Have you ever wished you had background music for your alone time like when you’re trying to sleep or working alone? A popular subgenre of electronic music, Lo-fi music has emerged for this purpose as a retreat for relaxation, concentration, and unwinding.
Today Lo-fi carries a unique charm. By definition, it means “low fidelity” which in the world of music means low-quality music. Technically, unlike high fidelity, it’s all those background noises, imperfect audio, and mistakes made by the musician that generally professional recordings filter out. So it doesn’t mean that Lo-fi music is bad, it just uses low-quality sounds and instruments to curate it.
History of Lofi Music:
The term Lo-fi music emerged in the 1950s when it was initially referred to as DIY music often homemade or created outside of fancy studios. It was very popular among young boys who kept experimenting with their affordable pieces of equipment. In the 1960s US band, The Beach Boys decided to get creative with their 1967 album Smiley Smile by intentionally adding sound distortions and Cassette tape effects into their music. This is how it all started a new genre of music where sound imperfections became an art form.
Jump to the 1980s when Lo-fi music came back into fashion with the work of DJ William Berger. He dedicated a segment of his radio show to air homemade recordings. Later in the 1990s, Lo-fi gained popularity in the hip-hop community. Thanks to legends like Madlib and J Dilla, Lo-fi music made a comeback. They mixed in lo-fi with the beats of that time, creating a chilled-out vibe.
Nujabes, a Japanese music producer, made a major contribution to giving Lo-fi music a modern touch. He linked Lo-fi hip-hop beats with Japanese music for his work on the soundtrack for the anime show ‘Samurai Champloo’ broadcasted in 2005. It was during this time that people began to have access to computers, the internet, and editing software which gave this music a global recognition.
Around the same time, the rise of music-sharing platforms like YouTube, Soundcloud, and Grooveshark made it easy for artists to share their music with people without doing any music contracts with studios. This easy access means more people listening and sharing the content making it a global sensation. Between January and September 2020 alone, searches for the word Lo-fi on Google increased by 85%, showcasing its success in today’s world.
Characteristics of Lo-fi Music
Lo-fi music is a popular subgenre of downtempo electronic music with some special features that make it stand out. Instead of avoiding things like background music, sound distortion, and low-quality audio, Lofi embraces these sounds and turns them into artistic expressions.
Most of the Lo-fi songs don’t have singing; instead, they are a mixture of beats and sounds from different places like hip-hop and jazz to make you feel relaxed. It’s not just about the instruments but you can also hear sounds from nature, the sea or everyday life sounds in these tunes. Lo-fi isn’t like ASMR, which is more like tingling sounds for relaxation. Lo-fi goes a step further and creates unique art.
Lofi Music makes extensive use of drum loops, kind of like in hip hop but slower to form its rhythm. Approximately 70- 90 beats per minute. Both electronic samples and live recordings are used for chilling out and help to keep your mind calm. These songs sometimes also include sounds from older music players, vinyl records, and cassette tapes.
Lo-fi also features tracks and bits from other places. It’s called sampling from other popular music or video games. It’s a big part of the Lo-fi music. They also use chord progression from jazz played on instruments like horns, guitars, drums, and pianos. All these things together make what Lo-fi music is today- great easy-going music to have in the background.
Notable Lo-fi Music Artists
Powfu: Powfu from Canada, his real name is Isaiah Farber, hit it big in 2020 with the song “Death Bed”. Its success shows how Lo-fi music can connect with people all around the world.
Chillhop Music: A popular music channel among Lo-fi music lovers on YouTube, from the Netherlands, it’s a cool online place to hang out and chat while listening to relaxing music.
College Music: Luke Pritchard and Jonny Laxton, two friends from the UK started this YouTube channel in 2013. They create playlists with themes like summer jazz and late-night beats great for relaxing and studying.
DJ Shadow: DJ Shadow created a cool sound called “trend hop” by mixing rock with jazz and hip-hop. He still collaborates with today’s artists to bring the lo-fi trend hop with different genres.
J Dilla: In the ’ 90s J Dilla made long catchy beats that added a new cool to the genre. His music is like roots to Lo-fi music and even today Lo-fi artists are using his beats.
Lofi music is super popular now and you can find it easily on big music platforms like Lofi Girl YouTube channel. They have been sharing tons of music videos and 24/7 live streams for studying and relaxing.