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Lo-fi hip-hop beats have a nostalgic feel that’s perfect for chilling out.

Lo-fi music has been slowly making its way to the mainstream via popular Youtube channels and trendy bedroom producers.

But getting a good lo-fi sound is tough if you’re just trying it for the first time. With such a distinctive style it can be hard to figure out all the tricks.

Even so, you can give your own beats that satisfying lo-fi vibe with a few common music production techniques.

In this article I’m breaking down a lil soy sauce beat to explain the best ways to build a lo-fi type beat.

1. Use noise loops for texture and ambience

Lo-fi hip-hop is all about that dusty, lived-in feel.

One of the best ways to get it is by using textured noise and lo-fi samples to build an atmosphere.

Look for unique flavors of noise that can add details and ambience without getting in the way.

Vinyl crackle, analog noise and field recordings are all great options.

Layer them together with ambient effects like delay and reverb and you’ll have a hazy nostalgic atmosphere that will add character to your main beat.

2. Chop and warp harmonic samples for a main loop

The main hook of your beat can come from anywhere, but a well-chopped sample is a common starting point.

Good lo-fi samples often come from older styles of jazz, soul or R&B.


The classic instruments used in these genres take on an entirely different feel when chopped and warped.

Piano and guitar in particular sound great when chopped up and processed with warbly effects and lo-fi plugins.

Good lo-fi samples often come from older styles of jazz, soul or R&B.

The lo-fi style means that you can warp your samples aggressively without worrying too much about changing the sound.

The lo-fi style means that you can warp your samples aggressively without worrying too much about changing the sound.

Most of the time the digital artifacts from pitch shifting and time stretching only enhance the lo-fi tone of the sound.

You can warp your samples directly to the grid or slice them to midi notes and play them with your MIDI controller for that old-school sampler effect.

3. Layer drums to get a unique feel

Drums are essential for a nice lo-fi groove. But a single loop or sample often isn’t enough to create the complex patterns used in lo-fi hip-hop.

A good approach is to layer a main drum loop with percussion you play by hand using your MIDI controller.

That way you can preserve the human feel of multiple musicians playing along with each other.

Drop some one-shot percussion hits on the grid to keep things tight and you’ll have the best of both worlds.

4. Create your own melody lines to go on top

With so many samples and loops in the mix, an original part played with a synth or sampler can go a long way.

Playing an original melody over a loop created with samples is a great way to put your own stamp on the beat.

Playing an original melody over a loop created with samples is a great way to put your own stamp on the beat.

Use an engaging sound to weave a melody over your beat that holds your listeners’ attention.

It can be as busy or as minimal as you want as long as it provides a nice contrast with the melodic and harmonic features of the main sample.

Don’t be afraid to double instruments like the snare and hi hats to create slight variations in timing and pattern.

One interesting trick is to spread the countermelody out across multiple bars to create narrative phrases that unfold slowly over the static beat.

5. Make a bassline to propel the groove

Basslines in lo-fi hip-hop tend to be active and groovy.

With so many elements dedicated to the song’s atmosphere, the bass often has to provide the forward momentum.

That’s why you can think of lo-fi hip-hop bass almost like another contrasting melody.

Experiment with lines that outline the chords in the main loop in a stylish and melodic way.

The more detail and drama you add, the better. And you don’t have to stick to a subby 808 bass, either.

You can use a punchier, funkier bass with a more eclectic sound if you want.

6. Use lo-fi plugins to glue it all together

A great lo-fi track sounds like it was recorded through a grungy vintage tape deck with just the right amount of hiss, crackle, distortion and wow and flutter.

Lo-fi plugins are the best way to get all these qualities in your mix.

Lo-fi forever

It’s easy to see why lo-fi hip-hop has such a dedicated following.

The chilled out grooves and hazy old school textures are super satisfying.

If you’ve made it through this tutorial you’ll have some ideas about how to create your own nostalgic lo-fi beats.