How to Make Trance Music: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Make Trance Music: A Step-by-Step Guide How to Make Trance Music: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you're getting started making trance music, you've come to the right place!

In this guide, we're going to explore the basics of producing and releasing your own trance song, including what kind of equipment you need, arrangement, production techniques, and more.

Let's dig in!

What Is Trance Music?

Trance music is an electronic music genre that came about in the early '90s when European DJs and producers began incorporating synths and experimental sounds into their tracks.

Many people define the sub-genre as a mix of house, though house, from my point of view, is its own thing entirely. Since its introduction onto the scene, it has become a global phenomenon, with big names like Tiësto and Armin van Buuren leading the charge.

Trance music is very repetitive yet often more melodic than your average house track, especially modern deep house. You'll often hear a steady "4-on-the-floor" kick, lengthy transitions and build-ups, ambient, bright, rich synths, and experimental sounds and textures. As for the tempo, it often sits between 125 and 150 BPM .

Over the decades, trance has evolved and branched out into various subgenres and styles like progressive trance, psytrance, dream trance, acid trance, tech trance, goa trance, and more. In this guide, we'll take a look at the basics of trance so you can have a jumping-off point for exploring other subgenres.

Equipment Needed for Making Trance Music

To get started making trance music, you'll need some essential gear.

Computer or Laptop

The first and most crucial item you'll need is a computer equipped with a digital audio workstation (DAW). Your computer will serve as your main platform for recording and mixing all your tracks. I recommend looking for a computer with decent processing power, RAM, and storage. If you don't want to pay for the additional built-in storage, you can get an external hard drive.

An SSD with at least 512GB of storage is ideal for faster loading times, especially if you're using a lot of plugins and samples in your sessions. I've been using a Samsung T5 over the past few years and I absolutely love it!


Your DAW is the software you'll use for recording, editing, mixing, and producing your trance tracks. Think of it as your central hub, where all of your composition, arranging, and mixing takes place.

Ableton Live has long been my top choice for making electronic music, as it has some of the most powerful features and a super intuitive workflow, especially for sampling and drum programming. With that said, I know many other electronic music producers that use FL Studio and Logic Pro X , as they're equally user-friendly.

Audio Interface

An audio interface is a hardware device that connects your computer to other audio equipment, such as microphones, studio monitors, and instruments.

It converts analog signals (like vocals or guitar) into digital signals that your computer can process and vice versa. Plus, it'll improve the sound quality of your mixes.

If you're just starting out and you're looking for an interface that's reliable, affordable, and has great sound quality, you can't go wrong with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 . When you're ready to level up your setup, you can go with a higher-end option like the Universal Audio Apollo Twin, which has killer preamps and built-in DSP for running plugins.

Studio Monitors

To listen to your music while you're making it, you'll need a set of studio monitors.

Studio monitors are speakers specifically designed for music production. Unlike regular speakers, they're made to provide a flat frequency response so that you can hear your music as accurately as possible without coloration. This helps you make precise mixing decisions.

Because trance music has a lot of low-end, you'll need a set of studio monitors that can reproduce it. Two of my top recommendations for anyone getting started would be the Yamaha HS8 or the KRK Rokit 8 G4 .

When you're ready to step it up and get some monitors with more precise high-frequency response, Adam Audio T7V is an excellent choice.

Studio Headphones

If you have a set of studio monitors, you don't necessarily need studio headphones to start making trance music, though they can be beneficial depending on your setup.

For starters, it's important to note that studio headphones are similar to studio monitors in that they offer a flat frequency response and accurate sound reproduction. While you can certainly mix with a pair of AirPods or Beats, you won't get the same level of accuracy, which could skew your mixes negatively.

One of the great things about studio headphones is that they offer an isolated listening environment, perfect for late-night sessions or if you're mixing somewhere where you need to keep noise levels down. Plus, the isolated listening environment can reveal details and imperfections that might not be as noticeable on monitors, allowing you to hone in on each sound in your mix.

If you aren't working in a treated studio environment, I'd say headphones are a must.

Similar to your studio monitors, you'll also need headphones that can reproduce lower frequencies. I'm a big fan of Audio Technica ATH-M50s . For the price, they offer excellent clarity and sound reproduction. If you want to step it up a bit, I recommend checking out the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pros.

MIDI Controller

MIDI controllers are hardware devices that send MIDI data to your DAW or other MIDI-compatible devices. They come in all different shapes and sizes, some with just pads, some with just keys, some with both, and some with additional knobs, sliders, and more.

