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Goa Trance Basic Elements

Published: 2016-10-12

Welcome back to another Reason Tutorial. In this Reason 6.5 tutorial I will cover most of the basic elements you will need to get started with in the realm of Goa Trance (also known as psychedelic trance or PsyTrance). The examples I am giving are made in Reason 6.5 and are included in the following zip package:

Download Goa Elements Reason 6.5

If you are using older versions of Reason you can still follow along, however most of the elements given in the example files have to be build up manually again (since these patches won't load up in Reason 4 and Reason 5).

Goa Trance what the origin story should have been

Where most genres will get an origin story from throwing multiple genres together, Goa Trance (in its original form) was a Electronic music style put together on the beaches of Goa (India). While in its original state, Goa Trance was meant as a healing power for hippies. Put them on drugs while they travel on the electronic vibes. Kind of like what hippies did during Woodstock. But... Forget about the hippies! Goa trance is cool in a way, since it has evolved over time. Still there are some elements that come back from the origin story of Goa. If you are up to it, just Google around if you will.

The guide I am going to put together is based on a very popular group that made a lot of awesome stuff in the realm of Goa / Psy Trance : Astral Projection.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, it is fair to say that this article will not cover any elements of the so called "Progressive Goa Trance". Since they kind of did this with the Progressive Goa Trance thing:

Right now that we gotten all that covered. Lets start to go to work shall we?

What are the main elements of Psy Trance?

- the Beats per minute range around 140 till 148. The range is rather limited since this makes the genre good for mixing.
- an average Goa Trance song is pretty long. Think about 8 minutes till 12 minutes is no exception here
- Use slow evolving changes over time. This isn't dubstep! So NO DROPS in GOA! Get it! We will call it breaks!
- GOA is probably one of those genres which is filled with all kinds of electronic sound effects
- the goal to a Goa trance song is to take your listener on a journey

To write down the elements in terms of MoSCoW (Must have, Should have, Could have and Would have) I can sum up the following list:

Must Have

- A very short bassdrum often generated by Sines with a Zap picky sound in the beginning
- a Bass line that does not play when the Bass drum kicks in
- A lot of automation to drive filter frequencies or effects
- Effects... A lot
- a lot of patience to write a descent GOA trance track

Should Have

- Saw waves... it is the most common sound for a Goa Trance lead, however there are alternatives
- A lot of elements on Low Pass Filters
- a Couple of elements that use a Band Pass filter (I will explain these 2 later)
- A series of hi hats
- Frequency Modulation

Could have

- A Cool Vocal voice to throw in the song once and a while (not too often though)
- Eastern Percussion hits (these can also be found in the Reason factory sound bank! Yeh!)
- Side chain compression

Would have

- A choice of direction on where to take the song

Things you want to be carefull with in Goa Trance

Of course there are certain elements you really want to avoid while making Goa songs.

Grime stuff is something you really don't want to throw in a GOA Trance party. Since this type of stuff is about a long journey that takes you somewhere. And to fairly honest, I hate my alarm when I am dreaming!

Resonating stuff is cool, be careful not to over do this. If the resonance is slightly building up on one element it can even push people towards a climax. But having to much things at the same is like taking an overdose of LSD pills while mixing it with alcohol. So... don't over do it. Even while it has the term "Psychedelic" in the genre, it doesn't mean that the music has to drive people towards the mental hospital ok?

Goa trance is all about putting elements in to sync with one and other. Things to take in to account here are a steady rhythm, stuff that is in sync on harmonic levels (pitch), and opening up filters and closing them down. So no off beat Amen breaks ok?

Now that is easy right?

Now that I have posted this list, the first thing that most common comes to mind is: Meh! Its that simple right? The biggest issue with GOA is, there is no "try" to make it sound like Goa in the real world. With other genres, it is just easy. Take for instance a House track, mix some samples to gether, throw in a fat beat and call it the next Nu House and your all set. With GOA Trance things are a different story since everything needs to blend and melt... and has to take you on a journey. If your audience goes like "huh?! What the fuck yo!" at the first time they listen to your song... then you know your mission has failed!

