Categories
Dj Tips & Tricks Djing Mixing

Mix in Key & the Camelot wheel

What does it mean to mix in a harmonic key? What does it mean for a DJ to make passages with songs in different keys? How can the Camelot wheel help?

INDEX

  • Premise
  • What it means to mix in key
  • How to identify the key in a track
  • The Camelot Wheel
  • The effects of an in-key mix and the different ways of passing from one key to another
  • Conclusions

Premise

The basic premise when it comes to mixing in key is that: IT IS NOT STRICTLY NECESSARY TO MIX ALL THE TRACKS IN KEY.

Although a DJ set in key is often synonymous with a high-quality mixed sequence, it is not an essential condition for the success of a DJ set.

In fact, very often it is not necessary to mix two tracks ’in key’ for a change to be of good quality and ’aesthetically pleasing’. Rather, it is essential for DJs to ask themselves the question: is it better to choose the next track according to the logic of harmonic compatibility, or to put on the right track for the dance floor?

What it means to mix in key

Mixing in key simply means composing a sequence mixed between tracks in ’compatible’ harmonic keys, following the rule of the Circle of Fifths.

How to identify the key of a track

To date, various tools are available for identifying the harmonic key of a track: from specialised software (such as Mixed In Key), to the functions offered by mixing software such as the analysis of tracks offered by Rekordbox, Serato or Traktor, or even the latest generation modular CDJs that have this analysis function integrated into their firmware.

The Camelot Wheel

The Camelot Wheel is an ingenious way to learn or review the rule of the circle of fifths, in a simple and intuitive way.

The Camelot wheel is divided into:

LETTERS: letters distinguish between major (B) and minor (A), arranged in two rings.

NUMBERS: each number is accompanied by the respective letter, in segments around the ring.

COLOURS: to help the user to distinguish the ‘compatible keys’ at a glance

How do you read a Camelot Wheel? Once we know the combination of NUMBER and LETTER, we can then move on to the Camelot Wheel. Let’s assume that we have our track in 9A, we can move on the same letter A (therefore always in the ring of minor keys) but moving higher and lower than the previous one. So, from 9A you can go to 8A and 10A. Furthermore, you can move from the minor A key to the major B key without altering the number. So, from 9A we can go to 9B.

The effects of an in-key mix

Below we briefly explain what it means to mix in key, and what impact this type of mixing has on the listener:

  • Mix in the same key: if the tracks are perfectly compatible it will seem as if the tracks are a single composition.
  • Mix by raising the key by one point: the tracks remain in harmony. The effect on the track is to increase the energy, as in a crescendo.
  • Mix by decreasing the key by one point: the tracks remain in harmony; the track will not have the sensation of a crescendo but the change will be perceived by the dance floor.
  • Scale change from minor to major (e.g., From 7A> 7B – D min.> F Maj): this is a type of harmonic mixing where the change of energy and mood for the track will be self-evident.
  • Change of note but in the same ring: changing key in the same ring (I.e., remaining in major or minor) is always a “clean” change and also in this case the change of mood will be perceived by your listeners. 
  • Move 3 notes anti-clockwise on the same ring: this change will be pleasant and will give a good increase of energy on the track (e.g., 12B> 9B – E Maj> G Maj) 
  • Modulation Mixing: moving to the opposite side of the ring by increasing 7 steps on the Camelot wheel. This type of transition is suitable if you perform on outro or intro that does not contain melodic elements (such as basses, pads, leads) but which only have rhythmic parts with drums and possibly percussion. This mix will give an increase in energy to the track.
  • Energy Boost Mixing – moving two steps clockwise on the same ring (e.g., 6A> 8A – G Min> A Min): this type of transition will give the kind of tension to the crowd known as: “Hands in the air” 
  • Changing ring, also increasing or decreasing by a note (5B> 4A – E-Flat Maj> F min): this is the best method to go from a major to a minor key and vice versa. 

Conclusions

To conclude, it is not always necessary to make changes between songs in compatible keys, but it is an interesting exercise, as well as an excellent tip for being able to make dynamic changes during a DJ set.

