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Ever seen those ’24/7 lo-fi hip hop beats to chill/study/relax to’ streams? Because of this, the genre is growing and people want to know how to make lo-fi hip hop.
The problem is, the sound is low-quality on purpose as part of the aesthetic. It’s a throwback to old-school hip hop when computers weren’t a big part of the production, and the technology wasn’t up to scratch.
So the production techniques we get into in this video/article help to be able to make lo-fi hip hop while combining a gritty sound with a modern workflow. You can watch the video, read the article, or do both.
So let’s hop into our 5 step process that breaks the production process down! 👇
How To Make Lo-fi Hip Hop
- Nostalgic Chords and Melody
- Dusty Drum Beat
- Infectious Bass Line
- FX and Creative Elements
- Mixing and Mastering
Note: this isn’t a beginner’s tutorial. If you after something more introductory, then check out our electronic music guide.
Getting in the Zone
One thing I mention in the video is that lo-fi hip hop is quite a moody
and is designed to have that effect on the listener.
One thing that helps me write in this genre is getting into a specific headspace before, by recalling a memory from my
Being in this frame of mind will help guide the creativity in the production process, but make it suited to your workflow and specific situation.
So take a few minutes to prepare yourself before just jumping into the studio – you’ll thank me later.
Prepare your project file by setting the BPM between ~70-100 and by making sure you have all your sounds at hand.
Once you’re ready, let’s begin with step 1.
Step 1: Nostalgic Chords and Melody
So when it comes to lo-fi hip hop, sampling chords and melodies is commonplace, especially from old funk and jazz records. But you can also just write your own progression.
In this example, I’m going to write my own and resample it to show you both workflows. It’s also a lot of fun to work in audio.
So find a sound that suits the vibe of the track you are going for. In the video, I went for a Rhodes/keyboard type sound.
If you’re in Ableton, there is a nice variety of ePiano and Rhodes-type instruments that work nicely.
FL Studio additionally has FL Keys with a decent Rhodes preset.
Once you’ve got a suitable sound, create a new clip
ch out some chords over about 4 bars. It can be as long as you want, but lo-fi hip hop typically features shorter loops that repeat throughout. If you struggle with writing chords, check out Connor’s article.
Once you’re done, freeze and flatten the audio (right-click on the track and select freeze, wait and then select flatten). If you’re in another DAW like FL Studio, simply record the audio into Edison and drop it back into the arrangement.
Now you can treat the chord progression like audio and chop it up into a new arrangement, and get that chopped hip hop vibe from taking segments of audio.
You can do this in audio or by slicing it to a Drum Rack (or Slicex in FL). Additionally, you can pitch the audio up or down to change the tone.
This way of working contributes to the overall sound of lo-fi hip hop and is a nod to an MPC-type workflow.
You can create a few varieties of pattern to see what works best, and even swap between them throughout the structure of your track.
Once you’ve got some solid chords in your DAW, let’s move onto one of the key ingredients in a lo-fi beat.
Want better lofi sounds?
Download our FREE lofi hip hop sample pack (includes:10 kicks, 10 claps/snares, 7 hats, 7 melodic sounds and 23 foley/fx.)
Step 2: Dusty Drum Beat
Drums are super important in most electronic music, let alone lo-fi hip hop. But in this case, you can’t use any old drum samples, you need them to sound crunchy and dusty.
The easiest way to do this is to find appropriate samples in the first place. You can do extra processing, but minimising the amount of post-FX on the sound makes the process much more efficient and easy.
Look for a kick, hats, and a snare that share similar aesthetics, usually with background noise, lots of compression/saturation, and less high-end information.
You can find samples on Splice Sounds or on r/drumkits (good specifically for this type of drum sound). If you’re struggling, try taking one-shots from older drum loops. Once you’ve got some sounds, load them up into a drum rack or some sort of drum sampler.
The sound is important, but the beat itself is quite straightforward. Simply make a beat with the following pattern. Feel free to vary it to your own taste.
The kick and the snare usually are quantized (or close) to the grid, and the second kick for every bar is featured on the offbeat. You can see this in the pattern above.
This is typical in lo-fi hip hop, but you can experiment with other patterns to mix things up.
Swing is crucial in hip hop as it creates a more relaxed atmosphere to the track, so feel to bring the first hat back a bit and the second a bit forward, and repeat with slight differences each time. You’ll hear what I mean.
Featuring an open hat as the last in the pattern adds a sense of continuation and interest to the beat. So feel free to mess around with a variety of hat sounds.
Group processing on drums is very important, as doing this not only (once again) contributes to the aesthetic, but helps to glue the drums together for a more cohesive sound. Some good processing tips are:
- Low-pass filtering
- Transient shaping
- Pitch adjustments
By the end, you should have something like this.
