In addition to maintaining energy levels and tempo between songs, mixing in key as a DJ is one of the most critical skills to have. The Camelot Wheel by Mixed in Key makes it easier than ever to keep the dance floor moving without jarring transitions between songs.
What Is the Camelot Wheel?
The Camelot Wheel is a deceptively easy-to-read tool developed by the folks over at Mixed in Key that lays out all 12 major key around the outer ring, followed by each’s relative minor located in the inner ring. Every key has a number and letter designation, as well as its own color. The flow lays out harmonically compatible keys so DJs can mix and transition to songs related to each other by key signature. We’ll talk about how to apply and read the wheel a bit more later.
Who Would Find a Camelot Wheel Useful?
Any DJ hoping to improve their harmonic mixing skills would benefit from using the wheel. The Camelot system itself is part of the Mixed in Key software ecosystem; the software automatically scans a DJ’s library and provides a song’s key (and it’s corresponding Camelot designation), tempo, and more.
As a standalone reference, the Camelot Wheel can still help DJs assuming they know their songs’ keys. For producers and musicians, it could theoretically help them choose keys to modulate to within a song they’re writing.
What Is the Difference Between the Camelot Wheel and the Circle of Fifths?
The Circle of Fifths is a more traditional music theory tool. It arranges all 12 keys in a circle beginning with C major at 12 0’clock. As you move clockwise, it introduces the next major key as a fifth above the one before it. So C major moves to G major, G to D, and so on. Moving clockwise, each step around the circle adds a sharp (#) note to the key signature until arriving at C# major — a key signature with seven sharps. The Circle of Fifths helps musicians memorize key signatures as well as relative major/minor keys. For a more in-depth look at the tool, including practical applications, check out our related guide below.
If you go back to the Camelot Wheel, you might start to see some actual similarities between both of these tools. Start at C major and move counter-clockwise to see what I mean!
What Is Harmonic Mixing?
Harmonic mixing is the straightforward principle of mixing songs that are cohesive as far as their key signatures go. Blending two songs in the same key sounds great; transitioning between two songs in far-away keys can kill the flow. If you mix songs sharing the same, similar, or related keys, you’re practicing harmonic mixing.
What Does It Mean for a DJ to “Mix in Key?”
Whenever a DJ refers to “mixing in key,” they’re essentially just using another phrase for harmonic mixing. As important as tempo, energy, and emotional content is to a cohesive set, harmonic mixing is another piece of that puzzle. A well-rounded DJ recognizes all of this and plans their sets accordingly.
How to Use the Camelot Wheel to Mix in Key
It’s actually really easy once you get the hang of it. We’ll break down a simple, practical use starting at E major (12B). 12B can shift directly over to 1B (B major) or 11B (A major). 12B can also pivot down to 12A, its relative minor (D flat). Similarly, 12A can now pivot to 11A (F-sharp minor) or 1A (A-flat minor). 12A can also go straight back to 12B.
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In essence, that’s how the wheel works! You basically have four keys with which you can mix at any given time. The image above depicts another example of that, starting with the major key, moving down to its relative minor, and then moving between an additional two minor keys. You could also move over to the next-door majors, like we explained above, and unlock another set of up to three minor keys.
Closing Thoughts: Why Mixing in Key Matters
Mixing in key is just another way of ensuring a DJ set is as smooth as butter. Talented DJs understand the fundamentals of music theory to make informed decisions about the songs they transition to and from. You could hypothetically print out or save a digital copy of the Camelot Wheel to keep as a reference, but it’s even better paired with Mixed in Key software.