This guide will answer what is Lo-Fi music, what lo-fi means, and why the Lo-Fi music genre is so popular.
What Is Lo-Fi Music?
Lo-Fi music is a genre of music that is often characterized as gritty and grainy audio quality, with simple instrumentation. Its calming tempo and simple drum patterns make it popular for studying and focusing online. The term lo-fi refers to unpolished music with a “low fidelity” sound.
What this post covers:
- What is Lo-Fi Music
- What Does Lo-Fi Mean In Music
- Why Is Lo-Fi Music So Popular
- Who Invented Lo-Fi Music
- Why Is Lo-Fi Music Relaxing
- Who Are Popular Lo-Fi Music Artists
- How Do You Make Lo-Fi Music
What is Lo-Fi Music?
Most Lo-Fi music is non-lyrical, even when it includes people’s voices, usually from old television recordings or radio broadcasts. It has slowly been gaining popularity as a separate genre of music that is different from the typical type of music you used to listen to.
When we talk about music, low fidelity usually describes the bad audio quality, slow and repetitive tracks, often accompanied by a hiss. It’s not bad in the usual sense. Rather it’s the good type of bad. It is a type of music that has been created to have repetitiveness arranged uniquely.
The lo-fi music genre is emerging from the underground. It combines electronic music, downtempo music, chillwave, and indie hip-hop elements to create a pleasant mix of relaxing background beats for studying, working, reading, and other activities.
A lo-fi song usually uses drum loops or even classical music variations as sample selections. We can define lo-fi music as chill study music, and the calming nature of this music makes it ideal study music that helps focus. Following are the several key characteristics that characterize the lo-fi sound:
Drum loops are a common feature of lo-fi, just as they are in hip-hop. Drum samples produced electronically, as well as live recordings, are used in lo-fi music. Mostly, live elements are preferred by beatmakers because they’re easier to tweak through a digital audio workshop (DAW). In general, the beats typically range from 70 to 90 beats per minute (BPM).
The relaxed, thoughtful nature of jazz chord progressions also makes them an essential component of lo-fi sounds. Lo-fi artists tend to use rhythm instruments (bass, drums) and piano in their compositions, although they may also use horns or guitar depending on the composition.
Lo-fi is typically an instrumental form of music, but many lo-fi tracks include samples and other effects to enhance the music production. It’s not uncommon to hear vocal samples, with many drawing inspiration from anime to emphasize the connection between the two mediums. Vinyl records are also frequently used to convey nostalgia and the warmth associated with analog recordings.
What Does Lo-Fi Mean In Music?
Today, lo-fi music is mostly used as background music for virtually any type of situation — a classroom, a workplace, a relaxing environment, or just to fill the silence. Musicians who create lo-fi music knowingly and intentionally damage or degrade the tape saturation to create this particular effect.
Imagine the difference between popular, mainstream hi-fi music. Music of this kind is expertly mixed and mastered to create high-quality sound effects. Meanwhile, lo-fi intends to sound raw – the opposite of hi-fi. Modern lo-fi music often draws inspiration from hip-hop songs from the 1990s and turns them into something new and original.
Why Is Lo-Fi Music So Popular?
Lo-fi music gained popularity because of its relaxing beats. People are attracted to this genre for many different reasons – they are looking for music that reflects how they feel, how they live, and how they are experiencing their lives. Listeners can burn off stress through this music in a very positive way.
Lo-Fi’s popularity can be easily explained by looking at it through the lens of nostalgia. Lo-Fi music usually uses a lot of nostalgic elements, and it’s becoming more common. The ideal Lo-Fi helps to bring back memories of the old days. There is no doubt that nostalgia plays an influential role in why Lo-Fi music is so popular.
Who Invented Lo-Fi Music?
When it comes to lo-fi hip-hop, two names are almost always cited as the inventors or creators of the genre: Japanese DJ and producer Nujabes and American rapper and producer J Dilla. They incorporated hip-hop, jazz, and electronic music elements to create a sound that was uniquely theirs.
In 2013, live stream channels on YouTube began streaming lo-fi sounds that sparked modern lo-fi music. Musicians with lo-fi tastes, inspired by chill hop pioneer Nujabes and hip-hop legend J Dilla, created playlists on YouTube and other streaming services.
ChilledCow (later known as Lofi Girl), a YouTube channel that broadcasted a continuous live stream of hip-hop music in 2015, became an online radio station. By 2017, the channel had broadcasted for nearly 13,000 hours, with 7.5 million subscribers. Today, the channel has over 9.3 million subscribers.