Altogether with the drums, this is the loop we have come up with.
Want better lofi sounds?
Download our FREE lofi hip hop sample pack (includes:10 kicks, 10 claps/snares, 7 hats, 7 melodic sounds and 23 foley/fx.)
Step 3: Infectious Bass Line
Bass in lo-fi hip hop is usually quite mellow but rhythmically interesting. From interesting loops to full-blown bass solos, it’s possible and it works.
To start, find a bass sound with a focus on the low end but with some nice harmonics. A simple sine wave might do, but try running it through a bit of saturation/distortion to beef it up a little bit.
Now we will make a bassline based on our original chord progression, using chord tones. It doesn’t necessarily have to follow the root note, but that might be a good starting point.
It’s important to take it beyond this though, by adding rhythmic variety like syncopation, moving notes up an octave and a lot more.
Once you have a bass line that fits with the chords, blend the volume to allow it to sit nicely. It doesn’t have to be perfectly mixed for now, but just enough so it compliments nicely.
Step 4: FX and Creative Elements
One key effect to add into a lo-fi track is vinyl crackle, to emulate the sound of a record player which helps to contribute to the dusty/sampled aesthetic.
So find a nice sample, try low-passing it to see if it sounds more suited, and make sure to turn it down into the background of the track.
You can combine this with foley elements to add nice intimate textures that ‘weave’ in and out of the crackle.
Apart from that, there isn’t a hard and fast rule for FX in lo-fi hip hop, although you tend to hear a lot of pitchy ‘bleep-bloop’ type sounds (for lack of a better term).
You can find a lot of impact and riser FX samples with this kind of sound, but they aren’t too hard to make yourself.
Simply automate a wave’s pitch with an LFO and adjust the rate and amount, while applying delays and the sort. You can have a lot of fun making these types of FX.
Find other suitable effects: chimes, foley, background percussion, sweeps, computer sounds, you name it.
Lastly, a sampled vocal speech can add a certain type of atmosphere to the track. Try finding a speech from a sample pack and processing it with EQ and distortion effects. This helps to achieve a gritty sound that compliments the rest of the beat.
As a side note, you can do some crazy processing like pitching the whole master up or down, as per the video.
But after that, you should have something that’s starting to sound a little more developed, like this.
Step 5: Mixing and Mastering
Mixing and mastering are pretty lax in the realm of lo-fi hip hop. To be honest, as long as your faders are set well (which is harder than it sounds), then you’re most of the way there.
Mixes tend to be on the more dynamic side, as the kick and snare punch through to give the track a nice groove to focus on. The bass is set fairly loud to give the track a solid foundation, and everything else including hats, chords, FX, and melodies can be mixed according to the track’s needs.
If muddiness is becoming a problem, try cutting the lows in some sounds. This can occur specifically when pitching sounds down a lot, which we did earlier with the chords. The fundamentals are pushed down into the lower mids/upper bass frequencies.
You’ll also be wanting to sidechain a lot of the elements to the kick drum in the drum rack. In lo-fi hip hop, you can get away with a more brutal form of sidechain compression, as it’s part of the aesthetic.
After that, you can usually get away with mastering it just with some limiting and/or soft clipping. At the end, you should have something like this!
Need the Sounds?
So it’s all well and good that you know how to make this genre now, but what about having good quality samples to use?
Well, you can get our FREE lofi hip hop pack below!
Hopefully, this helps you get off the ground with lo-fi and that you’ll be making beats like this in no time.
If there’s anything I missed or you have any questions, drop me an email at [emailprotected].
Want the most comprehensive course on lofi hip hop out there? Check out our latest course, The Lofi Hip Hop Blueprint.
- Start with some retro keys. It's all about nostalgia - start with some chilled out sounds to create your main loop. ...
- Add a dusty drum beat. Add some drums in, keep the tempo slow and relaxed (70BPM - 90BPM). ...
- Throw down a bass line. Keep it mellow, keep it rhythmic. ...
- Add FX and Samples. ...
- Mix it.
Making lo-fi beats is surprisingly simple—even if it relies on some slightly more complicated jazz theory. That's because it's sample-based. You don't necessarily have to know how to play certain chords on the piano or guitar when you can just sample them.How do you make LOFI edits? ›
- Download any music software on your computer or mobile: You can set up a home recording studio by using a studio set. ...
- Set your tempo between 50-70 beats per minute: ...
- Choose different instruments from the music software: ...
- Add effects to your music: ...
