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Trance is a style of electronic dance music that developed in the 1990s. Trance music is generally characterized by a tempo of between 130 and 155 BPM, short melodic synthesizer phrases, and a musical form that builds up and down throughout a track. It is a combination of many forms of electronic music such as industrial, techno, and 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. In any case, the name is undoubtedly linked to the perceived ability of music to induce an altered state of consciousness known as a trance. The effect of some trance music has been likened to the trance-inducing music created by ancient shamanists during long periods of drumming. As this music is frequently played in nightclubs, vacation spots and inner cities, trance can be understood as a type of club music.



Early in the 1980s the German composer Klaus Schulze composed several albums of experimental "space music" which was highly atmospheric and sequencer-driven. Some of these songs share many similarities with early trance music and are sometimes categorized as trance. Two of his albums from the 1980s include the word "trance" in their titles, 1981's Trancefer and 1987's En=Trance.

In retrospect, some of the earliest identifiable trance recordings came from the acid house movement, which was pioneered by The KLF. The most notable of these were the original 1988 / 1989 versions of "What Time Is Love?" and "3 a.m. Eternal", along with the aptly titled, "Kylie Said Trance" (1989) and "Last Train to Trancentral" (1990). The KLF labeled these early recordings "Pure Trance" and they share many similarities with The White Room album (1991) but are significantly more minimalist, nightclub-oriented and 'underground' in sound. While the KLF's works are clear examples of proto-trance, two songs, both from 1990, are widely regarded as being the first "true" trance records. The first is Age of Love's self-titled debut single which was released in early 1990 and is seen a basis for the original trance sound to come out of Germanymarker, Some consider "The Age of Love" to be the first true trance single.The second track was Dance 2 Trance's "We Came in Peace", the b-side of their own self-titled debut single. Another influential song was Future Sound Of London's "Papua New Guinea" (1991).

The trance sound beyond this acid-era genesis is said to have been an off-shoot of techno in German clubs during the very early 1990s. Germanymarker is often cited as a birthplace of trance culture. Some of the earliest pioneers of the genre included Jam El Mar, Oliver Lieb, and Sven Väth who all produced numerous tracks under multiple aliases. Trance labels like Eye Q, Harthouse, Rising High Records, FAX +49-69/450464 and MFS Records were Frankfurtmarker based. Arguably a fusion of techno and house music, early trance shared much with techno in terms of the tempo and rhythmic structures but also added more melodic overtones. Also, the songs did not "bounce around" in the same way that house did and often contained unpredictable shifts in beat structure. These early forms of trance are now referred to as classic trance and were longer and more abstract than the more danceable trance that was to follow.

Popular trance

By the mid-1990s trance, specifically progressive trance, which emerged from acid trance much as Progressive house had emerged from Acid house, had emerged commercially as one of the dominant genres of dance music. Progressive trance has 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, arpeggiated analog synth patterns and spacey pads. Popular elements and anthemic pads became more widespread. Compositions continued to contain incremental changes (aka progressive structures), sometimes composed in thirds (as BT frequently does). Meanwhile, a different type of trance, generally called uplifting trance was becoming 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.

Immensely popular, trance found itself filling a niche that was 'edgier' than house, more soothing than drum and bass, and more melodic than techno, which made it accessible to a wide audience. Artists like Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, Robert Miles, Above & Beyond, Darren Tate, Ferry Corsten, Johan Gielen, ATB, Paul Oakenfold and Third Element came to the forefront as premier producers and remixers, bringing with them the emotional, "epic" feel of the style. 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 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 in favor of more underground sounds - artists of particular note here include Pascal F.E.O.S. and Oliver Lieb.

Post-popular trance

As an alternative evolution some artists have attempted to fuse trance with other genres such as drum'n'bass. Others have experimented with more minimalist sounds. Frustrated, extreme versions of trance have mutated through gabber into fringe genres of "hard trance" or "hardstyle" overlapping with hardcore and terrorcore.

Trance more loyal to its roots has begun to rear its head on the internet with the abundance of legal music download sites - including the likes of Juno Download, and Beatport, - enabling enthusiasts to avoid having to track down hard to find vinyl by downloading mp3s and uncompressed wavs, updated on a weekly basis. 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 Sasha, Tiësto, ATB, Markus Schulz, Armin van Buuren, BT, Paul van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, Above & Beyond, Paul Oakenfold, Schiller, Solarstone and the US's Christopher Lawrence and George Acosta able to maintain their esteemed positions while upcoming producers and DJs can also breakthrough into the public domain.

Trance production

Trance usually employs a 4/4 time signature, a tempo of 130 to 160 BPM, and 32 beat phrases, somewhat faster than house music but usually not as fast as, psychedelic trance sometimes faster and earlier tracks were sometimes slower. A kick drum is placed on every downbeat and a regular open hi-hat is often placed on the upbeat. Some simple extra percussive elements are usually added, and major transitions, builds or climaxes are often foreshadowed by lengthy 'snare rolls' - a quick succession of equally spaced snare drum hits that builds in volume towards the end of a measure or phrase.

