More harmonic playing with music keys

In the upcoming version of Neon, release Electric-sun, we will give you a new feature to detect the music key, the tonality, of a specific file.

This key can help you to create harmonic playlists where the playback either follows the same key or smooth transitioning to a nearby key.

A bit of theory…

A western music scale is made up of 8 notes arranged in a pattern of tones and semitones. A semitone is the difference in pitch between any two adjacent keys on the piano. A whole tone, or to save space simply a tone, is the difference between two notes that have one other note in between them – usually a black key, except in the case of notes B and E where there is no adjacent black key to the right.
To form a major scale, the pattern is tone – tone – semitone – tone – tone – tone – semitone. This helps explain why the piano keyboard is laid out the way it is. This pattern is followed by all of the white keys on the piano, forming the C Major scale (8B).
Quote from Mixed in key

By using the new commands in Neon, you can identify which specific tone/chord a track maps to. A key chord is for example A, A minor or D#. The returned key chord will be mapped to a key in the Camelot system:



The key will be stored on tags and in Neon’s database.

But how do I use it?

To take advantages of music keys, first be sure to generate them for your files via the Tag editors or via a script.

You can then do the following:

  • Perform a search to find music files related to a specific music files which have the same key. Playing those files will avoid melody clashes, so despite the genre of the next track, it will smoothly match the currently playing track.
  • Starting with a specific track and it’s key, create a playlist that starts with the specific key, and smoothly moves to tracks with nearby keys:
    • 10A (starting track)
    • 10A (track 2)
    • 10 B (track 3)
    • 9 B (track 4)
    • 8 B (track 5)
    • 8A (track 6)

It is recommended to move clock-wise or counter-clockwise around the wheel for the smoothest transitions.

We are also elaborating with taking advantage of the music keys from more tools, but more about that in a future post.

More tips and tricks

Neon stores the music key in the same way as Mixed-in-key meaning that the tags will be compatible with Rekordbox for example. This means that you can prepare your files for DJ mixing with Neon and after you have analysed the music key, just re-read the tags from Rekordbox.

Neon is using libKeyFinder and Boost libraries for detection of musical keys.



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