Categories
Dj Tips & Tricks Djing

How to protect your earing if you are a dj

Is it possible to protect your hearing if you are a DJ or a musician? What sound pressure levels are harmful?

Very often musicians and DJs suffer from tinnitus or ringing in the ears due to the high sound pressures they often undergo. Is it possible to protect yourself?

Index

  1. The hearing problems of DJs and musicians
  2. Symptoms that indicate that you have suffered hearing damage
  3. Risk factors for audiological trauma
  4. Famous cases of artists who have suffered hearing damage
  5. At what volumes is it not recommended to listen to music?
  6. How can I protect my hearing?
  7. The different hearing protection devices
  8. how to use the ear plugs in a dj set: Pete Tong’s & Carl Cox’s advices
  9. Conclusions

What are the main hearing problems?

Professional musicians are at high risk of developing hearing loss and other audiological symptoms such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hyperacusis (extreme, often painful oversensitivity to sound.)

According to an Italian study, over 35% of professional musicians have hearing loss; over 25% suffer from tinnitus; while hyperacusis is present in over 20% of cases analysed.

Most common symptoms: tinnitus and hyperacusis

People who work in the music industry are nearly twice as likely to develop tinnitus as people who work in the office, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Manchester.

The researchers compared the levels of hearing difficulty and the presence of tinnitus in people working in noisy, high-risk businesses, such as construction, agriculture, and the music industry, versus people working in finance, an industry typically considered low-risk for hearing loss.

Acoustic trauma and hearing fatigue

Chronic acoustic trauma is a decrease in hearing caused by prolonged exposure to high intensity noise (e.g. industrial noise).

Occupational hearing loss is the result of prolonged exposure over time to noises with an intensity greater than 85 dB of SEL (equivalent daily Sound Exposure Level, or the weighted average of the noise to which the worker is exposed during the 8 hours of a work shift).

Temporary auditory fatigue is the term for the temporary increase in the hearing threshold caused by exposure to intense sounds (Temporary Threshold Shift: TTS). It reaches its maximum 2 minutes after the end of acoustic stimulation. The threshold usually normalises within 16 hours (the normal rest period for a worker).

If recovery does not occur after 16 hours, this would be called pathological auditory fatigue (Permanent Threshold Shift: PTS).

In the event of trauma, the most affected frequencies are in the range between 3000 and 6000 Hz.

Risk factors for acoustic trauma

The risk of developing acoustic trauma and permanent damage to hearing rises with the increase in noise intensity and the duration of exposure; in fact, 10% of workers exposed to sound pressure levels between 85 – 90 dB manifest hearing loss and tinnitus.

Among the main risk factors for tinnitus are hearing loss and aging.

The high prevalence of hearing loss amongst professional musicians may explain the onset of tinnitus.

Those who expose themselves to high sound pressure levels cannot ignore the importance of protecting their hearing to prevent acoustic traumas that often cause irreparable damage.

Famous cases of artists who have suffered hearing damage

There are many famous musicians who have developed chronic tinnitus having not used hearing protection in the past, including Chris Martin of Coldplay, Ozzy Osbourne and the Gallagher brothers of Oasis.

But classical musicians are also at risk: violinist Chris Goldscheider won a lawsuit against the Royal Opera House because in 2012 he had to abandon rehearsals of the opera “La Valkyrie” by Wagner, due to hearing damage.

When is it necessary to wear protective equipment for your earing?

Font: Grubb, Teryl & Delaney, David & Bowerman, William. (2007). Investigating Potential Effects of Heli-Skiing on Golden Eagles in the Wasatch Mountains, Utah.

It is essential to protect our hearing from volumes that are too high; the scientific community agrees that it is necessary to protect ourselves when there is continuous exposure to sound pressure levels above 85 db.

  • Sound pressure levels higher than 85 dB: that is the noise of a large truck passing by. They are harmful following prolonged exposure.
  • Sound pressure levels higher than 110 dB. They are harmful even after minutes of exposure and can cause irreversible damage.
  • Sound pressure levels equal to or greater than 120 dB. They are harmful even immediately and can cause irreversible damage.

The average sound pressure levels in the rehearsal room and during live events are between 110 and 130 dB.

