How to Produce Those Tricky Lead Synth Patterns Heard in Trance Music

Lead synthesis patterns in trance music are most often generated by electronic means, and because of this artificial origin trance lead patterns can be made to sound rather tricky. In trance music there are some common techniques that are used to achieve this.


  1. 1
    Realize that lead synthesis patterns in trance music can be just as important as lead guitar riffs in rock music. "Lead" simply means that the pattern stands out in front of other elements of the music (cf. lead singer, lead guitar).
  2. 2
    Get a sound generator, basically any software or hardware synthesis that includes a sequencer will do (to generate a synthesis pattern).
  3. 3
    Set the tempo to 148 beats per minute (BPM) or something you find more entrancing.
  4. 4
    Create an 8-note pattern pivoting around one note using the sequencer.
    • For example: c c c d c c c eb c c c g
  5. 5
    Play back the pattern as a loop.
  6. 6
    Cut a few notes just to make it interesting - say 4 notes - out of the pattern.
    • From the example above (X marks the cut): c X c c d c c X eb X c X g
  7. 7
    Choose from the number of different paths you can take.
    • Instant trance: Add a cross delay and adjust feedback and delay time after your liking.
      • If you set the tempo to 148 BPM try a delay time of 303ms or offset two delays a couple of hundred ms or adjust it to your liking.
      • If your sequencer is capable of automation be sure to record movements or edits for each note: cutoffs, (filter-sweep that goes swoosh), resonance (the faster the bubblier), and why not make the pattern beat out another rhythm by assigning accents to some of the notes?
      • If it does not sound right, turn it off for now (always try the default settings first).
  8. 8
    Set your sequencer quantization to 16th-notes.
  9. 9
    Copy your pattern and paste it one octave above on the next step of the 16th-notes.
    • Using the pattern in the example it would look something like this: (in 16th-notes): c1 c2 X X c1 c2 c1 c2 d1 d2.
  10. 10
    Add 32 notes to your pattern and adjust the lengths of the notes.
  11. 11
    Make the rhythmically important notes very short, and make sure the melodic notes are longer. In the example, shorten all the Cs to 128th notes. A similar effect can be achieved by creating a 32nd-note pattern and adding an automated gate or using a second pattern and a side-chain compressor.


  • Be sure to use a trance sound for the patterns. For example, using subtractive synthesis with 6 oscillators:
  • The function of the lead synthesis pattern in trance often leads to a climax in a song and is sometimes used as the recurring theme (the defining element of a song). A theme can also be sounded by a synth bass.
  • If you have an advanced arpeggiator, learn how to use it. Some synthesizers can surprise you with their ability.
  • Pick a pad sound with volume and record some chords. Then, gate the chords using the sequencer: cut and shorten the notes [repeat x times] and use fast rhythms that you hear played on snare drums in marching bands (and place them on the second and fourth beat).
  • Reuse your pattern. Transpose it to another key or recompose and play it back on a keyboard to experiment.
  • Use tricky number 2 in the Steps above on chords. To get a classical 90's sound use a synthesis choir pad with hard attack and gate it, as above.
  • The delay effect is very important in trance! Learn how to use it wisely.
  • Listen to your favorite trance songs and patterns. Try to make similar patterns.
  • Synthesis patterns are not always lead synthesis patterns. Sometimes a tricky pattern in the background can give an edge to a slower synthesis in the foreground. However, remember that the lead pattern will often be the pattern that requires the most attention of the listener. To set two voices apart, contrast is of major importance. Try varying speeds, register and rhythm.
  • Use patterns that are long and fill up at least two bars for a more varied song.


  • Without basic music theory it can be difficult to know what to fix when things sound bad
  • Only the basics are covered in this wikiHow article. To become a skilled trance pattern generator takes many years of exploration of sounds and music.
  • Results may vary depending on gear
  • Listen with moderate volume and take frequent breaks

Things You'll Need

  • A sound generator (synthesizer or music software) with built in sequencer
  • A delay unit

Article Info

Categories: Music Techniques