The Structure, Elements, and Origins of Trance Music

Trance music is a type of dance/electronic music that started in the early 1990’s in Germany. It is usually between 110 and 150 beats per minute (BPM’s) and is characterized by a four-on-the-floor beat with synths and hi-hats between the beats. It is also known for its huge breakdown sections where the main melody is left standing alone as the rhythm section drops out, lasting between a few seconds and a few minutes. It is also characterized by arpeggios, usually done in a minor key.

There is almost always a “hook” or main melody that is played throughout the song, consisting of small riffs or long, 32 measure hooks that are repeated and elaborated. Trance songs also have instruments that drop in and out every 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 measures. The intros and outros of trance songs consist of mainly percussion and minimal moving notes in order to allow easy mixing by DJs in their sets. A great example of how to create progressive trance is by watching videos of others making trance music. 

Trance is very controversial on its origins. Most believe that Klaus Schulze was the originator of trance. You can hear a very basic version of trance in many of his songs. Other artists such as Jean Michel Jarre and his album Oxygene helped to start the trance revolution and paved the way towards a new style of music. His flowing melodies and use of rhythm and ambient sounds are still very prominent in today’s style of trance music.

Musicians such as Armin van Buuren and Tiesto helped to transform trance into the modern sound that we hear today. Artists started putting kicks and different driving rhythms to create danceable beats. Ibiza was and still is one of the most popular trance destinations because of its vacation-like lifestyle. Many clubs and venues play nightly on this island off Spain’s coast.

Trance has changed into many different genres including classical trance, progressive trance, acid trance, uplifting trance, hard trance, euro-trance, tech-trance, vocal trance, dream trance, and Balearic trance.  These are only a few of the hundreds of sub-genres of trance. My personal favorites are progressive and uplifting trance, which encompass huge breakdowns and lots of ethereal strings and piano.

In my opinion, uplifting and progressive are the two most pure forms of trance to this day.


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156 thoughts on “The Structure, Elements, and Origins of Trance Music”

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