How to protect your hearing

When it comes to hearing protection, there is no single solution: it is specific to each individual case.

Singers, for example, find out for themselves what the right compromise is between volume sufficient to be ‘carried away by the music,’ and safeguarding their hearing. Fortunately, hearing protection technology has developed a lot in recent years, so now we can maintain balanced sounds even at low volumes.

Remember this rule: the best protection is the one we use regularly; regardless of method or format.

To give you an overview of the different approaches to hearing protection, we have decided to collate all the products and related methodologies used in the field, including the ‘custom-made’ alternatives that are made to measure. You will also discover how in-ear monitors are also ideal for protecting hearing.

Different types of protections for your hearing

The foam earplug

Earplugs are certainly the most common way to protect your hearing during rehearsals and concerts.

They are generally made of soft material and there are several varieties, the most common being the classic foam type sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, generally used while sleeping.

However, they are not suitable for musicians and singers because although they protect the eardrum and make everything quieter, they cut higher frequencies and distort the sound.

Protections for children 

For the sake of completeness, we will also point out this type of over-the-ear “headphone” style protectors, ideal for blocking the maximum number of decibels (for small children and noisy percussionists).

Ear protection filters

What are slightly better than pharmacy earplugs are filter earplugs (such as the Alpine Music Safe Pros). They are slightly more comfortable, although they are not custom made.

This type of hearing protection is slightly better than foam plugs, being equipped with switchable, music-optimised filters that provide attenuation ranging from 14 to 16 dB.

Custom made earplugs

Certainly, tailor-made products can offer even better hearing protection.

This type of device is produced in vulcanized silicone or acrylic and can be equipped with filters for a reduction of 9, 15 and 25 dB to be inserted in a custom mould of the ear canals, which must be made in advance and tailored to the wearer.

The volume attenuation occurs uniformly in the frequency range from 125 to 8000 Hz.

This way, the entire sound spectrum is evenly kept at a lower volume, so they are ideal for musicians, DJs and singers because they combine comfort and optimal fit with a well-calibrated and uniform sound.

In-ear monitors

Earphones or in-ear monitors are hearing protection devices that contain a small speaker and driver inside.

The main advantage of in-ear monitors (IEMs) is that the music volume is adjustable whilst ambient noise can be reduced by up to 26 dB.

This solution allows you to protect your hearing from the often-excessive volume of classic stage monitors.

However, it is essential that the eartips are made to measure and that the ‘modelling’ process is done while the temporomandibular joint is moving in order to make the mould as dynamic as possible.

This is essential because the extension moves constantly as you sing or talk and consequently the space in the ear canal changes constantly. If the mould is made whilst static, it will not fit properly and may fall out whilst singing or talking.

However, there are also in-ear monitors equipped with a malleable, mouldable foam eartip, these products are certainly cheaper but less flexible.

CAUTION: Poor quality earphones or volumes that are too high can still damage your hearing.

To protect against sound engineer errors and other volume spikes, you can set a limiter for the earphones between the bodypack and the in-ear monitors

Pete Tong’s advice

As suggested by our teacher Pete Tong, it is essential during a mix to flip constantly between the CUE and MASTER sources in your headphone channel (keeping the volume of the headphones at a not excessive level), in order to keep the volume of the monitors at a safe level for our hearing. At the same time, however, this allows him to feel the vibration of the low frequencies, so as not to become separated from the dancefloor and feel his own emotions.

Carl Cox’s advice

Our teacher Carl Cox suggests lowering the monitor volume onstage, because he likes to hear exactly what the guests are hearing on the track; for this reason, he does not use in-ear monitors or ear plugs whilst performing. However, he does wear them while he is not playing in order to preserve his hearing, given the power of the festival sound systems where he often plays or is a guest.

Conclusions

However, our teachers agree: personalised hearing protection takes some getting used to, usually 1 or 2 weeks.

In this test phase it is also possible to decide if further adjustments are necessary (often small holes are needed) to counteract the so-called ‘occlusion effect,’ obstruction of the sound waves, in order to find the right filter gradation.

