Like all great music genres Lo-Fi started with musicians making due with incorrect equipment. But, what does Lo-Fi actually mean? Shitty on purpose?? Yes, no, well maybe…
It’s easier to define lo-fi by what it is not than by what it is.
In short: Hi-Fi recordings strive to capture music as it actually sounds.
Lo-Fi, whether intentional or not, sound different.
Here are a few relevant constructs defined for the purpose of this article:
High Fidelity Music: Recorded instruments and vocals sound more or less like they sound in reality. The soundscape has a large total frequency range, sound engineers use the proper microphones for each instrument, (mics that capture the correct frequencies,) and equalization is used to cut unwanted frequencies.
Low Fidelity Music: Recorded instruments do not sound how they sound in reality. The total frequency range of the soundscape is typically lower, (often called a closet mix,) and sound engineers use non-traditional microphones for each instrument. Equalization is used to create new and unexpected sounds.
Frequency Range (simplified): We use the word sound to describe the speed at which different materials vibrate. The human ear can hear between 20Hertz and 20,000Hertz. The lower the Hertz the lower the perceived tone, and vice versa.
Lo-Fi has two large advantages over conventional recording methods:
(We’ll ignore financial constraints, because that’s a terrible reason to do anything)
- Sound is beautiful
- Genuine emotion is also beautiful
As it turns out all of the hiss, buzz and hum that producers spend hours trying to minimize are actually fucking gorgeous. White noise is to music is what melted cheese is to nachos.
As well, the chances that an artist actually experiences anything that resembles a genuine emotion in a studio setting are very low. So, home recordings, voice memos, strange recording spaces and ad-hoc microphones are a must.
Even with these advantages, there’s nothing overtly special about Lo-Fi music. There’s a lot of terrible Lo-Fi out there, just as there’s a lot of terrible Hi-Fi. It’s just another artistic choice among thousands of artistic choices – a raindrop in an ocean.
The point is that music can only be good or bad, not right or wrong.
Above is a rare track by the band that made the ‘closet mix’ a thing.