Composing music is never easy. However, you still want to challenge yourself and learn how to make lofi music? Why is it lofi music when it is a rather difficult genre for beginners to compose?
Cazzette recommends that you compose lofi music if you feel confident in your musical sense. Let’s first review the basics and what information is needed to begin the creative process. You can master the lofi genre if you follow the article to its end. Good luck.
What is lo-fi music?
Lo-fi music is a type of music that uses low-fidelity signals. It typically recreates the sounds, warble, and saturation of tape recordings. Lo-fi music is heavily influenced by hip-hop, especially its drum patterns.
Lo-fi vs. Lo-fi music
Although lo-fi today refers to a whole genre of music, it was originally a term that referred to low-fidelity sound signals.
Lo-fi used to be a derogatory term. Producers tried to avoid a “lo-fi” sound.
With the advent of digital music production and DAWs, a nostalgic feeling for the squeak of cassette tapes is back.
Lo-fi producers today use a variety of modern production techniques to transform samples into hip-hop tracks. They can evoke the sounds from 90s car stereos.
How To Make Lo-fi Music – Step By Step
Lo-fi music can be made with a simple technique, even if it requires some more complex jazz theory.
It’s sample-based. When you just want to sample chords, you don’t have to play them on your guitar or piano.
Lo-fi producers today transform samples into tracks that recall the sounds of 1990s car stereos.
With a few samples and a GarageBand free DAW, anyone can make lo-fi beats.
Let’s take a look at some of the basic components that go into making lo-fi music.
1. Sample in a DAW
First, you need to know how to sample in your DAW.
You can use a few methods, and we have created tons of content on the subject.
As a starting point, you can either drop the samples directly into your DAW project timeline or use a sampling plugin that will chop the sample to suit its transients.
You’ll need good samples. Let’s look at some of the sounds that you should be searching for.
2. Hip-hop drum loops
Lo-fi music is hip-hop-based. It borrows almost exclusively from hip-hop’s 90s and 2000s drum production style.
This genre is known for its hip-hop loops featuring snappy snares and thuddy kicks.
However, snares and kicks should not be your only focus.
Lo-fi music can be found in many forms, including samples of bottles, pots, pans, and sticks clicks.
Lo-fi music can be found in many forms, including samples of bottles, pots, pans, and sticks clicks.
Lo-fi is a genre that favors recorded samples of live percussion, even though some sub-genres such as lo-fi trap are more inclined to electronically produced samples.
Recorded samples are more in demand because they can be easily manipulated and broken down into lo-fi territory. Also, recorded drums sound better.
3. Lo-fi chord progressions
Most Lo-fi chord progressions consist of simplified jazz chord progressions.
Many lo-fi producers will use jazzy two-five one-chord progressions with more complex 7th and 9th voicings to their lo-fi tracks.
We have written before about chord progressions, including jazz chords. If you’re looking to create a great lo-fi track, take some time to learn basic music theory.
Even if your instrument isn’t the guitar or piano, it will be helpful to know some basics about jazz to help you find the right samples.
4. Lo-fi instruments
Think like a jazz composer when you are writing a lo-fi song.
Lo-fi music can be compared to jazz in many ways, but it has a lot more loops. You’ll need to be familiar with the common instruments used in jazz music.
Jazz is built upon a rhythm section consisting of piano, double bass, and drums. These instruments are essential for any lo-fi arrangement.
You can add some spice to your jazz playing with the saxophone, trumpet, guitar, trombone, or trombone. Just listen to a few classic jazz records for an idea.
How To Make Lo-fi Hip Hop
Step 1: Nostalgic Chords and Melody
Lo-fi hip-hop is all about sampling melodies and chords, especially from jazz and old funk records. You can also create your progression.
This example will show you how I write and resample my own. It’s also very enjoyable to work in audio.
Find a sound that fits the mood of the song you’re trying to create. I used a Rhodes/keyboard sound in the video.
Ableton has a variety of ePiano- and Rhodes-type instruments.
FL Studio also offers FL Keys with decent Rhodes presets.
Once you have a suitable sound, create a new clip.
Over four bars, sketch out chords. You can make it as long or short as you like, but lo-fi hip-hop usually has shorter loops that continue throughout. Connor has a great article on chord writing.
After you are done, freeze the audio and flatten it (right-click the track, select freeze, wait, and then select flatten). You can also record audio in FL Studio or another DAW, such as Edison, and then drop it back into your arrangement.
You can now treat the chord progression as audio and make it into a new arrangement. This will give you that hip-hop feels by taking audio segments.
This can be done in audio or by cutting it to a Drum Rack (or Slicex for FL). You can also pitch the audio up and down to change its tone.
This working method contributes greatly to the sound of lo-fi hip-hop and is a nod towards an MPC-type workflow.
To find the best pattern, you can make several variations and swap them around in your track’s structure.
After you have some solid chords in the DAW, let us move on to one of the most important ingredients in a lo-fi beat.