Why Is Lo-Fi Music Relaxing?
Lo-fi music appears to benefit its listeners almost magically because of its compounding, imperfect traits. Lo-fi music is characterized by repetitive drum loops that create a feeling of comfort or nostalgia as they replace the external noise of the environment. This increases brain activity and improves concentration.
Moods are altered by slow music, which releases Serotonin, the “Happy Hormone” neurotransmitter. In addition to improved moods, lo-fi music reduces stress hormones such as Cortisol. Decreased levels of stress hormones in the blood also reduce blood pressure and irregular heartbeats.
Using Lo-Fi music to study, work out, and focus is common among students worldwide. These sound recordings contain technical flaws that can trigger the cerebrum and allow students to concentrate on their tests and homework projects.
Who Are Popular Lo-Fi Music Artists?
Today, countless lo-fi music artists are creating great music now and then. However, the following are some notable lo-fi music artists.
Chillhop Music on YouTube, based in the Netherlands, is one of the top sources of lo-fi music online. Bas van Leeuwen, the channel owner, uses his live stream as a platform for subscribers to connect and communicate while listening.
Dmitri is the owner of ChilledCow, a music label and YouTube channel that started live streaming lo-fi music in 2017. In addition to his lo-fi hip-hop style, he has used a photo of a girl studying to gain mass attention. Since the image, known as Lofi Girl, has become so iconic, Dmitri decided to use the name and label for his channel in 2021.
Their CollegeMusic channel, created in 2013 by then-13-year-old UK residents Luke Pritchard and Jonny Laxton, attracted over one million subscribers, enabling them to launch their own record label. The duo’s playlist includes summer jazz, late-night beats, and other tracks that are just right for listening to while studying or relaxing.
Isaiah Farber, aka Powfu, received a huge hit in 2020 with “Death Bed (coffee for your head),” a lo-fi hip-hop track that peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
How Do You Make Lo-Fi Music?
It’s pretty easy to make lo-fi music-even if it requires some jazz theory. That’s because it’s sample-based. You don’t really have to know how to play complicated chords on the piano or guitar because you can simply sample them. Nowadays, lo-fi producers fuse samples into tracks that sound like old car stereos.
Making lo-fi beats is relatively easy for anyone who has access to some samples and a free DAW. We’ll look at some of the most fundamental elements behind lo-fi music.
1. Sample in a DAW
To get started, you need to learn how to sample in your DAW. For a basic start, either drop your samples directly into your DAW timeline, or you’ll use a sampling plugin to chop the samples based on their transients. Good samples are essential for this task.
Related: Best Free DAW Software Apps
2. Hip-Hop Drum Loops
Hip Hop is the base for Lo-fi music, and Lo-fi is mostly influenced by the drum production style of hip-hop from the 1990s and early 2000s. Thuddy kicks, snappy snares, and hissing hi-hats are staples of the hip-hop genre, but you don’t have to limit yourself to snares, kicks, and hi-hats.
Almost any odd percussion you can imagine can be incorporated into lo-fi music using samples of bottles, pots, and pans. While sub-genres such as lo-fi trap tend to rely on electronically produced samples, lo-fi is naturally suited to recorded samples of live percussion.
Related: Free Loops & Free Drum Loops
3. Lo-Fi Chord Progressions
Chord progressions in lo-fi are mostly just simplified jazz chord progressions. Lo-fi producers often use jazzy chord progressions like the two-five-one, along with more complex 7th and 9th voicings in their tracks. The knowledge of a little jazz theory will come in handy when searching for jazzy samples, even if you are not a musician.
4. Lo-Fi Instruments
Write lo-fi tracks like jazz composers. Jazz and low-fi are very similar- but loops are dominant in lo-fi music. So you might want to get to know jazz instruments. Drums, double bass, and piano are the most commonly used rhythm section in jazz, and these instruments should always be part of your lo-fi arrangements.
Related: Best Free Tape Emulator VST Plugins
Summary of Lo-Fi Music
Lo-Fi (low-fidelity) is music in which elements usually seen as defects in recordings can be heard, sometimes as part of a purposeful artistic motive. The sound quality of Lo-Fi music is often gritty and grainy, with simple instrumentation.
It is popular online for studying and focusing due to its calming tempo and simple drum patterns. The term lo-fi refers to music that sounds “low fidelity” or unpolished.
We hope you found this info on the Lo-Fi music genre helpful, and hopefully, we answered what is Lo-fi music.
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