House vs. Trance: The Differences Between the Two Genres

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House and Trance, two electronic dance music (EDM) genres that could sound similar to some people. However, there are differences between the two genres.

Some differences between House and Trance songs:

  • House is always 4/4, and Trance usually is.
  • Usually, the sound emphasis of House is on a bassline/melody/vocal, and for Trance, on the melody/drums/synthesizer sounds with audio effects.
  • Generally, the breakdown is longer in Trance than in House.

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

Similarities and Differences Between House and Trance

The two EDM genres House 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.

HouseTrance
place of originChicago, Illinois, United StatesUnited Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands
musical originsBoogie, Disco, Electro, Hi-NRG, Jazz, Latin soulTechno, House, Acid House, Classical music, Chill-out, Pop, Film score, New-age music, Hardcore Techno, Detroit Techno, Psychedelia, Tech house, and Ambient music
the first songJesse Saunders – On and OnThe KLF – What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance 1)
the year the first song released19841988
some well-known artistsBob Sinclar, Frankie Knuckles, Sebastian IngrossoArmin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, Gareth Emery
common temposrange: 115—130 BPMrange: 125—150 BPM
time signature, rhythm pattern4/4, 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, House 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, House 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 a bassline/drums/synthesizer riff/vocalUsually, 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.
lengths of phrasesThe most common length of phrases is 8 bars. However, the same song can also have one or multiple phrases of 4 bars or 16 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.
structureA common House song structure has the following parts in this order: intro, breakdown with a build-up at the end, drop, breakdown with a build-up at the end, drop, outro.A common Trance song structure has the following parts in this order: intro, buildup, breakdown, build, climax (drop), outro.
average song length5 minutes5:29 minutes

The Origins of House and Trance

According to Wikipedia, House comes from Chicago, Illinois, United States, and Trance comes from the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Wikipedia mentions that the musical origins of House are Boogie, Disco, Electro, Hi-NRG, Jazz, and soul. Wikipedia also shows that 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: House music, Trance music).

Wikipedia explains that some people have cited “On and On” by Jesse Saunders as the first House song ever, but there are also other songs that people have cited as the first House song ever, such as “Music is the Key” by J.M. Silk, from 1985. The YouTube video “Story of the first house record ever made” explains that “On and On” is the first house song ever, which I believe. Also, “On and On” is from 1984 (source: House music, Story of the first house record ever made, Jesse Saunders – On And On (release), Jesse Saunders ‎– On And On (master)).

This website has a blog post about the first Trance song ever, for which I performed much research. According to that blog post, the first Trance song ever is “What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance 1)” by The KLF.

Some Well-Known House and Trance Artists

The DJ List has “The DJ List Ranking” lists with DJs, including House and Trance DJs. I believe that these lists are not always 100% correct, but they can still be useful.

In the list of House DJs, we can see DJs such as Bob Sinclar and Sebastian Ingrosso. In the Trance DJs list, we can see DJs such as Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, and Gareth Emery. However, on the “The best house music DJs of all time” page of Time Out, we can see another great House DJ, Frankie Knuckles, which is a personal favorite of mine (source: The DJ List Ranking (House), The DJ List Ranking (Trance)).

House and Trance Song Characteristics

The subsections below explain some similarities and differences between House and Trance song characteristics.

Common Tempos of House 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, House songs usually have a tempo within the 115—130 BPM range, and Trance songs usually have a tempo within the 125—150 BPM range.

Time Signatures of House and Trance

House has a 4/4 time signature (source: House music).

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 House and Trance

House has a four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern, and Trance also has a four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern (source: House music, Trance music, IS IT HOUSE? OR IS IT TRANCE? A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ELECTRONIC MUSIC GENRES).

As already mentioned, some Trance subgenres have songs that are completely or partly in a non 4/4 time signature, and these songs or song parts can’t have a four-on-the-floor rhythm pattern (source: Four on the floor (music)).

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). Broken Beat 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 House and Trance

The rhythm emphasis in House songs 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, House songs emphasize the off-beat with a hi-hat (source: House music, How do you explain the difference between house music and techno?, House vs Techno vs Trance Music – What are the Differences?).

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 rhythm emphasis of House and Trance songs are similar, but there are some exceptions, such as:

The Sound Emphasis of House and Trance

The sound emphasis of House songs is usually on a bassline/drums/synthesizer riff/vocal (source: House music, House vs Techno vs Trance Music – What are the Differences?, IS IT HOUSE? OR IS IT TRANCE? A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ELECTRONIC MUSIC GENRES).

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 to music theory (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 House and Trance Songs

For House songs, the most common length of phrases is 8 bars. However, the same song can also have one or multiple phrases of 4 bars or 16 bars but are less common (source: House music, How To Make House Music: The Complete Guide, House vs Techno vs Trance Music – What are the Differences?).

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 House and Trance Songs

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

I believe (from experience) that the mentioned structure by EDMProd is the most common House song structure, not only in the Beatport top 100 of Oktober 2015. To give it more detail, I believe that both breakdowns of this song structure usually end with a build-up.

As also explained by EDMProd, there can be two versions of a House song, the ‘original mix’ and the ‘radio-friendly’ one. The radio-friendly one can be the same structure as the already mentioned structure of the Beatport top 100 in October 2015. The original mix version can be the same as the radio-friendly one, but with an added intro before and an added outro after the radio-friendly structure (source: How To Make House Music: The Complete Guide).

As far as I know, people sometimes name the original mix version as the ‘extended mix’ version. The difference between the extended mix version and the not extended mix version can be more different than the extra intro and outro. For example, the House song “Morenita” by HUGEL (ft. Cumbiafrica) does have an extended mix and a not extended mix, and you can listen to both versions below in this post.

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 one from the song “Tierra” by KhoMha, which has multiple drops. You can listen to that song below in this post.

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 the difference of 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 House and Trance

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

EDMProd described the average House song lengths of the Beatport top 100 in October 2015, which is 5:09 minutes (source: What I Learned from Analyzing the Top 100 Tracks on Beatport). Someone on Quora mentioned that House songs usually are 4 or 5 minutes long (source: What is the difference between techno and house music?). Combining the two sources with my experience, I think the average House song length is 5 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.

House and Trance Song Examples

This section has some House and Trance song examples.

The extended mix of the House song “HUGEL (ft. Cumbiafrica) – ‘Morenita.'”

Not the extended mix of the House song “HUGEL (ft. Cumbiafrica) – ‘Morenita.'”

The House song “Nicky Romero – Toulouse.”

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 House 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 House 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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