Lo-fi originated from the term low-fidelity which referred to the poor quality of a sound signal. What was once undesirable became essential in creating a whole new genre of music. Lofi music utilizes samples and frequently includes hip hop beats. Thus, lofi becomes an attractive arena to hip hop producers.
Capture the distraught feeling that everyone can relate to by incorporating a lofi vibe. We’ll go over how lofi is constructed and how you can start making lofi music today!
What is lofi music?
Lo-fi music is a genre that incorporates lots of low-fidelity sounds. Common sounds that are in lofi are hisses and saturated samples. Drums play a critical role in lofi music as well. Lofi music typically has a hip hop vibe to them as they often include interview recordings etc.
Back then, lo-fi is something that you DID NOT want to have. Most producers would avoid having this kind of distortion of hissing in their production. Although this was then, nowadays DAWs have transformed the way we use these kind of lofi distoritions.
The new lofi techniques brought back the nostalgia by mimicking the warbling sound of cassette recordings. This abnormal production continues to be very popular in 2021 and many use it in hip hop tracks.
How to make lofi music
Making lofi music should not be intimidating as it is one of the easiest genres to produce. Ofcourse, this is just the basic set up in most songs, we encourage you to record your own recordings. Music theory is quite universal so if you know the basics you should be fine. But for most beginners, we don’t have quite the knowledge for this particular jazz style of music.
- Start with a sample, most lofi music are sample based. You can find some samples off the internet for now. Once we found our 1st sample, import it in your DAW. Get yourself a free sampler plugin like Sforzando or simply chop up the sample straight from the timeline. The kind of samples you should aim for are chord progressions and live recordings of something.
- Insert hip hop drum loops on the track. Lofi music is based on hip-hop sounding drums specifically the style of the 90s. 90s and 2000s drum production serves a good starting point to study. In side these drum loops are quick snares, thumpy kicks, and hissing hi hats. Oddly, samples of bottles, clicks, pans, chimes and more are commonly used in lofi beats. The key is balancing live percussions and drums to achieve jazzy feel.
- Chord progressions are essential in every lofi beat. These chord progressions are always following a jazz style, particularing two-five-one chord progressions. This is where music theory comes in handy, so make sure you learn the basics! Otherwise, listen to jazz music and see the resemblance between the genres. Or find samples!
- Incorporate lo-fi instruments like the saxophone and trombone. These will serve as heavy hitters that will take the listener to a deeper place in the song. Use loops that can add a sense of space in the lofi track. Some other instruments are the harp, guitar, trumpet, and the piano.
Lofi production techniques
Now that you have all of your instruments and patterns in place, lets EQ the production! Mixing and master is what really makes lofi “Lo-Fi”. We will briefly go into the 3 common lofi production techniques to really make your sound special.
- Tape Saturation is the most popular effect in lofi music. Tape machines are analog recording devices that encode electrical signals onto magnetic tape. This is how cassette tapes worked and inspired the unique sound. The saturation of these tapes are caused by the physical limitation of the cassette tape. Subtle amounts of phasing, compressions, distortion, pitch shifts and resonance occur because of these limitations. Producers use tape saturation plugins for these effects.
- Lofi audio effects and VSTs pack a ton of power for your lofi track. Effects you’ll hear are phasers, reverbs, pitch bending, choruses, delay, distortion and more. To get started with these effects, simply familiarize yourself with each effect and observe what happens. You may add these effects to the percussions or the main drums to create the lofi feel.
- Sidechaining is that silent underdog when it comes to lofi music. Really dive into the art of sidechaining as it can improve your music production overall. If you paid attention to popular lofi tracks, you can hear a pulsating effect with the volume every time the drums hit. It almost feels like sound is sucking in, well that’s what sidechaining accomplishes. Sidechaining is adding compression every time a specific sound occurs, which in most cases would be the kick. This will in turn make your kicks sound punchier.
Lofi is a genre that is likely to become even more popular than it is today. Creating lofi music takes some patience and vision as the sound doesn’t follow common music theory. Rather, lofi is more like jazz with a blend of hip hop. Take the basics you learned in this article and get started with all that is available. Ofcourse, we recommend you take these concepts and dive deeper to get a full on understanding. Let us know what you think we should include in this article!