How to Use The Camelot Wheel to Mix in Key
As a DJ, it’s great to be able to mix between songs without missing a beat or losing the tempo. To take it to the next level, mixing songs in key allows you to transition between songs without any jarring scale jumps.
This phenomenon is termed as harmonic mixing. This article explores Harmonic mixing and The Chamelot Wheel.
Camelot Wheel for Mixing in Key
Whether you’re breaking into DJ-ing or a professional for many years, the concept of mixing tracks remains the same. Maintaining the momentum, energy levels, and timing are a few crucial elements that DJs should follow for pulling off successful shows.
However, doing so requires immense knowledge of music theory and trained ears on the DJ’s part. Understanding of music theory is very useful for DJs but software has made the process fairly easy without much knowledge in this area.
One of the crucial aspects when it comes to music as discussed above is the identification of key in the tracks. Skilled and experienced DJs with a well trained ear can easily gauge the keys in which they can mix the tracks with compatible keys, effortlessly.
But, what about those DJs who don’t have trained ears or music theory to back them up?
The answer is the Camelot wheel. This has proven to be a useful resource created by Mike Davis that allows DJs to understand the intricacies of harmonic mixing.
Camelot is a visual representation of 12 keys in major and minor scale designed in two concentric circles that shows the compatible keys in which you can mix harmonically.
The color-coding of the wheel allows the users to easily comprehend the compatible and related key in which they can move up and down without creating harmonic dissonance in their sets.
The wheel is designed in a 12-hour clock-like manner and each key is compatible and related to 4 other keys.
In its entirety, harmonic mixing is based on the simple concept of key signatures. The foundation of this concept lies in music theory.
A group of notes combines to form a cohesive key of the tracks. Additionally, Key signatures are of extremely important element when it comes to mixing the music. When two tracks are mixed and both are in the same key, they sound amazing together.
However, when tracks situated in totally different and opposite key are mixed, the end result is extremely jarring, choppy, unnatural, and sounds forced. Therefore, harmonic mixing is the technique of mixing tracks that fall in similar and related key in order to avoid harmonic incongruencies.
How to use Camelot Wheel
Consequently, the Camelot Wheel is a highly intuitive chart for DJs and makes the workflow extremely smooth. Once you understand the basics of the wheel and how the relative movement around it works, you have a dearth of options and combinations to play with.
- Before you move on to the Camelot, find a set of tracks that you aim to mix. Start with 2 to 3 tracks initially, then go ambitious as you like.
- Use a key detection software to identify and label the tracks.
- Once, you’ve identified the signature you can refer to Camelot Wheel to assess which tracks will meld beautifully and harmonically in your mix.
- For instance, your identified key of the track is 12 A, then you can move outward and mix with tracks that lie on 12 B or move forward or backward and mix with 1 A and 11 A.
- Remember to only move inward, outward, or to the adjacent keys for harmonic mixing.
- Camelot Wheel also allows you to experiment to create interesting mixes.
- For instance, if you want an energy boost in your mixes then jump up to semitones on the wheel; i.e. go from 12 A to 2 A.
- Once the keys are identified, you can easily set your playlists around the wheel or use keylock to create mixes within similar parameters.
Importance of Mixing in Key
Harmonic mixing or mixing in the key is an essential element for creating smooth mixes. Some might dismiss the importance of mixing in key, however, it allows DJs to work in confines in certain rules which reduces the risk of mixes sounding off.
To create a smooth and evenly transitioned mix that maintains the tempo and energy levels throughout, tracks must be in a similar or related key.
Jumping off from various energy level and key only makes the mix sounds inconsistent and jarring which can throw off audience immediately.
Key clash is the last thing you want on your mix since it can sound quite amateur.
The Debate Around Mixing Or Not Mixing in Key
There had been a time when established and experienced DJs did not need tools to identify the key for tracks. These professional DJs had skilled and trained ears to mix tracks that went great with each other.
Therefore, a section of musicians and DJs believe that mixing tracks should come with intuition rather than strictly adhering to the rules of staying within the key.
The idea that creating a mix is an intuitive process is quite valid since much of the learning for DJs come from live performances.
Therefore, many purists believe that rather than staying in the bound of key compatibility and risking creativity the mixes should focus on the floor vibe, energy level, and use of right track whether they are off-key or not. However, this approach requires a trained ear and ample knowledge of music theory.
Whether you should mix key or not, depends on your skills and confidence level as a DJ.
Key Detection Software
Since we have discussed at length about mixing in key and the debate around it, still the truth remains that DJs nowadays frequently utilize key detection software for better and harmonic mixes.
There is a whole diverse range of key detection software available that helps DJs to identify and label tracks while creating mixes. A few widely recognized and industry-standard key detection software includes Mixed in Key, Traktor DJ 2, Keyfinder, and Djay Pro.
Difference Between Camelot Wheel and Circle of Fifths
The Camelot wheel and circle of fifths can cause a sense of confusion among some and rightly so. Let’s put it this way that Camelot Wheel and Circle of fifth are essentially similar systems with some differences in terms of technicality among both.
The circle of fifths is more suitable musicians whereas, the Camelot wheel is suitable for DJs who are into creating mixes and mashups. Both the wheels essentially utilize a similar design, but both differ in terms of presentation.
Circle of fifths is a more detailed in-depth version that delves into the relationship between key signatures, scales, tonality, and sharp/flat notes along with chord progression.
Whereas, Camelot Wheel is an easy to understand vivid, color-coded key representation system that includes less technical details.
DJs do not need excessive information presented in the Circle of Fifth chart since they are only concerned with the key compatibility of tracks to create mixes.
The Camelot Wheel is an effective tool for DJs to create stunning and engaging mixes. It is somewhat essential for DJs that the mixes are harmonic, and the beats blend well without any harsh transition to keep the audiences entertained.
With so many available software for key detection, Camelot Wheel, and DJ-ing sets, the job of creating harmonious and well-blended mixes is easier than ever.