Top 5 Key Detection Plugins & Software 2023 (+ Best FREE App)

Top 5 Key Detection Plugins To Find Key (+ Best FREE App) |

When you need to find the key of a song in a pinch, these top 5 key detection plugins of 2023 are often faster and more effortless than manual attempts. 

Whether you’re making a mixtape or trying to incorporate an awesome acapella in your instrumental, finding the chords of the two musical audio clips is the first step to ensuring they fit together.

For example, once you know the tonic and chord progression of a vocal recording, you can modify it to match the melody with your music. Similarly, knowing the key of your samples and loops helps you create a coherent piece of music.

However, unless you have undergone ear training for several years, you will have difficulty finding the chords of a song or sample quickly, even if you play the piano or guitar. Hence, we have plenty of tools that detect the scale of your audio, which in turn helps you find the correct chords.

Some of them are websites that analyze audio to produce a chord chart. Similarly, others are phone apps that work remarkably well.

In a nutshell, here are the best key detection plugins & software in 2023:

In this article, I will enlist and review six of the best key detection plugins available on the market. You can use these in your DAW to analyze any audio on the track. Furthermore, most of these work in real-time. So, a cool trick I like is using the plugins with a chord detector as chord visualizers when recording or improvising an instrument solo.

Anyway, if you use FL Studio, consider using the Edison in order to detect the key of your samples.  Simply open the sample and follow the steps:

Top 5 Key Detection Plugins 2023

1. Zplane Tonic

More Info & Price

Tonic is a straightforward “music theory” tool that supports key detection with multiple scales.

Sometimes, a song can have more than one scale. Therefore, Tonic provides you with all the possible keys of the music so that you can decide which one fits best. And you can test out the scale inside the plugin. It has a very user-friendly interface, real-time functions, and other features that help music production.

Using the plugin is as easy as placing it on a track with the song and hitting play. Furthermore, since some music is made in offset tuning where A≠440 Hz, Tonic’s reference tuning engine automatically identifies such tuning. You can use the plugin on full songs or acapella and solo instruments.

Zplane Tonic - Top 5 Key Detection Plugins To Find Key (+ Best FREE App) |

Key Features:

  • Dual Modes
    When you load Tonic, it opens the plugin in the “real-time” mode by default. You can play any audio like a vocal recording or a full-on instrumental track in this mode, and Tonic will detect its key or scale in real-time. This mode is great when you need to analyze a specific part of a track for using it in, say, a mixtape.
    Similarly, Tonic features an “offline” mode that lets you load audio files and analyze the entire clip quickly. This method works faster as you don’t have to wait for the track to play in real-time. Click on the File tab at the top of the plugin’s interface to find the offline mode.
  • Triple Scales
    Some musical pieces use multiple scales, whereas some genres like blues or jazz use a lot of accidental notes. These can create false readings. Hence, Tonic displays three possible scales listed by their probabilities. In the screenshot above, you can see Fmaj, A#maj, and Dmin. The order of the scales and the colors in the ring around the list represent the possibilities of each scale.
  • Keys & Chords
    The virtual keyboard allows you to play the detected scale in the plugin. Furthermore, you can activate the “Fold Keys” mode to make it display only the notes in the scale. Similarly, switch to Chords mode to play the compatible chords in the scale. It makes finding the chords of a song a piece of cake.
  • Sharps or Flats
    While a scale technically has both sharps and flats depending on the relation of the note to the adjacent scale degrees or notes, many people nowadays tend to prefer one or the other. Hence, Tonic allows you to set the plugin to either use the sharps or flats. It’s a fairly minor feature, but it can add a lot of convenience for people who haven’t studied music theory in depth.


This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.15 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 3, AU, and AAX formats.


If you are after a simple key detection tool that doesn’t display an overwhelming amount of information, Tonic is an ideal choice. Its key detection engine is very accurate, and it supports both real-time and offline modes.

