How To Make Trance Music: A 10-Step Guide
Do you want to learn how to make trance music, but you don’t know how to get started ?
We designed this 10-Step Guide to help you.
There are several things that you absolutely need to consider in order to start making trance music. For instance, you will need some specific tools, so that you don’t need to re-invent the wheel. You will also need to accomplish certain tasks to make your track sound good.
This guide outlines the necessary steps you need to go through, in order to go from scratch to a finished trance production.
You can use these steps as a blueprint if you are just starting out. If you are already a trance producer, you may simply want to make sure you are on the right path and you aren’t forgetting anything important in the process.
1) Choose your Trance sub-genre
There are many different sub-genres of Trance music, but we can categorize them in a short list to make things more simple :
- Uplifting Trance
- Progressive Trance
- Psy Trance
They each have something really special and unique about them:
- Uplifting Trance is usually paced at around 138 BPM, and is known for rolling basslines, euphoric and emotional breakdowns and energetic climaxes.
- Progressive Trance is usually slower and more relaxing. It may have a BPM of 128-132, deeper basslines and focus on melodic layers and smooth transitions.
- Psy Trance is usually fast-paced (140+ BPM), with emphasis on psychedelic melodies and very punchy drums and bassline.
You need to choose a sub-genre first, because this will affect some of the next steps. For instance, if you make Psy Trance you may not use the same types of sounds and melodies than if you’re making Progressive Trance.
If you already know what style you want to create, then that’s perfect! Otherwise, we suggest you listen to existing trance music, radio shows, and releases to find out your favorite sub-genre.
For the purposes of this guide we will choose our favorite genre: uplifting trance.
2) Select Your DAW
If you don’t know what a DAW is, it’s a Digital Audio Workstation. It’s a program that will allow you to create, arrange and mix your music. Some of the most well-known DAWs are Ableton Live, FL Studio, Cubase and Logic Pro.
Most DAWs work on both PC and MAC computers, except for Logic Pro which is Apple software and works only on MAC.
Selecting the right DAW is extremely important.
Not because one of them sounds better than the others (any of the DAWs above are 100% suitable for trance music production). It’s because you need to find the perfect one for you.
Different DAWs have different interfaces and workflows, and you might find that you prefer the arrangement window and workflow of DAW A versus DAW B.
Once again, it doesn’t matter which DAW you are using, as long as it works for you. This will come with time, but it’s worth trying out different options at first, before making your initial choice.
Our suggestion is to try the demos of several of the most-used DAWs. Give each of them a couple hours of your time, then decide which DAW resonates best with you. You can find demo links here :
- Ableton Live (30 day free trial) : https://www.ableton.com/en/trial/
- FL Studio (unlimited free trial) : https://www.image-line.com/flstudio/
- Cubase (30 day free trial) : https://www.steinberg.net/en/products/steinberg_trial_versions/cubase.html
3) Find good audio samples
OK, now you have found and installed a DAW that you enjoy. Now the next step is to start creating things in it. In order to do this, you need your DAW to be able to produce actual sounds!
There are two ways of making sound in a DAW: MIDI Tracks and Audio Tracks.
As you will see, both are usually necessary to make a full track. But for now, let’s focus on the audio tracks. Trance is a style of music where many elements are sample-based. This means artists use pre-made audio files for some of the elements in their tracks (also called audio loops and one-shots). These samples are dropped onto audio tracks in the DAW.
In trance music, the following elements are usually done with samples:
- Drums & percussion
- Sound FX (such us uplifters, Explosions, Atmospheric Sounds, etc.)
It’s important to find good sample packs containing quality samples. The better quality samples you have, the better tracks you will be able to make. In addition, having a larger variety of samples will allow you to browse through them and help you get inspired.
But wait – where does one find good sample packs ?
Because this style of music has been around for many years, there are many sample packs available on the web. Some are good, some aren’t. You can find two types of packs:
- Free Sample Packs : Here at Myloops, we offer a large selection of top quality free samples for trance music. You can find them here: https://www.myloops.net/download-free-trance-samples
- Premium Sample packs : We also sell hundreds of premium sample packs for trance music. You can browse them here: https://www.myloops.net/product-category/sample-packs
4) Choose one or several VST/AU synths
Remember how there are two ways of making sound in your DAW ? The second one is MIDI tracks.
MIDI tracks (also called instrument tracks) allow you to draw notes in your DAW to play a melody. You can also plug a MIDI keyboard into your computer to play notes on a MIDI track.
But how does the MIDI track produce sound, and how do I change the sound ?
This is where the magic happens. What you do is insert a VST/AU instrument (often called a VST synth or synthesizer) on the MIDI track. Then, any note that you play will go through the synthesizer and will produce sound.
This allows you to create an infinity of different sounds, because there are so many different synths available. But also because each synth has many different settings to tweak its own sound. In addition, many synths come pre-packaged with a set of different presets. These are called soundbanks (often called soundsets).
So what are some of the best VST/AU synths available ?
Just like with samples, there are some free and premium VST synths. But some of the best synths available for trance music include :
Where can I find good presets /soundbanks for my synths ?
Once again, there are free and paid presets / soundbanks available. At Myloops, you can find hundreds of premium VST soundbanks (thousands of presets!) made specifically for trance music.
5) Choose a chord sequence and main melody
This step is arguably one of the most important of all.
Trance music is a genre where chords and melodies are quite prominent. But the chords and melodies also need to make sense and be consistent throughout the track, or else if will just feel weird to listen to.
