Another year rolls on by and the lo-fi hip hop trend shows no sign of waning. Whether you’re doing the dishes, staring at spreadsheets or on your morning commute, this genre born during the internet age has become a popular soundtrack to millions of listener’s daily lives. Its laid back, instrumental take on the classic sound of 90s ‘golden age’ hip-hop typically features chilled key parts, funky bass, and those infectious, head-nodding beats – and it seems like it’s here to stay.
We had lots of fun putting a beat together the first time so we decided to take another swing at creating a lo-fi hip hop beat from scratch on BandLab. BandLab’s web Mix Editor is a completely free online DAW that comes complete with all the samples, loops and instruments you need to make your own music in whatever style you want.
Over the next six steps we’ll show you step-by-step how to select the right sounds, program the right grooves, and tweak your mix settings to get your lo-fi hip-hop track started off right.
1. Programming a swung hi-hat part
Swung hi-hat rhythms are an essential part of a lo-fi hip-hop beat. We’re going to use the Boom Bap Kit in the Drum Pads category for our hats, setting the project tempo to 80BPM before we begin sequencing them. We’ll begin by putting hats on sixteenth notes, using the velocity tool to turn down the second hat to 82.
We’ll also turn off Edit > Snap To Grid so that we can move the second hat off the grid to give it a groovy swing.
We then turn Snap To Grid back on and copy the hats out for the rest of the bar.
2. Adding the kick
If we check out the rest of the sounds in the Boom Bap Kit we can hear it features a relatively restrained kick sound, and a quite full-on, stereo snare. This snare isn’t really suitable for the laid-back vibe we’re after, but the kick will work great. We put a kick on the first beat of the bar, and also on the sixth eighth note.
3. Selecting a snare
Next we need a snare. Let’s create a new instrument track and select Boom Bap Classic from the Drum Pads category. The snare in this kit sounds much more natural than the snare in the Boom Bap Kit, though it still has a good solid transient and a decent amount of weight in the lows, making it perfect for our lo-fi hip-hop beat. We put a snare on every other beat.
4. Layering claps
The snare sounds fine on its own, but we really want to accentuate that lazy lo-fi feel we could do with some claps. Thankfully the clap in the Boom Bap Classic kit is ideal for our needs. We put claps on the same beats as the snares, then turn off Snap To Grid and move them to the right slightly to give them a lazy feel.
The claps are quite loud, so we’ll turn down their velocity to 82 with the Edit Note Velocity tool.
5. Balancing the kick and snare
Currently the snare sounds a little too loud relative to the kick, but as we have the kick and snare on separate tracks we can fix this with little trouble. We turn the level of the Boom Bap Classic kit down to -3.7dB, reducing the volume of the snare and clap sounds, and balancing out the beat’s levels nicely.
6. Adding keys and bass
The kick, snare and hi-hat are all we really need for a lo-fi hip-hop beat, and adding too many other drum sounds could take away from the groovy simplicity of our drum part thus far. Instead, let’s add some keys and bass to give us an idea of what this beat will sound like in the context of a track. First we’ll copy out the existing beat for three bars.
Then, drag LoFi Hip Hop III Keys 03 and Boom Bap Bass 01 onto new tracks, turning the keys track down to -2dB to help the beats and bass punch through the mix.
Who knows, we might do a third take at creating a lo-fi hip hop beat in the future again! Join in the fun and fork any of the beats to create your lo-fi hip hop beat.
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