Do or do Not, there is no try

Bass drum

Now that I have gotten the big fat ass intro out of the way, lets get started. First of all (before you start with a Bass drum), you will need to have a note which is going to be your native note for the ENTIRE track. Some people like A, others prefer B, astral projection often uses C or D#.

The main reason why this native note is going to be so freaking important is because of the following device:

Goa Trance Bassdrum

The main issue with the bass drum is that it needs to be perfect. It needs to be short and picky and focusing on the low / high ends

Goa Bass drum frequencies

The main idea behind the bass drum in the realm of Goa Trance is that there is a fair amount of low ends (130Hz and below) and a very high "zap" at the top frequencies (4kHz and above). The combination of both will make it turn in to a low zap bass drum with barely any mid frequencies. This is where most of the bass drums from the Factory Sound bank will most likely fail for a Goa Production set up. This is one of the reasons why I have set up a Kong Device from the ground up to mimic this type of bass drum.

I have been using the following table as a reference for all the different frequencies: Note Frequencies

The following frequencies will be essential in this case:
C 3 > 130.81 Hz
C 8 > 4186 Hz

Inside Kong I have been working on a drum that focusses on the 130 Hz by using the following elements:
Goa Bass drum synth drum Kong

The synth drum uses the following settings:

Pitch: -64 (easier for tweaking later on)
Bend Amount : 36
Bend time: 127 (the decay will do most of the work)

Noise tone: Not applicable
Noise mix: 0
The main idea is to have a tone generator do the noise thing later on.

Click Frequency : 127 (this was even to low to get it above 4.1 kHz)
Click Resonance: 76
Click Level: 20 (I have set it farily low since the Click is somewhere in the mids)

Attack time: 0
Decay: 26 (note that this is short!)

The Tone generator I am using is to cover the range from 4.1Khz and downwards. The "Zap" effect if you will:

Goa Bassdrum Zap in Reason

This tone generator will focus on the high ends and downwards. The settings are as followed:
- Pitch 56
- Attack: 0
- Decay: 15 (again: short!)
- Bend Decay: 21 (again: short!)
- Bend amount: 91
- Shape: 0 (closest to Sine)
- Level: 39 (having it to high may cause a lot of focus on the high ends while mixing it down)

Transient Shaper

This leads me to the transient shaper. I could just make a complete tutorial about the Transient Shaper itself. Bottom line for the transient shaper in this context is to have the first part become louder in the beginning. Kind of like what you would do with a compressor, but different.

The Attack goes high
The Decay goes down
And have a fair amount in the Amount (makes it louder in the beginning).

This in combination with the other 2 layers (the bass drum and the Tone oscillator) the "Zap" and "Oomph" will be short and picky.

The short picky Drum and the Why?

Compared to other genres the Goa Bass drum is a typical one that can't be compared with other "common" bass drums. The reason behind the short picky drum is to have a transition going on from Bass Drum to Bass line. The bass drum kicks in (first note), and then 3 notes will be used for the bass line. Then the bass drum kicks in again. And this is a cycle that gets repeated.

The idea behind this major sequence is to put the whole "Trance" state in to play. Side chain compression is barely a factor in terms of this transition (let me put that one in black and white).

Goa Bass drum Bass Line Transition

In this picture you can see that the bass line will always come after the kick drum kicks in. Take a peak in the first demo file I have included in the zip file (at the top of this article).

The Bass Line

The bass line is probably the most important part next to the Bass drum. Since these 2 elements will be the heart of your Goa trance track. The combinator patch I have been creating covers 2 subtractors and both with a Scream 4 unit attached to it (I will explain later on why this is):

Goa Trance Bassline Combinator

The main ingredient with a bassline like this one is to have it move over left and right just a notch (not have it dead center all the time). If you listen to something like this over a longer period of time, you might eventually pick up certain "frequencies" you never heard before. Or pick up different sounds in the distorted signal you might not heard before. That is kind of the big idea behind these bass lines. They need to move. Even if its just a "subtle" thing. Let me explain in a step by step how a setup like this is created:

- Create an empty combinator
- Create a Mixer 6:2 (or mixer 14:2 if you like)
- Create a Subtractor
- Most important elements are Saw, minor detuned, and have the second oscillator set to Phase, use ADSR settings where D and R are relative low (or copy the settings from the above picture)

In this perticular set up I am using a Band Pass filter instead of a Low Pass filter. This is done for a reason. I have set the Resonance around 49 and the filter frequency around 39 (so it focusses mostly on the low ends).