Step 2: Dusty Drum Beat
Electronic music is not complete without drums, even lo-fi hip-hop. Drums are essential in electronic music. In this instance, however, drums can’t be used as a substitute for real drum sounds. They must sound crisp and dry.
Finding the right samples is the best way to achieve this. While you can do additional processing, it is easier to reduce the amount of post-FX applied to the sound.
You should look for kicks, hats, and snares that have similar aesthetics. These are usually associated with background noise and more compression/saturation than high-end information.
Splice Sounds and r/drumkits have samples that are perfect for this type of drum sound. Try taking one-shots of older drum loops if you are having trouble. Once you have some sounds, pack them into a drum rack.
While the sound is important, the beat is not. The following pattern will help you create a beat. You can modify it to suit your needs.
The kick and snare are usually quantized to the Grid. The second kick for each bar is featured on this offbeat. This is evident in the above pattern.
This is a common characteristic in lo-fi hip-hop, but you can also experiment with other patterns to make it more interesting.
Swing is essential in hip-hop because it creates a relaxed atmosphere. So feel free to move the first hat forward a little and the second back a little, and then repeat the process with slight variations each time. You will see what I mean.
The open hat is a great way to add interest and continuity to the beat. You can experiment with different hat sounds.
Processing drums in groups is important because it enhances the aesthetic and helps glue them together to create a cohesive sound. Here are some good tips for processing:
- Filtering with low-pass
- Temporary shaping
- Adjustments to the pitch
Step 3: Infectious Bass Line
Lo-fi hip-hop bass is often quite melodic, but it’s rhythmically fascinating. It’s possible to create interesting loops or full-blown bass solos.
Start by choosing a bass sound that has a soft-focus but includes nice harmonics. You could use a simple sine wave, but you might want to add some saturation or distortion to give it more depth.
We will now create a bassline using our original chord progression. The root note doesn’t have to be followed, but it might be a good starting point.
It is important to go beyond that by adding rhythmic variety such as syncopation, moving notes up one octave, and much more.
After you have created a consistent bass line with the chords, mix the volume to make it sit well. You don’t need to mix it perfectly, but you should get enough to compliment the music.
Step 4: FX and Creative Elements
Vinyl crackle is a key effect that you can add to a lo-fi track to imitate the sound of a record player. This helps to create a dusty/sampled look.
Find a good sample and low-pass it to find the right sound. Make sure you turn it down to the background.
This can be combined with foley elements to create intimate textures that ‘weave in and out’ of the crackle.
Other than that, there’s no hard and fast rule regarding FX in lo-fi hip hop. However, you will hear lots of pitchy bleep-bloop sounds (for want of a better term).
This sound can be used to create a variety of FX effects, including riser and impact FX. However, they are not difficult to create.
Automate a wave’s pitch using an LFO. Adjust the rate and amount while applying delays. These types of FX can be a lot of fun.
Other effects that might be suitable include chimes and foley, background drumming, sweeps, and computer sounds.
A sampled vocal speech can also add an atmosphere to your track. You can use EQ and distortion effects to process a sample speech. This will give you a more textured sound that complements the rest.
Step 5: Mixing and Mastering
In the world of lo-fi hip-hop, mixing and mastering can be quite lax. You can get most of the way if your faders work well, which is a lot harder than it sounds.
Mixes tend towards the dynamic side. The kick and snare are strong to give the track a great groove. To give the track a solid foundation, the bass is loud. All other elements, including chords and FX, can be mixed to suit the track’s requirements.
Reduce the lows of some sounds if muddiness becomes a problem. This is most common when pitches are lowered a lot. We did this with the chords. The fundamentals are moved down to the lower mids and upper bass frequencies.
Sidechaining a lot more elements to the kick drum in the drum rack is a must. Sidechain compression can be used in lo-fi hip-hop as part of the aesthetic.
You can often master it with some soft and limiting clipping. You should end up with something like this!
3 Tips to Refine Your Lofi Beats
You might be wondering why I use the word “refine” here. Lofi beats tend to be a little looser than other music styles, so I use it with tongue in cheek. Continue reading if you don’t understand what this means.
Here’s a sample of what we will be working on:
1. Filter, Filter, Filter
Lofi music also lacks high frequencies in the samples and percussion. This was not a technique producers were looking for when creating music. It was simply a side effect of old sampling records.
There was an automatic warmth when using analog gear or sampling vinyl. Each of the samplers I mentioned earlier has a distinct sound, which causes different amounts of saturation or distortion. This will allow you to eliminate higher frequencies from your track.
Let’s suppose you’re new to Lofi music-making and don’t have an MPC or a stack of vinyl. What if you only have a few samples and your DAW to reproduce this sound? This is how you can get that Lofi sound right out of the box.
This is a very simple house beat. This sample is taken from a 909 kit. Each hit is unaltered. This would be great for techno or house producers. We are not most techno or house producers, so we want it to sound older and more like something we took from vinyl.
This goal can be achieved quickly by downloading Echoboy from Soundtoys. You might be thinking, “wait! I thought we were going through a filter.” Echoboy? Well, Echoboy can be used as a filter. Let me demonstrate.
