Harmonic Mixing Basics – Camelot Wheel
Harmonic Mixing Basics
How To Mix Music Harmonically In Key
Harmonic mixing consists of two elements: knowing the key of every song that you play and knowing which keys are compatible.
But before we continue, here is a briefing of the terms needed to understand more about harmonic mixing.
A distinct unit of music with an assigned number of beats. The house, techno, trance and progressive dance tracks almost always have four beats to a measure (4/4 time), though rarely tracks are done in 3/4 or 6/8 time. Most songs or tracks are usually built on 8 measure phrases with the chorus containing those 8 measures (sometimes repeating for another 8 measures: 8 + 8), while the verses are often 16 or 24 measures or more in length.
A term used in overlaying records where the DJ mixes in correct musical phrasing, or set of measures. For example, an 8-measure track intro can be neatly overlaid on an 8-measure break.
Keep the beats synchronized while in harmonic mixing.
The tempo is the speed at which musical notes are executed, commonly expressed in the DJ world as the number of beat per minutes. BPM.
When a DJ mixes in key (harmonic mixing), he or she has to work with the PA and the BPM to achieve a harmonically pure mix. You can usually mix within 1 or 2 BPMs differential and still get an excellent mix, but beyond that point a quarter note or an unpleasant dissonance set in. Keep in mind that unless you own a Pioneer mixer with PA, as soon as you pitch a track more than 1.5 + or – on your Technics 1200 MK2 the key can change. Very dangerous in harmonic mixing so beware.
A scale of notes encompassing the entire range of notes within an octave in our Western 12 note system: Ab (A flat), A, Bb (B flat), B, C, Db (D flat), Eb (E flat), F, Gb (G flat), G. I use flat in referring to the individual note and keys for simplification of reference, but note that you can also refer to them with the use of sharp: Ab refers to the same note as G# (G sharp), Bb is the same as A# (A sharp), etc. These notes that can be written as either sharps or flats appear on the piano keyboard as the black notes between the white notes, and are known as accidentals.Important to understand in harmonic mixing.
The key of a song identifies the family of notes that are found in its particular scale. Though the chromatic scale contains 12 different notes from Ab to G, the individual scale identified with a particular key signature contains only seven different notes. For example, the C major scale contains all 7 different white notes on the piano keyboard: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, whereas the B major scale uses all the black notes, so that five out of seven different notes in it’s scale are flat. Key to Harmonic Mixing.
A key change creates a lifting of all music and a chord by a measure degree to create further excitement or musical tension in a song. Modulations most commonly raise the key by a half step or a whole step. For example, the C major family of notes can be lifted a half step to Db major, or a whole step to D major. A song can also modulate from major to minor, or vice versa. Harmonic mixing!
The DJ can create the modulation by harmonic mixing from one record to the next from one key to another key by suddenly and cleanly slamming into the next record, “slam” or “slip cue”, or with the help of a 4 or 8 measure (rhythm only) beginning on the incoming record. For a perfect modulation mix you must remember to never allow the incoming bass line or any type of notes to play on top of the outgoing track that has any type of notes happening for harmonic mixing.
A section of music where the strong rhythm drop out, or in the beginning of a track before the kick drum or heavy percussion begins, such as high hats or any type of ticks or as in the case where the vocals are the only indicators of measured rhythm. Airbeats can be used in overlaying, but be careful to overlay accurately or you may have what is commonly know as a “train wreck” when the kick drum on the incoming track begins.
Three or more musical tones sounding in a combination simultaneously, with the lowest tone usually considered the “tonic” or root of the chord.
The lowest tones heard in a musical arrangement, usually played in house or dance music on bass guitar or a bass synthesizer. Also very useful in harmonic mixing.
Sounding the musical tones of a chord in a sequence, rather than simultaneously. Also in harmonic mixing.
A musical tone that would have a pitch found in between any two half steps in the 12 tone chromatic scale. If two record in the same key are mixed with more than 1 or 2 BPM differential between them, the pitches can be thrown off into this middle ground, resulting in a strange sour sound, rather than in a harmonic mixing sound.
Accenting of beat or rhythms in a piece of music that are usually unaccented.
Harmonic Mixing Simplified with Camelot Wheel Chart
(Mark Davis created the Camelot wheel)
Many professional DJ’s move around the Camelot wheel with every mix in key.
To select a compatible song, choose a same key code or within one “hour” of your current key code.
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 will be smooth every time in harmonic mixing.
You can also mix between inner and outer wheels if you stay in the same “hour.”
For example, try harmonic mixing from 8A to 8B, and notice the change in melody as you go from Minor to Major.
Harmonic mixing is a simple technique, but it opens up a world of creativity.
You will play creative DJ sets and discover interesting song combinations.
Always try to stay in harmonic mixing for better outcome.
It’s easy to get started with any music genre.
Check out how to make a good DJ Playlist with harmonic mixing here for some more reading if you like.