Techno vs. Trance: The Differences Between the Two Genres

Electronic Techno Music Styles Word Cloud Bubble

Techno and trance are two electronic dance music (EDM) genres that may sound similar to some people. However, there are differences between the two genres.

Some differences between techno and trance:

  • Usually, the sound emphasis of techno is on the percussions and unconventional timbres, and for trance, on the melody/drums/synthesizer sounds with effects.
  • Usually, trance songs have a similar structure, and techno songs do not.

This post will explain many (probably not all) similarities and differences between techno and trance music. The information in this post comes from online references, and I filtered that information with my knowledge.

Similarities and Differences Between Techno and Trance

The EDM genres techno and trance have similarities and differences, and the table below shows some of these.

This post explains the information in the table below in more detail in the sections under this table.

technotrance
place of originDetroit, Michigan, United StatesUnited Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands
musical originsChicago house, Detroit techno, electro, electronic body music, Eurobeat, hi-NRG, house, Italo disco, new beat, synth-poptechno, house, acid house, classical music, chill-out, pop, film score, new-age music, hardcore techno, Detroit techno, psychedelia, tech house, and ambient music
first songModel 500 – No UFO’sThe KLF – What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance 1)
year the first song released19851988
some well-known artistsAdam Beyer, Amelie Lens, Boris BrejchaArmin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, Gareth Emery
common temposrange: 120—150 BPMrange: 125—150 BPM
time signature, rhythm patternusually 4/4, usually four-on-the-floor4/4, but there are songs part of trance subgenres that are partly or completely not in 4/4. The 4/4 parts (can be a whole song) are usually four-on-the-floor.
rhythm emphasisUsually, techno songs emphasize every beat with a bass drum hit. Some of these songs emphasize the second and the fourth beat even more. The extra emphasis usually happens with a snare or clap hit on top of the bass drum hit. Also, techno songs emphasize the off-beat with a hi-hat usually.Usually, trance songs emphasize every beat with a bass drum hit and emphasize the second and the fourth beat even more. The extra emphasis usually happens with a snare or clap hit on top of the bass drum hit. Also, trance songs emphasize the off-beat with a hi-hat usually.
sound emphasisusually on percussions and unconventional timbresUsually, on a melody, drums, synthesizer sounds in or not in an arpeggio style, vocal, reverb/delay/echo, audio effects for dropping in volume or mute the audio on certain parts, and a breakdown section with only a melody or atmospheric.
length of phrasesThe two most common lengths of phrases are 8 bars and 16 bars. However, the same song can also have one or multiple phrases of 4 bars or 32 bars but are less common.The most common length of phrases is 8 bars. However, the same song can also have one or multiple phrases of 4 bars, 16 bars, or 32 bars but are less common.
structureUsually, the song structure varies from song to song without using a conventional structure. However, the most common techno song structure has the following parts in this order: intro, drop, breakdown, drop, outro.A common trance song structure has the following parts in this order: intro, buildup, breakdown, build, climax (drop), outro.
average song length7 minutes5:29 minutes

The Origins of Techno and Trance

Techno comes from Detroit, Michigan, United States. The musical origins of techno are Chicago house, Detroit techno, electro, electronic body music, Eurobeat, hi-NRG, house, Italo disco, new beat, synth-pop (source: Techno).

Trance comes from the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. The musical origins of trance are techno, house, acid house, classical music, chill-out, pop, film score, new-age music, hardcore techno, Detroit techno, psychedelia, tech house, and ambient music (source: Trance music).

This website has a blog post about the first techno song ever and a blog post about the first trance song ever, for which I both performed much research. According to these blog posts, the first techno song is “No UFO’s” by Model 500, and the first trance song is “What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance 1)” by The KLF.

Some Well-Known Techno and Trance Artists

There are multiple DJ lists, such as the “The DJ List Ranking,” and I believe these lists are not always 100% correct, but they can still be useful.

The page “The DJ List Ranking” by The DJ List shows us techno DJs such as Adam Beyer, Amelie Lens, and Boris Brejcha.