Furthermore, the plugin’s built-in keyboard is an excellent feature to try out the detected key and discover the chords in the scale. I’d have loved to use the Chords mode without using the key detection feature, though, which felt like a missed opportunity to me. Still, it’s nifty for what it promises to do.

Related Reading:

Top 6 BPM Detection VST Plugins – Free/Paid 

2. Mixed In Key Studio Edition

More Info & Price

Mixed In Key Studio Edition is one of the easiest key detection plugins with detailed note information.

Mixed In Key SE is dedicated to producers who use a lot of samples in their music production. It helps you find the key of melodic samples and the tuning of your percussions and drums. So, if you produce hip-hop, trap, EDM, etc., Mixed In Key SE can save you a lot of time and effort.

Mixed In Key Studio Edition - Top 5 Key Detection Plugins To Find Key (+ Best FREE App) |

Key Features:

  • Notes Mode
    The Notes Mode is the default mode of this plugin. It shows a row of all twelve chromatic notes, and vertical meters show which notes are playing at the moment in real-time. Furthermore, you’ll find the detected key at the top of the interface.
    This mode is also useful for detecting the tuning of a sample, whether it’s harmonic or percussive. Similarly, I also found it handy to analyze advanced chords like an add9 or a sus4, which would most likely throw off other detection software. While Mixed In Key SE doesn’t detect advanced chords itself, it allows you to manually identify and verify the chord by providing all the played notes.
  • Keys Mode
    In Keys Mode, you’ll find a similar interface as the Notes Mode. However, instead of one row of chromatic notes, you’ll find two. The row on the left represents the minor keys, whereas the row on the right represents the major keys. If Mixed In Key SE detects more than one key, it will use a vertical meter in each key it detects to show you the possibility percentage. Furthermore, this mode also helps you identify key or chord changes in real time. For example, if a piece of music goes from D minor to F major, you’ll get a real-time visual back as the chord changes occur.
  • Key Notations
    The Key Notation switches let you change the nomenclature of the black keys on a piano. Set it to sharp or flat according to your preference to speed up your workflow. However, it also features a “Camelot” mode, which uses a simplified circle of fifth to help you find harmonically pleasing chords faster.


Mixed In Key SE is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10.5 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.


Mixed In Key SE is a straightforward key detection software, ideal for contemporary producers who use a lot of samples and loops. It displays all the played notes in the audio as well as multiple keys or chord changes.

The plugin is also quite accurate, regardless of whether you’re analyzing a single note or a full mix. Also, if you like how this plugin works, make sure you check out my list of the best chord generators, which features one by Mixed In Key too.

Related Reading:

Top 17 Utility VST Plugins For Your Projects

3. Antares AUTO-KEY

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

The philosophy of Auto-Key is simplicity with its minimalistic approach to key detection.

Antares is the developer of the renowned real-time pitch correction software Auto-Tune. Producers have used it to improve their vocals subtly or create robotic effects. And the next step to assisting you in getting faster results is Auto-Key, which is a real-time scale or key detector.

Antares AUTO-KEY - Top 5 Key Detection Plugins To Find Key (+ Best FREE App) |

Key Features:

  • Straightforward UI
    Auto-Key’s user interface must be one of the simplest interfaces I’ve ever seen. Once you load the plugin on the track with your audio file, it will start detection as soon as you hit play. It takes a few bars of playing for it to analyze the audio accurately.
    You’ll find the detected key in the middle of the interface, whereas the top right corner shows the tuning reference, meaning it supports non-standard tuning like A=438 Hz. Furthermore, the virtual keyboard displays the notes in the scale it has detected.
  • Integration
    The most significant feature of this otherwise minimal plugin is its integration with Auto-Tune. Once Auto-Key has finished detecting the key, click on Send To Auto-Tune and assign the key to each instance of Auto-Tune in your project simultaneously. It eases and speeds up your workflow by automatically detecting and assigning the key.
  • Offline Mode
    The File option on the left of the interface allows you to open an audio file into Auto-Key. It analyzes the audio offline and faster than real-time analysis. So, it’s ideal for analyzing samples before you load them into your project.


