Hypnotizing Grooves with a Touch of Warm Nostalgia and Humanized Swing
Lofi can be very broad in style, taking influences from multiple genres such as Soul, Jazz, electronica, and Hip Hop. Lofi Drums can be a simple Hip Hop backbeat or incorporate more sophisticated styles found in Jazz and soul, such as a bosa nova rhythm, Jazz swing, or the drunken beat (AKA the Dilla feel).
In this guide, we'll explore 10 essential Lofi drum patterns and look at detailed step-by-step instructions.
What are the characteristics of a Lofi beat?
The genres drum rhythms take influence from Hip Hop, Soul, Jazz, and Electronic music with a focus on swing and groove. They generally have a warm and organic sound which comes from analogue and vintage recording equipment.
- Boom Bap Hip Hop Influence: Many Lofi beats draw inspiration from the classic boom bap style, with kicks on beats 1 and 3 and snares on beats 2 and 4, creating a nostalgic hip hop feel.
- Halftime drums; the genre is a slow-paced style, and although it utilizes slower tempos, a greater laid-back feel can be achieved by playing the Kick on the first beat and the snare on the third beat.
- Swing and Shuffle: The drums often feature subtle timing variations, creating a 'swing' that adds a groove and human touch compared to rigidly quantized beats. This can be a simple swing to the whole drum groove or a more exaggerated swing that intentionally destabilizes the rhythm.
- Vinyl Crackle and Pops: The addition of vinyl noise effects provides an authentic, dusty, and vintage quality to the drums.
- Low Fidelity: The drums can intentionally sound dirty, muffled, and compressed, contributing to their degraded and retro character.
- Varied Percussion: Lofi drum patterns frequently incorporate additional rhythmic elements like shakers, bongos, and tambourines to enhance the groove.
- Creative with samples, and drum sound design.
Keeping these qualities in mind will help you craft rhythms and grooves that truly capture the genre's essence.
Lofi Drum Patterns
Let's dive into 10 key drum sequences to get you started.
- Basic Boom Bap/Hip Hop Beat
The foundation of classic 90s hip hop drumming is a simple rock-style backbeat that is usually played at a slower tempo, normally between 60bpm to 90bpm:
- Kick drum on beats 1 and 3
- Snare drum on beats 2 and 4
- Closed hi-hat on beats 2 and 4
In your digital audio workstation (DAW), arrange these elements on separate tracks. To add some groove, use your DAW's groove tools to nudge the snare and hi-hats slightly off the grid. You could finish by applying vinyl crackle effects, or foley and compression to the drum track.
This is what a typical Hip Hop beat looks like arranged in a DAW;
This is the MIDI played through the brush preset in Cubase, groove agent.
2. Half-Time Hip Hop beat
A slower version of the classic boom-bap pattern for a laid-back vibe which a great for a more ambient feel. As the name suggests this is the usual hip-hop beat played in half the time.
- Kick on beat 1
- Snare on beat 3
- Closed hi-hat on beats 2 and 4, or 1/4 notes
Playing the beat in half time will result in a very sparse drum arrangement which will typically sit further back in the mix. FX like delay and reverb works well to intensify the vibe this drum pattern brings. Set your BPM to around 75 and apply plenty of swing and groove to the hi-hats.
This is an example of a simple half-time hip-hop beat sequenced within a DAW;
Please note, that this sequence also includes a swung Jazz Ride and a 3 2 Clave rhythm which will be discussed in the next lofi drum patterns.
3. Drunken beat or the Dilla feel
An exaggerated swing that has been growing in popularity over the last decade. Known as Drunken feel, Dilla beat, or loose beat, it can be achieved by nudging the snares and a kick to play before the beat creating a flam sound against a quantized, on-beat Hi-Hat. In combination, you can also move the offbeat Hi-hats forwards, so they are played after the beat to exaggerate the lop-sided drunken feel.
The example below shows how this can be achieved in a DAW
Infuse the standard boom-bap pattern with some swing by shifting elements off the grid:
- Kick drum on beats 1 and 3 -
- Snare drum on beats 2 - and 4 -
- Open hi-hat on beats 1 and 3
- Closed hi-hat on beats 2 +, 4 +
The "-" symbolizes playing before the bear and "+" symbolizes playing after the beat. If doing it by ear maybe begin with subtle shifts of 10-15 milliseconds and adjust until it grooves as you would like.
The amount you swing the beats will completely change the feel of this groove, using your ears and experimenting with moving the beats until it sounds good, is one way to approach it. However, we could add some logic or math to determine the distance the swung drums hits are moved. To do this you can move the drum hits by a division of 32, or use an odd-numbered polyrhymic grid, e.g., 5s (Quintuplets) or 7s (Septuplets), which seem to work well at creating a groovy lop-sided feel.
I have experimented with some different timings and techniques as there is some debate between drummers on the best way to approach this.
The first example uses no real logic, I have swung the Snares, Kick, and high hat using my ear. The result is an exaggerated swing, it works but perhaps there are better ways of doing it;
The second version swings the drum hits using a quintuplet grid. This is achieved by dividing the bar into 5 equal slices. Personally, this is my favorite out of the examples, I feel the rhythm flows better and feels less random than doing it by ear.
The last version uses a septuplet grid to set the swing amount. I also prefer this to my first attempt which uses no quantization logic.