In addition, choosing a good chord sequence will allow you to already get the feeling that your track will give when listening to it. For example, does it feel uplifting, or emotional ? If you start with your chord sequence first, you will already know the feeling you want to give. Then it will be easier to build around it.
Because of that, it’s a good idea to pick a specific chord sequence before even starting your track.
You can find good chord sequences by listening to other music. Especially if you listen to a song you like that’s in another style, you could easily borrow this chord sequence and use it in your track. This, however, does require a bit of training in order to figure out the chords being played, just by ear.
Once you have chosen your chord sequence, it’s easier to write a main melody around it.
You can also download chord sequences and melodies as MIDI Files from the internet. One word of caution: if you want to use downloaded MIDI files in your track, make sure they are royalty free, and that you have the rights to use them in your tracks.
At Myloops we also offer a great range of premium trance MIDI Packs that are all royalty free. They will definitely help get you started if you are stuck, or in need of inspiration.
6) Sketch your arrangement structure
Just like any other style of music, trance music often follows very specific arrangement structure.
An arrangement structure is the way sections of the track are laid out after each other to form the complete arrangement. For example, a pop song structure might be something “Intro – Verse – Pre-Chorus – Chorus – Verse – Pre-Chorus – Chorus – Outro”.
The most-used structure are also different for different sub-genres.
For example, the most common track structure for uplifting trance is : “Intro – Buildup – Breakdown – Build – Climax – Outro”.
At this point, it can be helpful to take a pen and a piece of paper, and draw a sketch of your arrangement structure.
This will give you an idea of key the moments in your arrangement: these are the moments when one specific element will be introduced, or removed. For instance, maybe the bassline will be introduced at the beginning of the buildup, then cut during the breakdown, and re-introduced at the climax.
7) Create all the elements for your track
Now you have a basic arrangement structure for your track. In the previous steps, you also chose a chord sequence for your track. Now you have to create everything else!
For example, in Uplifting Trance, you will usually need to create elements such as :
- Lead melody
- Plucks / counter melodies
- Other drums
- Sound FX
This is usually the step that will take the most time. Spend serious time focusing on each single element and make it as interesting as possible.
Don’t focus too much on sound quality of your track at this point, or you might end up never creating all the elements. You will take care of sound quality in the next step, once the whole track is built.
In addition, this is usually when automation comes into play. Automation allows you to program any parameter of any element of your track and have this parameter change through time. For instance, maybe in the track buildup you will want your melody section to be introduced progressively, which will create a smooth transition. You can do this with automation. You would simply draw a volume automation curve in your DAW.
8) Mix your track
This step relies more on technical capability rather than artistic expression. At this point, you have all your track elements laid out, but they don’t sound very good together. So let’s work on that!
Mixing a track professionally is an art in itself, but here are some basic tasks that you’ll have to do:
Every component needs to be at a reasonable level (volume), in relation to the rest of the track. For instance, if the kick drum is too loud, or if the bassline isn’t loud enough, the track will feel unbalanced. Levelling is all about achieving this great balance of the elements in your mix.
A good trick is to listen to the kick alone first, and then introduce all other elements one by one to set each of them to a pleasant level.
Giving each element its own space in the mix:
The golden rule is simply that every element of the track should be given its own “space” in the mix, as much as possible. This can be done in several ways:
First, through EQ (equalization), a process which allows you to boost or cut certain frequencies (or frequency ranges) of a sound. As you probably know, any sound occupies a specific range of frequencies across the 20 Hz-20 kHz spectrum. For example, your sub bass might currently occupy the spectrum between 20 Hz and 300 Hz. But you don’t want your sub bass to occupy higher frequency ranges. This is when you would use EQ to remove high frequencies from this sub bass.
Secondly, through stereo placement & panning : there is a 3-dimensional component to positioning sounds in the mix. When two elements occupy a similar frequency range, you might want to place one in the center of the stereo field, and another element on the sides through stereo spacing & panning.
If you follow the rules above, you will make sure the different elements in your track each have their own space. This means you will hear every part of the track more clearly. As a result, the track will sound a lot cleaner, more powerful and professional.
9) Listen & improve
Making music is systematically a trial & error process. Trance music is very technical, and the pleasure from listening to trance music very much stems from its sound quality and sense of energy. So your track MUST sound amazing if you want it to be successful.
At this step, you want to find out if your track is good enough or whether it needs some more work. A good trick is to find an existing track that you love, and that’s in the same style as yours. Then you simply do an A/B listen of both tracks to compare them.
The reasoning behind this is simple: the other track has already proven its quality and you know it sounds professional. So this is a great way of figuring out what is wrong with your track, and improving it.
Maybe you’ll realize the kick needs to be changed. Or maybe the sub bass isn’t strong enough. Whatever it is, figure it out, and fix it! You can go through this process as many times as needed.
10) Get your music out there!
At this point, you should have a pretty decent sounding trance production. Who knows, maybe you even created the next trance hit. Congratulations!
Now it’s time to let other people hear what you’ve created. There are several ways of doing that:
- Show it to your friends
- Post it on your social networks
- Upload it to SoundCloud
- Post it in Facebook groups and ask for other people’s opinions
The purpose of this step is to gather external feedback on the track, and find out if there are some parts of it that need reworking. If there are any, you should go back to step 9 and repeat this process until other people are impressed with your work.
When you feel your track is really good AND the feedback from other people is equally positive, you might want to consider sending your track to a record label.
Did you learn something about how to create trance music ? We hope so. Let us know in the comments!
The purpose of this guide wasn’t to go deep into production techniques. But simply outline the process that one must go through in order to create trance music.
Do you want to learn more about Trance Music Production ?
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