- Create a Scream 4 unit set to Scream. P1 (Tone) goes around 100, P2 (Frequency) to 0

Goa Bass Line Scream 4

- Optional: create a unison UN-16 (I am adding this for the stereo cables to be connected properly, plus it can add a little detune amount while having the setting on Dry/Wet: 16)

Goa Bass line unison

At this point all this jazz will now join up in Channel 1 of the mixer that has been created. Now for channel 2:

- Create a Subtractor
- Copy the patch of the previous Subtractor, and Paste it on the newly created subtractor.
- Set the Cent settings a little bit different (for instance -3 on the first, while +4 on the second).
- Create a Scream 4 unit set to Scream. P1 (Tone) goes around 100, P2 (Frequency) to 0

Goa Bass Line Scream 4

- Optional: create a unison UN-16 (I am adding this for the stereo cables to be connected properly, plus it can add a little detune amount while having the setting on Dry/Wet: 16)

Goa Bass line unison

Last step:

Channel 1 Pan > Left
Channel 2 Pan > Right

Goa Bass line mixer

All this combined will now play a Bass line on C2 + C3 using the following frequencies:

Goa Bassline Frequencies

At this point to low ends (around 67 Hz) might still need some attention. The following support bass line device might just give that much:

Goa Bassline Low Ends

The bass comes from the Sine, but has a reduction on the 137Hz (since that frequency gets over powered by the Bassdrum + first Bassline). This Bassline just needs to focus on the 67 Hz. Adjust the Levels accordingly.

Please note that Goa Trance (unlike any other Electronic Dance Music) is not about throwing as much Sub Woover Basslines as much as you can. The Bass drum by itself will mostly cover it.

Alternative Basslines

If there is a need for Low pass filter basslines, then the following set up will mostly work: have the amplitude envelope rather short (short attack, short decay, low sustain, and barely any release), while the filter envelope does a similar thing. In most cases the bass line is driven by analog waveforms such as Sine, Triangle, Saw or Square. In cases like the Saw / Square I like to use the malstrom in this context since it has the Sawtooth * 4 and Square * 4 which can be reshaped to alter the sound over time.

Goa Bassline Alternative

Check the file 01-Goa-Trance-Bassline-Alternative.reason in the zip package of the beginning of this article for more details.

The Hihats

Hihats will be a very important part in the realm of goa trance. Since they will determine the pass of the song. A very easy route to take is use the Redrum Drum computer to set up a series of hihat session in less then 2 minutes time. First we create a Redrum drum computer. Load up a 2 different closed hihats. Set hihat one on every step on soft

Goa hihats

In this perticular case I will be using the "Box" (Kong Hihat sample) for the first hihat series. Since it has a nice shaker feel to it. Second I am loading a "bright" techno like Hihat type. The second hihat goes on step 3,7,11 and 15. Between every beat that is.

Goa Hihats

Now going back to the first Hi-hat. At this point it just rattles along. By using the setting on "Medium" the hi-hat session can get some accents on certain note. This piece needs to fit with the bass line. In this case I will go with step 2,5,8, 10, 14 and 16.

Goa Hihats

This pattern will get compensated by the closed hihat from channel 2 eventually. But it are these minor changes that will have a drastic effect.

Check the file 03-Goa-Trance-hihats.reason for more details.

The Main "lead"

If we have done our homework correct and the Bassline uses different cents on left vs right. Notice what will happen in the next example file while I send through a basic Saw on a long note using C 3 in this case.