In the trance DJs list, we can see DJs such as Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, and Gareth Emery (source: The DJ List Ranking).

Techno and Trance Song Characteristics

The subsections below explain similarities and differences between techno and trance song characteristics.

Common Tempos of Techno and Trance

This website has a blog post about the common tempos of EDM genres, for which I did much research. According to that blog post, techno songs usually have a
tempo within the 120—150 BPM range, and trance songs usually have a tempo within the 125—150 BPM range.

Time Signatures of Techno and Trance

Techno usually (so not always) has a 4/4 time signature (source: Techno, Non 4/4 techno please).

Trance has a 4/4 time signature, but some trance subgenres have songs that are completely or partly in a non 4/4 time signature, which is pretty uncommon, as far as I know. For example, Hallucinogen’s song “Snakey Shaker” changes at 2:17 minutes to a 3/4 time signature. Another example is “Something New” by Jikkenteki in the 5/4 time signature (source: Trance Music Guide: Inside Trance Music History and Subgenres, Psy and Goa trance with non-4/4 time signatures, Hallucinogen – Snakey Shaker).

According to Discogs, the song “Snakey Shaker” is part of the Goa trance genre. As far as I know, the online music store Beatport doesn’t have a Goa trance genre, which could be why they mention that the song is part of the psytrance genre. The Reddit page “Hallucinogen – Snakey Shaker” also mentions that the song is part of the Goa trance genre (source: Hallucinogen ‎– The Lone Deranger, Snakey Shaker Original Mix).

Goa trance and psytrance are related. The Goa trance genre has a stylistic origin of the trance genre, and that the psytrance genre has a stylistic origin of the Goa trance genre and the trance genre (source: Goa trance, Psychedelic trance).

I don’t know the genre(s) of the song “Something New.” According to Discogs, the song could be part of multiple genres, such as downtempo and Goa trance, and to my knowledge, it could be part of the Goa trance genre or psytrance genre (source: Jikkenteki ‎– The Long Walk Home).

We can listen to the songs “Snakey Shaker” and “Something New” in this post below.

Rhythm Patterns of Techno and Trance

Songs can be completely or partly in a non 4/4 time signature. These songs or song parts can’t have a four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern (source: Four on the floor (music)).

Techno songs usually (so not always) have a four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern (source: Techno, Non 4/4 techno please).

For example, the techno song “Talus” by Tommy Four Seven is not in the four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern (source: Non 4/4 techno please). Another example, the techno song “Your Mind” by Adam Beyer & Bart Skils, is four-on-the-floor. You can listen to both examples in this post below (source: Your Mind Original Mix).

There are trance songs in the 4/4 time signature that are not only in the four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern, such as the songs “Punk” by Ferry Corsten and “Be In The Moment (ASOT 850 Anthem)” by Armin van Buuren (source: What does a song need to qualify as trance music?, Ferry Corsten ‎– Punk, Armin van Buuren ‎– Be In The Moment (A State Of Trance 850 Anthem)).

The song “Punk” has in the breakdown a broken beat part (source: The story behind “Punk” by Ferry Corsten | Muzikxpress 134). The broken beat genre has a syncopated rhythm and is a subgenre of breakbeat (source: Broken beat, Breakbeat).

A triplet feel can’t be a four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern (source: Four on the floor (music), Tuplet, Electronic Music Theory: 3/4, 6/8 and Triplets).

The song “Be In The Moment (ASOT 850 Anthem)” has a part with a triplet feel, which Armin van Buuren himself explains in the online class “Armin van Buuren Teaches Dance Music” of MasterClass. To be more precise, he explains that the song has a triplet feel in lesson 16.

There are songs with a triplet feel part of the psytrance genre (source: good triplet psy?). Psytrance is a subgenre of Trance (source: Psychedelic trance, Trance music).

The Rhythm Emphasis of Techno and Trance

Usually, the rhythm emphasis in techno songs is on every beat with a bass drum hit. Some of these songs emphasize the second and the fourth beat even more. The extra emphasis usually happens with a snare or clap hit on top of the bass drum hit. Also, techno songs usually emphasize the off-beat with a hi-hat (source: Techno, How do you explain the difference between house music and techno?, Why does modern Techno have no clap on 2 & 4?, House vs Techno vs Trance Music – What are the Differences?).

