Table Of Contents:
Trance Music - A Brief History
Twenty Trance Classics
Trance Music - Characteristics
Trance Music - Subgenres
Trance Music - Labels
Trance Music - A brief history
Having seen the first tracks that could be classified as Trance Music in the late '80s , it is safe to say that Trance music started to take over the world in the early '90s. After a few years of dominating the club scene in Germany in the late '80s and early '90s, Trance Music began to spread to the rest of Europe. And it is there where it remained the leading sound in the club scene for about a decade long. Some of the most notable Trance Music pioneers include Chicane, Ferry Corsten, Paul van Dyk, Rank 1, Tiësto, and Armin van Buuren (whose A State Of Trance radio show is still one of the most prominent outlets for Trance Music to this day).
Twenty Trance Classics
The early '90s were absolutely packed with Trance classics, records that are still regarded as some of the most iconic works by the Trance crowd. Fuelled by these superb creations, Trance music quickly became a full-fledged genre, as the likes of Chicane, Armin van Buuren, Solarstone, and Ferry Corsten started to make their mark on the scene. These guys - among others - brought us countless everlasting memories, and ensured that Trance music has withstood the test of time. Unfortunately, we can't list every single one of those Trance classics. Instead, we picked twenty classics to educate you on what Trance music sounded like back then:
Age Of Love - Age Of Love (Jam & Spoon Remix) (1992)
Dance 2 Trance - Power Of American Native (1992)
Humate - Love Stimulation (Paul van Dyk Remix) (1993)
Energy 52 - Café Del Mar (1993)
Robert Miles - Children (1994)
Paul van Dyk - For An Angel (1994)
Underworld - Born Slippy (1995)
B.B.E. - Seven Days And One Week (1996)
Chicane - Offshore (1996)
Armin van Buuren - Blue Fear (1997)
Art Of Trance - Madagascar (1998)
Push - Universal Nation (1998)
Armin van Buuren - Communication (1999)
Chicane - Saltwater (1999)
Gouryella - Gouryella (1999)
Rank 1 - Airwave (1999)
Sasha - Xpander (1999)
Solarstone - Seven Cities (1999)
System F - Out Of The Blue (1999)
Veracocha - Carte Blanche (1999)
Trance Music - Characteristics
Often described as a mix between Techno and House music, Trance Music stands out from those genres due to its focus on melodies, harmonies, and rich atmospheres. Its tempo or beats per minute generally ranges from 128 BPM to 140 BPM, although this range does not encapsulate all sub genres. It is often known for its enduring breakdowns and build-ups, which tend to leave people in a "trance". On another note, Trance music is often found to be closely related to classical music, as they often share similar string patterns, harmonies, and melodies.
Delay and reverb effects are used frequently and heavily, as they contribute to the atmospheric and enthralling aspect of the genre. Traditional instruments may be adopted to complement the Electronic Music properties of the genre, but this rarely goes beyond piano, guitar, and strings. However, Trance pioneer Armin van Buuren used some untraditional instruments in a number of songs on his sixth studio album ('Embrace'). Title track 'Embrace' feat Jazz trumpeter Eric Vloeimans is a sterling example.
Trance Music - Sub genres
Seeing as Trance Music is closely tied to various genres (EDM) and influences, you could've guessed that plenty of sub genres would arise. Throughout the years, many of those sub genres have taken their own path of evolution, which is why they sound so different. As it is not always clear which records 'fit' into a certain sub genre, you'll find a breakdown of the most important sub genres below, including a summary of what it sounds like in general. Do be advised, however. Since many of these sub genres share a lot of characteristics, there is some debate on what sound or style to tie to a certain sub genre. Opinions may differ on what is considered its sound.
Uplifting Trance is the sub genre lovingly referred to as 'pure Trance' by most Trance music enthusiasts. Its inception lies around the year of 1996 and it has never strayed too far from that sound. There are, however, a few dissimilarities between the sound of then and now. The Uplifting Trance of the past decade is (arguably) more energetic, faster (in tempo or BPM), and more focused on one or two lead melodies. These specific characteristics allow for an energetic build-up, while simultaneously making room for an often long-lasting breakdown to grow towards a full-on drop.
Uplifting Trance nowadays seems to be the sole preserve of the more credible Trance events. Its energy, tempo, and build-up style are not (necessarily) radio friendly, and its sound is not something people easily grow accustomed to. It's no acquired taste; you either love it instantly, or you don't. But, judging from the ecstatic crowds at huge events like A State Of Trance 700, it can still count on a massive and very loyal fan base.
