Trance music

Trance music

Trance is a style of electronic dance music that developed in the 1990s. Trance music is generally characterized by a tempo of between approx. 128 and 160 BPM, melodic synthesizer phrases, and a musical form that builds up and down throughout a track. Trance can be understood as a combination of many forms of electronic music such as ambient, techno, and house. Trance has been described as "Classical Melodies with Jungle Rhythms". The origin of the term "Trance" is ambiguous, with some suggesting that the term is derived from the Klaus Schulze album Trancefer (1981) or the early trance act Dance 2 Trance. In any case, the name is undoubtedly linked to the perceived ability of a drum beat or melody to induce altered states of consciousness known as trance. As this music is frequently played in nightclubs, vacation spots and inner cities, trance can be understood as a type of club music.



Early in the 1980s the German composer Klaus Schulze composed several albums of experimental "space music" which was highly atmospheric and sequencer-driven. Some of these songs share many similarities with early trance music and are sometimes categorized as trance. Two of his albums from the 1980s include the word "trance" in their titles, 1981s Trancefer and 1987s En=Trance.

In retrospect, some of the earliest identifiable trance recordings came from the UK acid house project, The KLF. The most notable of these were the original 1988 / 1989 versions of "What Time Is Love?" and "3 a.m. Eternal", along with the aptly titled, "Kylie Said Trance" (1989) and "Last Train to Trancentral" (1990). The KLF labeled these early recordings "Pure Trance" and they share many similarities with The White Room album (1991) but are significantly more minimalist, nightclub-oriented and 'underground' in sound. While the KLF's works are clear examples of proto-trance, two songs, both from 1990, are widely regarded as being the first "true" trance records. The first is Age of Love's self-titled debut single which was released in early 1990 and is seen a basis for the original trance sound to come out of Germany, Some consider "The Age of Love" to be the first true trance single. The second track was Dance 2 Trance's "We Came in Peace", the b-side of their own self-titled debut single. Another influential song was Future Sound Of London's "Papua New Guinea" (1991). New Order have also said to have had a hand in establishing what Dance music is today. Similarly, but more specifically to trance, Robert Miles.

The trance sound beyond this acid-era genesis is said to have been an off-shoot of techno in German clubs during the very early 1990s. Germany is often cited as a birthplace of trance culture. Some of the earliest pioneers of the genre included Jam El Mar, Oliver Lieb, and Sven Väth who all produced numerous tracks under multiple aliases. Trance labels like Eye Q, Harthouse, Rising High Records, FAX +49-69/450464 and MFS Records were Frankfurt based. Arguably a fusion of techno and house music, early trance shared much with techno in terms of the tempo and rhythmic structures but also added more melodic overtones. Also, the songs did not "bounce around" in the same way that house did and often contained unpredictable shifts in beat structure. These early forms of trance are now referred to as classic trance and were longer and more abstract than the more danceable trance that was to follow.

Popular trance

By the mid-1990s trance, specifically progressive trance, which emerged from acid trance much as Progressive house had emerged from Acid house, had emerged commercially as one of the dominant genres of dance music. Progressive trance has set in stone the basic formula of modern trance by becoming even more focused on the anthemic basslines and lead melodies, moving away from hypnotic, repetitive, arpeggiated analog synth patterns and spacey pads. Popular elements and anthemic pads became more widespread. Compositions continued to contain incremental changes (aka progressive structures), sometimes composed in thirds (as BT frequently does). Meanwhile, a different type of trance, generally called uplifting trance was becoming popular. Uplifting trance had buildups and breakdowns that were longer and more exaggerated, being more direct and less subtle than progressive, with more easily identifiable tunes and anthems. Many such trance tracks follow a set form, featuring an introduction, steady build, a breakdown, and then an anthem, a form aptly called the "build-breakdown-anthem" form. Uplifting vocals, usually female, were also becoming more and more prevalent, adding to trance's popular appeal.

Immensely popular, trance found itself filling a niche that was 'edgier' than house, more soothing than drum and bass, and more melodic than techno, which made it accessible to a wide audience. Artists like Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, Robert Miles, Above & Beyond, Darren Tate, Ferry Corsten, Johan Gielen, ATB and Paul Oakenfold came to the forefront as premier producers and remixers, bringing with them the emotional, "epic" feel of the style. Many of these producers also DJ'd in clubs playing their own productions as well as those by other trance DJs. By the end of the 1990s, trance remained commercially huge, but had fractured into an extremely diverse genre. Some of the artists that had helped create the trance sound in the early and mid-1990s had, by the end of the decade, abandoned trance completely in favor of more underground sounds - artists of particular note here include Pascal F.E.O.S. and Oliver Lieb. Many trance DJ's are well into their own radio shows broadcast throughout Europe, the United States other countries all over the globe. Examples are "A State of Trance" created and hosted by Armin Van Buuren and "Trance Around the World" created and hosted by Above and Beyond. Artists such as Mike Foyle are also classically trained pianists (and alike) which assists them with sophisticated and musically pleasing melodies. This also helps to solidify that Trance itself is perhaps the most sophisticated of all dance genres.