For example, the song “Your Mind” by Adam Beyer & Bart Skils does not emphasize the second and fourth beats with something extra. Another example, “Rave” by Sam Paganini, emphasizes the second and fourth beats with something extra. You can listen to both examples in this post below.

Both songs are part of the techno genre (source: Your Mind Original Mix, Rave Original Mix).

The rhythm emphasis in a trance song is on every beat with a bass drum hit and emphasizing the second and the fourth beat even more. The extra emphasis usually happens with a snare or clap hit on top of the bass drum hit. Usually, trance songs emphasize the off-beat with a hi-hat (source: Trance music, Trance Music Guide: Inside Trance Music History and Subgenres, The Ultimate Guide to Drum Programming).

The Sound Emphasis of Techno and Trance

The sound emphasis of techno songs is usually on percussions and unconventional timbres (source: What is the difference between techno and house music?, House vs Techno vs Trance Music – What are the Differences?).

The sound emphasis of trance songs is usually on a melody, drums, and synthesizer sounds, and a synthesizer usually plays the trance song’s hook. It is common (so not always) that these sounds are in an arpeggio style. Also, the synthesizer sounds can have audio effects on them to drop in volume or mute the audio on certain parts, such as with sidechain compression or with a gate (trance gate).

Trance songs also emphasize the vocal, reverb, and delay/echo (source: Trance music, Trance Music Guide: Inside Trance Music History and Subgenres, Trance vs. House).

As far as I know, the arpeggio style sounds in trance songs might not always be 100% correctly named arpeggio according. Some music theorists see an arpeggio with notes not part of the chord, not as an arpeggio (source: Arpeggio).

Trance music often has a breakdown section without percussion (such as drums), with only a melody or atmospherics (source: Trance music, Trance Music Guide: Inside Trance Music History and Subgenres). As far as I know, such atmospherics is usually one or more pads playing.

In some trance subgenre songs, the sound emphasis can differ. For example, psytrance songs have at least a sound emphasis on their bassline (source: Psychedelic trance).

The Lengths of Phrases in Techno and Trance Songs

The two most common lengths of phrases for techno songs are 8 bars and 16 bars. However, the same song can also have one or multiple phrases of 4 bars or 32 bars but are less common (source: Arranging A Techno Track, How To Structure A Techno Track [+Template], How to arrange any song).

For trance songs, the most common length of phrases is 8 bars. However, the same song can also have one or multiple phrases of 4 bars, 16 bars, or 32 bars but are less common (source: Trance music, Trance arrangement tips, Trance Song Structure And How Does Uplifting Trance Song Progress).

The Structure of Techno and Trance Songs

EDMProd described the most common techno song structure of the Beatport top 100 in October 2015. That structure has a drop, followed by a breakdown, followed by a second drop (source: What I Learned from Analyzing the Top 100 Tracks on Beatport).

From my experience, I think the mentioned structure by EDMProd could be the most common techno song structure, not only in the Beatport top 100 of Oktober 2015. I also think that the structure usually starts with an intro before the first drop and ends with an outro after the second drop. Moreover, I believe that the breakdown could have a build-up in it at the end, but having a build-up is not more common than not having a build-up in it.

There can be multiple versions in different lengths of the same techno song. For example, the song “I Wanna Go Bang” by Bjarki has at least two versions in different lengths, and you can listen to both versions below in this post.

The song “I Wanna Go Bang” is part of the techno genre (source: I Wanna Go Bang Original Mix).

A common trance song structure has the following parts in this order: intro, buildup, breakdown, build, climax (drop), outro (source: How To Make Trance Music: A 10-Step Guide, Can someone help me understand Trance arrangement?, How to Make Trance Music in 10-Steps: (2021 Pro Guide)).

However, a different trance song structure than that common one is, for example, the structure from the song “Tierra” by KhoMha, which has multiple drops. You can listen to that song below in this post.

