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Guide to DJing - Part.6 Harmonic mixing (Core Skills)

In part 6 of creative guide to DJing, we will discuss Harmonic mixing which we used to call back in days without availability of this technology "Know your F**king Music".

I started my musical journey in a very young age learning to play piano and was the main pianist playing background in our special school stage drama shows throughout my school years. I started djing during my school years when I started clubbing and getting more influenced by circle. Back in days, the internet was on a dialup or atleast in my home country, we weren't living in the global village we know today, information and trends were slow-moving, in about between 2005 and 2007 it all changed with the tech bubble.

Back in those days, we used to depend so heavily on what we had, for example, let me demonstrate, DJ/Producer X is about 25 years old, lives in Bahrain, has a residency in X club or lounge, a radio show on DI.FM just got booked to play in a festival or a promoter's event, his last DJ tracklist had these songs in them... Let me put it into perspective, his/her musical style was a follows, he liked to play tracks with dark energetic drums, but with bright well rounded upbeat melodies (his dream to get booked in Ibiza), some songs all had some ambient airy vocals, which has some commercial trait about his sets, that landed the DJ/producer a gig at a festival. If you can read between the lines, this was next summer's trending sound, being brewed months in advance. Still happens to this day, every summer, almost every year, some DJ/producers are responsible for "that sound". I knew back then that DJ X would play these types of tracks and these types of tracks fit together nicely, and these other tracks don't fit with those tracks from DJ Y. This was essentially our ear and gut telling us, yup this and this track fits together nicely, and they should be played in that order. I didn't even know this was harmonic mixing, but it is.

Today we got a few tools that do that for us. Again technology is great, but it will never replace a skill, it will always complement or elevate it.

Without going too technical and musical on this, there is a software that stands out and that is Mixedinkey, its been around for many years and has gotten super good, it will you in the start to elevate your mixes by labelling the harmonic key of the songs you like, and based on the key it assigns, you have options on which songs to play next. Again do not follow this blindly, just like everything else here, build that skill, let the technology speed up or help you in this process, nothing can be substitute a gut feeling or a happy accident.

So Mixedinkey has what it calls the Camelot Wheel, which is based on the circle of fifths.

All music is either in a minor or major key, most dance music is in minor, some genres are in major (the majority of the tracks), this has to do with the producers creating them and the trends. Look at the chart above, you can only play adjacent keys, for example, you are currently playing a track with 6m (in some softwares it is called 6A) you can go to 6d (in some softwares it is called 6B) or you can go to 7m (7A) or 5m(5A), skipping a key you will not be harmonically 'correct' but can be used to drop energy or lift energy which I will explain in another blog post.

Use this, to guide you, when you need to, or use this as a training tool to train your ears. I just miss the old days, where you were more intimate with the idea of how one's experiences and location influenced the key and harmony of one's creations.

In my next blog post I will share some of my tips and tricks of reading a dance-floor and controlling your crowd.


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