Synthesizers form the central elements of most trance tracks, with simple sawtooth-based sounds used both for short pizzicato elements and for long, sweeping string sounds. 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 was made famous by such classic trance synthesizers as the Roland JP-8000, the Novation Supernova, and the Korg MS2000. A technique called "gating" is often employed in creating lead sounds (turning the volume up and down rapidly in rhythm with the piece to create a stuttered, chopped sound). Rapid arpeggios and minor scales are common features. Trance tracks often use one central "hook" melody which runs through almost the entire song, repeating at intervals anywhere between 2 beats and several bars.

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 still holds a place in the hearts of many producers and enthusiasts, 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 because 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 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 need for sounds to resemble any real-world instrument, and so producers have free rein.

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. 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 genres

Trance music is broken into a large number of genres. Chronologically, the major 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". 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, Spainmarker, 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.

Another important distinction is between European trance and Goa trance which originated in Goamarker, Indiamarker around the same time trance was evolving in Europe. Goa trance was influential in the formation of Psychedelic Trance, which features spazzy, spontaneous samples and other psychedelic elements. Trance is also very popular in Israel, with psychedelic trance producers such as Infected Mushroom and Yahel Sherman achieving world wide fame. The Israeli subgenre called Nitzhonot is a mixture of psychedelic and uplifting trance.

Trance festivals

Sensation White 2006
Trance music festivals attract enormous crowds and usually feature sophisticated lighting, laser and pyrotechnic displays. Most of the largest trance festivals are held in Europe.

The Netherlands

Some of the best festivals are displayed in the Netherlands.Trance festivals in the Netherlands are mainly organized by three companies ID&T, UDC and Q-Dance:
  • Tiësto In Concert Arnhem:(25,000 visitors): is a gig only performance by Tiësto. Organized by ID&T. It is held in the Gelredome Arnhem.
  • Armin Only, Ahoy, Rotterdam: the only DJ to mix at this event is the very popular Armin Van Buuren. Organized by UDC. (Armin Only 2008 was held in the Jaarbeurs Utrecht, Utrecht.)
  • Full On Ferry, Ahoy Rotterdam: Ferry Corsten plays back 2 back with DJs who also cover various other styles such as house, techno and progressive (trance). Such DJs are hand-picked by Ferry himself, as an ode to his long career of producer of many different styles in the process.
  • Mystery Land, Floriade Park Haarlemmermeermarker (60,000 visitors) : an (not trance only) outdoor festival organized by ID&T.
  • Dance Valley, Spaarnwoude (55,000 - 90,000 visitors): an (not trance only) outdoor festival organized by UDC.
  • Qlimax, Gelredomemarker, Arnhem (25,000 visitors): a Hardstyle, Hard Trance event which has been gaining in popularity recently. Renowned for its impressive laser show. Organized by Q-Dance.
  • Sensation, Amsterdam Arena (80,000 visitors on two nights). Not a trance-only festival, many genres such as house and hardstyle coexist. Famous for the venue (a football stadium) and the lightshow. Organized by ID&T.
  • Trance Energy, Jaarbeurs, Utrecht (30,000 visitors): a festival which features only trance music, and very popular for diehard fans of trance. Many well-received DJs have played sets at this event, helping to create its fame. Organized by ID&T.
  • ImPulsTanz Festival, At the Brabanthallen,'s-Hertogenbosch ( 20,000 visitors ) which started as a try-out, became a festival well known, in the BeNeLux countries, France and Germany.

United Kingdom

Clubbers at Gatecrasher
  • Global Gathering festival, promoted by the Angel Music Group. The weekend long Global Gathering held every summer features the Godskitchen arena as its centerpiece, showcasing the best trance and techno acts in the world and attracting 45,000 people between a Friday afternoon and a Sunday morning. The organization promotes other stadium trance events under the Godskitchen brand, the largest being Godskitchen: A Gift From The Gods which brought 12,000 revelers to the National Exhibition Centremarker in Birminghammarker UK back in April 2003.
  • Creammarker's annual Creamfieldsmarker festival has also showcased an 10,000 capacity trance arena for the last 8 years at various venues across the United Kingdom.
  • Gatecrasher also promote sporadic events and have in the past also used venues such as Birmingham N.E.Cmarker. Gatecrasher is currently on hiatus until further notice due to fire damage.
  • South West Four held every summer has come a long way since beginning as a backyard party it found its home on Clapham Common, London.It moved to Cardiff in 2006.
  • PlanetLove, Northern Ireland also has had a thriving trance scene since the early 90's, at the legendary Kelly's Complex in Portrush, shooting local trance pioneers such as DJs X-ray & Si into the Northern Ireland Dance Music Hall of Fame. PlanetLove holds a yearly festival in both the North and South of Ireland, and numerous other events on a smaller scale. Major DJs have performed at PlanetLove events such as Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk and Tiesto.