The plugin is available for Windows 8.1 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.


Auto-Key is a straightforward key detection plugin developed by a reputable brand. It’s very accurate and comes with a minimalistic user interface. Hence, it is an excellent choice for people who prefer simplicity.

However, I find the plugin quite expensive, even after considering the integration with Auto-Tune. Still, if you use Auto-Tune often, this nifty plugin can help speed up your workflow.

Related Reading:

6 Best Autotune Plugins To Improve Your Vocals

4. PluginBoutique Scaler 2

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Scaler 2 is a complete suite of music theory tools with a built-in sound library, making it far more than a mere key detector.

Scaler 2 is primarily a chord generation plugin that helps you create chord progressions from scratch using a vast library of built-in scales and genres. Among the many features of this plugin, chord and key detection are handy. Furthermore, in addition to detecting chords from audio, it can also do the same with MIDI clips.

The latter comes in handy when trying to use a complex MIDI loop. For example, many hip-hop producers use MIDI loops of live piano and keyboard. However, finding the chords from the plethora of notes such loops often have can be quite vexing.

Hence, Scaler 2 can find the chords for you automatically so that you can spend time building the song rather than puzzling out the loop.

Moreover, the plugin comes in two variations: an instrument plugin and a MIDI effect. The prior features factory sounds, whereas the latter is excellent for generating chords and playing another instrument.

And you’ll need to use the instrument plugin for detecting chords and keys.

PluginBoutique Scaler 2 - Top 5 Key Detection Plugins To Find Key (+ Best FREE App) |

Key Features:

  • Audio Detection
    Scaler 2’s chord detection feature goes far beyond the plugins I’ve covered so far. It allows you to extract chords from an audio clip and use them to perform MIDI instruments or write chord clips straight into your DAW. Further, it lets you identify the scale of your audio clip, regardless of whether it’s a monophonic recording or polyphonic.
  • Library
    The plugin comes jampacked with over two thousand scales and modes. Furthermore, you can modify these scales further with various presets and parameters. Similarly, Scaler 2 also features a sound engine with synth leads, pads, piano, and other acoustic instruments. So, it lets you get as creative as you want with exciting scales and chord combinations without ever leaving the plugin.
  • Phrases
    Scaler 2 comes with a collection of live phrases and patterns that help you write piano and keyboard parts with ease. The phrases update according to your chord progression, whether selected from its library or detected from a song. Furthermore, you can use Key Locking to write melodies by locking your MIDI input to the selected scale or chords.


Scaler 2 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.


Scaler 2 is an outstanding music theory plugin. It features an accurate engine to detect keys and scales from both audio and MIDI clips. And it also lets you explore new sonic ideas by providing an intuitive way to work with scales.

It’s an ideal plugin for music producers who aren’t yet confident in their theory knowledge. However, it may be overkill for someone who just wants a simple key detection plugin.

Related Reading:

Top 6 Chord Generator Plugins That Inspire Melodies (+ FREE Tools)

5. HoRNet SongKey MK4

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

HoRNet Songkey MK4 is a multi-functional basic music theory tool that makes remixing and loop production effortless.

SongKey originally started as a simple key detection plugin. However, the fourth iteration of the plugin brings in several other features, including chord and tempo detection, better detection algorithm, etc. Furthermore, all of these features come at an incredibly low price, which makes this plugin excellent for any music producer. Let’s have a better look at its features.