I think you will agree, that using a polyrhythmic quantization setting as the swing template gives great results. My examples have divided the bar into 5 and 7 equal slices, however, I also welcome you to try other grid divisions, possibly using 9 or 11 could deliver the feel you're after.
For detailed instructions on how to create this, please see our youtube tutorial on Swung beats
For more information on drunken drumming, I would recommend Adam Neely who is my favorite youtube educator for everything rhythm. He will help you master the art of polyrhythms.
4. Bossa Nova Feel
Embrace the laid-back Brazilian vibe of Bossa Nova.
Bossa Nova is a Brazilian style that emerged in the late 1950s and became popular internationally in the 1960s. Its rhythm forms the basis for many genres including Rock, Pop World music, Lofi, and hip-hop.
Some key characteristics of the Bossa Nova rhythm:
- Tempo is generally a moderate 90-120 BPM
- The rhythm is syncopated with a subdivided pulse between the main beats.
A Bossa Nova pattern consists of
- kick on beats 1, 2&, 3, 4&
- snare on beat 2,
- and hi-hat or shaker playing 8th notes
- Clave playing on beats 1, 1a, 2&, 3& and 4.
This rhythm has a syncopated shuffled feel created by a ghost note on the third beat where the snare is anticipated. The clave can be swapped around as a 2 3 pattern or shifted and experimented with. As we working in Lofi, why not incorporate the drunken swing–vibe. You will notice both the Clave and Snare drum is offset to achieve a more swung version of this rhythm.
Bossa Nova music often incorporates acoustic bass and light percussions like a tambourine, cabasa, and guiro, all perfect for Lofi music.
5. Jazzhop Tutorial
You can make anything Jazz by adding a triplet Ride Cymbal to the mix. Go even further and combine elements of boom bap and Bossa Nova for a fusion Jazz-hop beat:
- Kick on beats 1 and 3
- Snare on beats 2 and 4
- Closed hi-hat on beats 2 and 4
- Open hi-hat on beats 1, the "a" of beat 2, beat 3, and the "a" of beat 4 using a triplet Grid
The "a" represents a Triplet-note subdivision, however, you can also try this in a sixteenth-note subdivision.
Experiment with varying hi-hat velocities and incorporate rides for added variation. You can also try using brush samples on the snare for a smoother jazz flavor. You will find that triplets on the whole work well with lofi drum patterns.
Jazz-Hop drum pattern;
6. Trip Hop
Craft a chilled-out groove with this pattern:
- Kick drum on beat 1
- Snare drum on beat 2
- Closed hi-hat on the "e" and "a" of beat 2, the "a" of beat 3, and beat 4
The "e" and "a" denotes sixteenth-note subdivisions. Add shakers, congas, and retro synth basslines for that characteristic trip-hop sound.
Simple Trip Hop drum pattern;
Create a hazy and washed-out atmosphere with processed electronic sounds:
- Kick drum on beats 1 and 3
- Snare drum on beats 2 and 4
- Closed hi-hat on eighth notes
- Open hi-hat on beat 1
Use filtering, distortion, and reverb to degrade the drum sounds, achieving the signature chillwave vibes.
Prioritize the atmosphere over tight rhythms with a half-time ambient pattern:
- Soft kick on beat 1
- Snare on 3
- Incorporate field recordings and found sounds
- Utilize distant-sounding ¼ note hi-hats with some syncopated percussion
- Keep the drum mix low and apply copious reverb to let the textures breathe.
Unleash your creativity by experimenting with the different techniques and rhythm patterns we have learned so far:
- Employ irregular kick patterns
- Layer breakbeats
- Explore odd time signatures
- Incorporate unconventional percussion
Diverge from traditional drum patterns to infuse your track with a unique and experimental edge.
Maybe too experimental, trying to utilize all of the above?
10. Hybrid Lofi Beats
Achieve truly original patterns by mixing aspects of the different styles we have discussed so far.
- Combine boom bap kick and snare with Swung Jazz ride cymbals
- Incorporate swing hi-hats, or use exaggerated swing to achieve the drunk, dilla feel.
- Integrate vinyl noise
- Add a Bossa Nova Clave
- Experiment with retro drum machine percussion
This sequence uses a halftime rhythm with a Bossa Nova Clave and a swung triplet feel
By building hybrids, you can carve out your distinctive style. Remember to embrace imperfections and avoid excessive quantization, as they contribute to the authentic human quality of your drums.
We have some amazing Lo-fi recordings that will provide you with drums recorded by session musicians in the highest quality studios, such as Richard Spaven in the studio with Lyma and Seravince, or Horn recordings by Wes Wee as well as some hypnotic guitar samples from lofi producer Waywell. As well as many other Lofi Sample packs.
With a solid understanding of these 10 Lofi drum patterns, you will have covered the majority of sequencing techniques to produce professional-sounding Lofi drumbeats. As you explore obscure samples and refine your grooves, your tracks will acquire the distinctive quality of a commercial-grade production. Check out our music production tips and techniques on lo-fi bass production or get chord progression ideas from our lofi production overview.
Our tutorials will work with your favorite DAW, such as Cubase, FL Studio, Ableton and Logic.
So grab your drum machine or sampler and fire up your DAW, add modulation and FX like reverb delay and chorus and immerse yourself in crafting dusty, groovy, and authentic Lofi Drum Patterns.