Featured image reads trance music genres the ultimate guide

At its height in the late 1990s, the trance genre was highly influential. People were really loving the whole dance music scene. For me, it was the beginning of a love for electronic music. Tracks like Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Cafe Del Mar, Sandstorm and more eventually inspired me to leave rock music and get myself a digital audio workstation to make my own trance music. I guess you could say that trance music drove me to start making electronic music.

Key Takeaways

By the end of this post, you will…

  • …understand three different subgenres of trance music
  • …appreciate the trance genre and its subgenres
  • …understand the structure of trance music

What Are The Different Subgenres of Trance Music We’ll Cover in This Post?

The three subgenres of trance music that we will cover in this post include progressive trance, psytrance and uplifting trance. There are some subgenres which combine different subgenres. This is particularly progressive and uplifting.

Structure of Trance Music: Progressive Trance

Here is a mix of progressive trance tracks. The thing that sets progressive apart from other strands of trance music and EDM is its subtle nature. Trance are longer, more drawn out and changes within progressive are more subtle. It is uplifting, euphoric and beautiful.

Sound and Atmospheres of Progressive the Trance Genre

Progressive trance involves a blend of atmospheric textures, lush pads and beautiful melodies and arpeggios. These combine to form a feeling of progression and journey through the track. However, it is called progressive for the fact that each track is typically much longer than tracks of other genres. Changes are almost evolving and much more subtle than in any other kind of music.

Progressive lacks the driving drum rhythms found in psytrance. Its subtleties make it much more euphoric than other forms of music.

Rhythm and Groove of Progressive Trance Music

Progressive trance music is characterized by a steady beat and moderate tempos of between 128 and 136 beats per minute. Drums and baseline aren’t as heavy or rigidly structured as you would find in psytrance, but a lighter and more atmosphere-centric sound is what sets it apart.

When and Where Did Progressive Trance come From?

Progressive trance dates back to the late 1990s when trance music was in full swing. It was born out of a need for artists to experiment with deeper sound palettes.

In particular progressive trance took its influences from progressive house and techno.

Structure of Trance Music: Progressive

A typical progressive trance track will be structured in the following way…

The Intro of the Progressive Trance Track

A typical progressive trance music track starts with a focus on the mood and atmosphere. Therefore, there is a heavy use of atmospheric pads, ambient sounds and melodic motiffs. These elements work together to establish the sonic sound palette and draw the listener’s attention.

First Build Up

As elements are introduced, the energy starts to increase into something of a crescendo. This section may include subtle percussive elements, baselines and synths that build the anticipation for the main drop.

First Main Section

This is the initial focus of the track. It introduces the main melody or motif with a subtle, subdued and atmospheric feeling. Rhythms are typically laid-back and allow the listener to feel emerged and immersed in the evolving textures and melodies of the music.

Progressive Development

After the main section, the track takes on a more gradual, progressive nature (hence the name) and evolves gradually and evocatively into something truly magnificent. Think of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. However, it’s not like that. The caterpillar is ugly. This music has always been beautiful.

The progressive nature of this part means that a number of elements are being introduced in a subtle way and one in which the listener is too wrapped up in the music to even think about.

Second Build Up

As the track progressive the energy picks up into another crescendo. This track also sees the introduction of further percussive loops, synths and effects. As any good crescendo does, this section will build up the momentum until we hit the climax.

Climax

As we might expect from the word, “Climax”, this section of the song is at the track’s highest intensity. All of the elements in this section for a euphoric burst of energy. When done properly, this is the part that people tend to think about when they think of the song. It will contain the main hook and be the earworm that stays with people for the rest of the night.

The climax will feature the most prominent motif together with some powerful synths and lush pads. These latter sounds are intended to enhance the motif further and induce a state of euphoria and catharsis within the minds of the listeners. It’s almost like a drug. In fact, many people consider trance music to be a drug because it is so unbelievably beautiful.

Cool Down

In this section, the energy gradually decreases. There may be a breakdown in the beat. This will add room for the atmospheric sounds, subtle melodies and rhythmic textures to shine through. All in all, it is meant to be an anticlimax. However, the listener will continue to feel fulfilled and happy at the experience of the music.

Final Build Up

As the track nears its conclusion, the energy section rises once more. You will hear the reintroduction of elements from earlier in this track as the crescendo starts to build for the final time.

Final Main Section

The track reaches its conclusion in the final main section. In this section, it revisits melodies that we have heard earlier in the track. It will also feature the main motif, but in a new context. This could be with different sounds than we have heard before. It could be with different presets on the synth or it could be coupled with another synth that compliments it perfectly.

Thie final main section may also feature developments or variations that we have heard in earlier elements of the song. Maybe, they are in a different key. You could even process them differently with effects plugins. The idea of this section of the track is to bring a feeling of closure and completeness to the track.

