5 Best Key Detection Plugins To Find Key 2024

5 Best Key Detection Plugins To Find Key | integraudio.com

When you need to figure out the key of a song, using a key detection plugin saves so much time than trying to find it manually.

A key detection plugin is a great help for DJs mixing songs in a specific key for producers trying to find the right scales for a chord progression, or for any musician simply struggling with finding the right root of a tune for jamming or recording.

I know it can be difficult for many musicians to figure out the key of a song or sample by ear unless they have gone through serious ear training. Even for those, it can be challenging or time-consuming from time to time. I recommend you use these plugins to save time and effort and keep your focus on creation. 

These plugins will tell you the scale and the correct chords of any audio, analyze it, and give you the chord chart in seconds.

Best Key Detection Plugins To Find Key 

Waves AI Key Detector

Check Key Detector here

5 Best Key Detection Plugins To Find Key | integraudio.com

This is a great plugin with its easy workflow and feature-packed design.

I recommend Waves AI Key Detector, especially for beginner DJs and producers, to find the root and scale of any audio file. The plugin uses an AI-based system to detect the key quickly and accurately. 

The best part of the plugin for me is its compatibility with other plugins and accurate system. After you put it in the master channel, you play the track, and it detects the scale in around 30 seconds in real time. Also, before the final result, you will be given an estimated root in just a few seconds.

Another feature that saves me a lot of time is the plugin’s transmit features. It sends the scale data to other plugins with one button. You just press the transmit button of the plugin and the receive button of the goal plugin to transfer the data to backing vocals or harmonies. This saves you the hassle of manually setting them in each plugin separately on the project.

What I also like about the plugin is the customizable interface. I can resize the GUI or name the scale with flats or sharps as I want, which adds to the flexibility.

The alternative scales function is another plus, as it provides you with data on the scales closest to the detected one with the Camelot system.  I must admit that it taught me a lot and widened my perspective when composing and producing my tracks.

Waves Key Detector is available for Windows 10/11 and macOS Catalina 10.15, Big Sur 11, Monterey 12, Ventura 13, and Sonoma 14 operating systems and is compatible with DAWs that host AAX, AU, and VST applications.

For other details on the plugin, you can go through the usual guide/manual of Waves Key Detector here.

Mixed In Key Live (Mac Only)

Check Live here

5 Best Key Detection Plugins To Find Key | integraudio.com

If you need help with music theory to build your songs, Mixed in Key Live is an uncomplicated, great plug-in for instant key, note, and BPM detection.

I like how this plug-in is designed with a basic interface and fast detection. When you press the button, it analyzes the whole song in real time, giving you the scale, root, BPM, and energy level of full songs.

It works for me for songwriting, mixing, re-mixing, and sampling, and it saves quite a bit of time making the hard musical decoding while I can shift my focus on inspiration and creation.

I always find basic interfaces, like in the case of Mixed In Key Live, quite handy. You have the analyze button, the scale or the key, and the BPM next to each other. I also like the option to change it to a graphic-based view and the option to expand or shrink the GUI.

I advise you to use the app expanded with the interface showing the graphic note visualizer.  It works better for me to see the all data on the screen, like every single note in a .chord or track, as well as the relative dominance of the note next to the other.

Plus, I love that you can use it with many apps like Spotify, YouTube, Ableton Live, and Logic Pro X to detect the notes of any song on these platforms. Also, you can drag your files into the app to analyze your audio files, samples, songs, and everything else. 

For me, the only negative part of this plug-in is that it’s only available on Mac for now. But I enjoy its precision and speed, which makes it a valuable weapon in my plug-in arsenal.

Mixed In Key Live is available in AAX, AU, and VST plugin formats and works with Windows, Mac 10.10.5, and higher operating systems.

For more detailed information, you can check the guides here.

Mixed in Key “Studio Edition”

Check Mixed in Key here

5 Best Key Detection Plugins To Find Key | integraudio.com

This one is a powerful plugin that is great for musicians using many samples and/or complex scales.

I suggest Mixed in Key Studio Edition to DJs and producers working in genres like  EDM, hip-hop, trap, or even jazz or fusion. It helped me quite a lot in figuring out the scales and keys of various samples, songs, and even percussion partitions.

For my workflow, it is great to have the choice of two different modes in this plugin: Note and Key modes.

With the note mode, you can use the vertical meter to see all chromatic notes played in real-time. You can also see the detected tonic on the top of the interface after a while.

The keys mode comes with two different sets of chromatin notes, one for minor and the other for major scales. So, if the song has multiple scales, this mode tells you the possibility of the percentage of different scales as well as shows you the tonic changes.

