Last updated 21 August, 2014



So you think “sync” is killing the art of DJing? That without a DJ manually matching the tempos of two pieces of music, the skill has gone and the doors have been opened for the unwashed masses to trample all over your sacred ground? Boy, you’re very likely going to hate Mixed In Key Mashup 1.5, announced this week. With this release, the package has come of age, and brings powerful, easy, harmonically matched mashup-making to the masses.

(Not familiar with the software? Take a look at the company’s new promo video above. Otherwise, read on for what’s new and why it matters.)

Launched a few weeks ago, Mixed In Key Mashup 1.0 had potential but was slightly over-simplified. It promised to let anyone “make mashups in five minutes” – but it wasn’t quite there. Well, finally it is – and because it’s now a potent force, I suspect the purists are going to absolutely hate it.

This is the “sync” button of mashup-making

Make mashups not mixtapes to get noticed. That’s always been out advice. Our reasoning is that anyone can make a mixtape nowadays, so to show you’ve got more than just the ability to beatmatch, to impress time-starved gatekeepers who could put you in front of a real audience, you need to do something more. And we think mashups are it. Just one listen to the classic Freelance Hellraiser mashing up Christine Aguilera and The Strokes should be enough for you to realise the creativity it’s possible to express with a really simple mashup – and should also be enough for anyone with any musical inclination at all to want to have a go at it.

DJing with turntables is not easy, and making mashups doubly so. Just as sync has brought the ability to have a go at DJing to the masses, Mixed In Key Mashup does the same for making mashups.

Trouble is, if DJing with turntables is hard, making mashups with software is doubly so. Here’s the basic deal: You need to sync the tunes (ie beatmatch them, just like with DJing). You then need to get them “in phase” (ie line up the beats and bars properly). Then, crucially, you need to harmonically match them (or they’re going to sound like they don’t belong together musically). Next you must chop and move bits around so things happen when you want.

Software like Ableton Live can do a lot of this for you, but for the average beginner, getting something loaded into a track on Ableton Live is going to take all of your five minutes up, never mind achieving the above. Ableton is great (and many traditional DJs think Ableton is cheating too, with its timestretching abilities) – but it’s not simple.

Mixed In Key Mashup, though, is simple. Really, really simple. Yet it adds in the one feature that DJs who’ve mastered getting their tunes in sync and in phase (using the sync button, whatever) can’t easily do – getting the tunes in key with each other. To mashups, having that automated is as revolutionary as the sync button was to digital DJing. Indeed, it can be easily argued that auto-keymatching is the “sync button of mashup-making”.

Just the tools you need and nothing more

Mixed in Key 1.0 was, as we said at the time, over-simplified. You can make mashups in minutes with it, but you’re limited so much that it actually makes things start getting harder again, not easier. Now, with 1.5, the balance is just about right. The big addition is cut and paste. Here’s the workflow: You drag a couple of tunes you want to make a mashup with into the main window. Mixed in Key Mashup advises you first how well they go together harmonically. (You can take or leave its advice; it’ll harmonically match them anyway for you so they’re likely to sound at least OK anyway. Best to let your ears decide.)

Then, you match them up so things start when you want them to. It takes care of all that syncing stuff for you. And here’s where cut and paste comes in: you can now easily chop the tunes up so things continue how you want them to sound. Mixed In Key Mashup 1.5 will match the beats; you just grab the broad sections and move them.

Want to put a full vocal over the intro to a song, repeated eight times? No worries. Want to quadruple the length of the break on song one, add the intro beat from song two, and loop one line of vocal from song three? It really is just a few clicks. Making mashups is now ridiculously easy for practically anyone.

You still need musical knowledge…

The sync haters are probably apoplectic now. There goes yet more of the skill out of music making, they’ll be spitting. Yada yada yada. Just as if you give a Traktor Kontrol S4, a copy of Traktor 2.5 and a Beatport account to some tone-deaf no-hoper and ask them to produce a decent DJ set they’ll fail miserably, same with Mixed In Key 1.5 when it comes to mashups.

Of course you need musical ability. Of course you need an ear for what sounds exciting (far more important initially than whether tunes match harmonically is whether your idea is, you know, any good – and anyway, Mixed In Key Mashup 1.5 can get it wrong). And of course such software will encourage those who really ought to think twice to throw caution to the wind and produce utter garbage. So be it, I say.

Mashup Cut Paste
Cutting and pasting in Mixed In Key Mashup 1.5 – the missing feature to make it truly simple to use is now here.

Because the other side of the coin is that, just like with sync, Mixed In Key Mashup 1.5’s harmonic matching (now that it comes with just enough of the other essential tools needed to quickly get a mashup down) takes a major piece of tedium out of trying out your ideas.

Think an old Cure song from the 80s will fit under some dubstep? Try it. Can’t stop singing some 60s pop whenever you hear the new David Guetta? (Let’s face it, all his tunes are, ahem, derivative anyway.) Bang it out and see how it sounds.

Mixed In Key Mashup 1.5 makes the act of playing with tunes almost instantaneous. It makes it easy, and in doing so, makes it fun. It positively encourages you to make mashups, just like the sync button positively encourages you to mix two tunes together. What’s wrong with that?

You haven’t spoken about the software much, have you?

No, that’s true, we haven’t. You could always go and read our original Mixed In Key 1.0 Review. Suffice to say they’ve tightened up the beatmatching a bit, added the all-important cut and paste (and thus easy looping), and done all the obligatory “scores of minor bug fixes” etc. etc.

Truth is, if you’ve not started typing a stern reply about how we’re contributing to the death of DJing and production by pedalling such filth as this, you’re probably either already an owner of Mixed In Key Mashup and heading off to get your free upgrade to version 1.5, or you’re already sold and want to know where to get it from. Which, by the way, is here, for US$39.

Are you a 1.0 owner excited to have these new features in 1.5? Or are you one of the purists who thinks this is all sacrilege (still here? Thought you’d have known where we stand on all this kind of thing my now). Please share your thoughts in the comments.