100 cents = 1 semitone
100 cents = 1 semitone

If you’re bored by music theory, skip the next two paragraphs!

The Leading Tone of a key is the seventh tonal degree of the diatonic scale leading up to the tonic note. When your ears hear a Leading Tone, they naturally want the sound to be resolved by the tonic note. For this mix, the concept is extended to apply to key transitions. Each new track in this mix is the minor key resulting from transposition of the current key by 1 semitone (1 semitone = 100 “cents”). I’d love to do a similar mix in Major keys, but there are precious few dance tracks in Major keys (particularly C Major).

This mix has 12 tracks, because there are exactly 12 semitones. You might think “But aren’t there only 7 notes in a diatonic scale?”. You’re right. However, the goal of this mix was to consist entirely of Leading Tones, not to walk a diatonic scale. That experiment is for a different day :). — The bonus features of doing the mix using all Leading Tones is that the last track’s key leads back to the first, so the mix is comfortable to hear on repeat (if you are so inclined).

01 Wamdue Project – King Of My Castle (Mischa Daniels 2 Am Remix)
02 Audioholics – External Key (Perry O’Neil Remix)
03 16 Bit Lolitas – Nobody Seems To Care (Original Mix)
04 DJ Joe K, Beto Dias – Beautiful Day (Original Mix)
05 Fischerspooner – The Best Revenge (Oliver Koletzki Remix)
06 Yellow Blackboard – Superfly (Andy Moor Mix)
07 Ido Ophir, Miki Litvak – Shnorkel (Dousk Remix)
08 Peter Gun & Terzi – Acapulco (Kasey Taylor Remix)
09 Faithless – A Kind of Peace (Gabriel & Dresden Remix)
10 David West – Carrier (Original Mix)
11 Andy Page – Serpent (Original Mix)
12 J-Soul – Riddle (Vadim Zhukov 12 Mix)

[Download MP3 ]

9 thoughts on “Live DJ Mix: “Leading Tones”

  1. I totally need to read up on my music theory. I understand what you’re doing though. I did something similar recently. It’s fun to experiment with.


  2. You wouldn’t be interested in providing an image that draws the analogs between diatonic scale, camelot wheel, chords and semitones?

    I find it hard to fit it all together sometimes.


  3. Each slice in the Camelot wheel represents a single diatonic scale. For example, 12A, D-flat minor, is a complete diatonic scale. If you move down one to 11A, you get F-sharp minor, which is a 5 semitones transposition from D-flat minor. Inversely, if you move down by 5, instead, from 12A to 7A, you get D minor, which is a 1 semitone transposition. This image helps visualize the relationships between scales on the circle of fifths – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MinorScale.svg. When you’re composing within a particular diatonic scale, most of your chords end up being any combination of multiple notes that are part of that scale. Some combination “sound better” to most people, since their harmonics work out to be more pleasing to the ear, subjectively.


  4. Love the concepts, but totally get lost in the detail.
    I’ve been trying to get closer to understanding and applying it during my sets, but it’s just above me.
    Where and how can I get the nitty gritty without getting a formal music theory qualification!
    …very interesting…


  5. If you haven’t already tried them, mixshare.com has software that does key detection for you. Also, there’s mixedinkey, but that costs money (I’m starting to prefer the free mixshare software, anyway). Also it’s fun to take inspiration from the key transition styles old classical music used (like from a major key to it’s relative minor key, etc) in order to pick your tracks. Of course it’s just a helpful hint that gives you tracks that are likely to sound good together, but you still have to try multiple songs with fitting keys and bpm until you stumble on pairs of tracks that fit nicely. If your collection of tracks is large (in the hundreds), usually you can find multiple fits for any given track with good musical compatibility.


  6. I caught up with music theory. It all makes perfect sense now. Thanks for the push in the right direction.

    I find it all very interesting. The way BPM figures into it is tricky though. For now I’m key locking my songs to make it a bit easier. I prefer key locking in most cases anyway and it allows me to gradually pitch without having to worry about the annoying effect a changing key has on the human ear.

    I’m happily following your journey into this wonderdful world of harmonic mixing.


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