May 30, 2024

the science behind lofi music

Published May 26, 2023, 8:20 a.m. by Naomi Charles

Science has shown that there are certain benefits to listening to music, and lofi music is no exception. Studies have shown that music can help to improve focus and concentration, as well as reduce stress and anxiety. Listening to lofi music can also help to improve your mood and increase your level of happiness.

You may also like to read about:

- My GPA went from a 3.0 to a 3.94

the year I started listening to lo-fi.

To figure out if

there's any causation behind that correlation,

I tried to teach an AI

to generate the ideal study music.

- I feel like you could listen to it

if the volume was at like, one.

And then you walked away,

and you listened to different music.

- Please don't release it.

- Let me explain.

Thank you to The Great Courses Plus

for sponsoring this video.

When it comes down to focus,

I have two modes.

I either start a task, blink

and suddenly it's six hours later

and I skip two meals

or I surround myself with a controlled level of distraction.

(loud music playing)

What are you doing?

I'm focusing.

That was until I found

"Lo-fi Hip Hop Chill Beats to Study/Relax to..."

sparkle emoji.

The titles are a bit much

but you know what I'm talking about.

This girl.

Anyway, I started listening to it back in 2018

and I saw my GPA just (makes explosion sound)

and sure there are several reasons

as to why that could've happened,

but lo-fi music definitely makes me feel like

I'm better at focusing.

Not every song,

some slapped a little to hard

and pulled me right out of the zone

but there is a sweet spot.

So today, in this video,

you and I are gonna figure out

why lo-fi hip hop might help you focus,

and if we can teach an AI to generate the perfect mix.

(jazzy lo-fi music with strong beat)

So I started my research

by looking into the history of lo-fi hip hop.

After that, I got a bit more familiar

with other experiments people have done

with machine learning to generate new music

and I've got two big takeaways from my initial readings.

The first has to do with the structure of lo-fi hip hop.

Its iconic sound is composed of three parts:

The first, a jazzy instrumental.

The second, a drum beat combo

with bass and snares called boom bap.

It's played intentionally of kilter in a style

pioneered by the producer and rapper, J Dilla.

And finally, intentional environmental noise

that leans even further into the imperfections

that define the genre.

It usually plays at around 70 to 95 beats per minute

and falls within this range of frequencies.

And that gives me a few key characteristics to look into

when trying to figure out why lo-fi can help people focus.

But it also leads to a second thing.

It's an ingredient list and recipe

for the things I need to teach my machine.

Here's the plan.

Okay, here's how I'm going to make music with a machine.

Step one, I need a bunch of instrumental

and drum MIDIS.

These are basically files

that contain information about the note that's played,

how long it's played,

a bunch of other stuff.

I don't know much about it,

I'm an amateur.

Step two, I'm gonna sacrifice it to the machine.

I'm going to be using an LSTM.

So basically you have a sequence of notes

and in the next step in the sequence,

you tell the machine,

"hey, get really good at guessing

what the next step is going to be."

And then it gets really good at it.

Finally, I'm going to smash that drum

and instrumental track together

with some ambient music and...

I put two step twos!

This is step three.

And then, profit.

Sounds easy, right?

It was not easy.

I spent the next week swinging between

wanting to throw my computer out a window

and wanting to throw myself out a window.

- [Witness] Oh my god! Oh jeez, oh my god! (crowd howls)

- So, it's been like three days.

My code has run fully without error for the first time.

So as long as there's any sound,

I'm gonna be happy.

Okay, lets just play this.

(repetitive computer sound)

I'm not happy.

Okay, lets fix this.

(repetitive computer sound)

(computer dial up sound)

Okay, so I think I've just stopped it

from just repeating the same note.

Basically we get caught up in this loop

where we're just like,

"oh the last note was a C,

the next note's probably gonna be a C."

But then if it thinks that if the last note's C,

then the next...

It just gets caught up in this loop.

Instead it has this short list of likely next notes

and then it randomly samples from that short list.

Anyway, here's how it sounds.

(key press)

(mechanical computer music)

(head slams)

That hurt.

My forehead isn't, ow!

All right that was headed to a dark place,

so I'm going on a walk to calm down.

I'm also doing a bit of reading

as to why those specific characteristics of lo-fi music

might help with studying and focus.

I'm also going to

collect a little bit of environmental noise

for the final track.

The more I read,

the more I realized

that the characteristics that make lo-fi,

lo-fi, that steady drum beat,

that frequency range,

that faux vinyl crackle.

All those things work together to create a sonic environment

tuned for focus.

It's really interesting.

I should warn you

that music's impact on your mind isn't universal.

It depends on the task at hand,

and the type of person you are.

So if what you're doing requires a lot of thinking

or you're currently in a place

where you're going to get easily distracted,

you should probably hit mute.

We have a limited capacity for attention

and music uses up some of that essential resource.

In reality, if you want to focus,

silence is almost always the better option.

However, background music can provide two key benefits.

So here's how lo-fi can help you focus.

First, It can block out more intrusive noises

by forming an aural cocoon

that tunes out or reduces distractions

by anchoring them to a predictable rhythm.

Second, it can serve as a stimulant.

Songs that vibe in the fine line

between putting you to sleep and popping off

can improve your productivity without being too distracting.

And that is where lo-fi hip hop comes in.

The jazzy instrumentals and drum loops

are refreshing and fun,

but slow and repetitive enough

that they become subconsciously predictable.

In addition, the dampened frequencies

and environmental noise act as a blanket

that blends the music together

and pushes it into the background using spatialization.

