Home Forums The DJ Booth How to choose tracks to mix?

This topic contains 25 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  DJ Vintage 3 years, 11 months ago.

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  • #2306671

    Implanted Soul
    Participant

    Hello,

    I have been listening to psytrance for 3 years. Before this i used to listen to metal for years. I started djing a few months ago. I learned mixing techniques and i am able to mix two compatible tracks. But i always find these two compatible tracks by trial and error method. I want to learn what makes two songs compatible. I generally use camelot wheel for harmonic mixing. What should be similar rather than keys? Bassline types? Sound? Number of instruments phrases have? Does anybody know if there is a general or certain rule for two tracks to be compatible for mixing?

    I have heard a program named “Mixed in key” Does anybody use it? Especially, does any psytrance dj use it? Is it worth buying?

    Last question is about mixing two tracks with incompatible keys. Could this be done by changing the key of the second track from software and bringing it back progressively to the original?

    Thanks in advance

    #2306701

    Alex Moschopoulos
    Participant

    Trial and error is how I’ve done it.

    Mixed In Key is a software utility that scans your files and determines the key of each tune, so you can use the chamelot wheel and harmonic mixing.

    I’ve done incompatible keys, as I just think some tunes will sound right and some won’t. Even two tunes of the same key won’t always mesh. It’s why I more rely on trial and error over harmonic.

    I’d also suggest to think of the whole set as opposed to just individual tunes. To think of the journey you take the listener on. I usually approach all my sets that way, which is why I’m not a fan of short sets (30 min or less). I like to take listeners through a journey of music.

    #2306741

    DJ Vintage
    Moderator

    Key mixing as our esteemed Editor-In-Chief likes to quote is “a tool, not a rule”. It’s also a luxury affordable to modern day DJs. Back in the days there was no such thing. Some DJs at some point started manually determining keys by using a piano. However, no pitch/key lock, so any speed adjustment would change the key. While you could determine semi-tones (+/- 3%), all this was way too much work for most DJs, especially the ones without a piano and or formal musical schooling.

    So, like D-Jam says, you learned to use your ears.

    I’d say the biggest thing to help you determine your tracks is intimate knowledge of a manageable collection (Phil has 600 tracks or so for example). If you know all your tracks well, your mind will start “scanning” your collection in your head and give you ideas about what to play next. Preview that track and listen (your mind is not always right LOL). If it works you are done, if not pick another tune. Trial and error as you and D-Jam said.

    When using CDs it wasn’t uncommon for me to swap 5-6 CDs before making a choice.

    Some software now offers the option of key matching. And it works but I would be very careful and trust my ears more than ever. Also, while you can get away with gradual speed changes without being to obvious, our ears are, imho, way more sensitive to changing pitch. So I would not change the pitch of a playing track unless I wanted to do it for effect.
    Changing it before you mix it in and then leaving it as it plays would be my advice.

    #2306781

    Implanted Soul
    Participant

    Hi D-Jam,

    Thank you for your answer.
    They say mixed in key is more than key matching. It matches keys, energy levels of the tracks… It matches tracks those have phrases compatible to mix. What do you think? Is it only about key matching?

    Do you say that trial and error method is the best way and sometimes mixing tracks even with incompatible keys can also sound well?

    I agree with you about the journey. Especially, In psytrance, i think it is the most important thing. I want to make all my transitions smooth and harmonic in order to have audience never come back from the journey he/she went in, till the end of the set.

    #2306801

    Implanted Soul
    Participant

    Hi DJ Vintage,

    So you recommend me to know collection well and use trial and error method quickly. This was the method i currently use.

    About changing keys in the middle of a track, I know that changing key in the middle of a track doesnt sound well. But i ask if there is a common use as changing key by one or two notes after a phrase, or changing it by using an extra effect(delay, flanger, phaser…) by one or two notes after a phrase?

    #2306951

    DJ Vintage
    Moderator

    I personally don’t know anybody that does that. Most I know don’t even do key change at all. And I am sure there are some ways to come up with that will mask the change of key mid track, but I am still not sure what you will gain.

