actually suprisingly inpressed with your mashup. This might be what i have been looking for since i want to move more towards producing, and this seems like a baby step in the right direction, mash something up, mix it up, then publish it. I guess they went with KISS theory but im sure it will have more features in the coming months.

    • It’s definitely got the “1.0” feel right now, I would love to have had looping for instance, as I say in the review, that’s the first thing that’s coming.

      • Y Bekkering says:

        Mixmeister Express will do the job for you. You can produce mixes, mashups and you can create loops. When you’re satisfied with the result you can publish it to iTunes. I think with Mixmeister Express you get more features for allmost the same price. And without registering Mixmeister Express you can try it fully out (there’s a spoken message which will disappear when you buy the product). There’s a Win and OSX version.

  5. is it from my computer or the acapella mids are a bit to high? they sound like they’re overlapping the mids on the background song. would like to listen to them a bit better to have an idea of the key in them.

    Basicly, placing an acapella over a song is something that you can anyway do in other software… so what is the advantage on this one? the fact that it let’s you know which and what sounds better with what or which ?! i must be missing something Phill… cause usually i use my ears for that. i’m not being sarcastic. i really mean it. i usually study my acapellas and when i decide what sounds good with what, i usually make a remark on the acapella saying something like “good to play with song X or Y”.

    just can’t find any real good advantage on this…

    anyway, the review is excellent and quite detailed! thanks once again. this is why i come to this website. even if i may not be particularly interested in some topic, you always manage to make it interesting! :)

    • You’re missing the automatic harmonic matching element, that’s the USP. Regarding the demo, of course it’s all off-level – it took 30 mins of which 25 was getting used to the software! It’s just a proof of concept. :)

      • true. would have to try it to understand what you mean. anyway, i still think that my ears are working fine and they can do that judgment instead of software ;) as long as the crowd like it, i’ll be fine :)

  6. This is kind of a useless thing since it can’t really do even the same stuff audacity can. Fun toy perhaps, but no good for more serious production work.

    Seems to be the trend that everybody wants to do stuff, but don’t want to spend the time to learn properly how to. Good marketing trick though.

    • Well I hear you, of course it’s no good for serious production work – nor does it claim or try to be. What it does do is bring to the table one thing that people struggle with, which is harmonic matching.

      You still need musical skill to use this, but unless you’re a musician, scales and keys might be hard to master – which is a shame if you’re actually a reasonable DJ with timing and a good ear, because you’ll never experiment with mashups and so on.

      If you come up with a few good results using the helping hand of software like this, you might then be encouraged to learn about scales, and keys, and tuning, and be able to move “up” to better packages and progress that way.

      I’ve been a guitarist, and songwriter, and DJ, yet I still enjoyed having the songs harmonically matched for me! I am sure it would be an immense helping hand for a beginner.

      • Jam-Master Jake says:

        Good point, Phil. I’m a keyboardist with perfect pitch, and you know what? I LIKE having my songs harmonically mixed for me too! While I can, have, and DO make my own music in a DAW, a tool like this is exciting, and I think you’re spot-on with your assessment.

        • Thanks! My point was immediacy is a good thing, it’s what DJs hanker after, and this software helps make rough cuts more immediate and thus more fun to “bang out”.

  7. Quote: “we don’t like … You still need a bit of musical skill!”

    Mmm I think anyone making or playing music should have some form of musical skill or acquire it while working with products like these.

    How can anyone produce something really interesting if they are an absolute zero on music? All tools out there that ‘make music’ and require no skills will eventually always turn up with the same result regardless of the user.

    Its good to know the bare basic of music, its a timeless skill and useful regardless what you do with music.

