Lo-Fi Hip Hop Production Tips

Lo-Fi Hip Hop continues to go from strength to strength, especially with the emergence of YouTube channels such as Chilled Cow, ChillHop, The JazzHop Café amongst others. The question is, from a producer's standpoint, how do you create that aesthetic for yourself?

Whilst the beats can sound deceptively simple, it can be hard to get the swing right in the drums or the nostalgic chords sitting just right, as well as dialling back the quality to get the amount Lo-Fi just right!

So, we’ve pulled together a simple selection of tips and tricks to help get you Lo-Fi Beats grooving in just the right way.

The Drums 

The beat patterns can be extremely simple in Lo-Fi Hip Hop, it’s more a case of getting the swing right and making sure you choose the right sounds. Whilst you can process the drum sounds after, you’ll be doing a lot better by selecting sounds with the same vibe from the get-go. Think of Kicks, Snares and Hats that have some background noise in them already, are slightly muffled or already very saturated and compressed with less high-end information.

Once you’ve found some sounds you can put them in a drum rack and get a pattern going. You can keep the pattern really simple, but the trick with the swing is to go off-grid with the hats, and you keep the kick and the snare on the grid (or very close). With the first hi-hat, you can place it on the downbeat on the grid, but with the second hat, on the offbeat, you want to place it push it back slightly so it lags and creates a swing. This might require some experimentation to get it right, but once you do it will be worth it!

You can see an example of this in the picture below:

Once you have a decent pattern set up, you can then apply some filtering, saturation and compression to your drums to get a more cohesive sound. If you have any tape saturation plugins, they work great. Or you could go full DIY Lo-Fi and record your beat through a low-quality speaker, then layer that in with your original version to get an extra layer of grit in there.

The Chords 

Next up, you’re going to want a nice 4 bar Rhodes chord progression, some simple minor chords perhaps with a little jazzed-infused Major 7 chord in there. Once you have a progression, (you can also detune it a bit whilst playing it in), freeze and flatten it to audio. You can then work old-school hip-hop-style and chop up and rearrange the chords around your beat. Again, you can then apply a low pass filter, some saturation and some sidechain compression to the kick to get it pumping and sounding Lo-Fi.

The Bassline

The bassline, can again, be simple, but needs to enhance the rhythm with subtle syncopation that makes it dance around the beat. A simple sine wave will work; but may need some saturation or distortion to beef it up a bit.

Melodies and SFX

Now that you have the foundations set, you can really get creative! This is completely up to where you want to take it, but you could look for some saxophone samples to chop and add some dusty vibes to or heavily distort a piano VST to add some extra melodic content. Layering in some vinyl crackle is always a good option to really add to the Lo-Fi aesthetic. As is finding some vocal chops to run through a filter and add some delay and reverb to them to add to the haunting tone of a track. White noise sweeps will also work well for certain key parts of the track, as will some SFX one-shots to mark the end of an 8-bar section for example.

Lo-Fi Samples

Now that you have the foundations in place for a Lo-Fi Hip Hop beat, you could do a lot worse than digging into this collection of Lo-Fi samples from XXL Audio and Prime Loops. Here are just a few for you to check out:

Lo-Fi Boom Bap

500mb+ of Deep & hazy analog-infused Boom Bap loops and one-shots, giving you a unique slice of Lo-Fi goodness!

Lo-Fi Hip Hop

Like it smooth & dusty? Grab these 140+ ultra-mellow Hip Hop Samples, arranged over 5 truly unique Construction Kits, incl. one-shots and Maschine Kits!


A melancholy selection of 180+ laid back keys, atmospheric bells, mellow pads and blissful Rhodes featuring WAV (in Dry and Analog-processed versions) & MIDI files!

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