Trance music

Trance music
Stylistic origins Berlin School
Balearic Beat
Electronic art music
New age
Pop music[1]:16
Classical music[1]:16[2]:35
Film music[2]:35
Cultural origins Late 1980s to early 1990s, Germany[3]:251[1]:15
Typical instruments Synthesizer, Keyboard, Drum machine, Sequencer, Sampler, Personal computer
Mainstream popularity 1998 Onwards (Mainstream Europe), 2002 Onwards (Club/Rave Underground North America; Varying in Asia, South America, & Middle East)
Acid, Balearic, Classic, Euro, Goa, Hard, Progressive, Psychedelic, Tech, Uplifting, Vocal, (Full list of trance genres)
(complete list)
Fusion genres
Trancestep, Trancecore
Other topics
Raves, glowsticking

Trance is a genre of electronic music that developed in the 1990s.[3]:251 It is generally characterized by a tempo of between 125 and 150 bpm,[3]:252 repeating melodic synthesizer phrases, and a musical form that builds up and breaks down throughout a track. It is a combination of many forms of sound such as techno,[1]:15,17 house, industrial, new age, pop[1]:16, chill-out,[1]:17 ambient, electronic art music, classical music,[1]:16[2]:35 and film music.[2]:35 It is usually more melodic than techno, and the harder styles usually have harder beats than house. The origin of the term is uncertain, with some suggesting that the term is derived from the Klaus Schulze album Trancefer (1981) or the early trance act Dance 2 Trance. Others, though, argue the name may refer to an induced emotional feeling, high, euphoria, chills, or uplifting rush listeners claim to experience. Yet others trace the name to the actual trance-like states that the earliest forms of the music attempted to generate in the 1990s before the genre's focus changed.[3]:252

Trance also employs dynamics to a greater extent than most other forms of electronic music. A characteristic of many trance songs is the mid-song break in which the rhythm tracks are faded out, leaving the melody and/or atmospherics to stand alone for a few moments. The break adds some dynamics to the song, makes it more interesting to the ear, and provides dancers with a few moments in which they can improvise if they wish. Fashion tends to go back and forth between vocal and instrumental pieces every few years; usually when vocals are present, they are sung by a female singer with a soaring, operatic type voice.[citation needed]




Germany is the birthplace of trance music,[3]:251 with the original melodic sound first appearing around 1992 in Frankfurt.[1]:15

Some trace trance's antecedents back to Klaus Schulze, a German experimental electronic music artist who concentrated on blending minimalist music with repetitive rhythms and arpeggiated sounds. In France, Jean Michel Jarre, an early electronic musician,[4] released two albums in the late 1970s: Oxygène in 1976 and Equinoxe in 1978. Also a possible antecedent, Neil Young's 1982 electronic album, Trans, bears a resemblance to the trance music genre.[5]

Examples of early Trance releases include but are not limited to German duo Jam & Spoon's 1992 12" Single remix of The Age Of Love.[6]:15, German duo Dance 2 Trance's 1990 track "We Came in Peace",[3]:251 Also, Hi-NRG is also often regarded as the origin of the earlier forms of vocal trance music.[by whom?]

As for the roots of contemporary trance, some[by whom?] trace it to Paul van Dyk's 1993 remix of Humate's 'Love Stimulation'.[6]:15. In subsequent years, one genre, vocal trance, arose as the combination of progressive elements and pop music, and the development of another subgenre, epic trance, had some of its origins in classical music.[1]:15, with film music also being influential.[2]:35


Historically, the most popular DJs in the world often played Trance music; in 12 of the last 13 years, such DJs always ranked #1 in the world in the DJ Mag ranking: Paul Oakenfold (1998–1999), Sasha (2000), John Digweed (2001), Tiësto (2002–2004), Paul van Dyk (2005–2006), Armin van Buuren (2007–2010).

By 1995 trance emerged as a popular genre of dance music.[citation needed]

Meanwhile, a different type of trance, generally called uplifting trance, became 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.[citation needed]

Artists like Tiësto, Paul van Dyk, Armin van Buuren, Brian Transeau, Robert Miles, Above & Beyond, Darren Tate, Ferry Corsten, Johan Gielen, ATB, and Paul Oakenfold became popular as producers and remixers.[citation needed] 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 maintained a healthy following in most of the world's key dance markets.[citation needed]


As an alternative evolution, some artists have attempted to fuse trance with other genres such as drum'n'bass(DnB). Others have experimented with more minimalist sounds.

