Lo-fi music is known for its lush chords and warm chord progressions.
There’s something about lo-fi chords that give them a nostalgic feeling though.
In this article, I’m going to cover lo-fi chord progressions that’ll make your lo-fi beats stand out.
I’ll also explain what colours and textures you can use on your lo-fi chords to achieve a retro, nostalgic sound.
I’ll be using some music theory lingo in this article, and I’ll be linking to several resources along the way—just in case you happen to get lost.
If you want to use these lo-fi chords and progressions in your productions, get the MIDI files here.
1. Dmin11 – Ebmin11
This simple two-chord progression goes a long way. I know what you’re thinking– only two chords?
Hear me out. This chord progression uses parallelism. The chords are only a semitone away from each other, but the sonic difference is astounding.
This chord progression uses extensions like the ninth, and eleventh of the scale they’re from.
Adding these colours will make your chords sound more lush and emotional.
2. Dmin11 – Gmin7 – Dmin11 – Ebmin11 – C#dim7
I heard you complaining about the lack of chords in the last progression, so I expanded on it.
It starts with the same chord as the first progression, but I’ve added a Gmin11 and C#dim7 chord.
Diminished chords function as a dominant chord, so they work well to get you back home.
Diminished chords are built on minor third intervals. This gives them a very dark, but sophisticated sound.
Perfect to use in any lo-fi beat you’ve got on the go.
3. Amin11 – D7 – Fmaj7 – Cmaj7
This progression has some of the most emotional harmonic movement you’ll ever hear. It happens when the D7 chord falls to the F major 7.
This happens because D7 and F major share several of the same notes–except one.
The F sharp falling to F natural is at the core of what makes this progression so emotional.
Finishing off on a C major 7 chord keeps the mood uplifting, before returning to its minor counterpart.
4. Fmin9 – Ebmaj9
This one is a lot like the first chord progression. It’s not completely parallel, but the root movement is similar.
The change from minor to major is what gives this progression its own vibe.
The added ninth to the Ebmaj7 chord makes this one sound very uplifting–making it perfect for any happier Lo-fi jams you’ve got going on.
5. Cmin11 – Fmin9 – Cmin11 – G7#5
This progression contains a chord with some serious texture happening. I’m talking about the sharp 5 on the G7 chord.
Also known as an augmented seventh chord, the G7#5 carries a weight that resolves nicely back to the Cmin11.
This type of chord always carries a mysterious but nostalgic feeling whenever I hear it. It’s no wonder that you’ll find it in several Lo-fi jams.
6. Ebmaj9 – Abmaj13
This progression might be the happiest in this list. It’s completely major, with some nice extensions to boot.
I know, we’re working with two chords again. If you’re working on a slow bop this might be all you need.
The F note that is the major ninth extension on the Ebmaj9 chord remains static moving into the Abmaj13 chord. It becomes the thirteenth! This static movement makes this chord progression dense, but colourful.
7. Gmaj7 – F#min7 – Amin7b5
You’ve arrived at the most chill sounding progression in this list. The reason why this chord progression brings the chill factor is the last chord that turns around to the top.
The minor seven flat five, or half-diminished chord carries a darker colour than a regular minor chord. It’s borrowed from the parallel minor key and serves as a plagal cadence back to the G major chord.
It’s a little out of place, but most chill things usually are.
8. Gmin9 – Ebmaj9 – Cmin11 – Ebminmaj7
Just like the last progression, this one has another unique type of chord quality that brings home the mystery factor.
I’m talking about the minor-major seven chord. It’s built with a minor triad but includes a major 7 on top.
This chord is one that you might associate with mysterious moments in old thriller movies.
That’s why I think this chord reigns in the nostalgia factor. It’s a perfect way to get back home in this minor sounding progression.
9. CMaj9 – B7aug5#9 – Emin9 – EbMaj7Aug5 – Dmaj7 – DbMaj7Aug5 – CMaj7 – F/B
Here’s a very soulful chord progression that ends with a nostalgic sounding 2-5-1 progression,
What makes this progression so interesting is all the augmented passing chords between each diatonic chord.
These augmented chords don’t really belong to the key and are fairly dissonant, but they’re great when used as a pathway to the more pleasing major and minor sevenths and nine chords.
The chord progression also ends in a very sweet yet mysterious F/B chord that implies that the chord progression has places to go next.
10. Cmin9 – Fmin9 – F/G – DbMaj9 – Cmin9 – Fmin9 – F/G – G7b9aug5
Here’s a nice chord progression in C minor that makes some interesting moves in the bass.
Moving from Cmin9 to Fmin9 it’s interesting to then go a tone above Fmin9 to G major while still keeping the F in the bass.
This lateral movement is cool because it keeps an F note in the bass from the previous chord while moving to G major.
Depending on where you want to go with the chord progression, you could also alternate between a DbMaj9 chord instead of the G7b9aug5 chord at the end.
11. F#Maj9 – BMaj9 – AMaj9 – EMaj9 – F#Maj9 – BMaj9 – AMaj9 – DMaj9
Here’s a great example of how exclusively using one type of chord—in this case the major 9 chord—is a totally great way to make a soulful lofi chord progression.
The trick of course is to find ways of voicing and spacing the chords together so they blend nicely on the keyboard and are ultimately easier to play.
Shown in this example is just one way of voicing this chord progression, but don’t be afraid to take the artistic license to decide how a chord progression like this should be voiced.
Nostalgia in Numbers
It’s interesting that these colorful chords make us feel a certain way, especially when they’re paired together in a chord progression.
Knowing how to colour your chords is one of the benefits of knowing music theory. So, keep learning and keep painting lo-fi music.