While many trance producers work by just clicking and dragging MIDI notes around on a screen, the hands-on control makes for a more tactile experience, which, in turn, can give your trance music a more expressive feel.

If you're on a budget and want a MIDI controller that's versatile yet compact, it's hard to beat the Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3 . If you want a larger or full-size keyboard that integrates well with DAWs, especially Ableton Live, the Novation Launchkey is a solid choice.


Lastly, you'll want to get your hands on some plugins, such as virtual instruments, like synths and samplers, or effects, like reverb, delay, and EQ. These will be the tools that allow you to shape your sound to make it uniquely yours.

There are literally endless plugins you could use for producing trance music, so instead of giving you a never-ending list, I'll just give you a few of my favorite recommendations:

  • LennarDigital Sylenth1 : This popular virtual analog synth has become a staple of trance music production, as it has a wide range of sounds and a wonderfully tweakable interface.
  • Xfer Records Serum : If Sylenth1 isn't enough, I'd recommend getting your hands on this versatile wavetable synthesizer.
  • FabFilter Bundle : If I had to recommend one plugin bundle for producing electronic dance music of any kind, it'd be the FabFilter bundle. This powerful suite of plugins includes an EQ, compressor, multi-band compressor, saturator, reverb, limiter, and more.

As you continue your trance music production journey, your arsenal of plugins will no doubt grow. However, the above recs should be more than enough to get you started.

The Anatomy of Trance Music

Most trance tracks follow the ABAB format, 'A' representing the breakdowns and 'B' representing the "drops" or climaxes.

With that said, you can also dissect those sections even further into verses, builds, interludes, and more. Here is an example of how you might arrange a basic trance track:

  • Intro : The intro is where you set the tone and establish the atmosphere of the track. You might introduce some of your key melodic themes, though keep it subtle. From there, you can build anticipation gradually before the groove kicks in.
  • Verse/Build: Here, you'll start to develop the rhythmic foundation. Introduce the main bassline or percussive elements, such as the kick, snare, shakers, hats, etc. Throughout this section, you should gradually increase the intensity and complexity of the track by adding different elements.
  • Drop/Climax: This is where you combine all of the elements you've used thus far so your track hits peak intensity. If you listen to electronic music, you know how a drop is supposed to feel. It's the memorable part of the track that delivers power and energy and creates that sense of release and euphoria, especially at live shows.
  • Breakdown: After the first drop, strip back the track to the core melodic and harmonic elements. This section should provide a moment of respite. Don't be afraid to highlight the more emotional and atmospheric aspects of your track here.
  • Second Build: During the second build, you can start creating tension again by reintroducing some rhythmic elements. At this point, you're preparing the listener for the next drop.
  • Second Drop/Climax: Again, deliver another peak moment with full energy. Reinforce the main theme or motif of your track like you did in the first track, and see if there are any other elements you can add to make it even more intense.
  • Outro: Alas, you can begin gradually winding the track's energy down, fading out different elements to create a smooth ending with a sense of resolution.

Building Your First Trance Track

There are thousands of different ways to produce trance music, though most of the aspects remain the same. Here's a step-by-step guide to creating your first trance track with ease.

1. Establish Your Track's Identity

Before you start producing, decide on the overall theme or mood you want to convey with your track.

I recommend listening to some trance artists to start and see what you like about their tracks. This is one of the best ways to find inspiration, especially if you're new to producing and facing a blank palette with writer's block.

When listening, focus on the different elements of the song and ask yourself a few questions.

What is the chord progression the producer is using?
What kinds of rhythmic elements are in the song?

How is the song structured or arranged?

You might even try to recreate a professional trance track that you like!

2. Lay the Groundwork

The rhythmic foundation of trance music production begins with a solid drum pattern.

A typical trance drum pattern features a steady four-on-the-floor kick drum, where the kick hits every beat of the measure. This consistent kick drum provides the driving force and energy characteristic of trance.

From there, you can layer in a snare or clap on the second and fourth beats to accentuate the rhythm.

Once you have your basic kick drum and snare pattern, you can add some other percussion elements like hi-hats, shakers, or others to enhance the complexity of your rhythm.

Try placing your hi-hats on the off-beats or in rapid 16th-note patterns to get that sense of forward motion.

Lastly, we'll add the bassline.

Start with a simple, offbeat bass pattern, where the bass notes hit in between the kick drum beats. This creates a push-and-pull effect that adds momentum to the rhythm. As for the sound, punchy, clean bass sounds with solid low-end presence are best. If you have a higher bass sound that you really like, consider adding a sub-bass layer to reinforce the low-end.