Post-popular trance

As an alternative evolution some artists have attempted to fuse trance with other genres such as drum'n'bass. Others have experimented with more minimalist sounds. Frustrated, extreme versions of trance have mutated through gabba into fringe genres of "hard trance" or "hardstyle" overlapping with hardcore and terrorcore.

Trance more loyal to its roots has begun to rear its head on the internet with the abundance of legal music download sites - including the likes of Juno Download, and Beatport, - enabling enthusiasts to avoid having to track down hard to find vinyl by downloading mp3s and uncompressed wavs, updated on a weekly basis. As a result, both commercial and progressive trance now have a much more global, if not chart-bound, presence, with big-draw artists such as DJ Aligator, Sasha, Tiësto, ATB, Markus Schulz, Armin van Buuren, BT, Paul van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, Above & Beyond, Paul Oakenfold, Schiller, Solarstone and the US's Christopher Lawrence and George Acosta able to maintain their esteemed positions while upcoming producers and DJs can also breakthrough into the public domain.

Trance production

Trance usually employs a 4/4 time signature, a tempo of 130 to 160 BPM, and 32 beat phrases, somewhat faster than house music but usually not as fast as rave music. Psychedelic Trance is sometimes faster and earlier tracks were sometimes slower. A kick drum is placed on every downbeat and a regular open hi-hat is often placed on the upbeat. Some simple extra percussive elements are usually added, and major transitions, builds or climaxes are often foreshadowed by lengthy 'snare rolls' - a quick succession of equally spaced snare drum hits that builds in volume towards the end of a measure or phrase.

Synthesizers form the central elements of most trance tracks, with simple sawtooth-based sounds used both for short pizzicato elements and for long, sweeping string sounds. As with other genres of electronic music, important synthesizers are the Roland TR-808, TR-909, and TB-303, which is the source of the "acid" sound. There are also several synthesizer sounds that are almost completely unique to its genre. One of these sounds is the "supersaw", a waveform was made famous by such classic trance synthesizers as the Roland JP-8000, the Novation Supernova, and the Korg MS2000. A technique called "gating" is often employed in creating lead sounds (turning the volume up and down rapidly in rhythm with the piece to create a stuttered, chopped sound). Rapid arpeggios and minor scales are common features. Trance tracks often use one central "hook" melody which runs through almost the entire song, repeating at intervals anywhere between 2 beats and several bars.

Traditionally, and more commonly, trance uses classical music as its base. Many "Classical" songs have in fact been "Remixed" in a modern trance style. The two genres blend so nicely as they are so closely related. Having said that there are trance songs that use jazz music as their base.

While many trance tracks contain no vocals at all, other tracks rely heavily on vocals, and thus a sub-genre has developed. The sound and quality of the production relies to a large degree upon the technology available. Vintage analog equipment still holds a place in the hearts of many producers and enthusiasts, with names such as Moog, Roland and Oberheim staples in the trance sound palette. However, the mainstream availability of digital technology has allowed a whole new group of producers to emerge because while top shelf digital (or analog modeling) synthesizers cost thousands of US dollars, high demand and a small supply of clean vintage analog synthesizers causes them to be extremely expensive. Modern music creation software can emulate the sound of classic "synths" which make music creation more reachable both in cost and use for budding digital musicians.

Trance records are often heavily loaded with reverb and delay effects on the synthesizer sounds, vocals and often parts of the percussion section. This provides the tracks with the sense of vast space that trance producers tend to look for in order to achieve the genre's epic quality. Flangers, phasers and other effects are also commonly used at extreme settings - in trance there is no need for sounds to resemble any real-world instrument, and so producers have free rein. However, modern Progressive and Uplifting Trance makes use of Pianos and other "Orchestral" type instruments which assist in taking the listener on a musical journey. This also makes for a winning combination of analog and digital sounds.

Modern successful trance producers have definitely made trance production into a fine art! Where House and Dance music are quite easy for anyone to emulate and have an authentic sound, trance is more difficult to copy and sound genuine. A combination of all the right equipment and elements must be used and in most instances great time is dedicated to just one song. Trance is very emotive and detailed in order to take listeners on their journey but also for producers to express themselves through their music.