Another feature I enjoy is the flexibility in naming the notes in the scale. You can name them as sharps and flats as you like. Also, you have the Camelot feature to see the circle of fifths and which chords can go well with the tonic chord.

The difference between Mixed In Key Live and Studio versions is that the Live version has a more basic approach suitable for DJs with full songs. In contrast, the Studio version is more suited for producers to find the scale and tonic or notes of loops, samples, vocals, drums, and other audio. Also, Live only works on Mac, while Studio is available on Mac and Windows.

Mixed In Key Studio Edition is available in AAX, AU, and VST plugin formats and works with Windows and Mac 10.10.5 and higher. operating systems.

For any confusion, you can check out its tutorials and guides here.

Zplane Tonic

Check Tonic here

5 Best Key Detection Plugins To Find Key | integraudio.com

If you are after a complete music theory tool that supports tonality detection in multiple scales, Tonic is a great choice.

Complex-feature plugins with user-friendly, easy-to-navigate interfaces are always my go-to plugins for my projects. Tonic is just one of them as it provides you with possible keys to a song that may have more than one scale. I also appreciate that the plug-in allows you to test the suggested scales with a virtual keyboard inside the app.

Also, I must admit the plug-in’s pitch detection is a great touch. The plug-in can recognize the tonality of the song, so you do not have to worry about if A is pitched to 432 or 440 Hz.

I use the main mode of Tonic, the real-time mode, to analyze certain parts of the song. It plays the music and tells you the scale or the tonic chord in real time. I enjoy how easy it is to find the keys and scales of full songs, solo instruments, or vocal tracks with this mode.

I rarely switch to the offline mode, which analyzes the entire track in a few seconds. You click on the file tab at the top of the interface and load the audio file. The plug-in quickly tells you the detected tonic and scale. It is a good mode when you want to be fast.

For me, where this plug-in shines is the triple scale feature. If a song features multiple scales or a complex scale with out-of-scale notes, like in jazz, the plug-in offers you three possible scale options. Musicians, myself included, need help to figure out the keys and scales of these types of songs. But with the given choices from the plug-in, I can quickly find the right scales.

There is a virtual keyboard to test the given scale option on the song. It has the feature to only highlight the scale notes for ease of use. 

Also, I like that it has the Chord mode that gives you the compatible chords of the scale. The top tip I can give you is to use this mode to play the detected scale and compatible chords a couple of times so your ears can get used to the scale and learn a bit about music theory. You will see that it will be a great help in your musical journey.

Also, like other plugins in the list, you can choose between sharps or flats for note names in the interface.

Zplane Tonic is compatible with macOS 10.15 Catalina or higher (Supports Intel / M1 Apple Silicon) and Windows 10/11 operating system and is available in 64-bit AAX, VST, and AU plugin formats.

You can access the Zplane Tonic manual for more information on the plugin.

Antares AUTO-KEY 2

Check AUTO-KEY here

5 Best Key Detection Plugins To Find Key | integraudio.com

Auto-Key 2 is a reliable plugin for detecting the root and tempo of audio files. It is a part of Antares Vocal Production Suite, which means it has some extra features for vocal recordings.

I worked with this plug-in in some projects where I needed to use samples, loops, and record vocals. The Auto-Key 2 is quite reliable in detecting the song’s main pitch and tempo with its advanced Tonart V3 algorithm.

What I like about this plug-in is that it works as a whole. The detection system listens to the song in real time and shares the data with the Antares autotune plug-ins loaded in your session for easier vocal recording workflow. 

You can also manually set the scale and ask the app to send the data to autotune plugins. 

I also enjoy the customizable features of the interface, like the light-dark mode switch and adjustable GUI. I would have liked it to have more advanced features of the other plugins in the list, like detecting multiple-scale possibilities, but as this one is more vocal-oriented, it is a more basic tool.

AUTO-KEY by Antares is available in VST, AU, and AAX plugin formats and is compatible with macOS 11 and higher and Windows 10/11 operating systems.

For more information on Auto-Key, you can read its manual.

Verdict

While I prefer the fun and satisfaction of finding the tonic and scale of a song by ear, sometimes it is nice to use the shortcut with these plugins to save time and effort to use them elsewhere. Luckily, I found many highly accurate plug-ins for this task with great features to help musicians find keys and chords.

I suggest Waves AI Key Detector to total beginners with its ease of use and handy features like sharing data with other vocal plugins. 

If you want a composition tool with more complex features, check out Zplane Tonic, as it can help you find out the main pitch and scales of jazz songs, as well as help you compose by showing you compatible notes, chords, and scales with the detected one.

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