Quizlet is proud to partner with real students and recent graduates to showcase authentic voices on our blog. This guest post is by Nicolette Kier, who just graduated from the University of Pittsburgh.
Lofi is the musical subgenre that has trickled unassumingly into the headphones of students everywhere, and for two good reasons:
- Lofi music has been scientifically proven to help the brain focus.
- It sounds awesome.
Allow me to prove both these statements, and share with you some of the best lofi study videos on YouTube.
Defining “lofi”: It's bigger than you think.
“Lofi” stands for low fidelity. Fidelity, in this sense, means “the degree to which an electronic device accurately reproduces its effect.” So, if you have low-fidelity music, the music is going to be the opposite of the crisp, exact sounds you would expect from a recorded and edited track. .
Imperfection is exactly the effect this subgenre of electronic music is going for.
Lofi music uses distortions, hums, background noises, limited frequency responses, etc., to compose beautiful, but unexpected, sounds. Lofi music creators have sampled sounds that don’t seem to have any place in a piece of music. (The weirdest sound sample I’ve ever heard was made by driving a toy Tonka truck into a cymbal.)
This fringe genre has quickly evolved into a mainstream phenomenon, and this has a lot to do with the effect lofi has on your brain. Because “lofi” refers to a way of creating music, lofi music can span across traditional genres like hip hop and jazz.
And as music is becoming increasingly reliant on electronic mixing, the lofi process can be applied to several different genres. But downtempo, deep house, trip hop and chillwave music are most associated with lofi music, simply because of the way they are mixed.
Your brain on lofi: meeting the “good focus music” standard
- no vocals
- no strong melodies
- a “dark” spectrum
- dense texture
- minimal salient events (in audio, startling noises like dogs barking or children crying)
- heavy spatialization (in audio, the sense that music is coming from all directions, encasing you in it)
- sub-30-200 and above 10-20 Hz modulation
And this all makes sense, right? The absence of vocals and strong melodies keeps you from having a concert or vigorous humming session rather than a good reading session. “Dark” sounds, which make up the “dark” spectrum, are smooth, blended sounds that emphasize bass rather than treble. Dense texture keeps your focus on studying, rather than waiting for a solid repeating beat or specific sound.
Minimal salient, or jarring, sounds keep you from being startled out of focus. Heavy spatialization makes you feel wrapped up by a blanket of music, keeping you away from the distractions of the “outside world.”
And frequency modulation has a big impact on the brain. Researchers have looked in on neuron activity in the brain while listening to music with different modulations, and found that the best modulations for keeping focus are sub-30-200 and above 10-20 Hz.
Contrary to popular belief, though, lofi was not designed for a “trance” effect.
Meeting all these “good focus music” requirements does not actually produce a trance-like effect, like you might think. This is good, because trances can make you zone out rather than in.
Focus music has to have a sort of drive or energy, otherwise you’re just lulled into a daydream. So, while good focus music lacks jarring events and traditional energy-producing elements, there is still some energy behind the music.
Lofi is unique in the focus music world because it uses familiar sounds and is designed to evoke soft—but very present—emotions in listeners. These two elements make the difference between keeping up your studying momentum and blissing out into a creative daydream.
(Don’t get me wrong — bliss and daydreams are great, but not for studying.)
Lofi doesn’t just walk on the line between soothing and energetic — it struts on it.
And if you’re wondering whether lofi is good just to listen to … well, these YouTube lofi music videos can speak for themselves.
Lofi YouTube videos to bring maximum study energy
1. The Jazz Hop Cafe -a peaceful place.
The Jazz Hop Cafe incorporates a gentle piano melody to create a sense of motion. It’s not intrusive, however, as the deep bass that is overlaid on the tracks balances out the piano.
2. Normandy Beach Party - Now We’re Cooking
In my humble artistic opinion, I think there’s a difference between vocals meant to be sung, and vocals meant to be heard. The vocals in this mix are a prime example: They’re fragments of songs that are used in such a way that you’re not tempted to sing—and in some cases, the words aren’t even recognizable. Instead, they act as another layer of a track. The range of vocal sounds and inflections a human voice can reach aids in creating emotion in some of these songs.
3. Ambition - it’s going to be okay…
I am always down for a mix with that dragging chain sound. They also use a sort of crickets-in-July sound to get that spatialization effect, as opposed to guitar sounds.
4. the bootleg boy - RAINING IN KYOTO
No lofi music video list is complete without a mix that includes rain and gentle thunder in the background. I do recommend this one specifically for reading dense material, to capture that “reading in the nook on a rainy day” vibe.
5. Music Lab - Night Music — Deep Bass — Downtempo Mix
The mix keeps itself from being too low-key with the staccato rhythm and the flutes in some of the songs. But honestly, it’s the reverb for me.
6. City Girl - soft static sky on early mornings
I highly recommend City Girl in general. They have longer mixes, and are all wonderful. I just happen to really vibe to this song in particular.
They’ve really kept a hold on the emotional side of lofi music, and intend to stay that way, even as lofi spins out into a bunch of new things.
7. code and chill - Lofi Coding Mix 1 [Stay Home Edition]
This lofi mix has a more “classic” sound, if there ever were such a thing. It’s got that thumping, rumbling backbeat and gear turning sound that’s hard not to love.
I do recommend this one with two headphones, preferably sound-canceling, bass-boosted ones.
8. Leaflet - Genshin Impact Lofi
Genshin Impact is actually an open-world, role-playing action game. But video game mixes are pretty much always asking for a lofi remix.
If you’re into harps, chimes or any other form of soft instrumental, this is the mix for you.
9. Invention - Beats Mix
This mix makes use of artificial glitchy sounds, unexpected halts, and what sounds like a clip of Boo from Super Mario Party at one point. It’s almost the opposite of the Genshin Impact Lofi mix, as it’s more complex sounding and feels less natural.
I personally love a glitchy mix. I love the warped sounds, sudden stops, and taking sounds completely out of context to use when layering a track.
10. Quizlet - Lofi study music for focus and relaxation
This lofi mix includes hip hop, jazz, ambient and chill tunes to help you relax and focus on work. It is a great mix to get you in the study mood.
If your GPA does rise after listening to these mixes, I believe really high-quality headphones are a justifiable purchase.
But that’s just me.
And if you’re looking for more lofi mixes, check out Quizlet’s YouTube channel.
Nicolette Kier just made it to the other side of a degree in physics and writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She reaped the usual rewards of college: knowledge, a job, and debt. She thinks it was worth it.