Goa Thin Lead

The set up I am going for with this one is using a "thin" lead. Since in Goa Trance this often seems to work best (most of the focus lies on the bass drum / bass lines and effects). The thin lead is based on Saw, and sometimes a square tone (but not very often though). The malstrom does miracles on this ground since this device is often "thin" in sound output (ok, there are methods to make it sound thick). The saw tooth * 4 is the best saw in the arsenal for Goa leads in this case. The set up goes as followed:

- Create a Malstrom Graintable Synthesizer
- Select Saw Tooth * 4 on both oscillator A and B
- Put the Motion to 0 (so the wave table doesn't move)
- Use the index different on oscillator A and B
- Apply modulation where needed
- Depending on where the sound needs to fit in the track use an LowPass or BandPass filter

In the current set up I have been using a lot of Low sounds (ranging from 60Hz till 137Hz). To make this lead jump out a bit more I will go with a Band Pass filter where the focus lies on the high ends. To achieve that the band pass gets a setting above the 64 threshold on the Filter Frequency knob.

The Filter frequency is set to 83 in this case. For more details check the 04-Goa-Trance-SawLead.reason in the Zip file that comes with this article

The Squeaky Lead

Even while the first lead I just presented can lead to 2 different directions:
- being a lead
- being an effect of some kind (call it a filler if you will)

Often there is some for of a squeaky lead somewhere down the line that often feels like it was made with a TB-303. Call it that authentic Acid sound if you will. To set this one up Thor will most likely be your friend. Since Thor houses that awesome Low Pass Ladder Filter right for the job! The main set up goes as followed:
- Have an analog oscillator (I will go with Saw in this case)
- Filter set to Low Pass Lader filter
- Put the Filter frequency somewhat low (600Hz or something should do it)
- Add a bit of Resonance with an amount about 64 till 80.
- Filter Envelope gets a set up like: Attack 0, Decay Max, Sustain Max, Release 0
- Amplitude Envelope gets a set up like: Attack 0, Decay Max, Sustain Max, Release 0

Goa squeaky lead

And this will be the base of the lead that could fit there. However it will require a lot of tweaking before it can be fit in any production. The most common issue would be that the lead itself will focus a lot around the range of the Bass drum (130 Hz in this case). So to avoid this sound from bouncing with bass drum an MClass Equalizer could fit right in here to cut a lot of the lows around that area.

If this sound is a bit too thin, there is always the way to use a support Oscillator to fatten it up just bit. On a personal note, I like the Shaper Unipulse in this case, since in its original state Unipulse will make the sound rather thin, but combine that with another thin sound it doesn't make the sound über fat (yeah that is German for yah right there).

The lead I will be sticking in here right about now will be based on the above Thor patch but with a twist:

Goa Lead with a twist

The main oscillator I have been presenting in this case goes to Oscillator Slot 3. Since and Filter slot 2. Since the shaper can only be used Filter slot 1 in this case. The support is now driven by an Analog Oscillator, thrown towards a Band Pass Filter (makes it bright), and thrown against a Unipulse (makes it thin).

To make the sound a bit more interesting I will take the lead towards to following route:

Goa Squeeky Lead
Looks complicated but it is done in 5 minutes time using the following steps:
- Right click on Thor and click combine
- Detach the original audio cables and replace it with a Line 6:2
- add a Scream 4 distortion unit to Thor set on Distortion (Damage amount is set to 46 in this case with a fair amount of presence)
- create an Mclass Equalizer to drop the low ends (in this case I even went for around 312 Hz)
- Create a Spider audio merger splitter
- Connect the Mclass Equalizer to the Audio merger splitter
- Create a Reverb (great for blending the sound and dropping of too much high tones again)
- This signal goes in to the Mixer 6:2 channel 1
- Connect the 2nd audio from the Splitter to an ECF Envelope controlled filter set to Band Pass
- Connect the 3rd audio from the splitter to an ECF Envelope controlled filter set to Band Pass
- use a different delay on the 2 different envelopes.

