Trance music

Template:Genrebox Trance music is a subgenre of electronic dance music that developed in the 1990s. Perhaps the most ambiguous genre in the realm of electronic dance music (EDM), trance could be described as a melodic, more-or-less freeform style of music derived from a combination of techno and house. Regardless of its precise origins, to many club-goers, party-throwers, and EDM adherents, trance is held as a significant development within the greater sphere of (post-)modern dance music.



Pre-trance music

Elements of what would become trance music were being explored by industrial artists in the late 1980s. Most notably, Psychic TV's 1989 album Towards The Infinite Beat, featuring drawn out and monotonous patterns with short but repeating voice samples, is considered by some to be the first trance album, but this claim is widely contested. The intent was to make sound that was hypnotic to its listeners.

These industrial artists were largely dissociated from rave culture, and their trance albums were generally experiments, not an attempt to start a new genre with an associated culture -- they remained firmly rooted culturally in industrial and avant-garde music. As trance became to take off in the rave culture, most of these artists abandoned the genre.

Trance begins as a genre

Trance is said to have begun as an off-shoot of techno in German clubs during the very early 1990s. Age Of Love's 1990 track Age Of Loveis considered to be the very first distinctive trance track. Early labels were established (Platipus, Harthouse, MFS, NOOM) which released characteristically trance music. Arguably a fusion of techno and house, early trance shared much with techno in terms of the tempo and rhythmic structures but also added more melodic overtones which were appropriated from the style of house popular in Europe's club scene at that time.

This early trance tended to be characterized by hypnotic and melodic qualities described above, and typically involved repeating rhythmic patterns added over an appropriate length of time as a track progressed. Before long, subgenres such as Progressive, Dream, and Hard Trance were spawned.

At about the same period in time in the early 90's, a musical revolution was happening in Goa, India. Electronic body music (EBM) bands like Cabaret Voltaire and Front 242 came to Goa and began influencing the first Goa trance artists. Artists like Goa Gil, Eat Static, Doof, and Man With No Name came to Goa, heard the psychedelic elements of EBM, and expanded on them minus the vocals and guitars, and fusing them with middle eastern vibes/sounds, creating Goa trance.

The sound of modern (progressive) trance

By the mid-1990s, trance, specifically progressive trance, had emerged commercially as one of the dominant genres of EDM. Progressive trance 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, arppegiated analog synth patterns and spacey pads. Popular elements and anthemic pads became more wide-spread, compositions leaned towards incremental changes (aka progressive structures), sometimes composed in thirds (like Brian Transeau frequently does), buildups and breakdowns became longer and more exaggerated. The sound became more and more excessive and overblown. This sound came to be known as anthem trance.

Immensely popular, trance found itself less filling a niche as edgier than house, more soothing than drum-n-bass, and more melodic than techno. It became more accessible to more people. Artists like, Paul Van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, and Armin Van Buuren came to the forefront as premier producers and remixers, bringing with them the emotional, "epic" feel of the style. Meanwhile, DJs like Paul Oakenfold, DJ Tiesto, and DJ Jean were championing the sound in the clubs and through the sale of pre-recorded mixes. 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 (artists of particular note here are Pascal F.E.O.S. and Oliver Lieb). Perhaps as a consequence, similar things were happening with the DJs as well; for example, Sasha and Digweed, who together had helped bring the progressive sound to the forefront, all but abandoned it by 2000, instead spinning a darker mix of the rising "deep trance" and "tech-trance" style pioneered by bands like Slacker, Breeder, and Deep Dish (as marked by the duo's 2000 release, "Communicate").

Contemporary trance culture is heavily intertwined with recreational drug use. At present, trance is as much about who plays the music as it is about what it sounds like. Trance has transcended the underground scene to become the most popular form of electronic dance music, and a figure in the realm of popular music.

For more concrete examples, check out any number of purported trance compilations; perhaps the most highly recommendable source would be the Global Underground series, including its "Nubreed" sub-series, because it captures the diversity of the genre as expressed through many of its brightest DJ talents. Also recommended as source material would be the Tranceport/Perfecto Presents... series, any of Sasha & Digweed's Northern Exposure mixes, and any of the mixes in the Renaissance series. The Labels to reference would include 3Beat, Bedrock, Devolution, Fluid, Fragrant, Hooj Choons, Hook, Perfecto, Vandit, Armada, Positiva, Harthouse, Eye Q, MFS, Platipus, NOOM, R&S, Yoshi Toshi, and ATCR Trance Music.

Musicology and styles

Trance is a form of music best characterized by quarter note drum patterns, and 16th/32nd note rhythm synthesizer patterns. It has a meter of 4/4 always, with a quarter note bassdrum acting as metronome, and quarter note high-hat hits offset. This unwavering drum mechanism may be constantly tweaked with for effect, with the attack, decay, resonance, frequency, tone, delay, reverb all given liberal treatment. The tempo is generally around 130-150 beats per minute (bpm).

