5 Common Mistakes Lofi Hip Hop Producers Should Avoid

We talkin’ bout, “mistakes?”

Lofi hip hop is a laid-back genre that welcomes any music producer (and listener) who loves nostalgia and chill vibes. To keep growing as a producer and make your best beats ever, there are a few common mistakes to avoid when generating ideas, choosing sounds and mixing your track. Here are the 5 most common mistakes you should avoid as a lofi hip hop producer:

  1. Poor-quality samples
  2. Boring and depressing chord sequences
  3. Generic sound design
  4. Over-processing
  5. Making music for the algorithm

In this blog post we’ll go through exactly why each of these mistakes happen and what you can do to avoid them.

1.) Poor Quality Samples

Lofi means ‘low fidelity’, a sound which has noticeable distortion and imperfections from using outdated audio equipment (like a cassette tape). This doesn’t mean using poor-quality sounds – we’re actually looking for samples with a great groove or vibe AND with a lofi effect which is pleasant to the ears.

If you’re using loops or sampling another song, keep an eye out for things which sound great musically. Maybe it’s a catchy melody, a satisfying drum beat or a groovy chord sequence from an old jazz record. If it’s not lofi already, we can alter it ourselves by:

If you’re creating your own material, make sure to use good-quality VSTs. Play around with your stock DAW plugins, add effects, or try using a dedicated 3rd-party plugin instead.

2.) Depressing chord sequences

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).

3.) Generic Sound Design

The sound design in lofi hip hop is one of its most important aspects, so it’s totally worthwhile spending a lot of time in this department.

You can expect most lofi producers to use sounds like bird song, vinyl crackle, rain sounds, dusty drums and out-of-tune pianos. These are all awesome, but in order to stand out and move the genre forward, why not dedicate some extra time to creating unique sounds?

You might want to search for unique background noise to use in your track – jungle ambience? Inside a train carriage? In a coffee shop? You can find these types of recordings in sound libraries meant for film post-production, or even record them yourself. You could also try using instruments not commonly used in lofi, or playing around with synthesized sounds.

4.) Over-processing

The name ‘lofi’ suggests a lot of heavy processing, but the lofi genre should actually be quite light with processing. It’s not a hard-hitting genre like EDM where the dynamics are crushed into submission – it needs some space and groove.

There’s a fine line between creating a deliberate lofi effect and ruining the listening experience.

When it comes to EQ, avoid low-passing too many instruments. This will make your track sound dull and muffled, it still needs top-end frequencies! However, rolling off the top end for a couple of bars as a satisfying intro or transition is definitely acceptable.

With compression, be very wary of overdoing it. Selectively over-compressing one instrument to make it super lofi is great, but when applied over the whole mix it kills the dynamics. If your track starts to sound annoying this is a sure sign that it’s over-compressed.

Overdoing it with saturation or distortion is another risk. If the track starts to sound harsh rather than warm, this is a sign that you’ve over-saturated. You can either dial it back, or use an EQ or de-esser to tame the harsh frequencies in the upper mids (2kHz to 8kHz). See a previous article of ours on LoFi Mixing Techniques here.

5.) Making music for the algorithm

As music producers, we all want to get the recognition we deserve and have lots of people enjoying our music. However, making music just to attract popularity is a surefire way to become burned out.

If you’re feeling frustrated, burned out and no longer enjoying your music-making process, take some time out to re-evaluate your goals and values. Are you making music to express yourself and have fun, or to try and fit in with the Lofi Girl crowd?

There’s no shame in taking a break when needed, and coming back when you’re motivated with a fresh mindset.


The five most common mistakes lofi hip hop producers make are using poor-quality samples, boring chords, generic sound design, over-processing and becoming too wrapped up in gaining popularity. By checking in regularly and taking care to avoid these mistakes, you’ll be right on track to make your best lofi hip hop beats ever.

Don’t forget to be expressive, have fun, and make music for yourself first!