Closure

The track could conclude with a gradual fade-out or a final resolution. It should allow the listener to reflect the journey they’ve just experienced through your track. The outro in a progressive trance music track often features elements from earlier in the track. These should provide a sense of cohesion and continuity.

Some Examples of Tracks From the Progressive Trance Genre

  1. Above & Beyond – “Good For Me” (feat. Zoë Johnston)
  2. Sasha – “Xpander”
  3. Chicane – “Saltwater”
  4. BT – “Dreaming” (Libra Mix)
  5. Paul Oakenfold – “Southern Sun” (DJ Tiësto Remix)
  6. OceanLab – “Satellite” (Above & Beyond Remix)
  7. Holden & Thompson – “Nothing” (93 Returning Mix)
  8. Andy Moor & Adam White present Whiteroom – “The White Room”
  9. James Holden – “A Break In The Clouds”
  10. Probspot – “Blueberry” (Original Mix)

Structure of the Psytrance Subgenre of Trance Music

The video below shows an example of psytrance. Psytrance is typically more psychedelic and hypnotic compared to other subgenres of trance music

Psytrance stands out among other subgenres of trance music due to its distinct characteristics in terms of sound, structure, and overall vibe. Here are some key differences between psytrance and other subgenres of trance music: It is known for its heavily modulated and layered synthesizers, intricate rhythm patterns and the psychedelic feel that we have already mentioned.

Rhythm and Groove of Psytrance Music

Perhaps the first thing that people think about in psytrance is its driving and relentless rhythm. It is characterized by 4/4 heavy kicks that are often distorted. Tempos are typically very fast and can be anywhere from 138 to 150 beats per minute. This is a fair bit faster than progressive and uplifting trance.

Origins and Influences of Psytrance

Originating from Goa, India, psytrance first made a mark on the scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Influences came from Indian spirituality, psychedelic culture and also from electronic music. Since then, it has evolved into various microgenres. These include full-on, forest and progressive psytrance.

+Psytrance has its own unique sonic and psychedelic qualities. The use of recreational drugs is apparent within the sound of psytrance and is most set apart by its fast and heavy kick drums. i didn’t know that psytrance is one of the oldest forms of trance music, but you learn something new every day.

Structure of the Psytrance Subgenre of Trance

Here is the structure of Psytrance Music

Intro

The typical psytrance track starts with an atmospheric introduction which can feature some ambient sounds, pads or effects. These should set the mood for the listener. It should also prepare the listener for what they are going to experience in the music. The section gradually builds the anticipation for the main rhythmic elements.

First Build Up

The energy starts to increase as the baseline, driving kicks and percussion are introduced to the track. This section builds excitement in preparation for the first major drop.

First Drop

Here, the track will reach its peak intensity. The kick drum becomes prominent, driving the rhythm. Psychedelic melodies, synth sequences and effects are layered on top of the baseline. The first drop is characterized by its fast-paced hypnotic groove that encourages dancing and excitement.

First Breakdown

After the first drop, the momentum will momentarily drop. The track now transitions into a breakdown. Typically, this section features a reduction in rhythmic elements. Therefore, this allows for atmospheric sounds, pads or other melodic elements. These latter elements will take centre stage, providing a brief anticlimax in preparation for the momentum to pick up again.

Second Build Up

This is similar to the first drop. However, there is even more intensity and complexity this time. The second break reintroduces the rhythmic elements and builds up anticipation for the next drop.

Second Drop

The second drop matches the intensity of the first drop. However, the second drop also often introduces further elements that weren’t played in the first drop.These new elements keep the track evolving, making it more interesting. The second drop allows the dancers another opportunity to immerse themselves in the rhythmic and psychedelic soundscape.

Second Breakdown

The second drop offers another moment of respite. This typically offers atmospheric and melodic elements. These elements are meant to contrast with the higher-energy elements of the track. Furthermore, it serves to build tension and anticipation for the track’s conclusion.

Final Climax

This is where the track reaches its highest point of intensity. The final climax may also feature intricate synth solos, vocal samples or additional effects with the goal of adding euphoria and elation to the track.

Outro

The track gradually reduces in energy levels on the way out. This may feature elements from the earlier part of the goal with the goal of bringing the track to a closure with a smooth transition into another track.