    JB

  8. BigChipsHI says:

    Ill wait for the free trial version before I pour any money into a program I may not even like or use.

    seems like a cool concept tho

  9. Nice review Phil, mashups (in the simplest form) where acapellas are dropped over instrumentals have been around since the days of disco so it’s nice to see some Harmonic Key detail being used to produce a decent pairing of tracks. I may have to give this a go, my trusty old vinyl efforts are feeling a bit dated now (and are no doubt, not in key!);

    http://soundcloud.com/djhombre/forgot-about-your-fantasy

    http://soundcloud.com/djhombre/lily-got-the-f-e-a-r

  10. Having their harmonic analyzer software and a multi-tracks/DAW on the other hand is enough : this software is trying to re-invent the wheel.

    I don’t have any musical skill but when the back vocals @ 1:39 something is wrong there for me with the keyboard of the instrumental. Can’t say what, but my ears don’t like it, I guess something is slighty wrong but only a half tone.

    It’s like their MIK, it often gives weird results. They need to work more on their formula before trying to build on it imo…

    • I think the error is all mine, DJ Spark! The trick with mashups is to match the right tracks, I just matched the first two that sounded half decent for the sake of finishing the demo and moving on to the next job of the day. Key matching software is always trial and error, and to be fair the software reckoned these tracks were about a 6/10 match, which is actually about right I’d say.

    • Yes and the truth is that songs have structure as well as key, it’s not enough to just bung an accapella over a track and expect everything to fit, musically or pace-wise; hence as a minimum looping (the next feature to come apparently) would be a great addition.

      • So far these things are very doable live, especially with more than two decks. For example http://i.mixcloud.com/C6DRj : mixing instrumentals with different a capella’s to a maximum of four decks.

      • I noticed that the highest compatibility rating was 65.95. When I use Mashup, I always look for the 100’s. Guessing you just weren’t working with very many songs in the browser. Thanks for the review Phil :)

    • Exactly, Chad. No time in a busy schedule to analyse my whole library! :)

    • I caught that, too. Not terrible, but some dissonance. In any case, I hope I can do as well as this recording when I try out this software for the first time.

  11. I’d say FX arent neccesary for what this does. Tracks shouldent be covered in FX, let the DJ take care of it live.
    Looping should be here though, or the ability to grab a certain number of beats/bars and copy and paste them, is a necessity.
    Another neat feature would be the ability to record midi automation in real time, so you can get more flow/feel as you mix the tracks.

  12. Phil, where did you get the Adele acapella?

  13. Random question – could this feasibly be used to correct drifting BPMs (from say old vinyl rips) before importing them into Traktor, do you think?

  14. Just from the review I can see that this is a program with a lot of potential and I will definitely consider buying it after an update.

    One problem I’ve heard that it frequently crashes. I don’t remember reading this, but did you have that problem while working on it?

    And just for comparisons sake, what has really bugged me about MixMeister Express is the limitation of tracks (only 4 can be used to mix – which I think is a rubbish number for even the simplest of mixes or if you were to use it for a mash-up), while Mashup the tracks you can upload is unlimited. And though Mash-up is not used for this purpose, because of its unlimited ability, I don’t see a reason in not trying a simple mix on it and see how the results turn out?

  15. It looks good would like to try this, i’m right now starting at Djing and making mashups a lot but i see other people making their mashups with software like Ableton, Logic, even Garageband and actually i use Traktor to make my mashups, like doing it live i think i should try something more pro to make my stuff, anyway i’m satisfied right now :)

    U can check my stuff here: soundcloud.com/keymer all the music there is made with Traktor with my mouse and my controller.

  16. Very good review Phil. I was thinking about downloading it when I got the E-Mail from MIK.

    The only thing I didn’t is because I already have Mixed in Key 5 for harmonic mixing and use Ableton or Sony Acid for doing Mash-Ups.

    So maybe they need some other USP for those people who already bought their other product.

  17. Will this work with my Serato Itch? Currently using the NS7FX

  18. Just to let you know I’ve placed this fantastic review on our fb wall Phil.. Also sent you an email ;)

    acapellas4u.