You can bus your hi-hat or group it and clap. The effect should be applied to both sounds. To achieve the filter effect, dial the following settings.
Echo Time: Click on the “time” button to bring the dial down to 0.1 milliseconds
Mix: Increase the Mix to 90-95 %.
Saturation: Adjust the saturation knob to your liking. It is set at approximately 4 dB. This is to add a bit more sizzle.
Style: Echoboy is an emulation plugin of popular analog and digital delay units. It can be used as a filter to mimic the sound of running a signal through one processor but without any delay.
This is a great way to obtain the same characteristics as an old Binson Echo Rec and Roland Space Echo without spending thousands of dollars. We’ve selected the AM Radio style.
Tweak Button – Click on the Tweak button for the hidden menu. You can adjust the width to 23 inches or more, depending on how big you want your percussion.
This technique, as you can see, makes your beat sound more polished and analog-like.
This tip can be used in many other genres, too. You can also use this tip on your Lofi beats or any other sound you like.
Bonus: If you’re interested in more creative ways to use Soundtoy’s Echoboy plugin, please visit our blog post HERE.
2. Chop it Up
Creatively chopping up samples is one of the most important techniques for making Lofi beats. Some of this uniqueness and style are being lost in a world with easy access to pre-chopped samples.
You get to choose how much of the sample you want to include in your project. This is half of the fun of sampling your beats and melodies.
We now move on to the next tip for improving your Lofi sound. Some music styles require tight beats and a quick stabby flow. Lofi is not one of these styles.
Mixing samples with different ends and beginning points can create a unique beat.
The beat is grooved, but let’s not forget about the sampled snare. We have made it shorter and more snappy.
This example shows how the groove becomes tighter and more robotic. This effect is desirable for certain music styles. Let’s give the snare sample a chance to shine a little more for this particular beat.
You might notice a difference in the sound quality. This is because the sample was cut. Because it adds a bit more character and groove to the beat, we intentionally left some of the original sounds in the hit.
As you can see, there’s a second drum hit right after the snare. I decided to leave it in. This gives the beat more rhythm. This technique can be used on any sound in your track. It can be used to add little melodic sounds or sounds that you don’t want to use, but it can also enhance your overall beat. These are the happy accidents of beat-making.
This can become a bit too much if you don’t manage your time. It’s important to strike a healthy balance between intentional imperfections and chaos.
3. Living off the Grid
A DAW gives us unprecedented control over the sound we produce. You can be as technical or as free-flowing as you like.
Beatmakers choose to abandon the SP404, SP303, and SP1200 samplers or the MPC from Akai in favor of directly working in their DAWs such as Ableton Live, Logic Pro, or FL Studio.
Working with samplers had the advantage of forcing producers to either play their beats manually or use their sample chops. This allows for a looser groove or swing to the overall beat. The samplers offered the possibility to create a grid and quantify your sounds. However, the real fun begins when you unquantified and begin living from the Grid.
You can see that I have turned Ableton Live off before turning the Grid on. It is evident that certain hits are on the beat and others not.
This is one of the most important tenets in the Lofi sound. This technique is something that listeners will feel and more than hear. You can’t go too crazy with this technique, but you can inject swing or shuffle into the patterns to give your track its groove.
Let’s suppose you’re a terrible finger drummer. It’s okay; I’m also a member of that club. Feel free to add beats or record beats with quantize fully.
You can just go in and “nudge” each sound to your liking. You can achieve looser; more swing sounds by doing this. Although it takes a bit more time, the results can be well worth it.
You can either record your beat or go in and tweak your sounds once they have been laid out. However, you should make sure your sample chops are off the Grid and that you’re hitting different spots. This is the most important technique that will make your listener’s heads bob.
Bonus tip: Make sure you control the velocity of your hits. You can move things around the Grid to get your groove, but it’s much more effective to play with the volume or velocity of certain hits. You can adjust the velocity of hits in your pattern by changing it.
- Find your groove
- You can mimic the sound of playing an instrument or velocity-sensitive sampler.
Lofi is all about living off the Grid and playing with velocity.
Why was LOFI banned?
YouTube accidentally banned ChilledCow’s account behind lofi for violating its Terms of Service. ChilledCow sent a message to YouTube asking for clarification in a now-deleted tweet. A large number of angry fans supported this.
Why is LOFI so good?
Szabo and other music professionals use the term “cocooning” to describe this ultimate effect. Lo-fi protects your thoughts from the harsh and unpredictable outside world by wrapping you in a predictable, soft sound. This helps you to relax and stay focused. As a result, you get more done.
Is LOFI girl in ChilledCow?
Dimitri is the owner of Lofi Girl (formerly ChilledCow), a YouTube music label and radio-style channel.
What key is LoFi in?
It is a borrowed melody from the parallel minor key, and it serves as a cadence back towards the G major chord. Although it’s not the most common thing, it works well. These MIDI files are just a few of the many!
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