North America

  • Electric Daisy Carnival, by Insomniac Events in Los Angelesmarker (but also held in Denver), combines Exposition Park with the Olympic-sized Los Angeles Coliseummarker on the last weekend of June annually. In 2009 the festival was split into a two-day event, the latter of which drew in estimated crowds of 90,000.
  • Monster Massive, a Los Angeles Sports Arenamarker event held once a year around the night of Halloween. Typically an audience of 15,000+ is present and in 2008 the event was reported to have an attendance of over 65,000.
  • Together As One, an annual new year's eve festival held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Credited as being the largest new year's dance music event in North America it usually brings in crowds of over 40,000.
  • Nocturnal Festival, an annual southern California massive, held at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardinomarker in either August or September. Typically bringing in crowds of over 20,000 although this number has been steadily growing.
  • Ultra Music Festival, Miami, Florida, USA: (80,000 visitors): A two day-long event with eleven stages playing various genres of electronic music with the main stage focusing on trance. Famous for their lineup of many relatively well-known DJs along with pyrotechnics and light/laser shows.
  • World Electronic Music Festival: held annually in Canada, this three-day-long outdoor event, comprising mainly of Trance, Hard Dance and Jungle (also featuring happy hardcore) has been held for the past thirteen years. The 2008 festival will be the final one in its current form. It is also known as WEMF.
  • Winter Music Conference: held annually toward the end of Northern Hemisphere winter in Miami, WMC is a week-long conference and festival featuring many of the hottest DJs in the world each year.
  • Love Fest: Held Annually in San Franciscomarker, CA. Formerly known as the Love Parade. Typically an audience of 60,000+ watch the elaborate parade of famous DJs down Market Street to end at San Francisco City Hall for an impromptu dance party. Love Fest is followed by the Official Love Fest afterparty held at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium right next to the San Francisco City Hall. The event normally lasts from 12:00pm noon until 4:00am the next day. Many other events lead up to the main event throughout the week with guest DJs playing at many of the clubs.
  • USC: Held annually in Seattle, WA (Typically 7,000 - 10,000 attendees). USC is the American northwest's biggest trance/electronic music event. 2007's event featured three stages with Paul van Dyk as the headliner. 2008's event featured DJs Tiesto, BT, DJ Dan, and Donald Glaude. The event is typically a summer event that lasts from 9 PM - 10 AM with the last six hours dedicated to an after party. The event also showcases the top local DJs.
  • Global Dance Festival: Held annually at Red Rocks Amphitheatremarker outside Denver, CO. Typically 10,000+ attendees watch approximately 7 hour event featuring many well-known DJ's. Headliners in past years have included Paul Van Dyk, Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, and Ferry Corsten. Sasha and John Digweed headlined the 2009 show.
  • 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, 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.
  • Germany: Full Moon Trance Festival This event is held during July 7-12th between the cities of Wittstockmarker and Roebelmarker, Germany. This festival celebrates psychedelic trance. In the year 2006 trance artists such as: Infected Mushroom, Astral Projection, Astrix, Space Tribe, 1200 Mics, GMS, Etnica, Oforia, Atomic Pulse, Electric Universe and Parasense plus many others were lined up to play.[5387]. VuuV Festival is an international gathering for trance music lovers from all over the world held in Germany. It's primary focus is Goa trance making it the mother of all Goa festivals.
  • Switzerland: Street Parade - the worlds biggest electronic music festival (more than one million visitors attend this event year by year).
  • Australia: Ultraworld and Universe Kryal Castle, Ballarat, Victoria, a 12 hour long event, comprising mainly Hardstyle, Hard Dance and Hard Trance (also featuring happy hardcore) event held in a replicated medieval castle.
  • Jordan - Middle East Prana Petra Festival A majestical setting for a trance event in the ancient city of Petra, took place 2 years ago with DJ TIESTO Elements of Life with several thousands of ravers attending this massive event, celebrating Petra as one of the new world wonders. Also Distant Heat Festival takes place in the desert of Wadi Rum, a most unique venue for a party of this kind with the backdrop of the magnificent Jordanian desert terrain. Started four years ago.
  • 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. The festival is free to attend.

Many other countries lack such festivals due to legal restrictions. Public prosecution departments in many countries — notably France — have been reluctant to give permits for techno and trance events, due to perceived drug issues. In the past, ID&T has been expanding operations and begun to organize festivals in Belgium and Germany which have become very popular in these countries. More recently (2008) ID&T is planning the Sensation World Tour in Chile, China, Poland, Czech Republic, Dubai & more to follow. Sensation white is more about the show and the performances surrounding the event where as ID&T's Trance Energy is about the DJ's. Trance Elements discusses details about Sensation White & Black and the future planning of this global phenomena.

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