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Published on Reason Experts

Song Structure of Psy Trance

Published: 2016-11-17

In this article I will address some ideas regarding to song structures. Make note, most of the song files I am posting are made with Reason 9. The biggest issue in regards to Psy Trance to write something 'logic' about it is the song structure. Basically the main problem here is ... there is really no 'logic there'.

Well, ok there is some logic if it comes to discussing structure of Psy Trance. But since there is no rule to guide you through it step by step, I will try to make up my own code of conduct on how I would approach such a topic.

Psy trance does not have a structure

I will just call it this. Psy trance does not have a structure.  It is more like a journey and you as an artist basically tell your audience how this journey will proceed. Eventually I could just stop there and call it a day. Since this is like a sentence that just defines like "just go make some music and hammer on some keys! and if that is your journey and people don't like it, then screw them".

Since there are plenty of ideas and tricks I have up my sleeves to help you out. Since there are some common techniques which are often being used.

Take the Blue Pill

To be honest here, if you are more in to structural builds of songs where you define a song like intro, verse, chorus, verse, build up, chorus, autro... you may not going to like Psy Trance at all. Since in theory psy trance is more defined by:

- Bass Drum
- Bass line
- More repeating bass line
- some break
- some effects
- sound design some stuff
- bridge some leads
- filter it in
- sweep some more
- take some XTC
- break some beats
- and repeat some more
- open up some filters
- tweak some eq settings
- throw in some more effects
- balance some more
- get a headache while making all the transitions to work proper

Now... that... looks... more... like PsyTrance. And now its time for a couple of aspirin.

Song Structure, where was I?

As I have addressed with the mixing mastering parts, a good starting point would be Bass drum, Bass line approach like triplets:

K   K   K   K   

Alternative sets I love to use are:

K   K   K   K   
  B   B  B  B     B 
 B  B (soft)  B B  B (soft)  B

This is something I often refer as being a "three" stepper. While the triplets or three stepper are some what similar in nature (since they still do the KBBB thing) the accent on the second step (kbBb) is somewhat different in the second method. Alternate route would be using velocity settings instead. In this case you could set up a rising velocity where the first bass line kicks in at midi value of 64, the second at 96 and the last at 128. So in that extend it turns more in to a KbbB set up.

Just to throw in ideas on the table, I will set up the main templates as Reason 9 files, so you have an idea what I am referring to.


A lot of times, you will need some form of breaks. And Psy Trance is all about using this as a transition. A few things to keep in mind:

- Loop something
- Break
- Loop the exact same thing
- Break
- Loop something + effects
- Break
- Loop something more + effects + some filters
- Break

Eventually you will come to a point in the production stage that "breaking" does not always work. Since it gets a bit too repetitive if you would place the breaks in there all the time. So some food for thought would be using some effects to make the breaks sound different. But I will get back to that one.

Some common technique to break is using the bass drum to go "off beat" or do a bass drum roll with a twist.

An off beat could be using 1/8T (Triplets). Just slam it once in a 4 bar phrase does miracles for transitions. For instance take this triplet file instance:


Sometimes a triplet like this works, sometimes you may need something like a more 'aggressive' touch. This is where a bass drum roll from 1/32 > 1/16 > 1/8 > triplet can do the trick.

Bass drum roll break

Sweeping noise effects

Sweeping noise effects usually play an import role regarding the uplifting state or dark and depressing state. By rule, an uplifting state is a noise effect that goes from low to high using a High Pass Filter. A dark and depressing state goes from high to low using a High Pass filter. While Thor the Polysonic Synthesizer can do a lot regarding noise generators. This is often my go to synthesizer to create these sweeping effects. Since in theory you will need a few things:

- Noise oscillator
- A High Pass Filter (state variable filter set to HP12)
- A Filter envelope
- an Inverted switch turned on when going from high to low (depressing)

And that is mostly it. Alternative routes would be controlling the noise oscillator itself. While a White noise may be enough, you could also use a noise generator like "color" to alter the character of the noise oscillator itself. Color translates the noise oscillator from Pink Noise (Noise Mod to 0) to white noise (Noise Mod to 127). An alternative route for this would be using an LP12 filter in between. Since character wise it does something similar.

Other good options for setting up a noise sweep effect in this realm is the "BandWidth" noise oscillator. Since it translates the character from Sine > White Noise. Also make note that Bandwidth is one of the few noise types which listens to the Keyboard Tracking. So take your pick and sweep in some filters.

To set up a basic patch you could make something like this:

In this case you have the color for being the noise generator. This goes through a HP12 filter. And the envelope (filter envelope / amplitude) will control mostly how the filter sweeps in. You can read more about how envelopes work in this article: Envelopes.

While doing so, you can alter the course of the sweep in effect by copy / pasting this patch in to your reason rack and change only for instance the Attack times of the filter envelope or amplitude envelope. In this case you can sequence from one sweep in effect to another. Kind of like "playing the noise". A lot of times I use more then 3 of these to make the transitions work. And the cool thing with these type of set ups, you program it once. Play one single note. Copy / Paste, make some adjustments in the envelope and take another long note somewhere else.

Noise Sweep effect Thor

Now, how would you translate this to a song? Just download the following Propellerhead Reason 9 file, and you will find out!

Noise tranistions

Leads and stuff

When it comes to leads and stuff, you could always throw them in after a break. Just make sure they do not play at full strength the first time they play. That is all. Usually psy trance is about the journey. So you will mostly be using "edit automation" to make changes in either filters, volumes, effects, inserts, send effects and so on. It kind of depends on which direction you are taking the track towards. These transitions in this genre are most often very subtle and can take a really long time to build up. Also make note that Psy Trance tracks can take a long play time (8 minutes is not an exception here). So that is partially the reason why build ups in this genre can be rather long and so on.

As an example I have created the following file that does a lot regarding the filter frequency of a Low Pass Filter. This by itself is a traditional method for building up a song like this. But like I mentioned, there are multiple ways to get things done in the long run.

Song Build up Lead

I think that covers most of the basics. While most of the examples I have been providing currently are very 'simplistic' by design. I have done it this way so you can gather some info from what is really happening. I could throw in a wide range of complex templates, but I think from the learning curve perspective most people will go totally nuts regarding this, and quit making music all together. That is partially the reason why I am keeping things simple for this topic in particular.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this series, as much I enjoyed writing about it

Till next time!




Published on Reason Experts
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Published on Reason Experts
Published: 2016-11-17

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