This article will discuss the best key detection plugins that you can use to find out the scales of songs, loops, samples, etc.
Unless you are pitch-perfect, it takes a couple of steps to find the exact key of a song. Key detectors come in handy, especially if you are a DJ or are someone who works with mashups and remixes a lot!!! Key detection plugins only take a few seconds to detect your scale once they get an input.
However, finding good key detectors can be an issue, as many plugins interpret the song scales incorrectly. Keeping that in mind, we have combined the most reliable and easy-to-use key detectors that you can have in your plugin arsenal.
5 Best Key Detection Plugins To Find Key 2023
Waves AI Key Detector
AI Key Detector uses Artificial Intelligence to detect the scale of your songs, loops, samples, etc.
It’s a great solution for skipping the manual steps of finding the key to your project. You can also use it alongside Waves Tune and OVox and send key data directly to them, so you don’t have to manually set the key on your tuner. It’s designed to detect tuning even if the pitch is off-tune.
Features & Benefits:
- Key Detector’s workflow is simple! You put the plugin on the master or the insert/channel where the track is routed. Then you play the track, and while the track plays, the plugin says, “Detecting…” It usually takes 30 seconds to detect the key, but it gives an estimate of the key before that.
- The plugin allows you to transmit the key of the song to other vocal tuning plugins in your session by using its “Transmit” button. You just have to click on “Receive Key” on the plugin to where you want to transmit the scale data.
- You can also manually enter the scale of the project and use Key Detector as a single-point transmit channel that sends the scale data to other plugins in just one click. For example, in sessions, there are many backing vocals, harmonies, ad-libs, etc., on which the tuner is loaded. Instead of setting the scale on the tuner for each track, you can simply use a Key Detector to transmit the key to all backing vocals.
- The plugin has a customizable interface that lets you detect the keys as sharps or flats, as per your preference. In addition, you can also resize its GUI and access the User Guide, WavesSystem Guide, and other information from the “hamburger” button.
- The plugin also shows you “Alternative Scales,” by which you can find out the scales closest to the scale of your song. It uses the Camelot System to detect these alternative scales.
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)
Mixed In Key Live is a highly intuitive and convenient detection software.
It can also work outside your DAW! Yes, you heard it right! It takes the collective output from your system as its input to detect the key. It can take input from Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, and other sources. You can literally drag and drop an audio file into it, and it will detect its scale.
Features & Benefits:
- Let’s say you play different samples one by one. If Mixed In Key Live is open, it can detect the key of each sample/loop you monitor or play.
- Besides keys/scales, the software also detects the BPM/tempo of the song. This information can help you organize your musical data better as a producer/DJ and simplify your workflow.
- The Graphic Note Visualizer in Mixed In Key Live helps you see exactly which notes are playing in real-time. You can use that to find the exact melody or bassline in your audio.
- Mixed In Key Live has views in different sizes, such that its “collapsed” view, which is the smaller view, can be opened anytime, and you can easily hover it over different apps for a more intuitive workflow.
The software is compatible with Mac OS 10.14.6 or higher operating systems and works with M1 and M2 chips as well.
Mixed in Key “Studio Edition”
Mixed In Key Studio Edition plugin that can detect the key of your audio in just one click.
It identifies your root note and tells you if the scale is major, minor, or any other. It also highlights the notes playing in the audio in real-time. You can place it over a channel or track and play the track until it detects the key. You can switch its interface between “Notes” and “Keys,” meaning you can decide whether it detects notes or just the key.
Features & Benefits:
- With an easy interface that lets you switch your key notations between Flat, Sharp, and Camolet, the plugin makes things easier for even beginners. Camolet’s keys can help you decide on alternate scales that are close to your detected scale.
- It has a wide variety of applications, as you can use it to tune drums, fit your samples in your productions better, tune your vocals, create mashups, and more.
- Mixed In Key Studio detects keys in probabilities by telling you the likelihood of what the scale is. For example, it can detect the audio’s key by stating the result as 16% A minor and 84% A Major.
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.
Tonic can detect the key and chords on the audio in your DAW.
You can use it in real-time or drag-drop/upload an audio file to it! It also allows you to expand the keys panel to experiment with notes and chords within the suggested keys, allowing you to pinpoint the ideal match.
Features & Benefits:
- At times, multiple keys can suit your audio. That is why TONIC detects three keys ranked by probability, which you can compare and hear which suits you best.
- The plugin allows you to utilize the Fold Keys feature to focus solely on the correct notes within the selected key, validating the key and grasping its scale.
- You can activate Chords mode in the plugin to visualize and audibly experience the diverse chords perfectly aligning with the chosen key.
- Tonic can also identify reference tuning for recordings deviating from 440 Hz. Next, it has a scalable GUI, which you can resize as per your preference.
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
AUTO-KEY 2 is a part of Antares Vocal Production Suite and is a great plugin for detecting the tempo and key of any audio.
Suppose you downloaded a beat from YouTube and want to record your vocals on top of that. You need a reliable plugin that can tell you the key of the beat correctly so you can apply the same scale on the autotune plugin you apply on your vocals.
Not just a beat or instrumental, auto-key can detect the key and tempo of any loop, sample, or audio you feed into it. Auto-Key employs the advanced TONART V3 algorithm, developed by Zplane development, as an automated system for detecting musical keys.
Features & Benefits:
- The plugin can detect the audio’s scale and tempo information in real-time by using its “Listen” button. Additionally, you can also feed an external audio file (WAV, FLAC, mp3, etc.) into it, and it will detect its tempo and key.
- AUTO-KEY can share the scale/tempo data to the Antares auto-tune plugins loaded in your session by using the “Send to autotune” button. You can also manually add the key in the plugin and then share that data with the autotune plugins.
- Other than the direct transfer of key to autotune plugins, AUTO-KEY has two more features that it make its interface great! You can switch the plugin to light or dark mode to suit the vibe of your track. You can also resize its GUI to better fit your workflow.
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.
All key detection plugins mentioned in the above list are simple, easy to use, and follow a similar workflow! The standout item in the list is Mixed In Key LIVE, which can also work outside the DAW with various other applications.
Hence, you can use that with your DJ software, your audio files, and more. That makes it the most versatile software out of the lot! Next, Waves Key Detector and Antares AUTO-KEY are two plugins that you can link directly with your tuner plugins, depending on whether you use the Waves tuning applications or Antares’.
I hope these tips and suggestions help you select the right key detection plugin for yourself. With the Waves plugin, the good thing is that you can get a free trial for it, which I recommend doing. Thank you for reading!