The rhythm section consists mostly of a repeating 1-4-5 (A-D-E) 32nd note sequencing arpeggio, and a bass section of minor whole notes usually drifting through the aeolian scale (though not always). Additional rhythm sections are added and subtracted every 16 measures (sometimes 8, and sometimes 32) to add weight and anticipation to the composition. The bass chord will usually change every 4 measures. A typical trance song has 2-4 bass chords, tops.

There is a lead synth, and it will be a simple minor scale melody of 8th notes, looping every 4 measures (some have 2, some have 8. Some even have 16). Trance is produced with computerized synthesizers, drum machines, and music sequencer software connected via MIDI. The average trance song has a polyphony of 8. The most busy will have 16.

Some sub-genre classifications of trance include:

  • Acid trance: An early '90's style. Characterized by the use of Roland's TB-303 bass machine as the lead synth. Artists: Hardfloor, Simon Berry, Eternal Basement
  • Classic trance: Original form of trance music, said to have originated in the very early 90's. Characterized by less percussion than techno, more melody, arpeggiated melody, and repetitive melodic chords/arpeggios. Artists: Resistance D, Progressive Attack, Arpeggiators, Union Jack, Dance 2 Trance
  • Goa trance: A complexly melodic form of trance named for Goa, India, and originating in the early 90's. Often uses the Arabic scale. Goa Artists: Psygone, mfg, S.U.N. Project, Man With No Name, Astral Projection
  • Psychedelic trance: (ambiguously synonymous with Goa trance, less melodic more abstract.) Psy Artists: Shiva Chandra, Etnica, Infected Mushroom
  • Hardcore trance: The hard side of trance. Can be uplifting (light) or dark.
  • Progressive trance: Style of trance that originated in the early-mid 90's. Differentiated from the then "regular" Trance by bass chord changes that gave the repeating lead synth a feeling of "progression" Artists: BT, Cosmic Baby, Simon Berry
  • Anthem trance: Style of trance that emerged in the wake of progressive trance in the late 90's. Characterized by extended chord progression in all elements (lead synth, bass chords, treble chords), extended breakdowns, and relegation of arpeggiation to the background while bringing wash effects to the fore. Artists: Vincent De Moor, Ronski Speed, Tiesto
  • Vocal Trance: Broad term referring to trance with a full set of lyrics, which may or may not be any of the above genres. Oftentimes an artist will borrow a singer's talents as opposed to the singer herself (vocalists are typically female), or sample from/remix more traditional pop music. Note that there is some debate as to where the divide lies between Vocal Trance and pop or eurodance. Popular singers include Marcella Woods, Jan Johnston, and Jael.
  • Euro-Trance: Euro-Trance is a hybrid of Techno and Eurodance music incorporating Hardstyle bass drums and trance elements in a cheesey, yet addictive way. The trance synths at times sound like techno hoovers with trancey effects and strings backing it up. The vocals are often pitched up for the most part, but sometimes they can be heard as in normal pitch range. This is often confused as Vocal Trance because it's use of vocals. The lyrical content is usually pretty simple, containing an introduction to the song with usually no or little drums, and often includes renderings of classic Happy Hardcore anthems or melodies. People who produce this subgenre include Groove Coverage, Jan Wayne, Starsplash, Rob Mayth, Special D and DJ Volume.

Classic (genre-defining/-representing) trance records

Many DJs and fans of the time as well as trance historians consider this record a trance classic, even before trance became a genre of its own. The ethereal, sound of this record is the foundation of the trance sound.
The classic trance record which very probably officially gave a name to the genre in Germany, where the sound was first emulated and produced by subsequent German artists, and played in underground clubs and raves; never alone, but always with another genre of electronic music, as the DJ's back then never played only one style of music.
Probably the very first progressive trance track, appearing several years before progressive trance was popularized by Robert Miles and Simon Berry. Truly ahead of its time.
The record that was well before its time. It defined a style and a sound that continued for a decade. Van Dyk continues to play it, his anthem, and it doesn't sound old.
  • "Flaming June" by BT (1996)
A widely-accepted classic. Example of progressive trance. Composed in thirds, the structure of this tune represents the evolving, progressive structure of mid-90's progressive trance.
One of the very first Goa trance artist albums. This album set a standard for future releases in this genre.
Considered to be one of the most original and innovative psychedelic goa trance albums. Although not a representative of psychedelic goa trance at that time (Astral Projection and X-Dream are), some claim that it defines the sound of psychedelic trance music, it has been highly influential.
The famous trance track popularized by Oakenfold's breakthrough album "Tranceport". A genre-defining tune of the epic trance.
This track is regarded by many as the epitome of driving epic trance.
This track is still regularly played in classics sets by trance DJs.
A classic Balearic trance track, considered one of the best of all time.

External links

Electronic music | Genres
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