As is the case with many dance music tracks, trance tracks are usually built with sparser intros and outros in order to enable DJs to blend them together more readily. This is known as "Mixing" or "Beat Matching". This also works as a build up and wind down and in modern trance the intros and outros do not resemble the main part of the song very closely. Records that adhere to this "build up, strip down" arrangement during intros and outros are referred as being "DJ friendly". As trance is more melodic and harmonic than much dance music, the construction of trance tracks in such a way is particularly important in order to avoid dissonant (or "key clashing," i.e., out of tune with one another) mixes by DJs who do not mix harmonically. DJ's who can successfully "Key Mix" will find more popularity with listeners as there are no obvious breaks in the music, assisting with a journey that is not interrupted.

Trance genres

It's important at this time to point out that new sub-genres are and will break out as Trance producers continue to diversify. The overall feel of a Trance song, however, is usually a good indicator of the sub-genre it sits in as the names are very descriptive.

Trance music is broken into a large number of sub-genres. Chronologically, the major genres are Classic trance, Acid trance, Progressive trance, and Uplifting Trance. Uplifting Trance is also known as "Anthem trance", "Epic trance", "Stadium trance", "Euphoric trance" or "Cheese". Uplifting Trance has been said to be very "Cheesy" compared to its harder, darker cousins. Closely related to Uplifting Trance is Euro-trance, which has become a general term for a wide variety of highly commercialized European dance music. Several subgenres are crossovers with other major genres of electronic music. For instance, tech trance is a mixture of trance and techno, Vocal Trance adds vocals and a pop-like structure to the songs, and Ambient trance is a mixture of ambient and trance. Balearic beat, which is associated with the laid back vacation lifestyle of Ibiza, Spain, is often called "Ibiza trance". Similarly, Dream trance is sometimes called "Dream House", and is a subgenre of relaxing trance pioneered by Robert Miles in the mid 90s.

Another important distinction is between European trance and Goa trance which originated in Goa, India around the same time trance was evolving in Europe. Goa trance was influential in the formation of Psychedelic Trance, which features spazzy, spontaneous samples and other psychedelic elements. Trance is also very popular in Israel, with psychedelic trance producers such as Infected Mushroom and Yahel Sherman achieving world wide fame. The Israeli subgenre called Nitzhonot is a mixture of psychedelic and uplifting trance.

Trance festivals

Trance music festivals attract enormous crowds and usually feature sophisticated lighting, laser and pyrotechnic displays. Most of the largest trance festivals are held in Europe.

The Netherlands

Some of the best festivals are displayed in the Netherlands. Trance festivals in the Netherlands are mainly organized by three companies ID&T, UDC and Q-Dance:

  • Tiësto In Concert Arnhem: is a gig only performance by Tiësto. Organized by ID&T. It is held in the Gelredome Arnhem.
  • Armin Only, Ahoy, Rotterdam: the only DJ to mix at this event is the very popular Armin Van Buuren. Organized by UDC. (Armin Only 2008 was held in the Jaarbeurs Utrecht, Utrecht.)
  • Full On Ferry, Ahoy Rotterdam: Ferry Corsten plays back 2 back with DJs who also cover various other styles such as house, techno and progressive (trance). Such DJs are hand-picked by Ferry himself, as an ode to his long career of producer of many different styles in the process.
  • Dance Valley, Netherlands: an outdoor festival organized by UDC. Currently the largest dance event in the world!
  • Qlimax, Gelredome, Anthem (20,000 visitors): a Hardstyle, Hard Trance event which has been gaining in popularity recently. Renowned for its impressive laser show. Organized by Q-Dance.
  • Sensation, Amsterdam Arena (80,000 visitors on two nights). Not a trance-only festival, many genres such as house and hardstyle coexist. Famous for the venue (a football stadium) and the lightshow. Organized by ID&T.
  • Trance Energy, Jaarbeurs, Utrecht (30,000 visitors): a festival which features only trance music, and very popular for diehard fans of trance. Many well-received DJs have played sets at this event, helping to create its fame. Organized by ID&T.
  • ImPulsTanz Festival, At the Brabanthallen,'s-Hertogenbosch (20,000 visitors ) which started as a try-out, became a festival well known, in the BeNeLux countries, France and Germany.

United Kingdom

  • Global Gathering festival, promoted by the Angel Music Group. The weekend long Global Gathering held every summer features the Godskitchen arena as its centerpiece, showcasing the best trance and techno acts in the world and attracting 45,000 people between a Friday afternoon and a Sunday morning. The organization promotes other stadium trance events under the Godskitchen brand, the largest being Godskitchen: A Gift From The Gods which brought 12,000 revelers to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham UK back in April 2003.
  • Cream's annual Creamfields festival has also showcased an 10,000 capacity trance arena for the last 8 years at various venues across the United Kingdom.
  • Gatecrasher also promote sporadic events and have in the past also used venues such as Birmingham N.E.C. Gatecrasher is currently on hiatus until further notice due to fire damage.
  • South West Four held every summer has come a long way since beginning as a backyard party it found its home on Clapham Common, London.It moved to Cardiff in 2006.
  • PlanetLove, Northern Ireland also has had a thriving trance scene since the early 90's, at the legendary Kelly's Complex in Portrush, shooting local trance pioneers such as DJs X-ray & Si into the Northern Ireland Dance Music Hall of Fame. PlanetLove holds a yearly festival in both the North and South of Ireland, and numerous other events on a smaller scale. Major DJs have performed at PlanetLove events such as Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk and Tiesto.

