Harmonic Mixing with Traktor: Unravelled

Imedium_11338203053.jpgf you’re a DJ and you haven’t heard of Harmonic Mixing, then you’ve likely been living in a cave. Just because you’ve heard of it however, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve began to implement it into your DJ Sets. We’ve already touched on Mixed in Key, but haven’t yet delved into Harmonic Mixing with Traktor, so now is the time.

Traktor’s Built in Key Analysis

Traktor has key analysis built right in to the software yet operates slightly differently to Mixed in Key. Before you can see the key of your tracks in Traktor, you must first analyze them. This means adding them to your collection as the key information will not be read directly from an iTunes playlist.

You can set Traktor to analyze them upon import, or as you play them, or you can select sections of tracks to analyze all at once.

Once they are analyzed the key column will populate with letters and numbers such as 1d, 1m, 2d, 2m, 3m, 3d, and so on, right through to 12.

  • The ‘d‘ represents Major chords. These chords are happy sounding and have an uplifting energy.
  • The ‘m‘ represents Minor chords. These chords are a little more melancholy, creating a deeper mood.
  • The numbers represent the actual notation of the chords, also known as tonic scale (the tone).

In the interests of simplicity, we will not be going into the actual chord representation, because we really don’t need to.

I like keeping things simple!

How to Best Use Harmonic Mixing in Traktor

There are only 2 things really to keep in mind when using Traktor’s harmonic mixing tools:

  • a minor track (m) can be mixed with a major track (d) so long as the numerical value is the same – This will change the mood, from melancholy to happy, or vice versa if you go the other way. For example: 2m works great with 2d OR 11m with 11d, and so on.
  •  A numerical value can mix with an adjacent numerical value so long as the letter is the same – meaning that an 11m, will mix nicely with a 10m, or a 12m. The further apart the number goes, the less likely it is to sound good.

At either ends of the scale, 1 and 12, the pattern continues as if in a circle, meaning that a 1m will mix into a 12m, or a 12d will mix into a 1d.

Secret Search Function

Whether you are planning a set or in a live situation, there is an extremely simple way of finding tracks that work well harmonically with the current track you are playing:

If you look in the track browser in the key column, you will notice a small magnifying glass – This is your secret weapon!

contextual-search

Clicking the magnifying glass, known as ‘contextual search‘, will cause the browser to display ALL tracks that will work harmonically with the track in which you clicked. Note below that after clicking the 8m, Traktor presents you with 8m, 8d, 9m and 7m (appearing off screen in this shot).

suggested-key-matches

Now depending on the route you want your mix to go and how many tracks ahead you are planning, will dictate which key you choose.

Let’s say you are playing a 3m track and you have a 2d track that you want to play. It would be a good idea to bridge the two with either a 3d track or a 2m track.

Let’s take a look at the set I played for Summer Solstice:

harmonic-mixing-in-traktor

This set, although not completely organized by harmonics, shows you the kind of path that works.

The transitions with the red box around them are not strictly harmonically matched, but by avoiding too much overlap of the main melodies seemed to bypass the need for harmonics and it sounded good to me, which is all that matters.

Video Tutorial for Harmonic Mixing with Traktor

For those that prefer to learn by watching I put together a quick three minute video outlining what I have said above.

Wrapping Up

Once you have started to use this method however, there is a chance that you might get sucked into the trap of only ever wanting to perform a mix that has been harmonically ‘approved’. This is a dangerous place to be, as you then end up being a slave to the system and lose your own ability to decipher sounds for yourself.

Becoming too reliant on software will limit you as a DJ, always trust your own inner guidance when it comes to what sounds good.

You will also discover that by being too reliant on this method of mixing will cause you to run out of tracks that “work” (in accordance to the harmonics), running you into a dead end and frantically searching for a track that ‘just HAS to be a 3m!’.

Following the guidelines introduced by harmonic mixing will produce some awesome sounding mixes, but don’t think that these guidelines are solid rules, they are not. They are simple guidelines. Feel your tracks out and understand what sounds good, you might find a 7d works amazingly with a 12m, don’t limit your creativity.

Happy Harmonics….

Other Reading
You might also like:
Mixed in Key Review
Remix Decks Basics
Recording Samples on the S4

Take the Complete Guide to Traktor Remix Decks

9 comments

  1. Great article, thanks a lot!
    I have a question. It seems like sometimes when I load a track, Traktor analyze it again and every time I loaded. What Im doing wrong? Thanks a lot!

  2. Great article, Alan! I never touched that looking glass before.🙂
    Since Contextual Search seems to be focussed on key and not BPM, how will changing BPM to sync speed of songs change the key and what is your advice to deal with this? (f.e. maximum delta in acceptable BPM difference?)

    • You lock the key in Traktor on each deck, then when you adjust pitch, the key doesn’t change. No vocals should sound like chipmonks at fast speed. Great feature of Traktor. Cheers!

  3. Thanks for the article, but I disagree with this advice. The best mixing would be via the Circle of Fifths, and Relative Key. Check them out on Wikipedia.

    This type of “key mixing” depends on the length, notes used, melody, and harmony. If you raise/lower a “number,” or just switch from major/minor, there could be a lot of dissonance in between.

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