Let’s be frank, this article is not designed for ignorant people who think that Trance Dance Music is as Paul van Dyk satirizes “The sh*ttiest music since country and western.” The whole dilemma that comes with the grounds of overcoming cognitive dissonance is far, far beyond the scope of this article. Instead, if you are a person who has ever heard some mainstream “trance” or “techno” or “rave” music and thought it to be interesting and intriguing, this article will show you some of the ways to develop your inner love for Trance Music by avoiding the most common amateur mistakes when starting out with this genre of music.
1. Keep an open mind – This is by far one of the most idiotic mistakes we all make unconsciously if we’re not careful. Remember any music that you’re not enjoying all that much can be attributed to many things, but most importantly: remember that one bad song does not define the genre or sub-genre.
2. Don’t listen to cheese – Yes this means YOU, yes YOU sitting there wondering if you really have to put down your DJ Sammy, your Ian Van Dahl, your DJ Encore, your Darude – Sandstorm, and the list goes on. I am not going to sit here and tell you which artist to listen to or what not to, but there is DEFINITELY a world of a difference between eating McDonalds every day and having a rotation of quality foods like Japanese-grown Kobe Beef Filet Mignon every night. They may both be loosely labeled “beef” but there is a world of difference in difference in texture, taste, flavors, aromas and such that the person who has never had either will not be able to immediately appreciate on first taste. Remember my fundamental first point? Don’t be one of those people who think it’s cool to go against mainstream music just because it is mainstream. Have your own thought and opinion. Don’t fall victim and prey to social conditioning. I personally love what DJ’s like Armin van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, etc. are doing for the EDM and Trance world. Are they mainstream? Yes. Are they utterly good at what they do to promote the genre, contribute POSITIVELY to it, and at the end of the day make millions of people around the world let go of their problems and burdens for the brief time they’re listening to them? That is the ultimate delimiter and deciding factor in a question of this scale. To wrap this point up, I believe a quote by one of the most genius and talented producers of our era Brian Transeau (aka BT) says it all:
“I love what guys like Oliver Lieb and Paul van Dyk do. I hate that ATB and those sorts of people have prostituted this stuff. You listen to an ATB track and then you listen to Sasha, and the difference is as obvious as listening to Led Zeppelin and Rachmaninoff.” – Brian Transeau
3. Don’t listen to low bitrate music – Now we’re starting to get to the heart of how to actually enjoy the music once we have little nuances like ignorance and stereotyping of a genre of music out of the way. Please do yourself a favor and refuse to listen to anything that is at the VERY least 128 kbps when you first start out, and then 192 kbps when you find that your brain and ears can hear the difference in them. The jump from 192 kbps and 320 kbps takes a bit longer to bridge, but I wholly encourage everyone who has the ability to get a 320 rip of whatever their tunes to do so. If you have no idea what bitrate means, in a nutshell the numbers denote how much information is coming through when you are listening. The less information that comes through, the more muffled, low quality, and ultimately un-lifelike the sound will sound.
4. The equipment you use to listen to music matters – NEWS FLASH! All listening equipment is not created equal. You know what’s one of the main reasons many people can’t tell the difference between bitrates? It’s the equipment you’re using to listen to them. Those stock iPod/iPhone earbuds you use? Throw them out. That overly high voltage sub and thumping system you have that has no depth or frequency response? Get rid of them. Trust me, you’ll thank me for that. Get yourself a nice pair of studio monitors (KRK Rokit RPG5’s are awesome monitors on a budget) or if you cannot afford them, at least go for accurate sound replication over booming bass. I like to think of subwoofers and the stereotypical block-shakin’ sound system as the wasabi to sushi. As your sound quality goes up, having that garbage muffle and deprive your auditory senses of the range of sounds they should be hearing is like throwing a clump of wasabi onto a freshly cut slice of toro sashimi. You only use wasabi as a chaser of sorts with low quality sushi. In the same way, you don’t need that garbage when listening to high quality music through a high quality medium. Oh yeah, those stock earbuds you have? If you commute or listen to music on the go at all, invest in a nice pair of sound isolating earbuds. Shure and Etymotic Research make amazing ones, even at the lowest budget level. (ER6i or EC3 both start around 70-110 depending on where/when you can get them). If you’re thinking to yourself that it’s ludicrous to pay that much money for earbuds, I got a pair of er6i’s when I was a poor college kid that was hitting up Wendy’s dollar menu for dinner. Even back then I felt they were one of the best investments I ever made. They block out outside sound so the true essence of sound replication can be heard in your ear canals. Oh and did I mention you only have to play your ipod at maybe 1/4-1/2 volume for optimum results? They’re wonderful for your hearing. What are you waiting for? Get off your butt and goto your local Guitar Center, Sam Ash, or equivalent that sells high quality audio equipment and HEAR the difference for yourself.
