What is Trance Music?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Trance music is an art form that relies heavily on the use of electronic equipment and a specific tempo range, typically 130-160 beats per minute (BPM), to create a musical arrangement that is understood to have somewhat hypnotic qualities. This musical genre started in the late 20th century and has been influenced by other electronic music genres, such as house music, techno, and ambient music. The origins of this type of music can be traced to the acid house movement of the late 1980s in the United Kingdom. The emerging compositions included beats in the range of 130-160 BPM and involved repetitious chains of melodies that were connected by a series of crescendos and breakdowns. Although most of the earliest examples of trance music were instrumental in nature, vocals soon came to be included in the arrangements.

Trance music became part of the club scene in many European countries.
Trance music became part of the club scene in many European countries.

The Club Scene

During the 1990s, trance music became part of the club scene in many European countries, especially Germany. The popularity of the genre in Frankfurt, Germany, was so pronounced that many musical experts trace the origin of trance music with vocals to that city. The pattern for vocals usually took a course of being somewhat uplifting in nature, rather than addressing social issues or having story lines that focus on negative emotional subjects, such as broken hearts or a longing for something better in life.

Some trance music combines traditional instruments with electronic synthesizers.
Some trance music combines traditional instruments with electronic synthesizers.

Trance music offered clubgoers and music aficionados an alternative to the techno and house music of the late 20th century. The genre was thought to be a musical style that was intended to help revitalize people rather than be a vehicle for perpetuating stereotypes or promoting political agendas. Since the beginning of the 21st century, trance music has captured audiences on a global basis. Record labels, clubs and radio outlets around the world specialize in this genre of music.

Trance music is often played at dance clubs.
Trance music is often played at dance clubs.

Positive Attitude and Popularity

The general positive attitude of trance music has helped it remain a music form that attracts many fans. Compositions are often produced with a combination of traditional instruments used in conjunction with a musical synthesizer. Many of the most popular trance music artists of the early 21st century tended to structure their recordings so that the sound had more in common with more mainstream pop music, which is believed to have helped this type of music be more accessible to the general public. Various sources within the musical industry also have begun to track the popularity of this genre's songs, albums and artists, using charts that might be based on factors such as sales, digital downloads or radio play.

In the 1990s, trance music became a big part of the club scene, especially in Germany.
In the 1990s, trance music became a big part of the club scene, especially in Germany.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


It didn't start with Chicago and House; it started with Krautrock, New Wave, Industrial and Disco -- all from the 70s.


Trance has about 14 styles. The original form of trance is a hybrid from Chicago house, Detroit techno and ambient music. The beats of techno, the melodies of house and the synthesizers and atmospheres of ambient make trance.


I love dancing to trance music -- there's nothing better than a good trance/dance music mix on at the club.

It's better than music with words, because it's more primal, and has a better beat, so it's easier to dance to; easier to lose yourself in.

I am a huge fan of trance music, and download (legally) trance music mp3 tracks whenever I can. That way I can always get that feeling that you get with a really good trance song.


Do they have critics and a canon for this kind of thing? Are there trance music charts, like they have the weekly top 40 or Billboard charts?

How is it evaluated? Or is it more of a free trance music scene, not really very defined?


I like how you mentioned the technical aspects of trance music as well as the history behind it (the number of beats, etc).

I've always found trance music to be interesting, but I'm not really a fan of trance music DJs or radio. To me it's the kind of music that really suffers from being interrupted by commercials, as is inevitable with radio songs.

If it's the techno/trance music then I guess that would be OK, but I just really don't like it when DJs play a great trance music mix, and then your feeling is shattered by a commercial for kitty litter or something like that.

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