HOW TO MAKE LOFI BEATS – 5 Simple Tips for Nostalgic, Emotional Tracks (2022)

HOW TO MAKE LOFI BEATS - 5 Simple Tips for Nostalgic, Emotional Tracks (2021)

“How do I make lofi beats that sound nostalgic and emotional?”

In 2022, lofi hip hop is one of the most popular genres for music producers. This is primarily due to the simplicity of the production style, coupled with the limitless creative freedom that comes with the genre.

Lofi hip hop can be categorized by dusty, low-fidelity drum loops, jazz-influenced piano or keys and vintage samples. It can also be categorized by the nostalgic, emotional character of the beats. Lofi music always seems to give off that “driving alone at 3am” kind of vibe.

If you’re wondering how to make lofi beats, we’ve put together this no-nonsense guide to help you along the way. These 5 techniques will hopefully help you achieve that emotional lofi flair found in downtempo music or lofi hip hop beats.

So without further ado, here are our 5 simple tips for creating nostalgic, emotional lofi beats.

How To Make Lofi Beats: Tape Simulation

How To Make Lofi Beats: Tape Simulation

One of the reasons lofi music is such an interesting genre to produce is that you are purposefully adding or retaining sonic imperfections that producers decades ago would have been trying to remove from their recordings.

Old tape machines and other vintage hardware created various low-fidelity effects. These imperfections such as tape flutter, subtle detuning and other audio artefacts can really add a vintage, nostalgic element to your tracks.

There are various plugins that re-create these tape noises and effects, often with incredible accuracy and precision. Below we have an example of a paid tape simulation plugin and a free alternative.

Waves - J37 Tape
Waves – J37 Tape

J37 Tape, created in association with Abbey Roads studios, is a precision model plugin of the very machine used to record many of the greatest masterpieces in modern music.

With a variety of user-adjustable controls including Tape Speed, Bias, Noise, Saturation, Wow and Flutter, the Waves: Abbey Road J37 faithfully recreates the inimitable sonic signature of the original machine.

This is an incredibly useful plugin for adding texture and analog warmth to digital recordings.

Click here to check out this authentic tape emulation plugin from Waves.

Chow Tape: Free tape simulation plugin
Free Alternative: Chow Tape

Chow Tape is a free tape simulation plugin from Chowdhury DSP. The plugin is insanely detailed and allows you to add tape degradation with incredible precision, even down to the thickness and angle of the simulated tape machine.

Click here to check out this free tape emulation plugin.

How To Make Lofi Beats: Using Unique jazz Chords

Another incredible way to add nostalgia and emotion to your lofi beats is by using jazz-influenced chords. Not only will this add a vintage, “sampled” feel to your chords, it will also make the chord progression more interesting for the listener.

In lofi music (and especially lofi hip hop) sampling is incredibly common. Producers will use jazz, soul or blues samples to add a retro vibe to a track.

Jazz chord samples such as piano or keys are particularly good for adding raw emotion to a beat.

However, if you don’t want to sample and prefer to use MIDI sequences, try recreating the more obscure, unique jazz chords of the 60s and 70s.

For example, listen to the difference between these two chord sequences:

The above sequence sounds a bit too standard and robotic to evoke much emotion. Whereas if we compare it to this (from Scaler 2):

In my opinion, the second chord progression has a much more melancholic, emotional tone. These small musical changes sound much better in a lofi piano or Rhodes-styles keys loop.

But how do I know which chords to use?

If you’re wondering how to create these kind of chords, there are two methods you can use.

Firstly, you can learn the basics of jazz music theory. I understand this sounds like an incredibly daunting task, but even grasping the basics of jazz chord theory can go a long way. Plus, all the knowledge you need is available for free online!

I recommend this video if you want to learn some incredibly useful pointers for creating jazz-influenced chords.

However, if you’re not looking to learn jazz music theory, there is an incredible plugin that should be on your radar.

Scaler 2 by plugin boutique

Scaler 2 by plugin boutique is an insanely helpful plugin for discovering and experimenting with various musical scales and chord progressions if you have no knowledge of music theory.

Since its release, the plugin has received a lot of praise from musicians, producers and composers. In my opinion, the acclaim surrounding Scaler 2 is definitely justified. Not only is it fantastic for rapid sonic inspiration, it’s also handy for getting to grips with the basics of music theory and chord progressions.

Click here to find out more about Scaler 2 from Plugin Boutique.

How to Make Lofi Beats: Use Soundbeds

Tip #3: Use Soundbeds

Adding soundbeds to a lofi track can add a ton of atmosphere and make the track a lot more immersive for the listener.

So what is a soundbed?

A soundbed in lofi music is essentially a quiet, ambient, continuous sound that sits “behind” the main beat. Common examples of organic soundbeds include:

• Vinyl crackle

• Rain falling on a window

• City ambience

• Coffee shop ambience

• Forest sounds

So how can you actually find these sounds?

Usually you can find ambient soundbed videos on Youtube, which you can you always download and experiment with. However i’d be careful if you want to release a track commercially and it has a soundbed taken from Youtube as it’s probably copyrighted.

To avoid this, there are some really cheap royalty-free sample packs out there that include hundreds of organic ambience and textures. Here are links to some of my favourites:

Organic Ambience and Textures 3


Granular Textures

Alternatively, if you’ve got the equipment you can even go out and record these ambient sounds yourself.

How to Make lofi beats: Drum Busses

Tip #4: Using Drum Busses

Another fantastic way to add emotion to your lofi beats is to use a drum buss to create dusty, natural sounding drum loops.

Group processing on drums can be really important, as doing this not only contributes to the aesthetic and character of the drums, but helps to glue the drums together to create a more cohesive sound.

Some examples of lofi drum buss effects are:

• Low-pass filters

• Compression

• Tape emulation

• Saturation

• Transient shapers

• Light, high-end reverb

So here’s a basic lofi drum loop with no effects:

And here’s that same loop with a low-pass filter, saturation and some compression.

Hopefully you can hear it sounds more cohesive and that the effects are giving it that dusty, emotional lofi feel.

How To Make Lofi Beats: Using Warm, Vintage Pads

This final technique is one that I use a lot to add a bit more body and warmth to a beat (but it doesn’t apply to every lofi track out there).

I often find adding a soft low-mid range pad behind the main beat adds a lot of nostalgia and emotion.

For example, if I’m working on a lofi beat that consists of just piano, drums and bass. I usually get good results by copying the piano MIDI sequence into a subtle, vintage pad and layer it on top of the piano.

Lofi Plugin: Diva

I’d recommend using an analog-modeled VST synth such as Diva by u-he. This plugin allows you to replicate the warm, natural tone of several classic synths, and then manipulate the sounds using the vast selection of on-board controls (including unison, filter and envelope options, modulation controls, FX, etc).

Diva also comes with a staggering 1200+ presets, including countless warm, vintage, lofi pads.

Click here to check out Diva, the incredible synth by u-he.

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