Just when you thought there was enough DJ software to struggle to choose between, along come Mixed In Key with their own take on what they feel DJing should be about. And while their first teaser was light on detail, the beta page on the Mix In Key site has been opened up to reveal that their take is based very much around the “energy” of the track. Allow me to explain.
This as yet unnamed software as a 3 step workflow:
Prepare: As the old adage goes, fail to prepare then prepare to fail. And this has never been truer for digital DJs. Mixed In Key’s raison d’etre is track prep, and the forthcoming MIK v6 has been built right into the front end.
We all have our own description for our individual tracks, be it smooth, banging, jumping etc. But Mixed In Key goes a step further and assigns a number to this arbitrary factor. It however doesn’t do this on a track by track basis, but does this on individual parts of each track. A quiet intro will have a low number, and a more energetic part will be assigned a higher number. Thus tracks are broken up into energy based sections, along with BPM, key, and beat grids, which essentially form the fundamental performance methodology of this software.
I’m unsure whether this is a relative rating i.e. will there be a varieties of energies in a minimal House track, or will it be a pretty even 3 all the way through. And how does one track in one genre rate against another genre? A 7 in a house track might not stack up relatively against a 7 in a Deathcore onslaught.
IDEA: instead of just having a number, why not change the colour of that part of the waveform too?
Play: Once the “energy” has been analysed, along with the BPM and beat grid, this seems to be the basis of how Mixed in Key’s DJ software works. And this appears to be the USP of how the software works differently. There are no hot cues or loops, but instead, you use these energy segments to remix on the fly. Clicking on the different energy areas of the track lets you mix smoothly, on beat and in phase. There is a minor crossfade as well, making this less hard slam and more smooth transition. You can also have these energy based sections loop as well.
Following the trend of eliminating pesky controls like pitch, the software works on a master tempo basis. Looking at the screenshots however, there are sync buttons per deck, so my guess is that you have the choice to engage the master BPM and not necessarily be a slave to it. So the only BPM you see on-screen is the one you decide on. I’m unsure yet as to whether this means you decide on the BPM and fix it, or if there is some automagical way of working with diverse BPM ranges without having to manually tweak master tempo on the fly.
There is also the dynamic playlist option as well, a feature that suggests tracks to play based on the BPM, energy and key. And given the energy and beat grid features, I suspect that an automix feature isn’t far away that really will need almost no human interaction.
Export: The back-end is becoming just as important as the front to a lot of DJs, and this new software has you covered, both from a recording and history point of view. If I understand it correctly, every set is recorded (watch out disk space) and directly sharable on Soundcloud (copyright permitting of course), and a detailed playlist breakdown is available as well.
Too hot, too cold, or just right?
One the face of it, this is next MIK v6 i.e uber track prep with some rudimentary playback tools. The software is clearly very bare bones right now, with the lack of pitch, hot cues and traditional looping being down to the new workflow. But the lack of gain (unless cross-track normalising à la Platinum Notes is handled in the track prep part), meters, filters and effects in the beta is telling.
So is it hot? Yes. The software brings a new and potentially smarter and creative way of working. Hot cues are eliminated, leaving a more freestyle and remix/mashup based workflow. As a building block to something better, this is a really great start.
Is it cold? Right now, absolutely. We’ve become accustomed and to a degree dependent on DJ fundamentals. I baulk at the lack of pitch control, despair at having go gain on the EQ, and really hanker for filters and even the most basic of effects. All this energy based stuff is amazing, and the back recording and stats collecting is great, but if the really important bit in the middle is lacking fundamentals, a lot of people will be turned off right away.
But as a new workflow, is it just right? Potentially yes. There are a lot of bells and whistles aka bloatware in DJ software that people just don’t need. The majority of DJs really do only need the ability to play one track to another and back again, something that you actually don’t really need any physical controller, hence the laptop-centric focus. Some additional creative tools are always useful though, and if the front end prep part can deliver in the way I think it can, and the play element gets the vital tools it needs to give DJs the missing creative options, then this new Mixed In Key DJ software might just have a chance.
It’ll never replace Traktor, Serato or similar packages, nor by its own admission does it ever plan to. I feel that it’s MIK bolstering its core offering in the face of every other DJ software embracing key detection, thus attacking MIK’s market leading niche position. It would be pointless to go for the big boys, so they have to do something different, and that’s playing to their existing strengths.
Finally, you’ll have noticed the lack of mention of a name for this future product. That’s because MIK haven’t got one yet. You can suggest one right here.