3. Add Harmonic Elements

Chord progressions act as the emotional core of trance.

Start by choosing a key and experimenting with different chord sequences. One common approach in trance music is to use simple yet powerful and uplifting progressions, such as I-V-vi-IV or vi-IV-I-V.

I also recommend playing around with different chord voicings and inversions to add variety.

Once you have your chord progression, think about how you want it to sound. Do you want it to be:

  • Stabby and Staccato: Use short, percussive synth sounds that provide rhythmic accents and energy.
  • Arpeggiated: Create a flowing, melodic pattern by breaking up the chords into individual notes, adding movement and complexity.
  • Smooth and Sustained : Use pad sounds to fill out the space and create a lush, atmospheric background. Pads are great for adding depth to your track.

Try experimenting with layering multiple synth sounds.

Start with your primary sound, such as a lead synth or pad, and then add supporting layers that complement it. Use different synth patches with varying characteristics - such as a warm analog pad, a bright digital lead, and a textured pluck - to add depth and complexity.

Automation is key here, as it'll keep your harmonic elements interesting throughout the track.

If you're using synths, you can automate parameters like filter cutoff, resonance, and volume to create movement. For instance, you can gradually open the filter on a pad during a build-up to increase intensity or automate the volume of an arpeggiated sequence as it gets closer to the drop.

4. Create a Catchy Melody

The last step in your trance song is creating a lead melody that will resonate with your listeners.

Start by playing around with different note sequences and rhythms until you find something that feels compelling.

While there's no strict formula for writing a great melody, knowing your intervals and scales can be incredibly helpful. Familiarize yourself with common scales used in trance music, such as the natural minor or harmonic minor scales.

Listening to other trance tracks is a great way to gain inspiration and insight into how successful melodies are constructed. Analyze the intervals and note patterns they use to develop your own unique lead lines.

When it comes to selecting the sound of your lead , you want something that contrasts with your other melodic elements to make sure it stands out. For example, if you have lush pads as your main melodic bed, opt for a bright, sharp synth lead that cuts through.

A lead with a distinct timbre, like a saw wave with some detune or a plucky, percussive synth, can draw attention in a good way.

Lastly, try and be expressive with your playing .

Use legato for smooth, connected notes, which can make the melody flow more naturally, or add a bit of vibrato to sustain notes with a mod wheel to give them a little bit of pitch variation.

You can even experiment with pitch bends to glide between notes! These techniques can make your lead sound more organic and enhance the overall emotional impact of your track.

How to Mix and Master Trance Music

Once your track sounds great and you've captured that euphoric feeling the genre is known for, it's time to get into the mixing and mastering portion of the process. This is where your track will truly start to shine.

Let's take a look at a few essential tips and techniques for mixing and mastering trance to give you a polished and impactful final product.

Balance Your Levels

Balancing is one of the most important parts of mixing. No amount of EQ, compression, or effects can save a mix that isn't properly balanced.

I usually like to start by setting the volume of each track so that no single element dominates the mix. Begin with the kick drum to make sure it's prominent but not overpowering. The kick drum is one of the most important elements in trance music, so getting the placement right is key.

Gradually bring in your bassline and adjust the volume to complement the kick. These should feel like they're locked in and working together. You may need some EQ and sidechain compression to glue them together, but we'll get there in a bit.

From there, add in other percussive and melodic elements like shakers, leads, and pads, making sure they sit well in the mix without overpowering your kick or bass. Each element in your mix should be audible and clear.

PRO TIP: Regularly compare your mix to professional reference tracks from your favorite producers to ensure they're consistent.

Pan Your Elements

To create a wider, more immersive stereo image and to avoid frequency clashes, you'll want to pan the instruments in your mix. The euphoric feeling we get when we listen to trance music often comes from the stereo width we experience.

When panning your elements, start by keeping the kick, bass, and main vocals centered for a solid foundation.

From there, you can pan percussion elements slightly left and right to create width and separation. This might include hi-hats, claps, and secondary percussion.

Your foundational synths, pads, and effects can sit a bit wider to enhance the stereo image. If you're using multiple instruments in the same frequency range, pan them opposite of one another to ensure there isn't any overlap or masking.

PRO TIP: Use automation for dynamic panning effects. This is a great way to add movement and interest to your track.

Add EQ

EQ is one of the most important elements of mixing. We use it to shape the frequency balance of each element so that our mixes are clear and separated.