Uplifting Trance Characteristics:
-135 BPM - 141 BPM (with a strong emphasis on 138 BPM and 140 BPM)
-Full focus on one, maybe two lead melodies;
-Enduring breakdown with strong and long build-up;
-Thumping drums, raw sound sets.
Uplifting Trance artists:
Aly & Fila
Jorn van Deynhoven
Progressive Trance has had many names, often being called Progressive or Progressive House. But despite the fuzz about the name and the different musical interpretations that come with it, the genre is still very melodically oriented. It does not focus solely on one lead melody - it instead uses multiple melodic elements to build the atmosphere of the track on. Progressive Trance generally ranges from 128 BPM to 136 BPM and contains more grooves and rhythms than its uplifting counterpart. Ranging from smooth Trance vibes to the somewhat rawer implementations of Trance music, Progressive Trance often seems to be the mainstream outlet of Trance music, although many would contest that definition. However, it is definitely one of the most diverse sub genres, and therefore one of the most commercially viable ones.
Progressive Trance Characteristics:
-128 BPM - 136 BPM
-Highly melodic, but mainly to build the track's atmosphere on;
-Generally more delicate sound set (cross-overs to "Electro Trance" excluded).
Progressive Trance Artists:
Super8 & Tab
Ruben de Ronde
Even though combining vocals with instrumental music is all but uncommon, a new, separate sub genre emerged when vocals were added to Trance Music. Since Trance Music initially was an purely instrumental/electronic style of music, adding a full set of lyrics was something new and surprising, which gained a lot of popularity in a small amount of time. Often engulfed in delay and reverb effect, the atmospheric and almost ethereal vocal tones in Trance Music only adding to the highly enthralling and emotional aspects of Trance Music. Vocal Trance is largely intertwined with various other Trance sub genres, such as Uplifting Trance and Progressive Trance.
Vocal Trance Characteristics:
-No specific BPM or tempo;
-Gorgeous vocals at the core of the record;
-Often heartfelt lyrics.
Vocal Trance Singers/vocalists:
Although very similar to Uplifting Trance, Epic Trance (or Orchestral Trance) deserves to be seen as a separate entity. This is mainly due to of its strong connection to classical music and even film music. Its breakdowns are often longer and based on string harmonies and melodies, which is also what gives orchestral film scores its charm. In terms of music in general, this is where two worlds collide. And to some, this combination of Uplifting Trance and classical music/film music is more entrancing than anything else.
A small little side note...The correlation between Trance Music and classical music is often shown through ways other than Epic Trance. One of those is - for instance - this two-part album series called 'Classical Trancelations', composed by Finnish producer Petri Alanko under his Lowland alias. If you wish to discover what it'll sound like when it is done the other way around, you can check it out.
Epic Trance Characteristics:
-Where orchestral music, film scores, and Uplifting Trance collide;
-Often features string partitions;
-Extended breakdowns (as opposed to 'regular' Uplifting Trance).
Epic Trance artists:
Ever since its inception in Goa - a lovely state in the western region of India - Goa Trance has been one of the most recognizable sub genres in Trance music. As essentially any sub genre of Trance, it's highly melodic. However, its sound is also very complex and hard to rival. Originally used to invoke some sort of outer-body experience to the ones dancing to it, Goa Trance's hypnotizing effects are mainly due to its palpitating melodies, rapidly paced rhythms, and high-pitched, spacey sound effects. So as far as the terms of definition go, Goa Trance is the sub genre most closely related to the meaning of the word 'Trance'.
Goa Trance Characteristics:
-Incredible fast-paced - BPM rarely goes belong the 142 BPM mark;
-An excess of melodies;
-A lot of high-pitched and spacey sound effects.
Noteable Goa Trance Artists:
Trance Music - Labels
Throughout the years, innumerable Trance Music labels have come and gone. The ones still standing have undoubtedly earned the right to do so, as staying afloat in this ravaging music landscape is no easy task at all. Although many of these labels have scattered across the entire Trance music spectrum (often launching their own sub labels to increase their target audience), we tried our best to compile a list of the most respected labels of today.
Always Alive Recordings
A State Of Trance
Blue Soho Recordings
Future Sound Of Egypt
High Contrast Recordings
How Trance Works
In My Opinion
In Trance We Trust
RNM (Raz Nitzan Music)
Wake Your Mind Records
Who's Afraid Of 138?!
In Trance We Trust
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