Categories
Dj Tips & Tricks Djing

How to avoid clipping & redlining in djing

It is common to see the mixer LED indicators turn red and then hear the monitors clipping, but what does this mean? How can it be avoided?

INDEX:

  1. How an audio signal works
  2. What is clipping?
  3. What happens to a clipped audio signal
  4. The importance of Gain/Trim
  5. Why redlining is wrong
  6. Possible reasons why a channel is clipping
  7. How to avoid clipping

How signal audio works

To best explain clipping it is necessary to review audio signals and how our brain perceives them.

How is the audio signal perceived by our hearing?

The sound enters and passes through the auditory canal, where the sound waves hit the eardrum and the ossicles inside the middle ear, making them vibrate; these vibrations are transmitted to the cochlea causing a movement of the fluid inside. The movement of the fluid is then transformed into neural signals for the auditory nerve, passing them into the brain which interprets these signals into sounds.

These sound waves, which are the ones that make the eardrum vibrate, propagate in a sinusoidal shape, which has 3 main characteristics:

Frequency: this is the number of times the wave is repeated, or ‘oscillates.’ This repetition rate of a wave is measured in cycles per second (called Hertz or Hz). The higher the rate of oscillation, the higher the Hz, the more we will perceive a high-pitched sound. The more a sound propagates with wider, more separated waves, the more low-pitched the sound will be (low Hz)

Frequency and wavelength are inversely proportional: the lower the frequency, the greater the wavelength.

Amplitude: this is the magnitude, and therefore volume of a wave, and is measured in Decibels (dB). The height of each wave peak measured from 0db is what defines the amplitude.

Phase: An angular measure of the time difference between two similar waveforms (expressed in degrees).

What is clipping?

Clipping is a form of (non-linear) distortion of the waveform. It occurs when an amplifier is pushed beyond its maximum limit, causing the amplifier circuity to produce a voltage that is beyond its capacity, causing signal distortion and therefore a noisy and unpleasant output audio signal.

So, simplifying, as far as DJing is concerned, ‘redlining’ or clipping occurs when an audio signal coming from a mixer channel is too strong and the signal is distorted, causing a reduction in sound quality.

What happens to a clipping audio signal

The audio signal, which has a sinusoidal shape, must be carried by an electric current before being output by the speakers.

The magnitude of the electrical voltage is directly proportional to the amplitude of the waveform, and as happens for any electrical device, there is a minimum and maximum value that can be conveyed, as is evident in the image below:

sine wave clipping

In clipping, the audio signal is overloaded until it reaches a point where the equipment is no longer able to manage the output. What will happen in this case? The sine wave will be cut, or ‘clipped’ from the top and bottom near the maximum values (peaks) resulting in distortion and deterioration of the sound.

It is at this time that you will see the red indicators on the mixer.

Clipping can be of two types: soft and hard. In the first case we have a slight ‘red’ signal in the meter but the sound will still have clarity and quality. In the second case, as seen in the image, it will result in real damage to the sound.

soft & hard clipping

ATTENTION:

If the mixer, especially during transitions, (that is when there are two open channels with overlapping frequencies) only occasionally goes ‘into the red’ (i.e., it does not remain constantly red) this does not mean that the audio signal is particularly degraded. In fact, clipping is a term for when the signal is constantly deteriorated.

The importance of Gain-Trim

The Gain or Trim control adjusts the input volume of a single channel and usually undergoes very small variations during a DJ set. This parameter is essential for two specific uses; first, to compensate for any volume variations between one track and the other during mix transitions; and second, in order to keep the volume of the master constant.

Generally, the Gain is set by default to 0 dB, but this does not mean that the song will play at 0 dB, rather that we keep the volume of the track at its original level.

The Trim is often the first ’culprit’ of clipping, in fact many DJs tend to abuse it in order to increase the volume of the master, but run the risk of going ‘into the red’ and at that point distorting the sound. This is harmful not only for the audio system, but also for your hearing, as explained in more detail below.

Why redlining is wrong

From the images shown above it is clear why it is important to avoid ’clipping’.

As we have said, one of the most common mistakes made by DJs is to tend to turn up the volume, because to the ear a higher volume is more desirable, but be careful!

