5 Mixing Tips for LoFi Hip Hop Producers
We talkin’ bout, “Mixing LoFi Hip Hop?”
Over the past few years, lo-fi music has emerged as being one of the leading genres of music in the modern era, often used by the younger generation as a background setting to relax or study. A side genre to electronic and hip hop music, Lo-fi can be created using cheaper equipment, which works in favor with the genre to create a more imperfect and organic sound to the recording. In this article, we will be exploring some of our top mixing tips for lo-fi hip hop producers, to ensure that you get the most authentic sound from your recordings.
Tip #1: Minimal EQ
They always say that less is more, and it is more important with Lo-fi music that each track is left as close to its original recording as possible, even if this means slight imperfections in the sound. The main EQing you will be looking to do will focus on the clarity and softness of the low end and flatness of the high end – At the end of the day, Lo-fi is supposed to be relaxing and calming, and if either end is too loud it will ruin the effect.
To add more clarity to the lower frequencies without destroying the volume of the track, I would recommend EQing out the lower end of mid-range instruments like guitars, pianos, and synths so that the depth of the track comes only from the intended lower frequencies of the kick and bass. For the high end, you will be looking to decrease the volume, attack and high-end frequency of the snare and hi hat tracks, in order to reduce the harshness of the instrument.
Tip #2: Saturation/Harmonic Distortion
For most genres of music, you wouldn’t dream of deliberately distorting the sound of your tracks, in the fear that it will make the music sound cheap and crunchy, however this is just the effect we want with lofi music.
Typically, lofi tracks come with a very distorted and oversaturated kick drum, which plays in part with the vinyl hiss and audio artifacts to bring out some of the imperfection in the recording of the kick. You can also add it to the synths or piano to add some warmth to the track.
Tip #3: Vinyl Hiss/Audio Artifacts
The leading characteristic of lofi music is an ever-present vinyl hiss, which imitates the sound of a vinyl being played through an old, grainy gramophone. One of the best plugins you can use to achieve this effect is the Izotope vinyl plugin, which is free to download from this link.
Some of my favorite effects from these effects such as “electronic buzz”, which adds a monotone buzz not dissimilar to the sound of a generator to your track and “wear”, which takes out of a lot of the lower frequency, as if the vinyl you were spinning this on had been overused. Another great tool is the year selector function, which will mix a variety of the available effects together to imitate the quality of sound you would get from audio devices from the 1930’s all the way up to the 2000’s.
Tip #4: Sidechain Compression
Side chain compression uses the rhythm of one instrument to control the volume levels of another instrument. In lofi music, you will have a lot of tracks competing for the mid-range frequency area as this is what is the softest on the ears, and therefore the easiest range to listen to.
Because of this, you may wish to consider sidechaining the kick to the bass, and the mid-range instruments to whatever is your lead track, to allow for them to cut through the other frequencies in the mix. Do not overlook the power of sidechain compression! If you want a source of inspiration for such technique, take a good hard look at J-Dilla’s entire discography.
Tip #5: Over-Compress the Master Bus
Once you are happy with how the rest of the song sounds, the final step is to control how it outputs to the speakers, which can be done by routing all the tracks to one bus to allow for compression of the entire song.
Again, breaking the typical conventions of mixing and mastering, lofi music tends to be over compressed so that the distinction between each instrument comes from the side chain reduction of the instruments, rather than the volume, creating a more pleasurable listening experience. You may also wish to consider adding an exciter to the higher end frequencies to crisp them up.
These are our top tips for mixing lofi tracks. Whilst some of these may be useful to you, it is important to remember that the most important aspect of mixing Lo-fi music is to listen to the music, and do what sounds right, regardless of whether it is conventional or not. Lofi is not an example of professional standards of musicality, but more of a creative outlet for many to create soothing, melody-led music from the comfort of their own home.