Ten Examples of Psytrance Tracks…

Ten examples of psytrance tracks include the following…

  1. Vini Vici & Astrix – “Adhana”
  2. Infected Mushroom – “Heavyweight”
  3. Ace Ventura & Symbolic – “The World That You Know”
  4. Astrix – “Artcore”
  5. Vibe Tribe – “Destination Unknown”
  6. Electric Universe – “The Prayer”
  7. Juno Reactor – “God is God”
  8. Astrix & Avalon – “Moonshine”
  9. GMS – “Juice”
  10. Talamasca – “A Frenchman In Mumbai”

Uplifting Trance Genre

Uplifting trance, as the name suggests, is known for its uplifting, emotive and also for its euphoric elements. The main elements that set it apart from progressive include shorter tracks with less subtleties. However, the lush pads and beautiful arpeggios are still apparent. Trance music strives to be more relative and infectious than other forms of music and it achieves this seemingly easily.

Rhythms of the Uplifting Trance

Uplifting trance tends to be slightly faster than progressive with a tempo of roughly 130 to 140 beats per minute. The 4/4 drum pattern is also apparent here. Rhythms also tend to be energetic and driving, with powerful kick drums and pulsating baselines. There is also an emphasis on percussive elements which strive to add a sense of momentum and energy throughout the track.

Origins of Uplifting Trance Music

Uplifting and progressive were born more-or-less at the same time. This was in the late 1990s early 2000’s. However, it also drew inspiration from earlier trance music genres such as anthem trance and epic trance. As in progressive trance, there is also influence originally taken from progressive house and techno.

The likes of Armin Van Buuren, Ferry Corsten and Above & Beyond played a significant role as pioneers and shapers of trance music throughout its history.

Structure of the Uplifting Trance

Finally, here is the structure of the typical uplifting trance track…

Intro

The track begins with an atmospheric introduction. This is designed to set the mood and captivate the listener’s attention. Therefore, this section often features ethereal pads, soft melodies, or subtle rhythmic elements. These also establish the sonic palette to draw the listener in.

The energy gradually increases as rhythmic elements such as percussion, basslines, and synths are introduced. They could also be enhanced. This section builds anticipation for the main section of the track. This is done by subtly increasing the tempo and intensity.

First Main Section

This section serves as the initial focal point of the track. It introduces the main melody or motif in a restrained and emotive manner. The rhythm is typically driving but not overpowering. This allows the listener to become immersed in the uplifting melodies and harmonies.

Uplifting Development

Following the first main section, the track enters a phase of uplifting development. Here, the intensity and energy continue to rise. This section may feature variations on the main melody, dynamic chord progressions, or added layers of synths. Thus, creating a sense of progression and excitement.

Second Build-Up

As the track progresses, the energy level continues to build with the introduction of additional layers of percussion, synths, and effects. This section intensifies the anticipation for the climactic peak of the track.

Climax

The climax is the emotional peak of the track. Therefore, it is where all the elements come together in a euphoric burst of energy. This section typically features the most prominent melody or motif. It is further enhanced by powerful rhythms and layered synths. The music is also designed to evoke a strong emotional response and sense of elation in the listener.

Cooldown

After the climax, the track enters a cooldown phase. This is where the energy gradually decreases. The cooldown section may feature a breakdown in the beat, allowing space for atmospheric sounds, subtle melodies, or rhythmic textures to shine. Furthermore, it also provides a moment of reflection and emotional release before the track’s conclusion.

Final Build-Up

The energy level starts to rise once again in the final build-up. The track also prepares for its conclusion. In this section, there is a reintroduction of elements from earlier in the track while building anticipation for the final act.

Final Main Section

The track reaches its resolution in the final main section. It revisits familiar melodies and motifs in a new context. The outro section may feature variations or developments on earlier themes. It also provides a sense of closure and completeness to the track.

Outro

The track concludes with a gradual fade-out or resolution. Therefore, it allows the listener to reflect on the emotional journey they’ve just experienced. This section often features elements from the earlier parts of the track and provides a sense of continuity and cohesion.

Ten Examples of Uplifting Trance Music

Here are ten further examples of uplifting trance tracks…

  1. Armin van Buuren feat. Susana – “Shivers”
  2. Above & Beyond – “Sun & Moon” (feat. Richard Bedford)
  3. Ferry Corsten – “Beautiful”
  4. Aly & Fila feat. Jwaydan – “We Control The Sunlight”
  5. Gareth Emery feat. Christina Novelli – “Concrete Angel”
  6. Andy Moor & Adam White present Whiteroom – “The Whiteroom”
  7. Solarstone – “Seven Cities”
  8. Giuseppe Ottaviani – “Linking People”
  9. Dash Berlin feat. Emma Hewitt – “Waiting”
  10. Paul van Dyk – “For An Angel”

Trance Music Today

There is still a lot of love for trance music. It is very much alive in clu, bar and nightlife culture. Many DJs are devoted to playing trance music in all its guises. There are club nights when trance is the main music played. The tourism industry also has much to thank trance music for. This is particularly around the Mediterranean and in Goa, India.