I’ve been using Mixed In Key for years and absolutely love it. If you’re not familiar with this software, it basically “dumbs down” harmonic mixing so that anyone can do it. After using Mixed In Key to scan your music library, the key of each track is identified, then assigned a number on the “Camelot Wheel”. Instead of being labeled as C minor (or whatever the actual key is), the Camelot Wheel designation is anywhere from 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, all the way up to 12A or 12B. By following a few simple principles, like always mixing one number up (mixing a 2A track into a 1A track), you will have perfect harmonic mixes in no time. Having an awareness of harmonic mixing makes it easier for a DJ or producer to pull off great sounding mixes, remixes, and mash-ups (two songs of different genres combined into one). This is the main premise of the new iPad app from Mixed In Key, called “iMashup”.
iMashup is a very easy to use, nicely designed app. Upon opening iMashup on your iPad, you’re welcomed by 2 screens of quick-start advice. The app is so simple that these 2 screens are really all the instruction needed to get started remixing and mashing up tracks. After clicking the large “add a new track” button, iMashup allows you to browse your iPad’s music library, and upon selecting a song, the app scans the track and loads it into the app. Since you can’t make a mashup or mix with only one track, you’ll need to add another. This is where iMashup starts to get pretty amazing. When you open up the music browser window to select the second track, iMashup will identify which tracks will result in a perfect harmonic mix with the track currently loaded. The app also identifies which songs are fairly close to mixing harmonically, labeling them as 90% harmonic, 80% harmonic, etc.
After selecting the second track, both tracks are stacked together and displayed prominently on the main screen. Since iMashup scans each track, the bpms are detected and the tempos are automatically matched. I was very pleased to discover that the app uses “key-lock” when the tempo of the second song is adjusted. But I suppose this is a necessity since the whole premise of the app is harmonic mixing. Since everything is already synced, you can simply press the play button and listen to your awesome mashup, but more than likely it will sound like a big, beatmatched clash of vocals. This is why iMashup provides you with a set of tools to polish and edit your mix.
The tools themselves remind me of a simplified version of Ableton. The volume adjustments function much like they do in Ableton, providing you with a single line to start, but allowing the addition of new volume markers at the touch off a finger. Then, by simply dragging the volume up or down between the markers, you can effectively fade the songs in or out, or cut off the volume completely. By adjusting the volume of each track appropriately, the mashup begins to come to life, but more editing is often needed to polish up your creation.
More often than not, when creating a mashup or remix, the structure of the song(s) needs to be completely rearranged. IMashup allows you to do this by deleting, cutting, pasting, looping, and copying sections of the songs as needed. When editing the tracks using these functions, iMashup will “snap to” the closest beat grid marker, which proves to be handy in some situations, but frustrating in others. For instance, in my trial of the app, a few of my songs were not beat-gridded properly, making it impossible for me to effectively loop or line up the downbeats of the two tracks (since the song would always snap to the incorrect beat marker). After cutting, looping, deleting, and dragging the pieces around to your liking, iMashup allows you to further edit your creation by adjusting the highs, mids, and lows of each track. This is done by using the same “line method” as the volume adjustments.
Overall, I enjoyed creating a few mashups of my own with iMashup. The app did an admirable job of bringing song editing and mixing to the tablet format, but due to the precision needed for spot-on remixes and mashups, I would much rather do this type of work on a desktop computer. Fortunately, Mixed In Key also created “Mashup,” a desktop version of the same program. But for someone on the go, or for the casual user, iMashup is a great app to try out new harmonic mixes and mashups.