  19. It’s 40$ cheaper than Ableton Intro, with less, less, less features and potential. My very personal opinion, is that if you wanna invest, then do it well. Buy Intro if you can’t afford another DAW and do there your mashups. I think that after some months you’ll want to dive into midi, and do further things. So, I would go for a DAW. But, it’s a cheap and easy way to do something simple. (even though you can do the same thing live by using VDJ-it has a key analyzer and if you practice a little you can do such mashups live, quite well)

    eg http://soundcloud.com/you/tracks the first 2 tracks. Some are pre-made mashups, but some others are done live.

  20. Just listened to your Mashup and I must say it is not bad if this is right out of the box, I mean you cannot boast about it but say you want to throw a quick mash for the night then this would come in handy. Certainly needs a LOT more tweaking but they guys have got the main logic down.

  21. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for the the thorough review. I’ve been producing music for years so this software isn’t for me, understandably. However the basic result that you achieved in a short amount of time is quite passable for a DJ set, esp when you can mix it in an out and not necessarily have to present the entire track as finished piece. It certainly seems worth the $40.

    Having said all of that, I agree with the opinions expressed here that suggest using more feature rich programs for mashups and similar remixing efforts, even for the newbies. Programs like Mixmeister and Live (including the simpler “intro” versions) provide more features but more to the point, they aren’t much more complex when used for the same purpose. For example, all of these programs, including this MIK Mashup, involve the same process of determining the first downbeat, fine tuning alignments, using envelopes for the Gain and EQ, etc. Given that, it seems to make more sense to invest the time in learning to use a program that has the extra features available to grow into when needed.

    Maybe the most important thing to emphasize is just how valuable it for a DJ to have any kind of original material in their sets. For $40, MIK Mashup does provide a simple way to get started and that’s the key thing here (ouch, sorry couldn’t resist =:-p).

  22. I made a Mashup with this software! Have a listen. http://youtu.be/LvuYXlvqEQw Feedback desired.

  23. Hey Phil? Will there be free updates with the software in the near future?

  24. I downloaded Mixed in Keys..after receiving the Link i tried installing it on my Windows 7…It downloads then Half way it Stops and just disappears..I have tried it serval times but it does the same thing..I have sent an E-mail to Mixed in keys For help..but no responce..

  25. I’m interested to see how well these programs work. I do most of my mashups by ear. Is there anyway to organize songs in serato by key? I think that would be very helpful.

    • Yes, Serato has a key column. You’d analyse them with something like Mixed In KEy. Note that only MP3s have the key ID3 tag; M4As don’t, so the workaround is to write your key info to Comments instead.

  26. It would be cool if there was a record button on the program.

  27. Obsidianice says:

    Seems pretty cool, but really since I have an APC40 and ableton there’s no real reason to utilize this correct? Is it any quicker or easier?

  28. I’m an ex-mashup maker, and I’m a bit more like JFK said decades ago : “not because they are easy, but because they are hard” so basically I did many mashups (+300) some in a few minutes, but in order to get a perfect structure,a customized editing etc.. I spent hours on most, more because I had much more pleasure than doing it in 5min(?) anyway, no matter how much time is spent, only the result is important to my eyes.. or maybe I shoud say ears.

    Now I don’t do mahups anymore but I’ll give a try at this tool of course mainly because I know what MIK team can do (MIK technology is really really good)..and also to check if this can be useful for another use. but I’m pretty confident. Respect to MIK team, keep it up, cheerz’!

  29. Hi there

    Just read your review of Mashup and maybe im behind here, or maybe there has been a software update, im not sure so sorry if im speaking out of line.
    You stste in your review that theres no Looping function in Mashup, however on the Official website video demo it clearly shows the software copying, pasting and looping a part of a sound file..

    Like i say im not sure when your review is from or if theres been an update in the software, but i thought it wouldnt do any harm to get involved on this discussion.

    Cheers
    Michael

  30. What basic functions have been added since this post besides looping? And is it now worth $39?

  31. I’m looking for some software like this “with training wheels” for my 10 year old who is really trying to learn everything on his own – and I want to support his passion for creating something rather than just sitting back and just consuming.

    So for a kid just starting out – where else would you experienced veterans point him to go to start?

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