The song “Tierra” is part of the trance genre (source: Tierra Extended Mix).

Trance songs tend to have a strong focus on their buildup, breakdown, and drop, by which the breakdown is usually longer than the breakdowns of other EDM genre songs (source: Trance music, Trance Music Guide: Inside Trance Music History and Subgenres, How to Make Trance Music).

Trance song structures can differ a lot among trance subgenres. For example, the psytrance genre has songs without any common structure (source: Song Structure of Psy Trance).

There can also be multiple versions of a trance song, such as the ‘extended mix’ and the ‘radio edit.’ For example, the song “Airwave” by Rank 1 has at least a radio edit and an original mix (source: Rank 1 – Airwave (11125), Rank 1 – Airwave (22750)).

As far as I know, the difference between versions can be that the longer version has the intro and outro of a song, and the shorter one does not. The purpose of the intro and outro can be for mixing for a DJ (source: Trance music).

The difference between versions can be more different than only having an intro or outro. For example, the song “Tierra” by KhoMha has an extended mix and non-extended mix, by which the structure of the songs differs more than only having an intro or outro. You can listen to both versions below in this post.

The Song Lengths of Techno and Trance

As already mentioned, the song length can depend on the version of that song, such as that the ‘original mix’ or ‘extended mix’ is (probably always) longer than the ‘radio edit’ one.

EDMProd analyzed the Beatport top 100 in October 2015 and found the average song length of multiple genres (source: What I Learned from Analyzing the Top 100 Tracks on Beatport).

The average techno song length is 6:51 minutes, according to the analysis by EDMProd.

Someone on Quora mentioned that techno songs usually are 6 or 8 minutes long (source: What is the difference between techno and house music?).

Combining the two sources with my experience, I think the average techno song length is 7 minutes.

Someone analyzed the average song length by genre from the song information provided by Last.fm, which the person did with a script. This analysis shows that within the song information provided by Last.fm, the average song length for the trance song is 5:29 minutes (source: Genre Average Song Lengths).

As already mentioned, the intro and outro of a trance song could have the purpose of mixing for a DJ. Last.fm could have most of its trance song information about songs without an intro and outro. On the Reddit page “Trance arrangement tips,” some people mentioned trance song arrangements above 5:29 minutes, which are arrangements with an intro and outro.

Someone on the Auxy Disco page “What is your Average Song Length?” mentioned that the minimum duration of trance songs could be four minutes.

Techno and Trance Song Examples

This section has some techno and trance song examples.

A techno song not in the four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern, “Tommy Four Seven – Talus (Primate).”

A techno song in the four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern without an extra emphasis on the second and the fourth beat, “Adam Beyer & Bart Skils – Your Mind.”

A techno song in the four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern with an extra emphasis on the second and the fourth beat, “Sam Paganini – Rave.”

Not the longest version of the techno song “Bjarki – I Wanna Go Bang.”

Not the shortest version of the techno song “Bjarki – I Wanna Go Bang.”

A trance song by which a broken beat is part of its breakdown, “Punk” by Ferry Corsten.

A Goa trance song that has a part with a 3/4 time signature, “Snakey Shaker” by Hallucinogen.

The song “Something New” by Jikkenteki has a 5/4 time signature and is probably part of the Goa trance genre or psytrance genre.

A trance song that has a part with a triplet feel, “Be In The Moment (ASOT 850 Anthem)” by Armin van Buuren.

The extended mix of the trance song “KhoMha – Tierra.”

The not extended mix of the trance song “KhoMha – Tierra.”

Closing Words

Hopefully, you have learned something from the explained similarities and differences between the two EDM genres, techno and trance.

If you like this post, look at some other posts on this website since you might also like them.

You can share this post when you know someone who likes to learn more about the similarities and differences between the two EDM genres, techno and trance.

By Markus Kreukniet

Markus Kreukniet is an electronic dance music (EDM) producer and founder of Passion for EDM. He wants to share his EDM knowledge with the rest of the world. Read more about Markus Kreukniet.

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