When mixing trance music, I often like to start by cutting unnecessary low frequencies from non-bass elements to avoid muddiness. You can use a high-pass filter below 100-200 Hz on elements like synths, pads, and vocals to make room for the kick and bass.

From there, you might consider some of the following EQ moves:

  • Boost the kick around 60-100 Hz for a bit of punch and 'oomph'
  • Boost the bass around 100-200 Hz for fullness.
  • Give your vocals and leads more clarity by boosting around 2-5 kHz.
  • For brightness, add a slight boost to the highs (10 kHz and above).

If elements are clashing with one another, you can use subtractive EQ to remove problematic frequencies and create space for each element.

PRO TIP: Always A/B test your changes to ensure they improve the mix. This allows you to compare the original and adjusted sounds so that you can be sure your tweaks enhance the overall quality without introducing new issues.

Apply Compression

Compression is great for controlling the dynamic parts of your track so they're clear and audible at all times without getting overpowering, yet it's equally helpful for adding punch and getting all elements to sit cohesively in the mix.

With that said, I usually keep my compression pretty minimal when mixing trance music, as many trance elements, like synths and electronic drums, are already highly processed and dynamically consistent.

However, if you're dealing with peaky bass samples or other inconsistent elements, you can use a compressor to catch the loudest peaks. Set a moderate ratio (e.g., 4:1) for subtle leveling, using a fast attack to catch transients and a slower release to maintain natural decay.

Vocals, on the other hand, often benefit from a healthy dose of compression to smooth out levels and keep them sitting atop the mix.

Give Your Track Depth with Reverb and Delay

Lastly, we'll give our trance track a bit of three-dimensional depth using reverb and delay.

Here are a few ways I recommend starting to experiment with these tools:

  • Create Space : Add reverb to pads and synths to create a spacious and ambient melodic background.
  • Vocal Ambiance : Use reverb on vocals to add depth and a sense of space, making them sit well in the mix.
  • Percussion Reverb: A small amount of reverb on the hi-hats and claps can go a long way, giving them a touch of space without pushing them back in the mix.
  • Build Atmosphere: I often like to increase the level of my reverb during breakdowns and intros to enhance the atmospheric feel.
  • Widen Leads: A subtle stereo delay is a great way to add width to lead synths to create a wider soundstage.
  • Rhythmic Elements: Use synced delay on arpeggios and plucks to make them sound more complex.
  • Throw Delays: Add delay to certain vocal phrases or single words to create quick, unique echo effects.


The final step in the trance music production process is mastering . The reason we master is so that our track sounds polished and consistent across all playback systems, and holds its own when played alongside other professional tracks.

During this stage, we'll also make sure we're getting optimal loudness and clarity.

  • Start with EQ: Use a clean linear phase EQ to make subtle adjustments to the overall tonal balance of your track. Cut any unnecessary low frequencies to remove mud, boost high frequencies to add brightness and clarity, and make sure the midrange is well-balanced.
  • Apply Gentle Compression: Use a mastering compressor to smooth out the dynamic range of your mix and glue everything together. Low ratios like 1.5:1 to 2:1 work best. Slowly adjust the threshold to apply gentle compression while making sure the overall mix maintains its punch and energy. You don't want to squash it. I recommend using slow attack and release times to preserve transients and natural dynamics.
  • Enhance the Mix with Additional Processing: Use a stereo enhancer to widen the mix, a touch of saturation to give it warmth and presence, or a slight bit of multiband compression to target specific frequency ranges that are a bit out of control.
  • Maximize with Limiting: Lastly, use a brickwall limiter to increase the overall loudness of your track while preventing clipping. Set the ceiling to -0.1 dB to avoid inter-sample peaks, and push the threshold until you reach the desired loudness. If you start introducing distortion, you've pushed your limiter too far.

When you're getting ready to export your track, check for mono compatibility first. This is the best way to ensure that your track sounds good on all playback systems, including those that play audio in mono, such as some club sound systems and mobile devices.

You can check this by regularly switching your mix to mono and listening for any phase cancellation or elements that disappear or sound unbalanced. If you notice any issues, adjust your panning and use phase correction tools to maintain a cohesive and powerful mix that translates well in both stereo and mono environments.

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Final Thoughts

Producing trance music is such a rewarding experience, especially when you consider how significant trance music has been in the world of electronic music. Beyond having the software, equipment, and sounds, listening to as much trance music as you possibly can is the best way to get a feel for the genre and find out what you like best so you can start creating your own unique sound.

Have fun, enjoy the learning process, and maybe one day, your trance music will be heard on the main stage at an international festival!

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