This makes the music sound less like a recording,

playing directly in your ears

and more like more something in physical space.

Finally, the genre's obsession

with comfortable nostalgic elements

like vinyl crackle and rainy days

can help bring listeners peace and improve their mood.

All of this combines

to make certain lo-fi hip hop tracks easy to process

and ideal for focus.

And with all of that in mind,

I now think that I know

which parts of lo-fi I should lean into

while making new tracks,

and which ones I should avoid.

Now I just need to get the steaming pile of garbage

I call my code to actually function.

Let's do this.

It took another two days

and just endless emotional turmoil

but I eventually was ready for my album release.

This might have been a bad idea. (chuckles)

(phone ringing)

Do you all know why you're here?

- I have no idea what I'm doing here.

- Apparently this is the listening party. (giggles)

- Before we get to the songs,

I do have a question for you guys, okay?

You know me pretty well.

In a scale of one to ten,

how musical do you think I am? (chuckles)

- Like a three.

- Which one's bad?

- Zero.

- Zero.

- (Sabrina giggles) On a scale of one to ten, zero!

- You didn't know who Alicia Keys was.

- I was just gonna bring that up.

- So, I would like to present to you,

the music.

Which track would you guys like to listen to?

- [Melissa] The worst one.

- Yeah, lets work our way up.

(upbeat repetitive music)

- This is an anxiety machine.

This sounds like... (modem dialing sound)

No, I'm not going to compare it to any music,

that would be a disrespect to music.

- So you're telling me that isn't

a lo-fi hip hop beat to chill and relax to?

- A little far from that.

- The next one.

Are you ready?

Which one would you like?

- Wait, maybe this is the worst one.

Don't laugh. (Melissa laughs)

- [Melissa] Okay.

(xylophone music with strong drum beat)

- Okay. I'm waiting for this drop.

- There is no drop.

- No!

- Is this gonna be available in our newsletter?

- It will be.

- Where can I subscribe to the newsletter, Sabrina?


to sign up.

- [Taha] All right, lets go with the only good track.

- So, to set the expectations,

this is the best I was able to do.

- Okay.

- I'm nervous again actually. (chuckles)

- Yeah, that wave form is really aggressive.

(drum beat with soothing music)

- Kind of Minecraft-y.

- Very elevator music.

Like I'm waiting for my floor.

Just passed the seventh floor.

- Yeah.

- Now we're at the 24th floor that was really fast.

- Oh damn that elevator's real fast!

- I'm gonna close my eyes.

Getting creepier. (Sabrina laughs)

I think that the more that I listen to it,

I'm like, I should not listen to this anymore.

- Unsettling.

- It is slightly unsettling,

however, you know,

it's just like,

I don't know if it's a chill lo-fi beat

but from listening to this

compared to the first lo-fi beat, singular,

that you created.

There's a lot of improvement here.

- [Sabrina] Here's what it sounds like

if I just use an actual drum loop designed by a human being.

(music with drum loop and soothing melody)

- This one's good! (chuckles)

The big question:

Taha, could you study to this?

- I would definitely study to this.

I feel like I have studied to this.

- How do you guys think I did?

- I think you did, badly.

(Sabrina laughs)

I think that the drum loop that you got

did a lot of the heavy lifting here.

- Melissa? (Melissa snickers)

Damn dude, speechless.

- In fairness, it's pretty impressive

that you got some semblance of like vibes.

- [Sabrina] Yeah, we've created a new genre of music.

Beats to be anxious to.

- Beats to be anxious to. (Sabrina giggles)

- Okay, so while that wasn't the hardest video

I've ever had to make.

I definitely felt like I bit off more than I can chew,

way more than once.

It was the first time in a while

that I truly didn't know how to even start.

Every step I just felt out of my element

and I felt like there was just so much more

I needed to learn.

But even though it took way longer than expected,

it was really nice to go from this.

(monotone computer-generated music)

To this. (jazzy melody with drum beat)

- This one's good!

- Knowing all of the hard work that went behind it.

And by the end,

we were able to figure out

why lo-fi hip hop and ambient music can help you study.

And also, make a few decent beats of our own,

kind of.

Okay, I'll admit.

It was far from perfect.

But if we gave up because our first attempt

or our first dozen attempts weren't perfect,

we wouldn't get very far.

You know that's just a lesson in lo-fi

and in life, aye!

Nah that was a bad one.


Hey there! I hoped you liked that video.

If you did,

please consider sharing it with a few friends.

It is easily the biggest way you can help this channel grow.

Another way, is to stick around as I thank

The Great Courses Plus for sponsoring this video

while I turn myself into a lo-fi hip hop girl.

So, I found that learning things gets a lot harder

after you leave the guided- learning environment

of university.

And unfortunately,

I don't have the time or money to head back.

Luckily, I use The Great Courses Plus.

It's a subscription on-demand video learning service

with these amazing lectures and courses from top professors

from Ivy League universities

and experts from major institutions.

Your subscription gets you access to over 11,000 videos,

covering everything from music theory

to math, and more.

I recommend Music and the Brain.

It explores the neuroscience of music

and what happens when melody meets the mind.

It helped me better understand the concepts

that tie lo-fi and focus together.

You could learn at your own pace

at any time or any place without worrying about tests.

Which is the greatest feeling in the world.

You could get started with The Great Courses Plus today

if you head on over to


or you could click the first link the description.

So get started with The Great Courses Plus today.

But either way,

have a lovely day!

It's done.

(upbeat lo-fi music)


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