What Is Trance Music?
Trance music first emerged in Germany during the early 1990s. At the time, many parts of Europe were becoming hooked on house and techno thus Trance a fusion of techno and house was born, 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.
However, the melodies in trance differed from euro/club house of the time in that although they tended to be emotional and uplifting, they did not "bounce around" in the same way that house did. This early trance tended to be characterised by the anthem qualities described above, and typically involved a period in the song, often labelled the break-down in which the beat was dropped for a few bars to focus on the melody before bringing the beat back with a renewed energy and intensity.
The trance genre became instantly popular in Europe and spread very quickly. Inevitably, the style was to evolve and as more and more mainstream DJ's picked up on the sound of trance, so the sound became more commercial and more diverse often relegating the traditional trance styles into background sub-genres.
As the 1990s progressed, trance evolved from an early experiment into a legitimate genre which would gain massive popularity. Up until this point Trance was largely instrumental however during the popularity boom songs featuring emotional, usually female vocals (Although more recently male vocalists have started to feature such as Richard Bedford) lead to the formation of a sub-genre known as Vocal Trance.
The popularity explosion of trance music in the 1990s was due to the fact that it was “edgier than house, more soothing than drum-n-bass, and more accessible than techno”.
As a generalisation, trance is a more melodic version of techno or house, with a tempo in the range of 130-150 beats per minute (BPM). Trance producers combine their melodies alongside with a repetitive, often hypnotic beat which produces a feeling of euphoria for of its many fans.
Most trance music also employs an interesting song structure in which the beat is dropped near the middle of the song, leaving only the melody. After building up again, the beat comes back in with increased vigour, upping the emotional stakes. Some trance tracks might get you pumping your fist with energy; another might cause you shed a tear. The rhythms and sensations created by trance DJs can’t be found in any other style of music.
Trance Music Today
With such a diverse range of music to satisfy within the genre, it is inevitable that trance becomes a victim of its own success. However, for many true trance fans of the mid-nineties, this is ultimately leading bringing their genre back round to what it was designed to be: music for the mind, not music for the masses.
The likely path for commercial trance music is either back into the "dance" fold or to once more re-badge itself, maybe as progressive, maybe as epic dance music - whichever route it transpires to follow, trance should be remembered for providing a renaissance of dance music. Currently trance continues to expand the diversity of the genre as expressed through many of its brightest DJ talents.