Creative Mixing Tips to Spice Up Your LoFi Tracks

We talkin’ bout, “Mixing Tips?”

With its ever-increasing popularity, it looks like the internet sensation of lo-fi hip-hop is here to stay.  Combining elements from hip-hop, chill-out and jazz music, these dusty drum beats and sweet synth melodies are perfect to relax to.

With a now massive number of lo-fi producers, how can you make your music stand out from the crowd? This article will explore some creative mixing techniques to take your tracks to the next level.

Changing Tone with EQ Automation

There are a variety of interesting effects that you can create with just a simple EQ plugin. You’ll often hear at the beginning of a track how a low-pass filter is gradually swept upwards to reveal the top end for a soft and gradual introduction. You can use EQ to highlight certain sections, for example you might like to create a ‘bass drop’ effect by gradually cutting out the low end of the whole mix and suddenly bringing it back in at the start of a new section.

The ‘telephone effect’ is a classic lo-fi effect, achieved by adding a low-pass around 4kHz and a high-pass around 400Hz. You’ve certainly heard this on vocals before, but it can be used on almost anything provided it has a wide frequency spectrum, even the mix bus. Coupling it with some distortion can make it sound more realistic. Try adding this onto one or two phrases to add some variation into your track.

Spice Up Your Reverb

Adding a stylistic reverb is the perfect way to add interest to your lo-fi tracks. Doesn’t a dusty, out-of-tune piano with an extra roomy vibe sound super nostalgic? Here are a few tips to stop it adding muddiness to your mix.

  • Use pre-delay to either clash or blend in. A shorter pre-delay will pull the instrument into the reverb and make it sound like it’s in a different room from the other instruments. A longer one (e.g. above 50ms) creates a clearer separation between the dry sound and the reverb, so it blends better with the rest of the mix. Make sure that the pre-delay is timed to the BPM. If this isn’t a setting in your reverb plugin, you can use this handy website to calculate a suitable length.
  • Adjust the stereo width to take up less space. A more mono reverb will be much less overpowering. There may be an option for this in your plugin, or you can use a direction mixer plugin below it.
  • Use a shorter decay time to keep the reverb out the way, especially in a busy mix. Alternatively, use a longer one to create more flow and connection. Just remember to time it to the BPM.
  • Use a higher density for a richer sound, or a lower one for less gunk. Try to avoid a low density with drums and other percussion as it can sound harsh and unnatural.

Use a high-pass and low-pass EQ filter to tame your reverb, maybe around 200Hz and 10kHz.

Effect Throws

Effect throws, also known as effect automation, are where you ‘throw’ your track through an effect for a short amount of time, usually the end of a phrase. You might like to automate the last couple notes of your melody with a high-feedback delay effect, so they repeat over and over and fade out. You could also try ‘throwing’ an instrument to a large room reverb for a couple of bars for an awesome spacious sound without consuming the entire track.

This type of automation can be used with any effect you can think of, so you could experiment with adding saturation, distortion, a doubler or stereo width expander etc.

Make Your Kick Stronger

The kick is possibly the most important instrument in lo-fi hip-hop as it provides a solid and steady base for the beat. If you’re not using sidechain compression already, you definitely should be. Add a compressor onto one or more of your rhythm and chord tracks, then select the side-chain and change the input to your kick track. This will turn down the volume of that track whenever the kick sounds, so the kick can punch through. Adjust to taste!

If your kick is lacking some ‘oomph’, try giving it a boost around 80-100Hz where the real meat and punch of the drum lives. Adding a small cut to other instruments with energy in this area such as the bass will help separate them out a little. Ideally, you don’t want much going on in the low end.

Kick eating up all your headroom? Using a saturation plugin is a handy way to fix that, as saturation is a smooth combination of compression and distortion. You should be able to shave 1 to 2 dBs off the peaks with a far more natural sound than using a compressor alone. Plugins such as FabFilter’s Saturn 2 actually have a dynamics knob for extra control over this.

Extra Groovy Compression

In some cases, you can use a pumping effect with compression to accentuate your rhythm section. Use a slow attack above at least 15ms and a fast release to create the groove. Being in time with the BPM is extremely important, so make sure to use the calculator. It shouldn’t affect the loudness at all so no need to add make-up gain. You’ll know it’s worked when you can actually feel and move along to the groove! Use this on your rhythmic tracks such as drums, bass, guitar or piano.


While lofi is famed for its soothing repetitiveness, variation is the spice which makes music really come alive. Have a go with sprinkling some of these ear-candy techniques into your tracks to make them really stand out, and let us know how it goes!