The demand for lo-fi music, specifically in hip-hop and rock, has been steadily increasing in the last couple of years. Similar to the demand for authentic visual imagery, lo-fi music is desirable because it lends itself to a more organic or raw quality — absent from the techniques we often associate with the clean or perfect sounds we hear in most professional recordings today. There’s an immediacy to these sounds, and mastering this technique is anything but amateurish. It takes a certain amount of skill and, more importantly, quite a bit of restraint to keep your tracks from sounding too muddled and distorted when going lo-fi.
What Is Lo-Fi?
Lo-fidelity is the polar opposite of hi-fidelity. The term lo-fi became popularized in the 1980s by punk-inspired artists. However, we can trace its roots back to 1960s garage bands and punk bands of the 1970s. Lo-fi recording was more of a necessity for musicians who couldn’t afford the rates of a professional recording studio.
Hence, musicians recording directly into a cassette deck was affordable and, unknowingly at the time, they were creating a new genre — which is responsible for the underground popularity of cassette culture today.
Also of note: “1980s Music” is the 6th most popular search term in Pond5’s music marketplace.
My Lo-Fi Experience
In the 1980s, I was composing my demos on a 4-track TASCAM Portastudio 244, then laying down the tracks in a professional recording studio in North Hollywood.
My cassette collection]
I was persuaded by a friend to send these tapes out, which I did, and was signed with a music publisher out of Europe. Purely by accident, Giant Records heard my stuff and wanted me to write more songs. I wrote two more, then quit — making music was no longer fun. I threw away the master tapes, but kept the cassettes I created at home and the dubs from the studio sessions. After nearly 40 years, I’m currently working on releasing some this material with all of its beautiful sounding room tones and tape hisses.
Setting up a home studio with the latest recording technology was foreign to me, but I did a bit of research, read reviews and discovered equipment and software that could get the job done at reasonable price. Timing is everything and, as luck would have it, TEAC introduced the TASCAM CD-A580 less than a year ago. I immediately purchased the deck.
My next purchase was an audio interface. I chose the Scarlett 2i2. After all those years, I could still remember chords and arrangements on specific songs that were absent on the demos. I needed a MIDI keyboard to sketch my ideas beneath the original tracks, which led me to the Roli Seaboard. I completed my DAW with Pro Logic X.
By adding the appropriate keyword, such as “lo-fi,” into your title, you can inform our curators that the raw nature of your recording is deliberate. With that said, if your tracks bleed, crackle, pop, and sound as if they are recorded in someone’s basement or garage, you’re on the right track.
Listen to the World Around You
Be aware of the ever-changing trends and terms that define the genres of music we’re creating. You can bet that terms such as “lo-fi” are weaved into the themes created by today’s television producers and music directors. As musicians, it’s our job to clearly represent these genres and to provide those looking for ways to illustrate them with the quickest route to the freshest and most complementary music.
We’re very interested in your own creative process and types of equipment you use. Share your thoughts and experience in the comments below!