As both a DJ and composer, the Circle of Fifth or the Camelot Key Wheel system — amongst others — have always been handy tools for me to write and mix music harmonically. There are just too many options in chord progressions than I could ever have in my memory (maybe you can, but I don’t). Plus, I personally use 3 different DJ applications and 3 different DAWs for music production alone, for different purposes.
So yeah, I could always have a look at above mentioned helpers to orientate myself through the notes and chords jungle, in case needed, which is not always the case. I have the most common chords in my head. Just not always.
As a composer I’m fine with the musical key/chord system, i.e. “A minor“, but as a DJ it isn’t very likely (for me, again) to remember all the musical chords to know what to mix into what. So, smart people came up with different systems like the Camelot Keys (Mixed in Key, which I prefer, because of its accuracy) or the Open Keys (Traktor). Which is basically a range of 12 keys for each gender, major and minor chords. “A minor” is 8A (Camelot Key) or 1m (Open Key). In a nutshell: if you mix 1A into 2A (and so forth, up until 12A and then into 1A again) you’re generally fine. Your mixing transitions will always be harmonic, no key clashes. This example is the very basic part of harmonic mixing or composing. And also a bit boring if you do that all the time. It becomes really good and interesting when you use all the options within the world of chord progressions.
What I was missing in all those years of composing and DJing was ONE chart (to rule them all) that shows me ALL key/chord systems and their equivalents, their piano keys (very useful for composing) and their harmonic keys/chords. I searched the net in order to find out if someone did this, but no one did. At least I couldn’t find it.
So, I did it myself. 8 hours work and I had what I was looking for. And since I guess this could be useful for every musician/DJ, I want to share it here with you. This is how it looks like (click to open the full resolution file):
You can download the high-res JPG above, print it out and use it for yourself, if you like. Here’s a PDF and the original EXCEL version of it, in case you want to edit/modify something for your needs (let me know when you find mistakes or when you improved it!):
WHAT DOES IT DO, HOW DO I USE THIS?
Let’s take an example for a composing or mixing situation:
The chord we’re working with at the moment is A minor (or 8A, or 1m). What shall be next? Everything in the table below — around the 8A — is possible, it will be harmonic. The closer to the 8A it is the more harmonic it’ll be.
Western Music Scale
Piano Chord Keys
DJ Keys up/down
|D minor||D | F | A||7A||12m||Fourth (Sub-Dominant)||-1|
|C major||C | E | G||8B||1d||Relative major|
A | C | E
Same key (tonic)
|E minor||E | G | B||9A||2m||Fifth (Dominant)||1|
|B-flat/♭ minor||A# | C# | F||3A||8m||Low energy boost||7|
|B minor||B | D | F#||10A||3m||High energy boost (supertonic)||2|
|A-flat/♭ minor||G | B | D#||1A||6m||Low energy drain||-7|
|G minor||G | A# | D||6A||11m||High energy drain (leading tone)||-2|
But your decision what to do next is depending on the purpose. What kind of “feel” do you want to give your mix or composition?
Here are some possible chord progression scenarios, working with the Camelot Keys (which I prefer, at least for DJing), starting with 8A:
That’s how I call it, it’s kind of a “secure standard”, nothing special, it’s just flowing along:
8A > 9A > 10A … 12A > 1A > 2A and so forth, until you’re at 7A and back into 8A again
You can’t go wrong with this one, you just rock “around the clock”. Depending on the energy level of actual music/sequence used, transitions changes can be very energetic, though.
The “Little Ocean Wave”
The energy of this chord progression has the shape of an ocean wave or a sawtooth:
8A > 9A > 11A (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 12A > 1a and so forth
You can do this once in a while to give your mix a little energy boost, which makes it more interesting than the “River”.
The “Big Ocean Wave”
8A > 9A > 4A (+7 DJ keys, low energy boost) > 6A (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 7a and so forth
Here you have a longer and progressive wave of energy rising, until it falls back to normal at 7A again, just like an ocean wave crashing and the next one building up again.