Trance elements were often introduced into other genres such as acid techno and nustyle gabber, resulting in the post-trance genres hard trance and hardstyle, respectively. Nu-NRG has been the core element of hardstyle since 2007, thus making hardstyle much more melodical in nature, resulting in many artists of the genre ditching its hard trance elements in favor of a more bouncy techno -like sound.

Trance has retained popularity on the internet with the abundance of legal music download sites, including Juno Download, and Beatport, enabling enthusiasts to avoid tracking down hard to find vinyl by downloading mp3s and uncompressed wavs. 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 Armin van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, Above & Beyond, Paul van Dyk, Tiësto, ATB, Markus Schulz, Rank 1, Gareth Emery, Dash Berlin, Paul Oakenfold, and the US's Christopher Lawrence and George Acosta able to maintain their esteemed positions while upcoming producers and DJs can also break through into the public domain.[citation needed]


Roland JP-8000, a synthesizer famous for its incorporation of the supersaw waveform

Classic trance usually employs a "four-to-the-floor" time signature, a tempo of 125 to 150 BPM, 32 beat phrases,[3]:252 and is somewhat faster than house music[7]:35, with the 'harder' styles of trance (such as psytrance) generally being a higher BPM. Occasionally, trance may be faster and slower. A kick drum is usually placed on every downbeat and a regular open hi-hat is often placed on the upbeat or every 1/8th division of the bar,[3]:253 though trance featuring breakbeats is not uncommon.[citation needed] Extra percussive elements are usually added, and major transitions, builds or climaxes are often foreshadowed by lengthy "snare rolls"—a quick succession of snare drum hits that build in velocity, frequency, and volume towards the end of a measure or phrase.[3]:266

Synthesizers form the central elements of most trance tracks. 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 made famous by the Roland JP-8000. Other classic trance synthesisers include the Novation Supernova, the Access Virus and the Clavia Nord Lead.

A Simple arpeggiated (Roland JP-8000) Supersaw waveform pattern with chorus and flanging.

A synthesiser technique called gating (sometimes referred to as a trance gate) is often employed in creating lead sounds. The technique selectively mutes portions of a played note according to a predetermined pattern, found in both hardware and software synthesizers.

A trancegate pattern at 141 bpm as it is heard on a software trancegate. The gated pattern gradually changes, to hear the various rhythms possible with a trance gate. Note that some trancegate patterns are off-beat. (A Roland JP-8000 with the supersaw waveform is used. Minor EQ edits are made).

Rapid arpeggios and minor scales are common features. Trance tracks often use one central "hook," or melody which runs through almost the entire song, repeating at intervals anywhere between 2 beats and several bars, in addition to harmonies and motifs in different timbres from the central melody.[3]:266

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 is still in common use, 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. 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.

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[citation needed] that trance producers tend to look for in order to achieve the genre's quality. Flangers, phasers, and other effects are also commonly used at extreme settings; in trance there is no mandatory requirement for sounds to resemble any real-world instrument, although real-world instruments or synthesizer sounds which replicate them are not uncommon.[citation needed]

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.[1]:19 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.


Trance music is broken into a large number of sub-genres. Chronologically, the major sub-genres are Classic trance, Acid trance, Progressive trance, and Uplifting Trance. Uplifting Trance is also known as "Anthem trance", "Epic trance", "Stadium trance", or "Euphoric trance", and has been strongly influenced by classical music both in the 1990s[1] and at present with the development of the sub-genre "Orchestral uplifting trance" or "Uplifting trance with symphonic orchestra" by such artists as Andy Blueman, Soundlift, and Arctic Moon. 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. In recent years, trance has been blended with elements of heavy metal music (mostly melodic death metal). This fusion genre is often termed "trance metal". Chinese trance is a subgenre of trance music that originated in China in 2000. It features accelerated tempo, between 160 and 190 bpm. It derives from House, Techno, Psy and Indian Goa Trance.[citation needed]

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 the use of harmonic minor keys in its composition. Psytrance is also very popular in Israel, with psychedelic trance producers such as Infected Mushroom, Astrix, and Yahel Sherman achieving world wide fame.[citation needed]

Music festivals

The following is a list of Trance music festivals.

