Lofi (short for low-fidelity and sometimes spelled “lo-fi” or “lo fi”) is a popular sound most often used in indie rock, hip hop and alternative pop – but features in loads of songs across a vast spectrum of music. You can apply lofi to all different kinds of instruments, and it works especially well with synths and guitars to give your sound a kind of old school, DIY production vibe.
What is lofi?
Let’s get the most obvious “meme-able” source of lofi out the way: listen to lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to (a quick Youtube search will do the trick) for the most on-the-nose example of what it’s all about. In practice, there’s a much wider scope for lofi to bring out new textures or themes in a song.
How would you describe lofi? When applied to a guitar, the aim is to usually recreate the unique sound of a warped vinyl record. Truthfully, there are countless takes on the effect. Lofi often incorporates forms of vibrato, tremolo, delay and light overdrive or fuzz. Sometimes it’s thin, warbly and abrasive like Mac DeMarco. Other times it’s soft and rounded like Tycho or Hoogway. It can also have a bit of a higher gain kick to it, used by Boards of Canada and Covet to varying degrees. It’s equally adept at carrying a song or providing dynamic nuance.
Most of the ideas below work well with both guitar and synth. Don’t be afraid to experiment; lofi is all about finding new ways to create atmosphere through the gear you have at your disposal.