HoRNet SongKey MK4 - Top 5 Key Detection Plugins To Find Key (+ Best FREE App) |

Key Features:

  • Chromagrams
    The plugin’s interface features two “chromagrams,” the bar graphs with the chromatic notes of an octave. The left one displays the chord that is currently playing, whereas the right one shows the key. The advantage of this setup is that it can detect advanced chords like Suspended or Maj7, unlike most key detection software with support for only major/minor triad. Furthermore, the graph also shows which notes are playing to form the chord and the notes in the detected scale.
  • MIDI Out
    The MIDI Out feature lets you send the detected chords into a MIDI track to perform or record. I’m a huge fan of this feature because it’s so much easier than writing/performing chords yourself. And if you don’t need the function, you can disable it with a click of a button.
  • Standalone
    SongKey MK4 comes with a standalone app that lets you analyze the sound from any software on your computer, like a browser, to get real-time analysis. Furthermore, you can use it to analyze a live performance and generate a MIDI clock that keeps a sequencer/DAW in time with the live playing.
  • Notation
    The Notation lets you set the terminology for the sharp/flat notes to either sharp or flat. It’s useful when you aren’t used to reading both.


The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.


SongKey MK4 is an excellent tool that is also affordable. While the past versions may not have been as accurate or fast as competing products on the market, the fourth version makes it on par or better.

Furthermore, the chords MIDI out and live tempo detection features make it stand out among other similar plugins.

Best Free Key Detection Software 2023

Antares Auto-Key Mobile

More Info & Download

Antares Auto-Key Mobile is the version of the Auto-Key key detection plugin for smartphones.

Auto-Key Mobile provides you a way to use your phone’s microphone to analyze any audio source and find its key. It’s handy to find out the key of a song playing somewhere without bothering to look it up online. Moreover, it has a very minimalistic interface.

Antares Auto-Key Mobile - Top 5 Key Detection Plugins To Find Key (+ Best FREE App) |


Key Features:

  • Straightforward
    The user interface has a single button that you click to start the audio analysis. All you need to do is provide permission for the app to record audio using your phone’s microphone. Then, it detects the key accurately within seconds each time.
  • Sync
    Auto-Key Mobile syncs with any computer version of Antares Auto-Tune automatically via a network connection. It sends the key/scale information to your computer in real-time, excellent for live performances.


The app is available for Android 4.1 or higher and iOS 10.0 or higher.


If you often find yourself wondering about the key of a song, having an accurate key detector in your pocket is probably one of the best ideas. Auto-Key Mobile is precise, fast, and available for free. It’s also a great tool to use with Auto-Tune if you are a user.


Zplane deCoda

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Zplane’s deCoda is an excellent music transcription tool suitable for music producers and instrument players.

When learning to play or sing a song, it’s crucial to have various information about the piece. Hence, Zplane created deCoda, a standalone program that analyzes any audio file and provides its key, tempo, chords, arrangement, etc.

It lets you effortlessly navigate through a musical piece and go over specific parts as many times as you need with comprehensive information.

Zplane deCoda - Top 5 Key Detection Plugins To Find Key (+ Best FREE App) |

Key Features:

  • AI Functions
    deCoda features an intelligent engine that detects a song’s tempo, beat, key, chords, and song structure. It separates an audio clip into various parts like intro, verse, chorus, etc., and displays the detected chords. The next step is to make sure the structure is accurate by making any edits necessary.
  • Adapt
    The program is well-designed for people who wish to learn a song properly. It allows you to transpose the entire song or parts of the piece to a key that suits you better. Similarly, you can change the tempo without changing the pitch to make learning the song even easier. Then, you can gradually shift the transposition and tempo to the song’s original values as you get better with practice.
  • Focus EQ
    Focus EQ allows you to isolate a specific instrument in a song. It uses FFT filtering to isolate an instrument or voice so that you can listen to it alone. Similarly, once you’re done figuring out the part, you can switch to Inverted Focus mode to remove the instrument or voice and practice alone. This feature alone makes deCoda an essential tool for every performing artist or instrumentalist.
  • Melody MIDI
    The software features a built-in piano roll that shows the notes of the song’s melody. Furthermore, it also displays the spectral content of the tune. You can edit the detected melody by selecting the correct notes. Then, you can either play the melody back inside the plugin or export the MIDI clip into your DAW. The next step could be using a program to create staff notations or guitar tabs.
  • More Features
    deCoda has several other features that help you learn a song. A handy feature is a metronome with the quarter, eighth, and sixteenth beats, one or two bar count-ins, and an automatic upbeat (navigating past the first note by accident) identification. Similarly, you can save your song projects in an internal library and share the projects with others using a single file.


