People often describe songs as being in a particular key while performing or listening to music, for example, “This is in the key of G Major.” You need to be able to find the root key of any sample to decide if it matches any other musical audio clip.

This skill is handy when creating a mixtape, incorporating a great acapella in your instrumental, or tuning your drum sounds. In other words, being aware of the key of your samples and loops helps you create great-sounding music. I will show you how to find the root key of your samples in the following tutorial.

Let’s say we have a nice bassline sequence and want to find a kick drum that fits. This is how the bassline sounds when played solo.

This is a screenshot of my bassline channel within SoundBridge: DAW

~Bassline – Solo

We can add a kick drum sample of our choice to an empty slot in RitMix or a new audio channel within SoundBridge. Let’s hear how the kick drum and bassline sound together.

This is a screenshot of my bassline, audio channel and kick drum MIDI channel within SoundBridge: DAW

~Bassline & Kick Drum (Unprocessed) – Solo

Using an Analyzer to Find the Key of Any Sample

Listening to the audio example above, the bassline and kick drum are incompatible because the kick drum has too many sub-frequencies. We know that our bassline’s root key is A#, so let’s figure out what the root key of the kick drum is. To do that, we’ll load a new instance of the SPAN analyzer by Voxengo onto the kick drum’s effect rack.

Within SPAN, we will first select the “High Resolution” preset from the top right corner of the interface.

When we hover over the analyzer section of the interface, as shown in the image below, we can see where most of the frequency content is occurring. Consequently, where the highest peak is. And if you look closely, you will notice that the analyzer determined that the dominant root key of the kick drum is F#, which is far away from the root key of the bassline, A#.

This is a screenshot of the Span Analyzer interface which shows the root key of the kick drum before processing

Pitch Envelope Processing Using RitMix

To correct the key difference between the bass and kick, I’ll return to RitMix and open the kick drum edit window. We can use the pitch envelope section to change the pitch of the kick drum.

This is a screenshot of the RitMix interface and the pitch envelope section of the kick drum sample.

So, after processing the kick drum, we can see from the image below of the SPAN analyzer interface that the kick drum’s highest peak is now around A#. Let’s hear how the processed kick drum sounds with the bassline.

This is a screenshot of Span Analyzer interface which shows the root key of the kick drum after processing

~Bassline & Kick Drum (Processed) – Solo

Finally, let us hear how everything sounds together. We listen to the entire mix with the unprocessed kick drum and then the processed version.

~Full Mix – Kick Drum (Unprocessed)

~Full Mix – Kick Drum (Processed)

This technique can be applied to various audio sources. However, it works best with drum sounds. Generally, the root key of percussions cannot easily be determined by ear, so this technique saves a lot of time.

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