Lo-fi, short for “low fidelity,” is a popular, relaxing genre where the instruments and vocals sound older as if they're playing through a cassette tape. If you want to make your own lo-fi beats, you can easily start creating the song with music software on your computer. Once you start adding drums and piano melodies, all you need to do is mix the song and share it with the world. When you're finished, you'll have a cool lo-fi tune that others will be able to enjoy!
Part 1 of 4:Using the Right Equipment
1Download digital music software for your computer. You can make a recording studio in your own home by using a digital audio workstation. There are many programs you can buy regardless of the operating system you're using. Some popular programs to choose from include FL Studios, Garageband, Logic Pro, and Ableton. Pick a program that's in your budget to use.
Many programs offer a free trial so you can try them out before buying them.
Digital audio workstations work best on desktop computers since they have more processing power than laptops.
2Get a USB microphone if you want to record vocals. Get a good quality microphone that can plugs into your computer through the USB port so you can sing over your music. Pick a microphone that has multiple settings, such as cardioid and omnidirectional so you can record sounds in different ways. Look for high-quality microphones in your budget to get for recording your voice.
If you want to only make instrumental music, you don't need to purchase a microphone.
Tip: You can also use a microphone to record live instruments, such as guitar or bass, to add more authentic sounds to your music.
3Use a MIDI controller keyboard to play the notes yourself. MIDI controllers are keyboards that plug into your computer so you can record directly into your song files. The controller and software allow you to program sounds and record samples to use in your music. Aim to get something with at least 30 keys so you can play in different octave ranges.
You don't need a MIDI controller to make lo-fi music.
Part 2 of 4:Making a Beat
1Set your tempo between 70-100 beats per minute. Lo-fi music is typically slow and relaxing, so adjust the tempo on your song to a lower beats per minute (BPM) count. It doesn't matter where in the range you set the tempo as long as you're happy with how it sounds. Once you set the tempo, don't adjust it while you're working.
Your music software should have a metronome function so you can easily listen to how fast the tempo is.
2Add snares on every second and fourth beat. Make a new instrument track in your program and assign it to the drums. Open the piano roll, which is where you can create and place notes, and find the snare drum noise. Drop a snare drum beat on the second and fourth beat of the measure since that's when they're normally hit in most songs.
Add additional snare drum sounds on the off-beat to make your rhythm more interesting.
Your music software will have built-in digital instruments you can use right away. You can also look for downloads of other instrument packs released online.
3Create a swinging beat with the bass drum. Locate the key on the piano roll that plays the bass drum. Put the notes on the first and third beats of the measure to start, and add additional bass drum notes on off-beats to make a swing rhythm.
Experiment with different beats to see how they sound when you play them back.
Try adding a bass drum beat just before the first snare hit to add an interesting rhythm to your song.
Tip: If your piano roll has 2 different bass drum sounds, alternate which ones you use to add more variation to your beat.
4Put 2 high hat cymbal hits on each beat. The high hat cymbals add a light, tinny sound to your rhythm and help keep the beat. Look for the high hat sounds on your piano roll and add 2 eighth-notes for every beat in the measure. Try out different high hat sounds, like open and closed cymbals, to add more variation to the beat.
You can add or remove high hat notes to change how your beat sounds. Leave some beats empty to highlight the bass and snare drum.
Part 3 of 4:Writing Melodies
1Use 7th, 9th, or 11th piano chords throughout the song. Lo-fi music generally has a jazzy or hip-hop feel to it, so find the notes in 7th, 9th, and 11th chords to make your main melodies. Choose a root note to start on and look up the other notes in the chord you want to use. Add the notes to a new instrument in your song to try them out.
If you're using a MIDI controller, you can play the chords yourself rather than making them in the piano roll.
Some music programs have a function where you click the root note and it will automatically generate the chord for you.
2Experiment with piano or synthesizer melodies. Most lo-fi songs use a piano or a calm synthesizer for the main melodies. Use the notes in your chord as a guide for what notes to use in your melodies. Try out different arrangements and tempos for your notes until you find something catchy. Have some of the notes overlap or start off-beat to simulate how a real piano player would sound.
If you plan on using a synthesizer for your melodies, make sure it has a light tone rather than a gritty, dark one.
Tip: Writing music is a lot of trial and error. Keep experimenting with melodies until you're happy with the way your song sounds.
3Try using other digital instruments for additional melodies. Look through your music software to see what instruments are available to use. Incorporate instruments like saxophone, flute, or trumpet to make unique sounds and melodies. Use 2-3 additional instruments over the piano to add more layers and harmonies to your music.
If your music software doesn't have additional digital instruments, you can download additional instruments online from music sample websites.
4Use samples for beats or melodies. Samples are clips from other songs or recordings that other people have made that you can use in your own music. Download the samples from websites and drag them into your song. Loop the samples so they repeat throughout your song.
Some artists may offer samples for free while others will require you to pay.
Take voice clips from movies or TV shows to add an interesting spoken element to your music.
5Make the bass tone the same root note as your chords. Create a new instrument track for your bass. You can choose to use a digital bass guitar or a synthesizer for the bass notes. Choose the same notes you used as the roots for your chords so your song doesn't sound dissonant. Experiment with the rhythm of the bass to add interesting bass melodies to your beat.
6Sing slow vocals over your song if you want to. Make a new track for your vocals and play your music multiple times to get a feel for how your song goes. Write lyrics that capture the mood of the song and decide where you want to sing them. When you're ready, start recording on the program and sing along to the music. Keep recording your vocals until you're happy with how the words flow with the beat.
You can also try rapping over the beat if you want to make a hip-hop track.
Part 4 of 4:Mixing and Sharing Your Song
1Add distortion to your instruments to make them seem fuzzier. Look on each instrument track for a distortion filter and adjust the levels for each individual instrument. Start with a low amount of distortion and play your song back to see how it sounds. Keep adjusting the amount of distortion on your instruments to see how it affects the mix.
You can also put distortion over the whole song if you want to add it to all of the instruments at once.
2Remove high and low frequencies from the piano to make the bass more punchy. Open the visual equalizer for your piano tracks to so you can see the waveforms. Lower the amounts of the low frequencies on the left and the high frequencies on the right. Play your song to see how the piano sounds mixed with all the other instruments, and make more adjustments to the equalizer.
Lower the levels for the frequencies will make your pianos sound more condensed as if they were recorded on an old tape.
3Adjust the velocity of individual notes to make them seem more realistic. The velocity refers to how hard the notes hit. If you want a note to sound punchier, raise the velocity on it. If you want it to sound softer in the mix, lower the velocity so it's not as noticeable. Go through your piano notes and your drums to change the velocity so they don't all sound the same and repetitive.
You can usually find the velocity of the note by clicking on it and choosing the velocity option.
4Add rain or vinyl crackle sounds to make your song seem fuller. Rain and vinyl crackles add ambient noise to the background. Look for samples of the noise online and put them in your track. Loop the samples throughout the whole track so it plays through the whole song.
Many websites offer free sound downloads that you can use without any restrictions.
5Export the song as an MP3 or WAV file. Look through the menus of the program you're using for the “Export” option so you can share your song. Choose an MP3 file if you're going to upload it online or use it for online videos. If you plan on using it for TV or a CD, use a WAV file format so the file is uncompressed.
WAV files will give you the best quality, while MP3 files will work fine for general listening.
6Upload your music online to share it with others. Choose a free platform to share your music easily, such as Soundcloud, Bandcamp, or Youtube. If you want to upload the music so it's available for others to stream and buy, you can use an online distributor to put your music on Apple Music or Spotify.
Don't forget to share your music with your friends on social media so they can find it easily.