Now to be fairly honest, it took me longer to write this all down in text to make the patch itself. But the reason why a set up like this might be important is because the delay by itself will be fed through a different filter. This will eventually create different frequencies over time. Another way to "play" with this sound is to modify the filter frequencies while time progresses. It is just basically a minor pissing contest that takes place in your song. But this is all there to make the sound evolve over time.

Check the file 05-Goa-Trance-squeaky-lead.reason for more details that comes with the zip file in the beginning of this article.

Effects

Now comes by biggest dilemma. I could write down a single paragraph about effects... however that would not really be sufficient since GOA Trance is all about the different tiny effects that build up the complete song. I can however through in a direction over here on some pieces I often go for when making an effect or two. The main heart I go for are:
- Malstroms
- Thor Noise Oscillators
- NN-XT sampler (for reverse samples)

In this case I will go for the Malstrom idea and how I would tinker a sound effect together. In a nutshell an effect needs an oscillator. And because the Graintable synthesizer has so many oscillators to use as an effect (Drip, Metal Cans, Pink noise, Throat etc) I will go with a voice effect in this case. Call it "Monks on Drugs". So the Oscillator I choose is Tibetan Monks.

Goa monks oscillator

As far the motion goes, this will go down to 0. Since I will be using the Mod A (modulator that contains an Index) to modify the start point of this wave table.

Goa Monks on Drugs

Throw this again a Band Pass filter in the initial starting point of this "Bursting" sound effect is somewhat completed. Notice that I have set the index modulation on 1-shot. This will make the pattern change only trigger once per note!

Next up setting up a Filter / Volume burst effect. For this I will use the following pattern (set to 1 shot again!).

Goa Monks on Drugs Modulation

The filter gets set to Band Pass filter. Since this an ideal sound source to blend it through a "Ring Modulator". This brings me to the Scream 4 unit:

Goa Monks on Drugs Ring modulation

What this will to is put an accent on our "Voice" from the Monks on Drugs. Eventually it will sound more like a didgerdoo type of sound but more "stepped" in a way. Which is cool for Goa trance. You either slide it in, or step it... there is barely any wobble in Goa Trance heh.

Last bit to create some depth in the sound I will go for the RV-7. The RV-7000 on the other hand is also a great tool to create effects and such but ok, lets keep it simple this time.

Goa Monks on Drugs Final

Check the 06-Goa Trance Effect for more details (contained in the zip file at the beginning of this article).

Even while these elements are just "Basic Elements" there is a lot to explore in the realm of Goa Trance. Easiest method would be listening to a lot of music and try to find ways to create similar effects, build ups and so on.

Have a nice day and till 2014!

Published on Reason Experts
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Published on Reason Experts
Published: 2016-10-12

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RandyEspoda
28 Jan 2017 

RandyEspoda

Whatever I do, the kick in the example file peaks at ~75 Hz. Not 130Hz.I used three different spectrum analyzers.There is some presence around the 130 mark, and around the 2.5K Hz mark, but just one big peak at 70-75.Even adjusting the tone, pitch, etc... doesn't change much.I also notice the spectrum curve being totally different to the one shown in the article (the trueRTA image).Either something is messed up in the .zip, or I'm having serious issues with my spectrum analisys.The trueRTA software doesn't work for me btw. I'm using two others for reference.
hydlide
 28 Jan 2017 

hydlide

All I can say at this point is that the screen shots were taken using the source files that sit inside the zip file. I just had to check it again just to make sure before making this comment.Edit: additional I like to add that the response time is different compared to the spectrum EQ response time of trueRTA. This might be of influence on different measurements and how this translates to the spectrum EQ of Reason itself. There for the graph in Reason might look different compared to the one of trueRTA.
1
RandyEspoda
 28 Jan 2017 

RandyEspoda

Ok, so by adjusting the pitch to 0 and the tone to 35 I was able to tweak the peak hitting at 130Hz.Still I feel there is too little presence around the 4K mark. I see now this was supposed to be tweaked afterwards, so all is good. ;)

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