Your chord sequence is what establishes the mood of your track. What sort of mood would you like your lofi hip hop to have? Chill, nostalgic, happy, carefree, sleepy, lost in thought? Now we need to build a chord sequence that reflects this.
The first thing to remember about lofi hip hop is that it uses jazz-like harmony, meaning it’s built more around extended chords than triads (3 note chords). To create an extended chord, you can simply add more notes on top of your basic chord – 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths. Pay attention to whether your added notes are making the chord sound brighter or darker. For more info see our other article on Jazz Piano Chords That Sound Great for LoFi Hip Hop here.
As a general rule, you should avoid creating a minor 9th interval with any of your other notes (where the notes could be right next to each other, for example D and E♭). This is a very dissonant interval and makes the chord sound unpleasant.
The second thing to remember about lofi hip hop is that it’s repetitive and soothing, so we don’t want large jumps between chords. Try arranging the notes of each chord so that your fingers move the smallest distance possible on the keys – this creates a smoother and more musical sound.
To the right is an example of a chord sequence written two different ways, the second has less jumping around so it sounds more musical.
The chord sequence is: D♭maj7 – B♭m7 – A♭9
No need to worry about what the chords are called if that’s not your thing, it’s how they sound which counts.
With these two things in mind, we are thinking about how chords sound on their own (vertically) and how they move into each other (horizontally).