With enough practice and getting to know your tunes inside and out, you will know which tunes go together and which ones don’t. To really master the craft of DJing, it is very important for you to put the time, patience, and effort into learning about harmonic mixing, because that will add a complete other dimension to your mixes.
Harmonic mixing is the art of mixing tunes together in perfect harmony, using the basic rules of key and chord compatibility. A lot of DJs are too lazy to take this next step, but I can assure you that if you do, it will be well worth it. You will go from being a good DJ to being a respected and great DJ, instantly. If you think of a band and imagine how dreadful it is when a singer is out of tune, it is exactly the same with DJing.
Harmonic Mixing is an advanced technique used by top DJs all over the world. By mixing tracks that are in the same or related keys, harmonic mixing enables long blends and mash-ups. The goal is to eliminate key clashes.
Harmonic mixing consists of two elements: knowing the key of every song that you play and knowing which keys are compatible.
To get started use Mixed In Key each will has a key detection tool and will automatically scan your MP3 and WAV files. They will detect the key and BPM of every song.
The First Mix
To help DJs learn harmonic mixing, Mark Davis created the Camelot wheel, a visual representation of which musical keys are compatible with each other:
On the Camelot wheel, each musical key is assigned a keycode number from one to twelve, like hours on a clock.
For the first mix, we recommend mixing two songs that have the same keycode, like 8A and 8A. This will sound like a professional mash-up made in the studio, even if you are mixing on live DJ equipment.
Moving Around The Wheel
Most professional DJs move around the Camelot wheel with every mix.
For a perfect mix, choose a keycode within one "hour" of your current keycode. If you are in 8A, you can play 7A, 8A or 9A next. If you are in 12A, you can play 11A, 12A or 1A. This mix will be smooth every time.
You can also mix between inner and outer wheels if you stay in the same "hour." For example, try mixing from 8A to 8B, and notice the change in melody as you go from Minor to Major.
The Recommended Approach
We recommend going clock-wise or counter-clockwise around the wheel, changing key every couple of songs. For example, we may play: 10A > 10A > 10B > 9B > 8B > 8A > 7A > 6A for a 100% harmonic DJ set. It never gets boring because there is a music progression happening during the entire mix.
Scan your files using Mixed In Key then use the Camelot Wheel to pick compatible tunes. Mix them on your favorite DJ equipment. Result: Harmonic Mixing.
Obviously learning how to mix in key is an advanced DJ technique, if your not advanced enough in your learning to start mixing in key just yet that is fine just make a mental note that mixing in key is a future step you are going to need to take to truly become a world class DJ.
A massive shout out to Yakov Vorobyev of harmonic mixing fame for the original post!