It is difficult to overstate the hold that Traktor and Serato have on the digital DJ marketplace right now. All you have to do is look at our recent survey results to see. Solid competitors come and go (pour one out for Torq) and hopefuls enter the ring but fail to gain momentum thus far. Here are we with another entry into the digital DJ universe with Mixed in Key’s as of yet unnamed software. The beta name they decided on is Danceability, which makes me cringe a little (I did a bit of sick in my mouth too – Ed).
It is hard to decide if MIK’s offering will ever be able to stack up with the feature rich applications provided by Serato and Native Instruments. They aren’t reaching for the stars, thankfully, but instead seem to want to give a basic preparation tool designed to help DJs in creating dynamic sets. We have received a few beta keys and decided to take a look at what they have put together so far.
An Organized Workflow
There are a lot of features that haven’t been implemented yet. For example, I can’t set loops and there are no provided effects. While I am 100% sure these features will be brought into the app, it isn’t really our concern right now. The Mixed In Key team is letting us see this, instead, to focus on their new workflow for preparing tracks and developing sets.
All of the tracks I loaded in were quickly analyzed for Key, BPM and Energy (on a one to ten scale). I have generally had very good luck with MiK’s BPM analysis but I couldn’t find a place to edit it in case there were errors, and no analysis engine is perfect all the time.
The most pleasant change to the standard workflow is segregating prep and play. Having these separate forces me to focus on one or the other, and not get bogged down in laying down cue points and beat gridding songs while I’m trying to develop a new set or routine. The first yellow “cue” point is both a load and downbeat marker. Every other marker works as a designator for a new section, which has been analyzed and given its own Energy level. You can add more zones and add comments for each individual marker. At this point in the beta I was unable to edit the analyzed beat market and BPM, but I’m sure that process will be added later.
There isn’t much available in their Play section, but the process is just different enough to make be unique. Each section begins with a cue marker, but when you trigger them, instead of activating it you are crossfaded in. The settings provide some really fun methods to change how this sounds, allowing you to have longer blends between sections, but I would really love to be able to set these on a section-by-section basis. Activating sections this way adds a little depth to the mix, making it sound smoother and more musical. Setting up these points, though, can only be done from the Prep screen for now, and you can’t use any of the preparation features while tracks are playing. So, unless they decide to change this, if you don’t prep the track and you want to change something you’re outta luck.
Danceability is poised to automatically track every set list, give you quick access to your top 100 played songs, and record every mix you make for you to review later. I see this tool much more as a method of testing out ideas and building full fledged set lists than for performance. I see this app being used to recreate songs in an intuitive fashion and easily create mashups to then use in my main DJ app.
Could Danceability Be the Future?
Harmonic mixing has allowed me to rethink track selection and the flow of my sets from start to finish. It isn’t a requirement to sound good, but adding it into any DJ’s toolbox can only improve their sound and technique. This app has the potential to become a powerful tool, though, making harmonic mixing even more intuitive to a newer DJ. The roots are there for something robust, but if the Mixed in Key team doesn’t want to complicate their formula I can’t say I blame them.
A Second Opinion from Mark Settle
It’s nice to come across something new in the DJ software scene. The One is also attempting to stake its considerably more left-field claim, with a softly softly approach, that so far seems to be garnering little attention. But then along come MIK’s provisionally branded Danceability, a name that hopefully will slip off into oblivion before getting any wide-scale adoption.
At first glance, it seems to be more bare bones than functional, but this is quite deliberate. It would be easy to berate MIK for putting out something quite so basic, but this is a first beta, and one that is purposefully introduces you to a new workflow. The preparation/play/export idea is presented as a principle, and I imagine that each part will be presented in turn, the first of which logically is preparation.
Having played with this for a while now, I’m warming to this approach. We’ve always said that track and library prep is key to the success of being a digital DJ, and this is never more true that with Danceability. It’s quite a laborious chore to wade through your library and fine tune every single track to work properly with the energy based approach, but it’s well worth it.
For my test, I threw some old school rave tracks and the Disclosure LP into Danceability. What came back was perfectly keyed (well I assume it was) and BPM’d music, and a pretty good attempt at breaking the track up into energy regions. It definitely does need tweaking to suit your needs though, especially if you know your music well and need to define areas that Danceability doesn’t locate. And real mixing with this method is heaps of fun too, especially when presented with rudimentary mixing tools.
There is a lot missing, and some features that aren’t working properly (MIDI mapping is flakey at best). So while this early beta of Danceability is lacking fundamentals right now, the workflow is very promising indeed. I did scoff a little when MIK said they’d been using it to play out, but now having used it, I could actually do a set with this, and it would be a pretty good set as well. It’s easy to get carried away and cram liberal scoops of bells and whistles into software, but that doesn’t make it better, and can often make it much worse. The less is more approach is definitely working at this stage of the development, and hopefully will see MIK hone each feature to perfection before moving to the next. I’d rather see a basic but absolutely nailed implementation than a feature-rich fudged mess.
Good work so far guys. I was quite skeptical at yet another piece of DJ software, but having spent some time with it, I’m keen to see how this develops.