LoFi, also known as “low-fidelity”, is a musical genre that has gained popularity in recent years. It is music with a rough aesthetic, which may sound imperfect or unfinished, but which creates a relaxing and melancholic atmosphere.
Methods for composing LoFi include the use of vinyl samples and loops, virtual instruments and vintage effects, field and voice recordings (nature, cities, old movies, etc), analog synthesizers, sidechain effects, soft compression techniques, acoustic instruments (guitar, piano) to create soft melodies and harmonies, the use of voice samples from old movies, for example, to add an emotional dimension.
LoFi is often associated with hip-hop music and is often used as a soundtrack for YouTube videos, podcasts and live streams, as it is soft and non-distracting.
But how do you compose LoFi? What techniques and instruments should you use? Let’s take a look at how:
1. Use vinyl samples and loops to make the track more vintage
One of the most popular methods of composing LoFi is to use vinyl samples and loops. Vinyl samples are audio clips from old music or movie recordings, which can be used to create beats and melodies. Loops are fragments of music that are repeated over and over to create a mood.
For example, you can use a piano sample from a 1950s jazz recording, add a drum loop and reverb effects to create a LoFi feel.
Where to find retro samples?
There are several websites where you can download free recordings of music from the 1950s. Here are some examples:
- Internet Archive an online digital library that offers thousands of recordings of music from the 1950s and other eras.
- Free Music Archive a website offering a wide variety of royalty-free music in different genres, including music from the 1950s.
- Musopen this website offers royalty-free classical music recordings, including recordings of music from the 1950s.
Where to find LoFi loops ?
Here are also three websites where you can download drum loops to create LoFi music:
- Splice offers a wide variety of drum loops, including LoFi drum loops. You can download the loops you are interested in for a monthly subscription fee.
- Loopcloud : Another website that offers drum loops. Also requires a monthly subscription.
- The Sample Lab : An interesting and free alternative that offers free samples and drum loops for LoFi music. You can download the loops you are interested in for free.
2. Use virtual instruments and vintage effects to add a retro feel
Another method for creating LoFi is to use virtual instruments and effects to create vintage and atmospheric sounds. Virtual instruments are computer programs that mimic the sounds of real instruments, such as pianos, guitars and synthesizers. Effects are audio treatments that can add reverb, delay and other effects to your music.
What instruments and VST effects should I use to make LoFi?
- Piano One a free VST that offers a warm, mellow acoustic piano sound, perfect for LoFi melodies.
- Spitfire Labs a collection of free VSTs that offer a wide variety of sounds, from strings to electric guitars to synthesizers.
- Arturia V Collection a collection of paid VSTs that offer classic analog synthesizer sounds, such as the Minimoog and ARP 2600.
- iZotope Vinyl a free VST that simulates the sound of vinyl, adding crackles, pops and background noise to your music.
- Valhalla Vintage Verb a paid VST that offers vintage and atmospheric reverb, perfect for creating a LoFi atmosphere. If you don’t want to take out your wallet, you also have an alternative with SuperMassiveanother Valhalla reverb, but free.
With these VST instruments you can create a wide variety of vintage and atmospheric sounds for your LoFi music. By combining these instruments with effects such as reverb, delay and distortion, you can create unique and interesting LoFi music that will captivate the listener and create a relaxing and melancholic atmosphere.
3. Using Field Recordings to Add Ambience
Another method for creating LoFi is to use field recordings to add authentic sounds to your music. Field recordings are audio recordings of the environment, such as city sounds, voice recordings and nature sounds. These recordings can be used to add organic elements to your LoFi music.
Where to find ambient recordings?
- Freesound.org an online library of free sounds, including background noise samples, nature recordings and city sounds. You can download the samples you are interested in for free by creating an account. Probably one of the largest online resources of free samples.
- BBC Sound Effects a prestigious collection of over 16,000 free sounds, including nature recordings, background noise and city sounds. You can download the samples you are interested in for free.
- SoundSnap soundsnap is a website that offers a collection of high quality sounds, including nature recordings and city sounds. You can download the samples you are interested in for a monthly subscription fee.
4. Using analog synthesizers to create vintage and atmospheric sounds
Analog synthesizers are another method for creating vintage and atmospheric sounds. Analog synthesizers are electronic instruments that produce sound signals using analog rather than digital circuits.
To create vintage and atmospheric sounds, you can use analog synthesizers to produce sounds that evoke the sounds of the 70s and 80s. For example, you can use an analog synthesizer to create a deep, rumbling bass.
What analog synthesizers should I use to make LoFi?
- Roland Juno-60 a classic 80’s synthesizer that offers warm, atmospheric sounds.
- Korg Minilogue a modern analog synthesizer that offers a wide variety of sounds, including vintage and atmospheric sounds. Ideal for creating melodies and layers.
- Moog Sub Phatty analog synthesizer that offers deep, rumbling bass sounds and vintage synthesizer sounds. It can be used to create rhythms and basses.
These synthesizers are all popular choices for LoFi artists looking to create vintage and atmospheric sounds. However, there are many other options available, so feel free to explore and find the one that best suits your production style.
5. Using sidechain effects to create interesting and dynamic rhythms
To create interesting and dynamic rhythms in LoFi, you can use sidechain effects. Sidechain is a music production technique that uses the volume of one instrument to control the volume of another instrument. This technique is often used in LoFi to create interesting and dynamic rhythms.
For example, you can use a sidechain effect to lower the volume of the bass every time the drums are played, creating a pumping effect. You can also use a sidechain effect to lower the volume of the guitar each time the voice is played, creating a breathing effect.
6. Use soft compression techniques to create a muted ambience
To mix your LoFi music using compression techniques to create a muted ambience, you can follow these steps:
- Add a compressor to your LoFi audio track.
- Set the threshold of the compressor so that it begins to compress the signal when it reaches a certain volume level. For a smooth sound, the threshold should be set quite low, around -20 dB.
- Set the ratio of the compressor to determine the amount of compression. The ratio should be set quite low, around 2:1.
- Set the Compressor Attack to determine the speed at which the compression begins. The attack should be set quite slowly, around 50ms.
- Set the release of the compressor to determine how fast the compression releases. The release should be set quite slowly, around 200ms.
- Adjust the output gain of the compressor to increase the volume of the compressed track to an appropriate level.
By using these compression techniques, you can create a soft, muted atmosphere in your LoFi music.
LoFi is a music genre that has gained popularity in recent years due to its rough aesthetic and relaxing, melancholy mood. The various methods of composing LoFi, such as using vinyl samples and loops, virtual instruments and effects, field recordings, and analog synthesizers, allow LoFi artists to create music that is unique and relaxing without being soporific.
In summary, LoFi is a rich and diverse musical genre, which offers many opportunities for creative artists looking to explore new musical horizons.