WHAT IS LO-FI?
Lo-Fi (think the opposite of “Hi-Fi”, as in “low fidelity”), is a music production quality that has often been disregarded as “imperfections” or elements of performance that are technically flawed. Interestingly, these same flaws can produce various positive, neurophysiological effects on the brain that can actually help improve concentration and stimulate brain activity.
Lo-Fi has often been defined as:
“The inclusion of elements normally viewed as undesirable in professional contexts, such as misplayed notes, environmental interference, or phonographic imperfections (degraded audio signals, tape hiss, and so on)”.
The main building blocks of a lo-fi track are a boom-bap drum, environmental noise (think hissing and record scratching) and jazzy instrumental elements, which combine to create “audio blocking” of distracting background noise.
THE BENEFITS OF LO-FI MUSIC
As if magically, the compounding, imperfect traits of lo-fi music been attributed to providing the following benefits to its listeners:
- Increased Brain Activity
- Improved Cognitive Ability
- Elevated Mood
- Reduced Anxiety
- Calming and Restorative Effects
INCREASED BRAIN ACTIVITY
The drum loops found in lo-fi music become predictable at a subconscious level, creating a feeling of comfort or nostalgia as it takes the place of external environmental noise, as both hemispheres of the brain are activated. Increased brain activity equates to improved focus and concentration.
IMPROVED COGNITIVE ABILITY
In a 2019 Manila University study, researchers study the effects of lo-fi, non-lyrical background music on free recall or memory. The conclusion reached was that participants who listened to lo-fi, non-lyrical music scored significantly higher than the two control groups of no music and lo-fi music with lyrics.
Slow music releases Serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood, also known as the “Happy Hormone“. Lo-fi music increases Dopamine and Serotonin to improve mood, while simultaneously reducing Cortisol, a stress hormone
The reduction of stress hormone levels (Cortisol) in the blood will also aid in the reduction of blood pressure and heart arrhythmias.
CALMING AND RESTORATIVE EFFECTS
Another related positive effect is often referred to as “cocooning”, where a listening environment of subtly predictable soft sounds creates a relaxing and protective space, ideal for increased productivity.
DOES LO-FI MUSIC HELP YOU STUDY?
Yes, lo-fi music can help you study, as it specifically triggers an enjoyable response. When we are in a pleasurable situation, this causes the release of Dopamine, a neurotransmitter which elicits a focused response. Dopamine is responsible for enhancing alertness, motivation, focus and happiness. Thus, Dopamine can increase any of these feelings when in abundant supply, as it improves goal-directed behaviors.
POPULAR LO-FI MUSIC CHANNELS
Options for listening to “popular” lo-fi music are plentiful and available on virtually all well-known music platforms (e.g. YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify, SoundCloud, Amazon Music, Pandora, etc.). To discover and get more familiar with lo-fi music, here are a few helpful search terms to find tracks and stations on any platform: lofi; lofi livestreams; lofi hip hop; study beats; study music; focus music; work music; and music for concentration.