lo-fi music styles

What is Lo-Fi Music?

Lo-Fi Music (aka lofi or Lofi music) stands for “low fidelity” music that contains imperfections, be it deliberate or not, such as noise, distortion or other audio dynamics that would not typically be present on hi-fi (high fidelity) music, for example, “radio-friendly” pro studio released music.

What are the types of lo-fi music?

Lo-Fi music can be any type under the sun.

You could have rock, indie, house, hip-hop or any other musical genre you can think of, however, the vast majority of the population seem to associate lo-fi music with chilled slow beats or hip hop in 2021.

I did a bit of my own research to see what type of lo-fi music the general population is listening to right now.  Currently “slow lo-fi beats” is by far the most popular type of lo-fi music. 

Below is some data I gathered just from Spotify playlists.

“Lo-Fi Beats” is knocking it out of the park! 

I find this really interesting that lo-fi music has become associated with slow tempo, chilled mood music in general. People are loving it, myself included!

lo-fi playlists

Why is lo-fi music so popular? 

Many credit the surge in popularity of lo-fi music to the early lockdowns of the 2020 pandemic when millions were stuck at home looking for a distraction.

It has been suggested that the smooth beats, repetition and lo-fi sound create a safe mental space for many in the midst of a crazy world.

An excellent study completed by Justin Wang titled, “Lo-Fi Hip-Hop: Beats to Relax/Study Too”  suggests that many of today’s youth are listening to lo-fi chilled beats as a result of how stressed they are. 

Perhaps the pandemic had an impact like it did on so many things however lo-fi music has been around for much longer than 2020, with many loving it as a soundtrack to work or study too.

Here is some data from google trends from the past 10 years showing that, yes there was a slight peak in 2020, but in general lo-fi music has been gradually growing in popularity over time with the first roots of recent growth showing in 2016.

lo-fi music google trends

Why is lo-fi music so difficult to define? 

Lo-Fi music, in general, is difficult to define as music and audio are subjective. 

Lo-Fi music does not relate to a specific musical genre, for example,  you could have “lo-fi house”, “lo-fi rock”, “lo-fi POP”, “lo-fi Hip-Hop” or whatever!

The only common feature that us music producers can agree on is the quality of the audio recording itself. 

For example, if I produce a “hi-fi” professional commercial music track I will absolutely ensure that the music meets the following criteria:

  • The music contains zero hum or buzz.
  • The music contains zero noise.
  • The music has clarity in the mix – each instrument will be well placed as to not interfere with each other.
  • The lower instruments such as kick drum and bass are well controlled – meaning that they will not dominate the music or create a “muddy” sound.
  • My snare hits are crisp.
  • My recording volumes are carefully set.
  • The volume levels are correct – no distortion.
  • The music is beautifully performed without mistakes.

In contrast, when I produce lo-fi music, these criteria become less important. It is more about communicating the “feeling” of the music. 

So what if bang my guitar against my microphone during the recording – it captures a moment right?

This is the reason why so many are now gravitating to the world of lo-fi music. It is about hearing the artist in their setting – DIY bedroom or professional studio – in the moment, grabbing recordings and creating an intimate lo-fi aesthetic. 

As a listener, you feel like you are getting a first listen to the rough demos. 

Personally, as a music producer, I find that lo-fi music is incredibly liberating. It does not mean that I throw out my musical standards and let the audio quality drop, but it does mean that I can relax a bit and start thinking about the music again and less about the audio quality. 

Authentic lo-fi music versus commercially produced lo-fi music

Once upon a time, lo-fi music was produced by DIY and bedroom artists recording music in their bedrooms or kitchen on sub-par or just mediocre equipment. 

Some of the first lo-fi music to hit the charts dates back to the 1950s. 

Today, due to the surge in demand for anything tagged “lo-fi”, professional recording studios have started churning out lo-fi music.

It is ironic that these recording studios have spent thousands on recording equipment and soundproofing to create hi-fi (high fidelity), top quality recordings only to deliberately include imperfections such as noise and hum.

