Think Sync Is Killing DJing? Look Away Now!

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.

Turntables

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.

Comments

  1. for 30 euro who can hate at this ?

  2. I think this software is simultaneously great and dilutive at the same time. And that’s ok.

    Could there be an equal argument for both the importance of creativity vs. the process of creating something?

    I guess what I am saying is that the idea you have as a DJ in terms of making a mashup (what songs to put together) just as valid (or more so) than the process (or the way/equipment used) in putting the songs together to form something new?

    This is tough for me because I used to value digging for vinyl acapellas and instrumentals years ago and mashing them up-live on turntables in front of audiences and seeing a response. This happened in realtime. I screwed up quite a bit-but I took a chance and was actually performing, and risking for creativity. BUT the idea was just as important to me. Was it in key (no software back then), was the song structure correct (no cutting and pasting)? That was crucial.

    Since I have a history of feeling the joy of doing this live and what I call “risking for art’s sake” I am not too key (no pun intended) on the software idea with mashups…but only because of my history. I feel it would be joyless to make a new idea this way…however, to a crowd dancing the finished, polished result seems to resonate more. If it sounds great and the crowd loves it….does the method matter?

    I’m up in the air about this one.

    • I sympathise totally with you. I actually still DJ like that (it’s all about programming for me, I do long mixes like chess, lining things up for minutes in advance). I remember my horror the first time I saw a name DJ who I was playing alongside hit “loop” on a CDJ!

      But on reflection, I’d have loved some of these tools back then. And listening back to the best of the mixes I could manage in those days, I know these tools would have instantly improved some of them. And that to me is a good thing – in the right hands.

  3. I dunno. I think PRODUCERS will get up in arms about this software more…but I always like to see these titles as the “gateway drug”. So a kid gets this, plays with it, makes a bunch of things and pushes it as much as he can, but one day he longs to do more…thus he’ll invest in Live or Logic.

    I think tools like this are just that…tools. They take out much of the monkey work and let someone’s imagination run wild. It’s why I’ll see many attempts to make “automated coding” for websites. Designers just want to design, not do the code.

    Music is music…and I never judge how it’s made. A local producer I really respect uses Sony ACID Pro. He doesn’t do much other than get creative with the tools he has…and I love his stuff. I’ll do the same if a kid makes something with this. I press play, listen, and decide if I like it or not.

    Imagination and creativity are what makes winners in these cases…not technical know-how. The only thing this software might limit on the producer is their ability to go further than just sampled items.

    • “They take out much of the monkey work and let someone’s imagination run wild.” – Really well put. This is the strength of software like this and why ultimately, I think it’s great. But you still need the imagination…

  4. DJ Forced Hand says:

    As you stated, it still takes an artist to put together a good mash-up. Unfortunately, a lot of popular Mash-up artists are really bad at the craft and they lead the next generation to think all they have to do is literally throw songs together wherever they want. I’m happy that there is software out there that people can use to mix tunes together. It helps people understand how hard a producer’s work actually is just like DJing being more than hitting the Sync button (and let’s be fair here, you can’t synchronize songs outside of the Pitch Correction Range AND even if you could, the songs sound too weird to dance to.)

    I guess what a lot of us are searching for is the next “filter” to weed out the good from the bad.

  5. Im not really interested in the software, but I just bumped in to say…I looove the title’s sarcasm! ;)

  6. I love Matt (DJ CNTRL) and D-Jam’s comments here. The key thing as Phil said is creativity. Some of us naturally get pitch,keys, blends and programming. Some don’t but can still come up with good ideas with assistance. Some DJ’s are on fire when it comes to hand eye coordination and speed, but then their mix choices are not popular with the crowd.

    I believe that for anyone to reach their creative full potential, you have to make time to understand the principles of what makes up the music, the stems, the individual instruments, the FX and post production work like quantizing. Then you can modify, manipulate and add or remove from an existing work or create as your mid takes you with this knowledge.

    Bottom line, use and learn the tools and technology, but explore the foundations of the music too…

  7. This is a useful tool in the right hands.

  8. It’s so simple and powerful that it would make a perfect candidate for an iPad app. I can’t wait to be building mashups on the plane. Between that and Propellerhead Figure, I feel so much more creative than yesterday.

  9. tlibraro says:

    I personally believe this may be a great way to try out mixes before hand but if someone used this for a live performance i think it would be set in stone no crowd reaction or requests and would result and a bland and flat show.

  10. DJ Urkel Dee says:

    I like it… Is it me or isn’t this the same concept as MixMeister Pro?

  11. Will one need to have MIK to use this?

  12. Just have to wait for VDJ 8 update to get almost the same thing. We VDJ-dj´s have been mixing in key for years now and with 4 players it´s really no sweat to do mashups.

    But there are things you can’t get in the software, and that is a bit of talent and true love of music.
    If you don’t have that it’s gonna be a messup instead of mashup ;-)

  13. Great tool, just remember dynamics and clashing frequencies.

    It´s an art, put in time, pay attention. Less is more/C

  14. I’ve bought it and played with it for a few hours

    I guess it’s supposed to be mix meister super-light with an auto harmonic feature, but it’s very limited and not really friendly to work with regarding hot keys, sample naming, general tweeking and so on, which I guess is one of the purpose, since it then makes it very easy to do the few things it does automatically

    If it could get closer to a full feature Mix Meister Pro with the added harmonic feature, it would be much more usefull. Right now it’s a toy in my opnion

  15. Why did I pay $60 for Mixed in Key when this is $39 and has the same function? Also, does it allow you to fade tracks in/out or set one track’s db level higher than the other? I think this software is great and would possibly have purchased it by now if I didnt already spend my money on MIK…

  16. Is it possible to make sets with this software? Like turn the bass down in a track while you turn the bass up in other track. Same with volume, treble, etc. I’ve been making my sets with Ableton Live but it’s too much expensive than MIK Mashup.

  17. This kind of softwares just good for musicians and producers who have talent . if you dont have talent you cant do anything at Sony Studios also . Because style and skill is important. if you donthave style or skill nothing cant help to become a good producers sj or what else. Quit hate and do music.

Leave a Comment