- Publish your music on a good platform:
What is lo-fi music? Low-fidelity music, or lo-fi, is music that is recorded with intentional imperfections, such as misplayed notes, environmental noise, low hum, or phonographic audio imperfections.What do LOFI artists use? ›
Lo-fi music (namely lo-fi hip-hop) relies on dusty, heavily-filtered drum loops, jazz-influenced chords, and old-school samples. By using these production techniques you are purposefully adding or retaining sonic imperfections that producers decades ago would have been trying to remove from their recordings.Why is LOFI so good? ›
Boosts brain activity
Lo-fi study music also helps increase brain activity, essentially because of the Attention Drainage Effect Theory which affirms that lo-fi sounds drain distractions by allowing the brain to subconsciously and selectively focus on a task while music is playing in the background.
What Key Is Lofi? Lofi music can be in any key, major or minor, though you might want to consider using non-diatonic chords to keep your progressions and melodies a bit more interesting. Major keys can feel more hopeful and nostalgic while minor keys can feel sad and dark.What Bass is used in LOFI? ›
Bassline. A lo-fi favorite is a deep sub-bass. Search for “deep bass” or ”sub” in Instrument presets to find a good one.What is best for studying? ›
Shorter, intensive study times are more effective than drawn out studying. In fact, one of the most impactful study strategies is distributing studying over multiple sessions (Newport, 2007). Intensive study sessions can last 30 or 45-minute sessions and include active studying strategies.Does music help or hurt studying? ›
Is music good while studying? Some research suggests that music can help reduce stress during an academic task and that it may help with memory and processing during tasks that require thinking. However, this may depend on the type of music and the individual.
So to get a lo-fi edge, you can simply roll off high frequencies with an EQ or low-pass filter! Plus, low-pass filtering is the best way to reign in the exaggerated high end that lo-fi processes such as distortion and bitcrushing can create.What is the best app to make LOFI music? ›
Loffee is perhaps the best Lo-Fi music player app for Android. The best part is that it works offline, saving you data and phone battery. Naturally, the collection of songs is not that huge then, but it's wide enough and personally curated by the app developer.Is LOFI an English word? ›
Definition of lo-fi in the English dictionary
The definition of lo-fi in the dictionary is of or giving an impression of poor quality.
Who is the Lofi Girl? The current Lofi Girl is a unique character created by Colombian artist Juan Pablo Machado. Machado's character was introduced in August 2017. This came after several months using a different character for the visuals of the lofi hop hop channel.Why is it called LOFI? ›
Lo-fi (also typeset as lofi or low-fi; short for low fidelity) is a music or production quality in which elements usually regarded as imperfections in the context of a recording or performance are present, sometimes as a deliberate choice.Who is the king of LOFI? ›
Nujabes – Japan's Lofi King
Lofi was born in the 1980s when DIY 'bedroom' musicians made unique sounds without the use of specialist recording equipment. After Japan's Nujabes – famed as 'the King of Lofi' – created the lofi soundtrack to the action anime Samurai Champloo in 2004: Lo-fi exploded.
Conversation. I just realized Lo-Fi Girl is left-handed and I have never felt more represented. I have seen so many things about her, WHO IS SHE? !How old is LoFi hip-hop? ›
Even though lo-fi became a musical genre that is very popular now, it was born a long time ago back in the 1990s. At that time, there were a lot of musicians who made alternative music that was often called DIY music. They made their music at their home studio.What effects make LOFI? ›
The 5 Essential Qualities Of The Lo-Fi Effect
- Tape Saturation. ...
- Wow and flutter. ...
- Wobble. ...
- Cracks and noise. ...
Loffee is perhaps the best Lo-Fi music player app for Android. The best part is that it works offline, saving you data and phone battery. Naturally, the collection of songs is not that huge then, but it's wide enough and personally curated by the app developer.
- Akai MPC Studio Two. For those who want to use hardware for their beat-making, nothing comes close to the Akai MPC Series. ...
- Teenage Engineering PO-33 KO Pocket Operator. ...
- Korg MicroKorg XL+
Low-fidelity music, or lo-fi, is music that is recorded with intentional imperfections, such as misplayed notes, environmental noise, low hum, or phonographic audio imperfections.Is LOFI real music? ›
Lo-fi represents a subgenre of electronic music that shares qualities with downtempo music, the chillwave scene, and lo-fi hip-hop. Lo-fi music mixed elements of house, jazz, easy listening, and hip-hop beats and samples with a DIY music aesthetic that emphasized the imperfect, homemade quality of analog recordings.What is low fi mean? ›
ˈlō-ˈfī : the production or reproduction of audio characterized by an unpolished or rough sound quality. lo-fi adjective.What is LOFI rap called? ›
Lofi hip hop (also known as chillhop and lofi beats to study to) is a form of downtempo music that combines elements of hip hop and chill-out music.Who made the LOFI girl? ›
The Lofi Girl