Mixed in Key Live: What is it?
While a background in music theory can be a mighty useful foundation for sonic creativity, more often than not we as songwriters and track-builders let our ears – and our feelings – make the all-important chordal and melodic choices. Some of the greatest musicians of all time lacked a theoretical education, including The Beatles, Prince and Elton John.
That said, unpicking what you’ve created after-the-fact, and noting the keys, chords, melodies and riffs can be time-consuming. So too can finding those corresponding samples, or instructing other musicians to write around your tracks when you’re trying to get something finished within a pressurised time-frame.
Mixed in Key has form in this domain. Originating as DJ-oriented key-detection software back in 2006, the company’s flagship software has been entrusted to detect the key and BPM of tracks and samples played within a plethora of DJ software ecosystems.
Now, the company has augmented the very same algorithms to shape a much simpler – and more universally usable – version: Mixed in Key Live.
Mixed in Key Live: Performance and verdict
Keeping things refreshingly simple, Mixed in Key Live works mainly as a tiny desktop program. It scans incoming audio signals and provides users instantaneously with the key, BPM and per-note information.
This small, uncluttered UI – prioritising the speed of communication above all – is an able ally for both songwriting, mixing/re-mixing and sampling.
Developed alongside acclaimed multi-skilled DJ and producer Kshmr, the very aim of Mixed in Key Live is to save time, and let its under-the-hood do the hard musical decoding while your focus remains on creating.
It’s an aim we can get on board with, and one which the software promptly succeeds at. Using it while working on a sprawling Logic track, which has been badly re-pitched at a much earlier point in its life, Mixed in Key Live tells us what bizarre key we’re now living in.
From its initial position on the top Mac menu bar, the tiny application can be floated unobtrusively over currently open music software or DAW. Expanding it out presents a graphic note visualiser, where we can see every single note within a chord or a track, and that note’s relative dominance next to the other.
While Mixed in Key’s promotion incorporates logos of several platforms, like Spotify, YouTube, Ableton Live and Logic Pro X, in actuality it scans any and all system audio currently playing on a host Mac. Its algorithms are adept at working in those ecosystems though.
Testing it in Spotify confirms that key detection is instantaneous, having no trouble unpacking hard musical material, be it the twinkly pulse of Jon Hopkins or sludgy metal of Deftones.
Such a drag
The second pillar of Mixed in Key Live is its eagerness to sift through your files too, dragging and dropping your sample and loop files into its File Analysis area results in a quickfire scan (which you can see the swift progress of). So, if you’re sitting on a mountain of disorganised samples, here’s a handy route back to some key and BPM-stacked unity.
Though Mixed in Key Live is a small and relatively simple piece of software, the speed and precision of its theory-snapping algorithm is a bewilderingly huge asset that we never quite realised we needed. So too is its application as a sample analyser, reducing incalculable amounts of time.
While programs such as this continue to prove that deep theoretical insight isn’t a prerequisite for musical creativity, it does remind us of how little we actually know!
MusicRadar verdict: Mixed in Key Live is an uncomplicated studio asset, particularly for those who need a hand with theory.
Mixed in Key Live: The web says
"Mixed In Key Live delivers accurate and impressive key detection, instantly, through drag and dropping anything from one shot samples to whole songs."
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Mixed in Key Live: Specifications
- Supported file formats: .aif/.aiff .flac .m4a (.aac and .alac) .mp3 .mp4 .wav.
- CONTACT: Mixed In Key