There is a limit that balances sound power and quality. In fact, as previously mentioned, you cannot go beyond a certain ceiling.

This limit is dictated by a very important constraint: the power limit of the club sound system. This limit cannot be exceeded and if we try to push our console over, we will do nothing but obtain a distorted and ruined signal.

Thus, upon trying to exceed that limit, you will not gain volume at all, but instead will have the same volume (at the sound system’s maximum limit) just at a poorer quality.

Remember that in a situation where the sound is distorted (redlining/clipping) because you are trying to gain more volume, it is useless to keep turning it up from our console as this will just cause the club sound engineer (or the club’s compressors and limiters) to lower the volume in an attempt to recover quality on an over signal coming from the console.

After all, it will trigger a vicious cycle where the DJ will continue to raise the volume, and the sound engineer will try to lower it, with the result that the sound will come out degraded but at a ’normal’ volume, if not lower. This situation could compromise the success of your evening, ruining the experience of guests who will be listening to “distorted” music.

 

Possible causes of a channel clipping

TRACK QUALITY

It may happen that you buy a track from a retailer, but make the mistake of downloading it in an unsuitable format, such as MP3, or in a worst-case scenario, download it illegally and therefore use a low-quality track. The result of this will be to offer your audience poor quality audio signals.

CHANNEL EQUALISATION (EQ)

We reiterate the importance of checking the console EQ levels before starting to play, even if the following scenario might also happen during your own DJ set.

What can happen is that too many frequencies (low, medium and less often, high) have been added (or removed) to a single channel and this can cause the track to go into clipping. During your set, ensure you use EQ carefully to avoid sums of frequencies that can push the signal ‘into the red,’ even with appropriately adjusted gain/trim.

FX

fx pioneer djm 900

During a DJ set it is common to use effects, but remember that most of them, especially effects such as delay, tend to multiply the sound, and so it is very easy to end up clipping. It is therefore essential to leave enough headroom so the overlapping sounds can accumulate safely.

Obviously, it is possible to avoid clipping, as it also depends on the type of effect and how much is applied. Just remember to keep sufficient headroom to avoid the redlining zone.

How to avoid clipping

To avoid clipping it is therefore essential to:

  • Keep the Trim/Gain at a level that maintains some headroom between the signal output and the maximum capacity of the mixer channel. A good example of headroom can be identified on a mixer showing either just green or green and yellow (or orange) colours when the track is playing.
  • Buy high quality songs
  • Pay attention to the equalisation of the channels
  • Apply any effects appropriately during the DJ set
  • Keep a good balance between the volume of the monitors (on which we will soon do an ad hoc in-depth study) and of the headphones (flipping between the CUE and MASTER signal), so that you have a volume suitable for mixing, which does not alienate you from the dancefloor, but at the same time does not damage your hearing due to excessive volume
  • Always remember to keep an eye on the meters on your console
Categories
Dj Tips & Tricks Djing

3 Useful DJ Tips from The Pete Tong DJ academy

Push your DJ skills with these 3 useful dj tips for a perfect mix.

Protect your hearing! 

Wear earplugs and choose headphones with comfortable and large ear cups in order to isolate you from the monitors and avoid ear damage due to excessive volume. 

During a mix you can flip constantly between CUE and MASTER channels in your headphone channel.

Learn more HERE

Earplugs devices

Check your setup before start to play/LED indicator

It’s important to check the console or your setup (or both!) before you start to play. Check the knobs (turn all knobs to the middle), check the fader volumes (in order to avoid errors while you’re listening the cue deck preview) and ask the sound engineer if the CDJs are connected via ethernet.

Learn more HERE

Mix in key and the Camelot wheel. How to use them and when

Keep an eye on the key of your track and remember the Camelot Wheel colours; it’s important to mix tracks with a compatible key. The numbers represent the key and the letters represent minor (A) and major (B). The Camelot Wheel is based on the circle of fifths. Modular new generation consoles and many apps (such as Rekordbox, Serato, etc.) can scan and analyse the key and the BPM of your tracks, so you don’t need a third application but remember: the accuracy of these analyses is not 100%.

Learn more HERE