Our friends over at Mixed in Key and Odesi have analyzed Armin van Buuren‘s DJ set from Ultra 2017 and it turns out he uses harmonic mixing in non traditional ways. They took his DJ set at Ultra Miami 2007 and broke it down into individual tracks that were then analyzed for it’s key signature.
If you’re not familiar with harmonic mixing, we suggest you read this review of Mixed in Key to give you a bit of a head start. For the rest that already know how this works, lets have a the camelot chart down for reference.
Armin starts his DJ set in the key of 12A
Mixes into the next track in the key of 7A
12A -> 7A – The Jaws Mix
Doing this non traditional key jump, he manages to create a very intense moment, switching -5 or +7 on the camelot wheel adds a sense of drama that the guys over at Mixed in Key have dubbed the it the Jaws Mix. Although they are clashing keys, he makes it work without having the harmonic parts play over each other. He also jumps the energy meter from 7 to 8 as analyzed by Mixed in Key, I however am not a big fan of the energy level meter, I can’t quite seem to figure on what basis it draws up those numbers.
7A -> 8A – Perfect 5th
Without the need for another crazy harmonic jump, he plays it safe by making a very commonly used move on the wheel, the +1 which is a perfect 5th from the current key. The prefect 5th is the note in the scale that sounds closest to the root note.
8A -> 2A – Harmonic Flip
It’s like going through the center of the harmonic wheel and coming out on the other side, to give you more context, going from 12A to 6A or 3A to 9A. It feels unexpected and surprising, once again this is a very well executed mix with great track selection as this track is bout 8A/2A.
2A -> 2A – Power Block Mix
Songs that perfectly work well with each other even when they’re mashed up together or layered being in the same key signature can create that ‘moment’ for your DJ set
6A -> 9A – The Pay Attention Mix
When you add +3 numbers to your current key it’s pretty harmonic and wakes people up to pay attention to the DJ again, this is just the musical refresher the audience seek after a slew of tracks in the same key and finally finishes off the set with the Jaws Interval again going from 9A to 4A (-5)
I have to say though that a lot of this non-traditional techniques won’t work with just applying these rules, its important to take into consideration other aspects of the music like it’s mood, timbre, structure and place in the DJ set, and obviously reading the room. They will most definitely not work if you’re making drastic genre or BPM switches, notice how all his tracks fit into a similar palette of sound and a tempo range.
If you’re using DJ software like Traktor or Ableton, you can do a lot of cool stuff by transposing keys and making incompatible tracks fully compatible as shown by this guide that’s expands a bit more on the previously discussed energy boost mixing technique
If you’re interested in studying the full set, here’s the track listing
Order > Artist > Song > Title > Key Result > Normal Key > BPM > Energy
1 Armin van Buuren My Symphony Of You – 12A – Dbm 132 7
2 Armin van Buuren feat. Kensington Heading Up High (First State Remix) – 7A – Dm 132 8
3 Armin van Buuren & Garibay feat. Olaf Blackwood I Need You (Armin van Buuren Club Mashup) – 8A – Am 132 8
4 Jordan & Baker Explode (Graham Bell & Yoel Lewis Remake) – 8A/2A – Ebm 132 8
5 rmin van Buuren & W&W vs. Alan Walker & Iselin Solheim & Dash Berlin If It Ain’t Dutch vs. Faded (Armin van Buuren Mashup) – 2A – Ebm 132 7
6 Armin van Buuren & Mark Sixma ft. Mr. Probz vs. Sebastian Ingrosso Another You vs. Dark River (Armin van Buuren Mashup) – 2A – Ebm 132 7
7 Hardwell & Armin van Buuren & Mark Sixma vs. Kygo Firestone Off The Hook (Armin van Buuren Mashup) 9A Em 132 7
8 Kryder Dogs On Acid (Rhymes Edit) – 9A – Em 133 8
9 Willem De Roo vs. Exis Hyperdrive vs. The Count (Armin van Buuren Mashup) – 4A – Fm 132 8
10 Armin van Buuren vs. Human Resource Dominator (Tom Staar Remix) – 4A – Fm 132 8
11 Armin van Buuren I Live For That Energy (ASOT 800 Theme) (Armin van Buuren Piano Intro Mashup) – 12A – Dbm 134 7
12 Exis & Ben Nicky ID – 6A – Gm 135 7
13 Armin van Buuren vs. Vini Vici feat. Hilight Tribe Great Spirit – 9A – Em 138 8
14 RAM vs. Gareth Emery & Standerwick feat. HALIENE RAMexico vs. Saving Light (Armin van Buuren ASOT 800 Mashup) – 9A – Em 138 7
15 Armin van Buuren & W&W ft. Trevor Guthrie vs. Ikerya Project & Maratone This Is What Vendetta Feels Like (Sensualise Mashup) – 4A – Fm 138 7