I am not sure how an average listener hears this professionally produced lo-fi music but personally, I can hear a top-quality recording that has used sound effects and sound processing post-recording to “dirty it up”. 

For me personally, this is not authentic lo-fi as the studio recorded hi-fi music and you can hear the “gloss” underneath the noise. 

I wish I had the resources to test the general public’s opinion on this professionally produced lo-fi music and which they prefer – can you tell the difference between genuine lo-fi music or professional produced lo-fi music?

Is lo-fi music a genre of music?

Lo-fi music is not a musical genre, however, it is closely associated with certain genres of music such as “lo-fi hip-hop” or “lofi chill beats”.

In general in 2021, if you search Spotify or Youtube playlists for the term “lo-fi”, the most popular genres of music that will appear will be “lo-fi beats, “lo-fi chill” and “lo-fi hip-hop”. 

Is all lo-fi music slow tempo?

Because lo-fi has grown in popularity in the lo-fi chilled beats genre, the vast majority of lo-fi music is slow tempo.

As I mentioned before, lo-fi music can be any musical genre, therefore, can be any tempo.

As lo-fi chilled beats and lo-fi hip-hop are the most popular musical genres under the lo-fi umbrella, typically the BPM (beats per minute) per track is between 60BPM-80BPM which is slow. 

To check this I completed a little research on the most popular Spotify lo-fi playlist “Lo-Fi Beats” and sampled the top 20 tracks to check the BPM.

The average BPM (beats per minute) of the top twenty tracks was 77BPM.

BPM lo-fi beats to study too

Is lo-fi music produced by professionals?

Absolutely! Just because lo-fi music deliberately includes noise, hum and imperfections it does not mean that the music is any less professional or pro.

It is a music production decision to choose to keep the original “uncut demo” style which I believe gives an interesting insight into the music and production. 

It brings you closer to the originally recorded tracks without all the “shiny gloss” making lo-fi music intimate.

In a clinical world of fake plastic and gloss, I believe it is refreshing to experience this audio dynamic.

It feels like really honest music. 

Is lo-fi music good for studying?

Lo-fi beats to study too has appeared everywhere since 2017 and onwards but it is it the best music to study too?

To date, I cannot find any concrete research or evidence that points to “lo-fi beats” specifically as being the best academic choice to give your brain an advantage in the upcoming exam, however, lo-fi beats as a music genre does have a lot of characteristics the psychology experts agree could help:

#1 – No Lyrics

Typically lo-fi beats have no lyrics and are mostly instrumental.

It has been found that listening to music with lyrics while studying is particularly detrimental to retaining information. 

#2 – Relaxing

If you are relaxed and calm your mind can better focus on your task.

Lo-fi beats are soothing and calm music that can get your mind into a relaxed state ready for the task in hand. 

#3 – Repetitive Beats

Personally, I like to listen to lo-fi beats while working as the music uses repetitive beats and predictable melody changes.

This means that my mind is not “actively” listening wondering what will happen next and the lo-fi beats create a calm soundtrack and atmosphere where it does not distract me. 

#4 – Atmospheric Background Music 

A paper published by the Oxford University Press found out that ambient background noise at a relatively “medium” volume actually fuels people’s creativity. 

Lo-fi beats are the type of soundtrack that is best listened too at a low or medium volume.

As it is lo-fi it will most likely contain background noise in the recording too including hum and white noise hiss. 

Where can I download lo-fi music for free?

If you are looking to download lo-fi house music or DMCA safe lo-fi beats for your Twitch stream, check out the following releases from my own library. 

I have lots of lo-fi beat tracks currently in production so don’t forget to bookmark my site or join my mailing list to be the first hear about a new release. 

You can download these tracks for free through this site by <clicking here>, or if you prefer to just stream, they are available on all major streaming platforms including Spotify.

Hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as a guide only for educational and informational purposes. It is not legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters.

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