The Psychology of Music: Why Does Lo-Fi Music Work?


Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life, bringing peace, abolishing strife.

Kahlil Gibran

People Edit The “Lo-Fi Study Girl” Into Versions From Different Countries  Full Of Original Details (30 Pics) | Anime, Anime landschaft, Manga  zeichnen für anfänger

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    It is worth recognizing that the culture of music played an essential part in our lives. Music has existed since ancient times and from there it only grew more and more prevalent in modern times. It has evolved, improved, and since then most of us have bonded over certain musical genres. 

    The aesthetics of popular culture introduced us to lo-fi music. The term ‘lo-fi’ is derived from low-fidelity. Essentially, lo-fi celebrates imperfections and creations of low quality in relation to contemporary standards (Wright, 2019). This can come in many variations, for example, a music band recorded on a cheap microphone might produce a characterized distortion as an aesthetic. Taking a photo on a flip phone camera may produce a low-resolution pixelated image. All of which could be considered as lo-fi. 

    Thus the lo-fi genre was born. It’s a piece of new and popular music most characterized as calming beats usually topped with ambience (like rain, vinyl crack, winds, fireplace) or white noise. It is a subset of the hip-hop genre that incorporates jazzy elements to create a certain calming mood. Lo-fi can be categorized as “soft music” with the use of classic instruments such as piano, guitars, violins, or drum pans. 

    So why is this musical genre so popular and loved? Aside from the genre, research has shown that music significantly affected recall on memory – the non-lyrical lo-fi condition scored higher and there was a significant difference between the no background music versus the lo-fi music (Casumbal, et al., 2019).

    Another theory of the significant effects of music on psychology is the Mozart Effect. It is a theory that suggests music results in an improvement in mental performance and brain activity. The performance both in spatial and reading comprehension showed differences according to the music genre we are listening to. Data showed that people who listen to Classical music and lo-fi music scored higher in spatial ability and reading comprehension compared to those with no music condition (Flores, 2021).

    There is science in how music affects our brains. Of course, the impact of music isn’t necessarily universal – it depends on what you prefer, your intensity of concentration, what type of work you are doing, and the environment you are in. While silence is almost usually the best option to keep your mind from getting distracted, music and background noise use some of the essential resources to keep your mind focused. 

    There are two main benefits which background music can provide: first, it can block out intrusive noises. If you are working in an environment that isn’t conducive (eg. Café, restaurant, noisy workplace), music reduces distractions by forming an aural cocoon by creating a predictable rhythm or theme. Lo-fi music is usually characterized by its simple, repetitive beats. Most lo-fi artists borrow the styles from soul, 80s to 90s hip-hop, and jazz, concocting the sort of unobtrusive pulse that is not too quiet nor too loud to have it stay at the back of your mind (Johnson, 2020). 

    Second, it acts as a stimulant. Songs that stay in a stable fine line between putting you to sleep and popping off can improve your productivity without being too distracting (Sherman, 2022). The drum loops and beats are fun to hear but it’s slow and repetitive enough to the point where your brain subconsciously predicts it, then creating a calming mood. In addition, the environmental noise and the dampened frequencies act as a blanket to blend the music into one single element – the sounds were pushed into the background (hence the name “low-fidelity”), using audio spatialization. This makes the music sound less like a recording and more like you are in a physical space (Seppala, 2018). 

    Another notable element is the existence of the “lo-fi girl” character. Many lo-fi listeners or fans are familiar with a certain character that sits beside a window with headphones on and various paper works on the desk. The community has grown into a supportive circle, bonding over music and creating a safe space. Some online artists even recreate the lo-fi girl to feature their hometown or personality. This type of attachment is surely precious for the people involved. Many come to lo-fi music to be a part of a positive circle, however strangers on the internet they may be. 

    We can conclude that background music can have positive effects on productivity, calmness, and focus of mind. Music is no less a media of expression as it is a mood changer. Listening to the right type of music for you can indeed help you concentrate on the task at hand – and you should go ahead and try lo-fi music to add to your playlist!


A sound that produces frequency comfortable to the human ear – played at an equal intensity – usually used for a calming or sleeping therapy.


Casumbal, K. J., Kaye, C. T., Guzman, F. Y., Fernandez, N. V., Victoria, A., & So, M. (2019). The Effects of Low-Fidelity Music and Font Style in Recall. Experiment Findings, 5-7.

Flores, R. A. (2021). The Effects of Music Genre on Scores in Different Exam Types: A Pilot Study. Kwantlen Psychology Student Journal, 87-90.

Johnson, S. (2020, February 19). How lo-fi artists make music perfect for work. (Or studying. Or chilling.). Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com

Seppala, T. (2018, July 23). The science behind the 'beats to study to' craze. Retrieved from Endgadget: www.endgadget.com

Sherman, E. (2022, May 22). Do Productivity Playlists Actually Work? Retrieved from Medium: https://elemental.medium.com

Wright, B. (2019). Weird Internet Aesthetics: Are Lo-Fi Media Inherently Revolutionary? English Language and Literature Commons, 9.

Writer: Radya Ayufa Putri

Editor: Junanda Amriansyah


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