In recent months, lo-fi music has been the go-to balm for most people. During a turbulent period when concentration seems difficult, life’s daily challenges can become overwhelming, and perhaps peace is just lacking, lo-fi sounds can help to breathe serenity and calm down nerves. Lo-fi music has been around for a long period dating back to the 1950s but two events have caused more and more people to take a deeper interest in this slept-on genre.
During the pandemic as uncertainty loomed and casualties spiked in every country across the globe, many due to the restrictions placed on movements were forced to stay longer at home than usual. Thus, there were several layoffs in companies. But in general, the pandemic enabled a throng of unhealthy emotions such as fear, loss of relationships, and depression. Many turned to lo-fi music, to listen to chilled, ambient music that helped to soothe their minds and diminish the rush of these unpleasant feelings.
Seeing the rise in listening to these genres, streaming platforms sensed the need to create official editorial playlists around these genres. This sends anyone looking for lo-fi on these streaming services to a list of expansive, carefully crafted tracks all containing the elements of lo-fi. But as we dive into lo-fi, let’s take a look into how the genre was created.
Meaning of Lo-fi
In the 1950s when the term was coined, lo-fi was originally low-fi, to represent the opposite of hi-fi — which means high-quality reproduction of sound. Low-fi at that point in time meant, a reduction in production quality where imperfections in sound are heard, such as a squeaky noise or an unintended background voice or white noise added to it.
As time progressed and as music evolved, Lo-fi gained a new meaning. With more and more people open to creating music, not a lot could afford to record in sophisticated studio spaces. Singers and rappers began to learn more about music production on their own, producing beats in the confines of their homes and recording as well. As a result, lo-fi music was interchangeably used to describe DIY music. This timespan was the 1980s.
Features of Lo-fi
But now, Lo-fi represents a sub-genre of electronic music formed by blending elements from the chillwave scene, downtempo and hiphop music. In most lo-fi tracks, there’s a DIY feel communicating simplicity. At times, anime vocals are added, with just little mixing and mastering done to the track. In contrast to how sophisticated pop songs can be illustrating finesse and high quality, lo-fi deviates from that in both the production and finishing of the song.
Common sound elements that make up lo-fi are jazz, house and a variety of samples signifying the creation process wasn’t complicated, elaborate, or thematic like many songs dominating on radio. This is done to aid concentration, reprising many of the silent sounds we hear in our homes and also to reward listeners with a relaxing feel, suitable for meditation, studying and focused-work activities.
Elements of Lo-fi Music
Drum beats: Drum beats used in lo-fi are mostly simple, minimal and muffled. These beats are mostly within the low-tempo to the mid-tempo range.
Noise: Not exactly noise, but in lo-fi music, you’re certain to hear common sounds often heard in our daily lives. Like raindrops, car horns, clangs of tools, white noise, anime or child vocals, one or more of these elements intermingle in a smooth manner to give a pleasing appearance.
Melodies and synths: Piano melodies and guitar chords are the spines of lo-fi music. On a muffled drum beat, a twinkling piano melody gives a chill mood