To properly delve into all the subgenres under the trance umbrella would require a semester-long university course. From uplifting and progressive to Goa, acid and psy, the different styles of trance are aplenty. For a deeper dive, here’s a handy guide to the basics on the plethora of sounds within the wide trance universe.

1. Acid Trance

Place of Origin: Europe
Notable Artists: Hardfloor, the KLF, Electric Skychurch, Psychobabble, Union Jack, Art of Trance
History/Description: When you think of classic trance in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, it could likely be labeled as acid trance, or simply acid. A likely descendent of acid house, since trance wasn’t quite yet a thing, the signature sound of acid trance is attributed to the Roland TB-303 via trippy and hypnotic oscillating melodies. Compared to classic trance, which used softer synthlines and featured a more atmospheric vibe, acid trance tends to change the 303 lines. In the early days, there was also a lot of crossover with Goa trance.

Example Tracks:

Electric Skychurch “Deus”

Hardfloor “Aceperience”

Art of Trance “Deeper Than Deep”

2. Balearic Trance

Place of Origin: Spain
Notable Artists: Roger Shah, Chicane, Energy 52, Solarstone, Humate
History/Description: Also known as Ibiza trance or Balearic house, Balearic trance emerged in the ‘90s and drew upon the Balearic beat, which first came into the scene in the mid-‘80s. Named for the Balearic island of Ibiza, Balearic culture came back to the UK and spread, thanks to Paul Oakenfold and others who introduced it to London in the late ‘80s. Balearic trance has a typically faster tempo, averaging around 130 BPM. Expect warm, atmospheric vibes, perfect for sunset listening sessions, and elements of guitars with a Spanish flavor.

Example Tracks:

Roger Shah Presents Sunlounger “Sunkissed”

Solarstone “Seven Cities”

Chicane “Offshore”

3. Dream Trance

Place of Origin: Italy
Notable Artists: Robert Miles, DJ Dado, Ian Van Dahl, Zhi-Vago, W.P. Alex Remark
History/Description: The godfather of dream trance is basically Italian producer Robert Miles. The slower music was created in response to the mid-‘90s strage del sabato sera—“Saturday night slaughter”—which saw a trend of car accident deaths from people leaving raves. Dream trance aimed to calm down attendees and saw positive results. Melody is the strongest component, particularly with strings, and dream trance usually clocks in around 130 BPM.

Example Tracks:

W.P. Alex Remark “Pyramid”

DJ Dado “Dreaming”

Robert Miles “Fable”

4. Goa Trance

Place of Origin: India
Notable Artists: Astral Projection, Shakta, Prana, Filteria
History/Description: Thank the hippies for this one. Named after the city in India, where free thinkers flocked in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Goa trance is also nicknamed “hippie trance.” The EBM, or electronic body music, was shared via cassette tapes, on which the Goa DJs played until the ‘90s. The global popularity of Goa occurred thanks to Paul Oakenfold pushing the genre on his Perfecto label, and even his 1994 Essential Mix is also dubbed the Goa Mix. The genre aims to woo dancers with a hypnotic sense of transcendence coupled with a 4/4 rhythm. Goa has a wide range of BPMs, from 100 to 160, in its typically lengthy tracks. The music is fairly complicated, and it spawned even more subgenres such as hard Goa, progressive Goa, ambient Goa and more.

Example Tracks:

Astral Projection “Mahadeva”

Shakta “Lepton Head”

Dimension 5 “Utopian Dream”

5. Hard Trance

Place of Origin: Germany
Notable Artists: Space Frog, Embargo, Cinderella, Trance Generators
History/Description: As the breakbeat hardcore world in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium began to splinter off, hard trance was born. Most popular in the mid- to late-‘90s, hard trance was the soundtrack to European raves where thousands of people flocked. The UK got its introduction to hard trance courtesy of the underground gay techno scene. The sound is denoted by strong kicks, full bass, and reverberating beats clocking in around 140-180 BPM. Hard trance is a precursor to hardstyle, and those influences can be heard today.

Example Tracks:

Space Frog & The Grim Reaper “X-Ray (Follow Me)”

Embargo “Blackout”

Cosmic Gate “The Truth”

6. Psytrance

Place of Origin: Israel
Notable Artists: Infected Mushroom, Astrix, Talamaska, Ananda Shake, Digital Talk
History/Description: An offshoot of Goa trance, it was the “full-on” psytrance from Israel in the late ‘90s that gives us the sound we know today. Named after a series of compilation albums, full-on psytrance, or psychedelic trance, is high-energy with pounding, resonating, rolling basslines and rhythms that frequently change every eight counts to keep people on their toes. Additionally, Goa and psytrance begot yet another genre in Suomisaundi, aka “Finnish sound,” which can also be described as freeform psychedelic trance.

Example Tracks:

Astrix “Closer to Heaven”

Infected Mushroom “Acid Killer”

Digital Talk “New Age Surf”

 

7. Progressive Trance

Place of Origin: Germany
Notable Artists: Markus Schulz, Lost Tribe, Sasha, BT
History/Description: Progressive trance is what is most commonly identified as just simply “trance” as a blanket term today. The formula of a breakdown, build and anthem made the futuristic and fast sounds of the harder styles of trance more user-friendly. The builds are longer, the breakdowns are less aggressive, and the track progresses from start to finish rather than jumping between the chorus and breakdown. The BPMs are typically in the 128–132 range. Since the 2000s, trance is often divided into progressive trance and uplifting trance.

Example Tracks:

Sasha “Xpander”

Lost Tribe “Gamemaster”

BT “Flaming June”

8. Tech Trance

Place of Origin: Germany
Notable Artists: Oliver Lieb, Humate, Marco V, Indecent Noise, Simon Patterson, Timo Maas
History/Description: As producers moved away from the more poppy progressive trance, partially propelled when seasoned producers like Sasha & Digweed no longer supported the sound, more subgenres came to rise, such as break trance, deep trance and tech trance. As the name implies, tech trance draws from both techno and trance with complicated electronic rhythms and dirtier, harder, more synthesized sounds than its predecessor. There’s more delay and distortion, coupled with repetition and a bold 4/4 beat and minimal vocals.

Example Tracks:

Timo Maas “Riding on a Storm”

Sam Sharp “Deep”

Marco V “Indicator”

9. Uplifting Trance

Place of Origin: Germany
Notable Artists: Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Dash Berlin, Paul Oakenfold
History/Description: Emerging from the progressive trance wave of the ‘90s into the 2000s, the global sound of uplifting trance may be the most popular of the trance subgenres. The name stems from the feeling the music aims to give listeners, and it’s also known as epic trance or anthem trance. Though the chord progressions are similar to progressive trance, they’re longer, as are the breakdowns, while uplifting trance hovers in the 136–142-BPM range.

Example Tracks:

Ferry Corsten “Beautiful”

Markus Schulz presents Dakota “Chinook” (Uplifting Mix)

Above & Beyond pres. Tranquility Base “Oceanic”

10. Vocal Trance

Place of Origin: Germany
Notable Artists: Paul van Dyk, Tiësto, Ian van Dahl, Delerium, Gareth Emery
History/Description: As the name suggests, vocal trance is heavy on just that: vocals. Heralding from the early ‘90s via the development of trance, the inclusion of vocals became a heavy component of trance music. The strong melodic nature finds the tracks starting off with progressive beats and working their way into the melodic portion, then back around to variations of rhythms from the intro. Vocal trance often overlaps with other trance subgenres.

Example Tracks:

ATB “Ecstasy”

Ian Van Dahl “Castles in the Sky”

Paul van Dyk “Nothing but You”


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