The Netherlands

Electronic Dance Music festivals in the Netherlands are mainly organized by four companies ALDA Events, ID&T, UDC and Q-Dance:

  • Armin Only, Jaarbeurs Utrecht, Utrecht: the only DJ to mix at this event is Armin van Buuren. Organized by ALDA Events. Armin Only 2005 was held in Ahoy, Rotterdam. The 2008 and 2010 editions were held in Jaarbeurs Utrecht.
  • Dance Valley, Spaarnwoude: an outdoor festival organized by UDC.
  • Sensation, Amsterdam Arena. Organized by ID&T.
  • Energy, (Formerly Trance Energy) Jaarbeurs, Utrecht: Previously Trance only under the name "Trance Energy", the festival was renamed "Energy" in 2011 and begun to incorporate other genres. Organized by ID&T.
  • Amsterdam dance event, One of the worlds trance and electronic music festivals held every year in Amsterdam in October.
  • A State of Trance, Armin van Buurens weekly radio show A State of Trance celebrates every 50th episode with an event. Episode 400 was held in Rotterdam, Episode 450 was not held in the Netherlands, episode 500 was held in the Brabandhallen, Den Bosch, and episode 550 will be in Den Bosch as well.

United Kingdom

Clubbers at Gatecrasher
  • 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.

North America

Electronic Dance Music festivals in North America feature various genres such as Trance, House, Techno, Electro, Dubstep, Breaks, and Drum & Bass:

  • Nocturnal Festival, an annual southern California massive, held at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino in either August or September. Typically bringing in crowds of over 50,000 although this number has been steadily growing.
  • World Electronic Music Festival (WEMF): held annually in Canada, this three-day-long outdoor event, consisting mainly of Trance, Hard Dance and Jungle (also featuring happy hardcore) has been held since the 1990s. The 2008 festival was planned to be the final one in its current form, though another WEMF was held in 2011.
  • Bal en Blanc: is a huge rave party that is hosted annually, in April during Easter holiday weekend, in Montreal, Canada. It features headliner DJs from all over the world and attracts over 15,000 attendees. This event usually has two separate rooms, one catering to house music and the other to trance music. It usually lasts for more than 14 hours. April 2009 15th anniversary line up: Insomnia, Markus Schulz, Above and Beyond, Armin Van Buuren, Roger Shah, King Louis,[disambiguation needed ] Uppercut, Offer Nissim, Ana Paula, Axwell, Deadmau5, Victor Calderone.


  • 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.
  • Switzerland: Street Parade – The world's biggest electronic music festival (more than one million visitors attend this event year by year).
  • Belgium: Tomorrowland (festival) – The largest Belgian open-air electronic music festival. 2010 had more than 120.000 visitors. Tomorrowland in 2011 will have a capacity of up to 180.000 visitors. DJs such as David Guetta, Armin Van Buuren, Bob Sinclar, Roger Sanchez, Felix The Housecat and many more.
  • India: Sunburn Festival launched in December 2007 as South Asia's first electronic music festival, and featured heavyweights like Carl Cox and John '00' Fleming. Located seaside in Goa, on India's west coast, the festival has its roots in Goa trance. Sunburn treated more than 5,000 electro revelers to a three-day party by the beach in December 2008. At the 2009 festival, heavyweights such as Armin Van Buuren, Roger Sanchez, and Sander van Doorn participated with audience numbers running between 15,000 to 18,000 making it the biggest edition yet.As of the 2010 festival, it showed the likes of Paul Van Dyk and many other DJ's with estimated crowds of 30,000 people.
  • Thailand: Full Moon Party Held each month on the island of Koh Phangan. Thousands of people from across the world gather on Haad Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach) to dance under the moonlight.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Fassbender, Torsten (2008). The Trance Experience. Knoxville, Tennessee: Sound Org Inc. ISBN 978-0-2405-2107-7: p. 15, 16, 17, 19
  2. ^ a b c d e Webber, Stephen (2008). DJ Skills: The Essential Guide to Mixing and Scratching. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Press. ISBN 978-0-240-52069-8: p. 35
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Snoman, Rick (2009). The Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques – Second Edition. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Press. ISBN 0-9748438-4-9: p. 251, 252, 253, 266
  4. ^ Lundin, Glen (Feb 1999). "Trans". Indy Rock News (Indianapolis) 2 (2). "[It's] hard to ignore the likeness in timbre, texture, tenor, and name of Trans album and trance" 
  5. ^ a b Bom, Coen (2009). Armin Only: A Year in the Life of the World's No. 1 DJ. Oxford, UK: Dutch Media Uitgevers BV. ISBN 978-9048803231: p. 15
  6. ^ Hewitt, Michael (2008). Music Theory for Computer Musicians. Boston, MA: Course Technology. ISBN 978-1-59863-503-4

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