Non-European festivals

  • Monster massive, a Los Angeles Sports Arena event held once a year around the night of Halloween. Typically an audience of 15,000+ Electronic Dance Music fans attend. In June 2008 Electric Daisy Carnival by Go Ventures has once again combined LA Sports Arena with the Olympic sized LA Coliseum to make room for 65,000+ dancers. Los Angeles is also famous for its all outdoors festivals. With nation's top talent like DJ Dan, Donald Glaude and local favorites like Jonathan Morning and Thee-O, LA attracts thousands on monthly bases with its charming weather, cutting edge talent, and family-like atmosphere (good vibe).
  • Ultra Music Festival, Miami, Florida, USA: (80,000 visitors): A two day-long event with eleven stages playing various genres of electronic music with the main stage focusing on trance. Famous for their impressive lineup of the most famous and influential DJs in the world along with pyrotechnics and light/laser shows.
  • Ultraworld and Universe Kryal Castle, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia: a 12 hour long event, comprising mainly Hardstyle, Hard Dance and Hard Trance (also featuring happy hardcore) event held in a replicated medieval castle.
  • World Electronic Music Festival: held annually in Canada, this three-day-long outdoor event, comprising mainly of Trance, Hard Dance and Jungle (also featuring happy hardcore) has been held for the past thirteen years. The 2008 festival will be the final one in its current form. It is also known as WEMF.
  • Winter Music Conference: held annually toward the end of Northern Hemisphere winter in Miami, WMC is a week-long conference and festival featuring many of the hottest DJs in the world each year.
  • Love Fest: Held Annually in San Francisco, CA. Formerly known as the Love Parade. Typically an audience of 60,000+ watch the elaborate parade of famous DJs down Market Street to end at San Francisco City Hall for an impromptu dance party. Love Fest is followed by the Official Love Fest Afterparty held at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium right next to the San Francisco City Hall. The event normally lasts from 12:00 p.m. noon until 4:00 a.m. the next day. Many other events lead up to the main event throughout the week with guest DJs playing at many of the clubs.
  • USC: Held annually in Seattle, WA (Typically 7,000 - 10,000 attendees). USC is the American northwest's biggest trance/electronic music event. 2007s event featured three stages with Paul van Dyk as the headliner. 2008s event featured DJs Tiesto, BT, DJ Dan, and Donald Glaude. The event is typically a summer event that lasts from 9 p.m. - 10 a.m. with the last six hours dedicated to an after party. The event also showcases the top local DJs.
  • Global Dance Festival: Held annually at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver, CO. Typically 10,000+ attendees watch approximately 7 hour event featuring many well-known DJ's. Headliners in past years have included Paul Van Dyk, Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren. Ferry Corsten headlines the 2008 show.


  • Portugal: Boom Festival (the last edition was in Idanha-a-Nova) since 1997. This event is an outdoor festival running every two years with a duration of several days, focusing in psychedelic goa trance. The festival also features workshops, presentations, and cinema.
  • Germany: Full Moon Trance Festival This event is held during July 7-12th between the cities of Wittstock and Roebel, Germany. This festival celebrates psychedelic trance. In the year 2006 trance artists such as: Infected Mushroom, Astral Projection, Astrix, Space Tribe, 1200 Mics, GMS, Etnica, Oforia, Atomic Pulse, Electric Universe and Parasense plus many others were lined up to play.
  • Switzerland: Street Parade - the worlds biggest electronic music festival (more than one million visitors attend this event year by year).
  • Jordan - Middle East Distant Heat Festival is one of the biggest electronic dance festivals in middle east that takes place in the desert of Wadi Rum, a most unique venue for a party of this kind with the backdrop of the magnificent Jordanian desert terrain. Started six years ago.

Many other countries lack such festivals due to legal restrictions. Public prosecution departments in many countries — notably France — have been reluctant to give permits for techno and trance events, due to perceived drug issues. In the past, ID&T has been expanding operations and begun to organize festivals in Belgium and Germany which have become very popular in these countries. More recently (2008) ID&T is planning the Sensation World Tour in Chile, China, Poland, Czech Republic, Dubai & more to follow. Sensation white is more about the show and the performances surrounding the event where as ID&T's Trance Energy is about the DJ's. Trance Elements discusses details about Sensation White & Black and the future planning of this global phenomena.


External links

Search another word or see trance musicon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature