In this article, I will show you how to mix lofi music in just 5 simple steps:

  1. Balance your Track
  2. Create Space
  3. Use Lofi Effects
  4. Use Sidechain Compression
  5. Roll off the highs

Doing these 5 things will enable you to create a warm, dusty lofi track to chill to.

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Balance Your Track

One of the first steps in any good mixing process should always be creating balance. This means checking that nothing is sounding too loud or too quiet.

All you have to do when balancing your track is to close your eyes and listen to it, then ask yourself:

"Does anything sound too loud or too quiet?"

If the answer is "yes" then you adjust the volume appropriately.

This process is usually ongoing, and I mean right up until the final master of a track. Even the mastering plugins will shift the volumes a little bit, meaning you will need to go back into your track and adjust volumes accordingly.

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TIP: Get into the habit of balancing your mix as you write it.
Doing this will save you time in the long run

Create Space

Creating space in your mix means one of two things:

  1. Create WIDTH: Utilising panning and the stereo field
  2. Create DEPTH: Adding reverb and delay to give the impression of a physical space

There is no hard and fast rule about panning and reverb as they are often determined by the creative vision of the composer/producer.

To create width, I normally think about it as a live performance - what sounds are in the middle and what sounds are to my left or right?

Once I have figured out where the sounds are coming from I can then pan them to the left or right to match.

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TIP: When a loud sound is close to us, our ears apply compression to that sound. To mimic this, apply compression to any sound you want to come from the centre of your mix and also narrow it or make it mono.

With regards to reverb, there are so many choices that it would take an entire course to go through them and explain the differences.

To make it simpler I suggest you ask yourself another couple of questions:

  1. What type of a room is this sound being played/recorded in?
    Is it a small bathroom, a large hall, or even a tumble drier for example?
  2. Where in that space is your sound coming from?
    This will determine the wet/dry balance of your reverb - the drier the closer the sound, the wetter the further away the sound.

Use Lofi Effects

When producing lofi music, we are trying to recreate the origins of lofi; using cheap often poorly made gear to record music in a DIY fashion.

I think this is one of the reasons it has been so popular. The lofi aesthetic gives it a very real human element, which makes it nice to listen to.

Lofi effects fall under one of these categories:

  1. Tape or Vinyl imitation
  2. Wow and Flutter
  3. Saturation
  4. Digital anomalies
  5. Reverb/Delay
  6. Other anomalies (magnetic etc.)

Like salt and pepper, these effects are all seasoning and applied according to taste. I suggest you have a play around with them and decide how you like your lofi; super wobbly and dusty, or warm and bubbly?

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TOOL: My favourite plugin for lofi effects is RC-20 Retro Color by XLN Audio it has everything you need for lofi all under one roof in an easy-to-use UI.

Use Sidechain Compression

I'll be honest, I was late to the sidechain party in my productions but boy am I glad I finally joined!

"But, what is sidechain compression?" I hear you ask.

Sidechain compression is simply when the input of one sound triggers the compressor on another sound.

The most common use for this in lofi music is for the kick drum to trigger the compressor on a bass. This compresses the bass to make room for the kick.

The other use for sidechain compression is to create that famous pumping sidechain sound you hear so often in EDM - a great example being Satisfaction by Benni Benassi.

Roll off the highs

A great deal of the equipment that early lofi pioneers would have used would have been pretty brutal on the overall EQ of the track. They would have been mid-heavy as they would have rolled off the highs and lows of the track.

Although it would be authentic to imitate this completely by rolling off the very top and bottom of the EQ, I am not a huge fan of this as some of the hiss of my favourite lofi tracks are in the very top end (think 10k-20k hertz).

As an intermediate of this, I like to roll off the highs of a lot of the sounds in the mix. This has a two-fold effect, bringing it closer to an authentic sound and giving it some gentle warmth.

The ways to do this are to either add a single band EQ onto the specific channel you want or to create a bus of all those channels and put the EQ on there.

Share Your Lofi With The World

Once you have created your lofi track, share it with the world. Your music is a gift that must be enjoyed! You're a legend!

Meet Rich 💁🏻‍♂️

Richard Pryn is and award-winning composer and has been writing music professionally since 2005. Since then, it has been his mission to share his knowledge and experience to help make writing and producing high-quality music easy and approachable. Each year, he continues to help other composers and producers create music that lights them up 🔥

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