The “Wild Ocean”
It’s a bit stormy, and the waters stirred up, but everything is still harmonic and in place. This is the most “interesting” way of mixing, things shouldn’t become boring:
8A > 8B (relative major) > 9A > 4A (+7 DJ keys, low energy boost) > 4B (relative major) > 6B (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 7B > 2B (+7 DJ keys, low energy boost) > 4B (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 5B and so forth
Music used: Third Son & Wally Lopez “Geometry” (8A) > Ingo Vogelmann “Empire On Fire” (8B) > Antrim “The Mystic Lovers” (9A) > Michael A “Storm” (4A) > Raw District Feat. Jinadu “Taking You Down” (Habischman Remix) (4B)
I could make up a hell of a lot more examples now (with even sillier names), but you most probably already get the idea. The options are really endless, and you’ll always be composing or DJing harmonic. The above scenarios are just examples. Find out what works for yourself, I’m sure you’ll have fun experimenting with chord progressions, using this nifty chart. Oh, and don’t mind the silly names … it’s just about giving things a name. 😉
It’s free! Download, share, modify, re-publish and generally do with it whatever you want. But please, don’t pretend you did this. Credit would be nice (and fair), but is no condition.
Now, if you’d head over to bandcamp and buy my music, that’ll be rather nice:
Update, January 2017
ocenaudio is a cross-platform, easy to use, fast and functional audio editor. It is the ideal software for people who need to edit and analyze audio files without complications. ocenaudio also has powerful features that will please more advanced users.
That’s right. This little piece of open software is actually a full-featured audio editing monster. And it even looks sexy.
- Real-time preview of effects
- Cross-platform support (Mac, Windows, Linux, and all in 32 or 64 bit!)
- Multi-selection for delicate editions
- Efficient editing of large files (very important for looong DJ sets!)
- Fully featured spectrogram
- VST support!
As a matter of fact, it even has features the mighty Steinberg Wavelab hasn’t. Totally love it. 🙂
I’m going to use this blog to post free stuff and tutorials for producers and engineers from time to time. And I will only talk about stuff I use myself. 😉
I used both plugins on my latest album “THE GREAT ESCAPE“. And all productions of the past 1 year, actually.
So, today I want to introduce 2 plugins from KLANGHELM to you. They’re not only free but amazing, and apart from this, all their products (also the paid ones) are excellent, but this is another topic.
IVGI can deliver very soft and subtle saturation, that feels at home on the master buss. It is equally capable of very dense and dirty distortion effects to spice up single tracks. IVGI’s base sound is comparable to the DESK mode in the big brother SDRR.
Just as SDRR, IVGI reacts dynamically to the input signal. Even the modeled fluctuations react dynamically and also change depending on the drive setting, so that it doesn’t get in the way of the SOUND. Stereo tracks benefit from it’s modeled crosstalk behavior. Just as its big brother SDRR, IVGI features a “Controlled Randomness”, which determines the internal drift and variance inside the unit. It contributes to the liveliness and realness of IVGI’s saturation character. All internal processes are modulated to some extent to make this possible.
IVGI gives you a sensible amount of controls to manipulate the character of the saturation itself. It offers a unique ASYM MIX knob to alter the symmetry of the signal without affecting the harmonic content much. Usually, asymmetry leads to an increase of even order harmonics. But in IVGI’s case, dialing the asymmetry makes the negative part of the signal “cleaner”. This way you can preserve the dynamic structure of the source and get a more transparent result. Actually, you can think of ASYM MIX as a transparency control.
IVGI also lets you alter the frequency dependency of the saturation with the RESPONSE control.
IVGI is internally calibrated to 0VU = -18dBFS.
I use IVGI as final plugin behind everything else on my master bus to give the final touch. Since I use it, all of my stuff sounds richer, warmer, more analog, just better.
On the next one I have to say that I use very little compression on audio in general, and when I do, I compress in several stages, because I firmly believe that every frequency range needs a different amount of compression. And this one here is a very good and ultra-simple way to do this. Here’s what the creator has to say:
DC1A is the little brother of the compression monster DC8C. I’ve taken a few of my favorite settings from DC8C and tried to make it work in a two control context. Sound wise it’s comparable to the PUNCH mode in DC8C but offers a few additional features, such as negative ratio and stereo unlink. I’ve always wanted to do a compressor with just an input and output knob, a compressor that just works: gentle, faithful, from almost invisible, smooth leveling to heavy pumping with a nice crunchy saturation and punchy enough to treat drums with.
DC1A looks like a one trick pony. But don’t get fooled by the lack of additional controls. You may be surprised on how many different material this little thing works. DC1A is heavily program dependent, so is the saturation.
DC1A is free! So try it out for yourself.
What I really like about KLANGHELM plugins: they’re light, simple and high quality. All I need for a good workflow and great sounding mixes.