Zplane deCoda is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only.


As you can see, deCoda is so much more than a key detection software. From finding a song’s key, tempo, structure, etc., to transposing, changing the tempo, isolating an instrument, and exporting the MIDI of a melody from the song, deCoda provides a comprehensive toolkit for every musician.

The key detection feature is probably the least significant in this program! However, if you are an instrument player or singer and often practice singing or playing your favorite songs, you should give this program a try.

It lets you stay in control of your practice sessions and get results faster.


How Does Auto-Tune Detect A Key?

Autotune detects a key by analyzing audio, identifying prominent frequencies, and associating these frequencies to musical notes. It finds which notes are most frequent and establish a key. For example, a C4 note is 261.63 Hz, E4 is 329.63 Hz, and A4 is 440 Hz. Autotune identifies them as an A minor chord.

Confirming Chords

Occasionally, software tools can give wrong results, too, especially with a synth pad or keys sample. For example, if the software is limited to detecting triad chords only, it could see an F Maj7 (F-A-C-E) as either an F Maj (F-A-C) or an Am (A-C-E) chord.

Fortunately, many tools nowadays are capable of detecting advanced chords without fail. Still, here are a couple of tricks that have come in handy for me more times than I could count:

  • Bass
    When you play the bass guitar, you’ll realize that root notes (the first note of a chord without inversions) sound the most appropriate with any chord. So, if you have an E minor chord, playing the E note on a bass guitar will sound glued to the chord. Conversely, playing other notes of the chord –G and B in our case— will sound comparatively disjointed.
    Therefore, try playing the chord’s root note at a lower octave. The second octave on a piano or keyboard and the first (thickest) or the second string on a guitar work best. If the note sounds strange or dissonant to your ears, chances are you have the wrong chord.
  • Tuners
    Tuners are plugins that you use to tune an instrument like an electric guitar. It detects the note of your audio in real-time. So, if you aren’t practiced with matching chords by ear, you can try adding a tuner to a music clip. It’s not always accurate, but it’ll often detect the root note as it’s usually the dominant note. Next, compare the result with the key detection plugin to verify the chord.


Remixing, creating mashups and mixtapes, DJing, etc., have made knowing the key of a song more important than ever. Fortunately, we live in a time when technology has nothing but more to give. From detailed information about a song straight from a laptop to detecting the key on a smartphone, you have pretty much everything on the market.

If you are looking for a cheap solution to find the tempo, chords, and key of an audio clip, I highly recommend HoRNet SongKey MK4. It even provides a 15-days money-back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied.

Similarly, Mixed In Key Studio Edition is an excellent choice that provides equally detailed information about the key, albeit not the chords or tempo. However, it has a reputation for being one of the most accurate key detection plugins on the market.

On the other hand, if you want something much more capable that can help you produce music, I suggest PluginBoutique’s Scaler 2. It tops my list of the best chord generation plugins for a reason.

It lets you analyze audio and MIDI clips to detect their keys in real-time, and you can use the detected chords to build phrases and patterns inside the plugin. Furthermore, its vast scale and sound libraries allow you to explore sonic grounds you’ve never ventured before.

Finally, if you are an instrument player like myself, I recommend trying out Zplane deCoda. It is surprisingly affordable and provides more information from a song than any other plugin on this list. However, note that it’s a standalone software program.

So, you cannot use it inside a DAW, which is a bit of a bummer for the music producers looking to analyze samples and loops in their production session.

And on that note, we have reached the end of this article. I hope I could share an interesting plugin with you and make your music production a little easier. Until the next time, happy music-making!

Related Topic:

Top 6 BPM Detection Plugins 2023

1. Tal Aviram TICK Metronome

More Info & Download

TICK is a metronome plugin designed by Tal Aviram. 

It’s a self-contained metronome, meaning it can run everywhere, from your DAW as a plugin, to your phone or as a standalone app. It’s also fluid in terms of tempo and time signature, making it ideal for all types of musicians needing a tempo clock. An example of a 4/4 time signature at 155 BPM inside TICK. You can also see the possible accents included on this page.

Tal Aviram TICK Metronome - Top 6 BPM Detection Plugins |

TICK comes with a lot of different sounds you can use as a click track. The examples below are just a few of the ones included in the plugin.

Tal Aviram TICK Metronome - Top 6 BPM Detection Plugins |

You can input your own samples inside TICK and use them as a metronome. Below are a few examples of samples uploaded inside TICK.

Tal Aviram TICK Metronome - Top 6 BPM Detection Plugins |

Key Features:

  • Professional and functional
    TICK has already received plenty of love from professional musicians. It’s been used on stages as a metronome and was designed specifically for live performance use. TICK is also highly functional and portable since it saves your audio samples as presets, which can be imported to laptops or smartphones. Finally, your control over the rhythm and tempo is another thing that makes TICK a standout. You can set different tempos across any time signature you can imagine.
  • Custom sounds
    The most underwhelming part of a metronome, at least for me, is the annoying and distracting preset sound it comes with. It makes tracking a recording feel unnatural or distracting for some people. This is precisely why TICK included the ability to fully customize the click sound of the metronome. You can choose between various options, but most importantly, import your own samples. Then, any sound you can imagine can be used as a metronome.
  • Lowpass filter and extra features
    Another unusual feature in TICK is the addition of a lowpass filter. The makers say this feature was included so that you can tame harsh metronome sounds and make tracking a recording feel easier. They also tease new features to come soon, like an Ableton Live link feature for more accessible live performances, drag & drop functions, and plenty more exciting features.


TICK is available on Windows 7 or higher, macOS 10.11 or higher, Linux, Android 4.1 or higher, and iOS 9.3 or higher in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.


TICK feels like the Rolls Royce of metronomes. There’s pretty much nothing it can’t do those other metronome plugins can, and it has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. Including customizable clicks and sounds is a huge plus, and the addition of the lowpass filter is inspiring.   However, with plenty of new features to be announced soon, I don’t see any other metronome rivaling TICK.

2. MeldaProduction MMetronome

More Info & Download

MMetronome is a free metronome plugin by MeldaProduction.

MeldaProduction is known for providing us with high-quality free plugins; MMetronome is another example. It’s a simple but effective metronome plugin that provides both visual and sound feedback to the producer.

MeldaProduction MMetronome - Top 6 BPM Detection Plugins |

Key Features:

  • Visualization
    One of the most valuable features of MMetronome is its visualization system that provides instant feedback to the producer. It includes time-based graphs and meters to aid you and keep you informed about various parameters, including tempo, beat, and time signature. Of course, you can also choose to disable the visualization if you wish.
  • Tempo tap and speed
    A handy feature to have is tempo tap. It allows you to feel the tempo of a song and then start producing around a fixed value, rather than choosing a tempo and committing to it for no reason. It’s also useful when you reference tracks and want to know the tempo of songs you love. MMetronome has a straightforward tempo tap feature that will check the boxes above. Finally, it includes a speed menu where you can slow down or speed up your chosen tempo. This will help you experiment with different tempos and hear how your song would sound in them.


MMetronome is available on Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higher in VST, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.


MMetronome is a simple and effective metronome plugin to have in any studio. Some of its major assets are the no-cost value, tempo tap feature, and speed customization function. I’d recommend MMetronome to all bedroom producers in need of a trusty metronome that doesn’t require them to blow their wallets.

3. Teragon Audio BeatCounter (Free)

More Info & Download

BeatCounter is a beatmatching plugin designed by Teragon Audio.

Beatmatching is a technique DJs use to bring the song they plan on introducing to the mix to the same tempo as that of the song currently playing.

