How to mix in key with Camelot Wheel – A complete Guide
Mixing ‘in key’ is often referred to as ‘harmonic mixing’, and one of the easiest ways to do it is by consulting the ‘Camelot Wheel’ or the ‘Camelot System’. Today we are going to talk at length about “mixing in key” is, what the Camelot Wheel is, how you can integrate it into your mixing process, what are some of the things that you should be on the lookout for, and how to avoid most common mistakes when mixing ‘in key’.
The complexity (or the simplicity) of harmonic mixing leans on the choice of tracks for the most part, but there is still quite a bit of thing that beginners and first-timers might overlook. Without any further ado, let’s get straight to it.
How to mix in key with Camelot Wheel?
Basically, you’ll need to either buy a physical illustration or print your own Camelot Wheel before you get down to mixing ‘in key’. You can always find a graphic on the net, but switching tabs every couple of minutes will certainly make your job a lot harder.
After acquiring the Camelot wheel, you simply need to take a glance at it whenever you want to mix in key; check the song structure of the tracks you want to mash up or blend, and consult the Wheel about whether or not these could be put together.
What is ‘mixing in key’?
Generally, the term ‘mixing in key’ is a slang term for ‘harmonic mixing’. It earned such popularity over the past decades that certain brands have specialized in making special kinds of software that automate the process, so in that regard, Mixing in key also refers to ‘Mixed in Key’ software produced and refined by the brand with the same name.
When we talk about harmonic ‘mixing in key’, this is actually a technique of mixing two tracks that feature the same or vastly similar song structure in terms of the key they are composed in.
In a nutshell, a bit of music theory and a good ear are both required to mix the tracks ‘in key properly’. You’ll need to pick suitable tracks for this kind of technique while also keeping in mind the track’s tempo, instruments, and several other musical elements.
At its base, mixing in key requires a mixing console, and the best way to do it is to buy a model that features a built-in Camelot Wheel. That being said, it’s not just that not all models have one, but different models feature differently designed wheels, not all of which are exactly ‘accurate’ from the standpoint of music theory.
What is the Camelot Wheel?
The Camelot Wheel (or the Camelot System) is a graphical representation of keys and chords, as well as how they ‘react’ to each other. The Camelot System was invented by a person named Mark Davis; the patent currently belongs to Mixed in Key, after which the phrase was ‘coined’, replacing the obsolete term ‘harmonic mixing’.
The Wheel is essentially a color code where every key has its own color and code number spanning from 1 to 12, resembling a traditional clock. The colors have no other function apart from helping people differentiate different key groups.
You might be under the impression that the colors actually refer to the ‘brightness’ or the ‘warmth’ of the keys, but that’s usually a completely subjective matter that has little relevance to the Camelot system.
The Wheel begins with the number 12, where 12A number is assigned to the D-Flat Minor, and 12B is assigned to the E Major key. The segments with the same number represent the most compatible keys – A-Flat is the most compatible with B Major, G Minor is the most compatible with B-Flat Major. Still, on the flip side, D Major is the least compatible key with D-Flat Major, while C Major is the least consistent key with E-Flat Minor and F-Sharp Major.
The rule of proximity is applied with the Camelot System; segments of music keys that are most compatible are right next to each other while the keys they are least compatible with are on the opposite end of the wheel.
The essential function of the Camelot System is to help people who are somewhat versed in music theory (mostly DJs) mix and mash compatible tracks. It gives a quick, clear, and easy representation of all music keys and their interaction in terms of compatibility.
Most common mistakes beginners and first-time DJs tend to make while mixing in key with Camelot Wheel:
Although the Camelot system was purposefully designed to be as easy to use as possible, there are still a lot of mistakes that can be made while using it. Most of these mistakes do not revolve around the System itself; rather they’re based on the quality and accuracy of the software. Check out DJ Endo’s analysis on how accurate is Mixed in Key.
Not using Mixed in Key software
Essentially, you are free to use whichever mixing console and software you want. But the only ‘reliable’ program is the one that comes with Mixed in Key software; obviously, this brand has developed this system, and the accuracy other models have to offer is not exactly great. With this in mind, it simply might take you more time to find a brand that has a reliable Camelot Wheel other than Mixed in Key.
Going ‘by the colors’
A bit of music theory is needed to grasp what the Camelot System is about, and trying to follow it by ‘going by the colors’ is a huge mistake. The wheel should be used as a ‘helping tool’. Learn the necessary information about music keys and their compatibility before using the wheel.
Exemptions from the rule
Certain songs are simply not suitable for mixing with other tracks. For example, songs that are composed of multiple chromatic scales are, according to the Camelot System, both compatible and ‘not’ compatible with other tracks written in the same (dominant) key at the same time.
Alternatively, certain songs were composed in such a way that they shift in and out between different keys. You can still consult the Wheel and mix these tracks with others, but finding a track that will be compatible with them might be a hard thing to do. Luckily, you don’t need to mash entire songs – you can always just pick out certain fragments that you think are fitting.
Are Harmonic mixing and ‘mixing in key’ different?
No, the terms harmonic mixing and mixing in key refer to the same mixing technique. The phrase alludes to the brand that invented (or was at least partially responsible for the invention of) the Camelot wheel, so in that regard, ‘harmonic mixing’ is the original term while “mixing in key” is a slang term used to describe the same DJ technique.
Do you need to understand the basics of music theory to use the Camelot System/Wheel?
In short words, yes, the basic knowledge of music theory is required in order to use the Camelot System. As simple as it is in terms of design, the Wheel will not be able to help you if you can’t pinpoint the music key the songs you want to mix are in.
The Camelot System is almost entirely useless to laymen musicians as it merely states which keys are compatible and which are not. In fact, not being able to discern major keys from minor keys (as the most basic foundations of music theory) can be detrimental to harmonic mixing.
Beginners could eventually try to ‘experiment’ with songs that are in keys they can’t understand or distinguish, but at the end of the day, the Camelot System is not even needed for such ventures.
Are there different versions of the Camelot Wheel?
The original Camelot Wheel is coined by the “Mixed in Key” brand in collaboration with Mark Davis, and it is the only ‘official’ Camelot Wheel System. Various other brands have either bought licenses to use it, but in terms of legality, no other brand than Mixed in Key can ‘release’ different versions of the wheel.
The software that utilizes the Camelot System, on the other hand, is within the bounds of different legislative branches, so in that regard, different types of programs exist that obviously operate based on different mechanisms and aesthetics.
What is the Camelot wheel used for? Is it useful to professionals?
The Camelot System aims to help musicians and DJs mix two (or more) tracks together that are in the same or similar (compatible) keys.
It is useful to professionals as a reminder, and it is beneficial for intermediate-level musicians and DJs who have a basic understanding of musical keys and theory. Sadly, the Camelot System is almost utterly useless to people who do not possess a basic knowledge of music theory and keys. Still, it could be used as a tool for memorizing the names of different keys, at least.
Check out some Mixed in key alternative software.
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