    Lets say (using the Camelot wheel), that you are playing a 4A track, you can now pick all tracks with 3A, 4B and 5A. But not only that, it is also very well possible to go to 6A (energy boost) for example. And if you start digging in to musical theory you will find even more, but less common, keys that will fit together. Let’s say your tracks are evenly spread over the keys (which they typically are not, but for arguments sake), this means you have at least 5 keys to choose from. The Camelot wheel has 24 options, so keys is about 1/5 = 20% of your collection that is compatible.

    Let’s say you’d want to move from 4A to 7A, you can key change your 7A track to 6A (taking the energy boost) or 5A (normal upgrade). You can then move to up again with the next track. There really isn’t too much reason to move the playing track back to it’s native 7A. After all, not everything needs to be key matched. It’s actually nice if it isn’t all key matched as this will sound too smooth and boring. And using one of a variety of transition techniques you can easily change genre, big BPM difference and/or big key jump.

    As for Mixed In Key. It does not match anything, it detects the key. If it finds a key change in the middle of a track it will tell you the beginning and ending key. It also gives you an energy rating. Again this is a tool, not a rule. Some like the energy rating and use it others don’t.

    At the end of the day it’s about tracks that fit together. Tools help but you and your ears have to be the judge if two songs match.

    #2306991

    Implanted Soul
    Participant

    Dj Vintage,

    Thank you for your description. It is really helpful answer.
    About mixed in key, i ve been told that it is the program which detects keys of the tracks most accurately. And there is also energy rating… I dont know what energy rating is and i want to learn if mixed in key’s energy rating is useful when choosing tracks to mix. Especially in psytrance.

    Why i am so obsessed with mixed in key? Cuz without a tool like mixed in key, finding tracks to mix will take so much time. If it is useful i consider using it. There is no demo version of mixed in key so i need to ask people abot its usefulness.

    Can u explain energy boost a bit? How it is done?

    For the last, how many transition techniques do you use, is there any transition techniques these are used in a specific genre but are not used in another? For example for psytrance i use bass swap, lead swap, progressive eq mix, loop roll mix and mixes with some effects as drama/sweep fx or others.

    #2307201

    DJ Vintage
    Moderator

    Mixed in Key scores highest in the DJ Tech Tools comparison for the 3rd year now. Co-moderator Terry claims he sees no difference between the MiK results and that of the latest version of Serato.

    The energy rating, as I said before, is something you have to judge for yourself if it is useful. I only look at it marginally if ever.

    Again, finding tracks that fit your collection is part of the fun of being a DJ. It cost a lot of time way back. We’d used to hang out at the record store waiting for the new batch to come in and binge-listen for a few hours. And then buy the 1 or 2 (occasionally more if finances stretched and there were some more diamonds in the batch) you wanted to have.

    I believe MiK has a full money-back guarantee. So you can buy it, try it and if you don’t like it, they will refund you your money, no questions asked. Which to me is as good as a free trial but with the full feature software.

    If you jump up two instead of one on the Camelot scale it’s considered an energy boost. Only way to find out is to take a few tracks that are two apart 4A-6A, 10A-12A, 11A-01A for example. And listen. Then take the same lower number tracks and use them with tracks only one higher. See if you can spot the difference. That’s the energy boost.

    This is not a course (see the How To Digital DJ Fast course or the Masterclass for more info) and I can’t comment on what works best for psytrance as it’s not on my radar. Seems you have quite a few transitions down there. Filters perhaps?

    #2307281

    Alex Moschopoulos
    Participant

    They say mixed in key is more than key matching. It matches keys, energy levels of the tracks… It matches tracks those have phrases compatible to mix. What do you think? Is it only about key matching?

    I’m not sure. I reviewed MiK a looooooooong time ago when it was only about key matching. If anything, I found more benefit in Platinum Notes.

    Joey Santos did a look at MiK 7 last January. Have a look: http://www.digitaldjtips.com/2015/01/mixed-key-7-brings-auto-cue-points-serato-traktor/

    Do you say that trial and error method is the best way and sometimes mixing tracks even with incompatible keys can also sound well?

    I can’t say it’s for everyone, but bear in mind I started DJing in 1992, when all we had were analog vinyl turntables. Making a flowing set was more about knowing your music, which lends credence in not going nuts in amassing your collection. Having a 3-TB drive loaded with MP3s is meaningless if most of them you’ll never play.