5. Find your favorite and respected artists’ radioshows and podcasts – Your typical DI.fm free streams are 128 kbps max, 192 streams cost a meager amount of money. In alignment with point 3 above, don’t cheap yourself out of a superior audio experience. Some more notable shows like Armin Van Buuren’s A State of Trance (Thursday Afternoons 2-4 PM EST (GMT -5)) display some of the newest and hottest trance tunes that mostly haven’t been released yet. True to his own beliefs, Armin does not usually overload his radio shows with all Armada (His label) releases or pre-releases. On the flipside, Trance Around the World with Above & Beyond has turned into a promotional show for anything Anjunabeats related. Almost every artist worth his merit (and many who are not) has his own show or podcast on a regular schedule. Andy Moor has a radio show Moor Music usually on a monthly basis. DJ Shah has Music for Balearic People. Ferry Corsten has Corsten Countdown. Paul van Dyk has Vonyc Sessions. Tiesto has Club Life. Paul Oakenfold has Groove Radio. Markus Schulz has Global DJ Broadcast. John O’ Callaghan has Subculture. Aly & Fila have Future Sound of Egypt. Even up and coming artists like Sean Tyas have Essential Mix. Truly, you can usually find enough shows to overwhelm even the most seasoned tranceaddict. Remember point 1? Yup, that’s right: it still applies here. Don’t be a victim of going along with popular culture or counter-culture. Just because I’m not feeling Above & Beyond’s overly promotional style for their show these days doesn’t mean you won’t either. So remember that your opinion matters most. Always remember that and get out there and find some radio shows that you’ll love.
6. For the love of God, don’t fast forward through music – Especially not to “get to the good part” when you’re first listening to the song. The utter stupidity of showing friends a song in which they fast forward through a 9 minute track in 15 seconds and making a judgment on it leaves me speechless. You don’t read a book for pleasure by reading the first page, the middle page, and the last page. Why in the world would you do that with EDM? The majority of tracks aren’t built for crack club banging like the hip hop equivalent of Soulja Boy’s idiocy. Trance and most other forms of EDM lead you on a journey. Is it any surprise that the effectiveness of a DJ liveset is based upon his track selection and his ability to mix songs together to minimize listener immersion and take him or her on a journey (Some DJ’s in fact specialize in this journey like Tiesto)? Even the best songs that I love if fast forwarded lose at least 50% of their effectiveness. In philosophy, a common saying asks how we as humans would be able to appreciate joy without pain, light without darkness, and other extremes. In the same way, I ask how you are able to enjoy an experience by only seeing a brief montage of it. Don’t cheat yourself. Take your hand off that fast forward button.
7. Go to a live DJ at your local club – This is by far one of the most effective ways to develop a love for the music. It incorporates community by meeting other similarly interested people, (hopefully) an awesome venue that has an extremely high quality sound system, and the entire experience and journey of Trance and Dance Music. If you live in a high volume metropolitan area, be ready for large crowded clubs when international superstars such as Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, DJ Tiesto, etc. come to your city. While the author of this article does not condone illegal activity and cannot go into the scope of the specifics of illegal substances, from personal experience they have worked to have a synergistic effect of making a club experience and love of the music explode by 100x or more. Remember point 1? Hopefully by now you get the idea and not listen to governmental fear tactics designed to take advantage of how little the average consumer thinks. Educate yourself and make an informed decision. I did and never looked back.
8. Do NOT play your music at low volumes – This is probably the rookie mistake that trumps all the others. Regardless of bitrate, regardless of equipment, regardless of song, if your ears are having difficulty audibly discerning the song, it’s not going to sound good no matter what you do. Part of the experience that makes a blockbuster hit like the Dark Knight so good especially in an IMAX theatre is the immersion and sound and visual quality to it. In the same way, if you do not have the same level of this while listening to music that takes you on a journey, you’ll find that it will end quite abruptly.