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Tech Talk: Mixed In Key… For Free!

I know you’ve heard all about the software that helps you create better mixes by telling you the key signature of each song you feed into it. Supposedly, you buy this software, load your songs into it, and figure out what songs/instrumentals/acapellas sound good together. The most popular and commonly supported software at the moment is Mixed In Key. Mixed In Key, according to their website, is currently going for $58. While that may not be a lot of money for some people, I’m sure you’re wondering if you can have access to the same technology for free. The answer is yes! Even better news…they’re all available for both PC & Mac (although methods of key detection may vary). Here are your options:

KeyFinder –

I find this software to be very accurate and it’s publisher even claims it’s sometimes more accurate than Mixed In Key! Wow! Here’s an overview of the main batch analysis screen:

Here you can see some sample iTunes, Traktor, and Serato playlists. Yes it reads them all! That’s why it’s #1 on my list! All you have to do is load the desired playlist, click on “Run Batch Analysis” and you’re done! You can drag & drop right from Finder or Windows Explorer using the “drag and drop” feature on the top left. You can also go to the settings panel to determine whether it will write the key to the MP3 file’s id3 tag or not from the settings screen:

In comparison to the more fully featured and funded Mixed In Key, it will take a little getting used to but it’ll be well worth your time if you want similar results at no cost!

Traktor 2.6.1
(It’s a paid program but feature is included in the software)

I may be one of the few DJs in the U.S. that use Traktor over Serato but hey guess what? Key detection is freeeeeeeeeeeee and already included in the latest version! Check out this screenshot:

BPM and key detection right at your fingertips within the program! The letters and numbers might be throwing you off a little bit. Here’s a visual that may help you out:

Most key detection software is based on this “Camelot Easymix Wheel” which gives every key signature a number and letter name. Each key corresponds to a number and letter. For example, we could say either BbM (B-Flat Major) or 6B. Or Both (as you will notice with KeyFinder) Same thing. The idea is to go +1 hour, -1 hour, or within the same hour without jumping around in too many crazy steps (based on the “Circle Of Fifths” for all the musicians out there) and it should sonically sound good. I was very excited to learn that Traktor 2.6.1 came with this feature included! Take that, Serato!


Rapid Evolution –

This is the program I am the least familiar with but it’s a powerful tool nonetheless. Version 3 is still in Beta testing so most people opt for version 2. The choice is up to you. It can detect key but also BPM, which KeyFinder cannot. So this may be advantageous to you if you need a tool that can do both. It also writes the key and BPM into the MP3’s id3 tag for you so it will show up in any program that can read them. Here are some blank screenshots of both versions:

Version 3

Version 2

In my opinion, Rapid Evolution would take a little more getting used to than KeyFinder & Traktor but I think it would be worth it to figure out this free and powerful program.

In conclusion, which one should you use?

Great question! That’s totally up to you! In my case, since Traktor is already my DJ program of choice I will use the included features of my wonderful program. I also use Ableton Live to produce so I find KeyFinder’s “write to filename” feature very useful since Ableton only reads filenames and not id3 tags. If you use both Serato and Traktor, KeyFinder would be very useful to you because it reads all playlist formats. If you’re looking for very detailed features, BPM detection, and more options I’d go with Rapid Evolution. Here’s an accuracy comparison chart of all the programs I’ve mentioned, including Mixed In Key:

All questions and comments are welcome.



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