This ensures a seamless and smooth mix. BeatCounter is a beatmatching plugin catered mostly towards DJs and electronic artists playing live with a band or vinyl records. The idea is that it will help you get a reading of the band’s or vinyl’s tempo so that you can mix in other elements (sequencer, Ableton Live patterns) seamlessly.

Teragon Audio BeatCounter - Top 6 BPM Detection Plugins |

Key Features:

  • In-depth control
    BeatCounter offers a few different parameters you can tweak to achieve an accurate reading on tempo. First, there is a frequency knob that will help you filter out high frequencies. This means that the software will focus on lower frequencies to get its tempo reading, which is where the kickdrum operates. Since it’s designed for DJs and sequencers, it’s mostly accurate with Techno or House music but gets a bit inaccurate with complex drum patterns. The tolerance knob will help you fine-tune the response of BeatCounter. If the Beat light is not flashing in time with the music, then try increasing the tolerance knob. It will make the software more sensitive to the kick drum and will pick it up easier. Finally, the period knob decides how many seconds should be considered before making a tempo reading.
  • Perfect live performance tool
    If you’ve never performed with a band as a DJ, let me inform you how stressful and challenging it can be. You have to be insanely experienced and fluid with beatmatching or pray for the best. A plugin like BeatCounter will help you get a reading on the tempo of the band’s music so that you can introduce elements through your sequencer, laptop, or whatever gear you have that makes sense musically and rhythmically. It can also help you when you DJ on your own but want to play some records on vinyl. The functionality is endless.


BeatCounter is available on Windows and macOS in VST and AU formats. However, it’s worthy of a mention that this software is no longer updated or maintained, so it will likely not be compatible with newer macOS versions.


BeatCounter is a handy tool to use when performing live with other performers. It’s an excellent beatmatching tool that will help you get mostly accurate readings of drummers, bands, and vinyl records’ tempos so that you can easily focus on your performance without the stress of being out of time.

Since it’s
designed for DJs and four-on-the-floor style beats, it may be inaccurate on songs with odd time signatures and complex drum patterns, so keep that in mind.

4. HoRNet SongKey MK4

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

SongKey is a key and tempo detection plugin designed by HoRNet.

The way SongKey works is very simple: you load it in your DAW, and it will listen and analyze your chosen audio to read its key and tempo. It can also read chords, something extremely valuable for when you collaborate with other artists/musicians and need to work with unlabelled stems.

HoRNet SongKey MK4 - Top 6 BPM Detection Plugins |

Key Features:

  • Chords and key
    SongKey will analyze the audio you’ve chosen and provide an accurate reading for both the song’s key and the chord name. For example, if you choose to analyze an 8-bar chord progression, the key section will show the progression key, while the chords section will show the chord name in real-time. In addition, a keyboard will provide feedback and highlight the keys played, something useful if you’re not a music theory fan. Finally, SongKey can do all these through its key identification algorithm, which uses artificial intelligence and will always give you accurate readings.
  • Midi output
    SongKey does more than just identify the chords of your audio. If it did a reading, you could export it as a MDI file, meaning you now have access to it in the purest form and can modify it, change the chord voicing, play it in different instruments, and change the key, literally anything you want. It also includes real-time tempo detection software, which will be helpful to any producer.
  • Extras
    Some of the extra features SongKey includes that deserve mention are the resizable GUI which looks awesome in any size, the ability to analyze acapella vocals for key detection, and the Standalone app it comes with. Finally, SongKey is exceptionally cheap, especially considering what it can do. It’s almost a steal.


SongKey is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher in VST, VST3, AAX, and Standalone formats.


SongKey is the ultimate tool for key detection. If you are remixing a song, sampling a record, or working with unlabelled stems, this plugin will save you time and effort. It’s also perfect for those who are not musically trained and can’t identify a loop’s key or chord progression.

