Lo-Fi music is more popular than it was ever before.
Chilled Cow’s Lo-Fi Hip Hop Radio on YouTube constantly has thousands of listeners and you’ll find Lo-Fi playlists on Spotify with millions of followers.
..but how do you even make Lo-Fi beats? Well, here are 5 tips and tricks for making Lo-Fi Hip Hop. Let’s dive right into it.
1. Use the right sounds
If you want to produce a Lo-Fi beat you need some fitting drum samples to get started. You can either use samples from old drum machines or samples that were specifically made for this genre. To find such samples just search for something like “Free Lo-Fi Sample Pack” on Google. There are some decent freebies available that should be enough to get started.
1. Don’t play to tight
Modern DAWs usually have a grid, allowing you to perfectly align all notes in time. And don’t get me wrong, this is a great feature, which is extremely useful for some genres like Trap for example. However, when it comes to Lo-Fi you should disable the grid for a while and try to place all notes slightly off-grid. Or even better: record all notes with a MIDI keyboard.
2. Forget your scale
You’re used to staying strictly in key while producing music? Try to forget the scale for a moment. Sure, you can start off your chord progression with some basic triads, but once you got them down try to add more notes to each chord, transpose some of the notes an octave, mute some of them and finally: try to add some “blue” notes outside your key.
3. Mix things up
There’s no “music police” telling you to stay strictly in your genre so you can mix things up a bit with modern elements. Try to add modern trap hats for example. To adapt them to your Lo-Fi arrangement you could pitch them down a few semitones, add some tape or tube saturation and a low-pass filter to get rid of the high frequencies. Another thing you could add is a modern 808 bass sample, instead of a common sub bass. Remember that it’s your beat and you can certainly do whatever you’d like to do with it.
5. Record your own samples
Downloading some free Lo-Fi drum kits doesn’t mean that you can’t add your own recordings to the track as well. A common technique to achieve this old, nostalgic atmosphere in your beats is adding ambience samples. For example: recordings of rain, a crowd, city noise, a train station or a bonfire. The possibilities are endless.
And although there are a lot of free ambiences available online, I’d highly recommend getting a field recorder and recording some of your own ones. Not only is it a lot of fun to capture these sounds, it will also make your tracks more unique and you’ll get aware of all the beautiful sounds surrounding you every single day.
If you want to go one step further you can even start to record your own foley percussion samples. Potential sound sources could literally be anything. Just go through your flat with the field recorder and try to make noises with pots, pans, keys and everything else in there. Once you got the recording cut out the best parts in your DAW and try to layer them with your snares etc.
As you can see, Lo-Fi music isn’t about strictly following “rules”. You can use weird sounds, don’t be perfectly in time, play notes outside your key and it’s basically required to have a “bad” mixdown in order to call it Lo-Fi.
About the author: Luis is based in Germany and runs a sound design label called BVKER. On his homepage you’ll find a bunch of sample packs for genres, including Lo-Fi, Hip Hop and Trap. Some of this stuff is even free.