What is Lo-Fi?
One of the more unusual subgenres of music happens to be a favorite of mine. It’s called Lo-fi, which is short for low-fidelity.
Lo-fi is a subgenre of popular, avant-garde music that began to be recognized in the 1990s. Characterized by production quality in which elements usually regarded as imperfections are a deliberately audible aesthetic, Lo-fi can actually be broken down into further categories based on what kind of music is mixed into it.
Why has Lo-fi become so popular? Well, let’s find out more.
Technically speaking, what exactly is Lo-fi music?
Lo-fi aesthetics are engineered undesirable effects, such as a degraded audio signal, fluctuations in tape speed, misplayed notes, environmental interference, or phonographic imperfections. They may seem almost amateurish, with vocalists out of perfect tune or having audible hisses and distortions, or the music may overlay on spoken word that is broken or quiet as if occurring during the recording. But this is what makes it unique and desirable to many listeners.
Some phonographic imperfections used in Lo-fi music include the distinct sounds of a record being played and the needle on it. The lower fidelity of a tape reaching its residual magnetism limit creates a slight imperfection or distortion. Sometimes it’s caused by the audio signal being amplified to cause harmonic distortion. Effects include a decrease in high-frequency signals and an increase in “noise.”
“Non-phonographic” imperfections may involve noises that are generated by the performance (“coughing, sniffing, page-turning and chair sounds”) or the environment (“passing vehicles, household noises, the sounds of neighbors and animals”).
Musicologist Adam Harper states that there are “recording imperfections” and “sonic imperfections [that] occur as a result of imperfect sound-reproduction or -modulation equipment … Hypothetically, at least, Lo-fi effects are created during recording and production itself, and perceptibly remain in master recordings that are then identically copied for release.”