    NOW…some remix services “back in the day” would put key on each tune, as some DJs did harmonic mixing with it. Most of us though more just experimented and found what worked.

    My experiences now are in making mixes to post online, and even then I’ll plan out the whole set just so I can determine what tunes go together. It’s not even about if the basslines or synths are in the same key, but more if the rhythms blend nicely and not sound like a mess, and especially if the arrangements meld. In trance especially, I like it when you’re blending, and it seems like one tune lets off at the same time the next tune kicks in. When the tunes are complimenting one another as opposed to clashing or fighting. That’s what comes from listening, planning, and experimenting.

    Now when I played live, I didn’t plan sets out, but would use those mixset sessions as guidance to get ideas of what to put together. In all honesty a crowd in a club or rave will be more forgiving of an “ok” blend versus on a recording (where they can listen over and over). Plus in a crowd you need to be able to change it up in a moment if you see they’re not feeling your stuff.

    I agree with you about the journey. Especially, In psytrance, i think it is the most important thing. I want to make all my transitions smooth and harmonic in order to have audience never come back from the journey he/she went in, till the end of the set.

    Play around. Try harmonic with MiK and trial and error. You’ll eventually find your flow and sound great. Push to be better, but always take a moment to congratulate yourself on what you do now.

    When I do trance (I more like uplifting and edgier harder stuff), I like to start off with a blast to grab the attention of the user, then go into a series of peaks and valleys throughout the whole set. I’ll break up the monotony of too many instrumental tunes by tossing in vocal trance, or even have a point in the set where 3-5 tunes are more psytrance and harder techno. I just don’t want to be boring or monotonous.

    I probably listen to my trance sets the most, but that’s more because I make them mainly for my own enjoyment. 🙂

    #2307721

    Implanted Soul
    Participant

    Hi,

    Thank you both for your replies. I found them really useful for my future practice.

    So the path i am going to follow is:

    1-) Using trial and error method with the aid of a tool like MIK and plan my sets earlier to my gig.
    2-) Using trial and error method with the aid of my ear and plan my sets earlier to my gig.
    3-) Improvising with experience at gigs without planning the sets 🙂

    #2308821

    Dom James
    Participant

    I feel youre concentrating on a technically excellent musical mix thats irrelevant, knowing your music and the feel of the tracks and the night you’re playing at for what people are going to go wild too next is what i find to be most important when deciding whats next!

    #2309051

    Implanted Soul
    Participant

    Hi Dom James,

    Yes, you are felling true about me concentrating on technically excellant mix because i am new to djing and i am currently unexperienced for that. The more experience i have, the more experimental work i will do. Also times i was not djing and only listening to psytrance, i noticed that it interrupts my trance mood while i am dancing when dj doesnt care for harmonious transitions between tracks. So my first aim is experimenting how it will effect the audience when it is taken into account.

    #2309401

    Chael
    Participant

    I think its just something that comes over time, trust your ears, if they think it sounds right chances are it is right. Start to think about the mood of a track – is it dark / light / hard / soft / percussive / synthy how does it make you feel? go through your collection and find something that makes you feel the same way then load them into your decks and experiment. A good technique which i use is by thinking of tracks in sets of 3. Find 3 tracks that go really well together and have similar elements (look at mood,genre,key,bpm,energy) then another 3 and another 3 etc etc then you will have a bunch of “mini sets” you can turn to at any time, you might end up with a set of banging tracks and a set not so banging but somewhere along the line you will find a track that can help bridge that gap – that slots in the middle and suddenly it all comes together. Im not saying stick to this rigidly of course but doing this process will get you to know your music collection and evetually it will come naturally to you

    #2309531

    Implanted Soul
    Participant

    Hi,

    Can you explain what people mean by saying “know your music collection”? Should i know the melodies of tracks or bassline types of tracks or keys of them or what?

    #2309921

    Dom James
    Participant

    So by collection i mean the tracks you choose to DJ with, there’s a lot said on this subject and considering I play 6 core genres i have around 500 tracks on my djing laptop(not a lot). So in my collection that I’d say I know well, if I have any track playing I’ll always be able to give you one track that will always go into it nicely, I think that comes through a lot of trial and error but thats the knowing your collection comment explained.

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