Finally, the addition of MIDI output for analyzed chords is a very inspiring touch. I highly recommend it to anyone who works with audio files and spends a lot of time trying to identify the key of a piece.

5. Long’s Metronom (Not VST)

More Info & Download

Metronom is a simple metronome application by Long Sound.

Metronom has very few features but works exceptionally well. It’s a very straightforward piece of software with an appealing graphical interface. It works as a basic metronome that keeps time for you to play live with.

Long's Metronom - Top 6 BPM Detection Plugins |

Key Features:

  • Tempo setup
    You can easily set your ideal tempo value inside the beats/min box. Once you do so, the blue and red lights will flash in time to signify the speed of the tempo. There is also a tap box where you can tap your ideal tempo. This is perfect if you already feel a certain rhythm and have a sound in your head but don’t know exactly which tempo value corresponds to your idea.
  • Metronome sounds and interface
    Metronom has a few custom sounds that can function as a metronome. You can choose them through the dropdown menu on the top right corner of the interface. The interface is designed to resemble an old-fashioned clock, something that’s appropriate since we are dealing with time. It’s a clean and tidy look.


Metronom is available on Windows and macOS.


Metronom is highly functional and can be used to provide a rhythmic accompaniment to your performance or practice sessions. It’s not a VST, so you can’t load it into your DAW, but it’s perfect if you are a guitarist or instrumentalist who needs a click to practice.

6. AlexHilton A1 TriggerGate (Free)

More Info & Download

A1 TriggerGate is a rhythmic and sequenced gate plugin designed by Alex Hilton.

This plugin was designed to add rhythm and life to all sorts of sustained sounds. The rhythmic gated sound started in electronic music and became famous through Trance music of the 2000s.

Nowadays, it’s everywhere; it even dominates Pop music. TriggerGate aims to make this effect accessible to everyone with its no-cost value and simple interface.

AlexHilton A1 TriggerGate - Top 6 BPM Detection Plugins |

Key Features:

  • Sequencer
    On the top of the interface is a 16-step sequencer with two rows of blocks. The first row highlights the volume of each of the 16 steps. You can drag up or down the wide fader in these blocks to adjust the volume to your preference. On the underneath blocks, you can set accents and choose between short step, long step, no step, or step link by tapping them. There is a mix knob that will blend the gated signal with the dry signal to achieve parallel processing. You can also select the length of the pattern and whether you are setting up sixteenth notes or triplets.
  • Envelope and more tweakability
    There is an envelope inside TriggerGate which will control the amplitude of each step. If you increase the attack, each step will have a “ducked” feeling, while decreasing the sustain and decay will give you a “plucky” feel. There is also a section on the right where you can observe the waveform and modify parameters to fine-tune the timing of your gate effect. You can tweak the makeup gain, swing, short step, long step, and time -/+ values.
  • Effects
    TriggerGate has a few effects, which Alex Hilton says are meant to be simple additions that fine-tune the sound, rather than effects where you spend hours tweaking to get something good out of them. For example, there is a lowpass filter for cleaning up your sound, a drive effect for adding harmonic distortion, and an echo/delay effect with a ping pong mode.


A1 TriggerGate is available on Windows and macOS.


A1 TriggerGate is a straightforward and functional rhythmic gate effect. The step sequencer is easy to use and offers plenty of rhythmic options, while the envelope adds another touch, control, and depth to this free plugin.

The effects add a nice creative aspect to the sound design department, and the overall interface is clean and easy to understand.


BPM detection software may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when searching for plugins to buy, but they can easily be some of the most used and time-saving plugins you’ll ever own.  We all need a tool that saves time from guessing and trying different tempos to integrate loops, samples, or stems in our productions.

This list is meant to guide you through the best options for BPM detection plugins and offer a few more ideas on what’s possible with utility plugins. So use it to get inspired and integrate the most appropriate plugins into your workflow.

Related Readings:

Top 6 BPM Detection VST Plugins 2023

6 Best Autotune Plugins 2023 To Improve & Enhance Your Vocals

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