When approaching music production with a lo-fi aesthetic in mind, there are no rules or restrictions, which is a refreshingly liberating way to make music.
That said, there are some tried and tested tricks for instant degradation: here are four of them.
Tip 1: Bit-rate and sample-rate reduction will instantly send any sound back to a low-res era. For interesting effects, try loading up your bitcrushing plugin after a reverb or delay effect in the chain, then hear how the ambience is downsampled as it trails off.
Tip 2: By heavily distorting a reverb signal, you create something that’s completely unnatural to our ears, instantly evoking an industrial vibe. Place the reverb and distortion effect in series directly on a signal, or set up reverb-to-distortion on an aux.
Tip 3: A great way to impart grit into audio is by abusing your DAW’s timestretching and pitchshifting algorithms. Push things to extremes to introduce grainy artefacts, and try out all the different modes in your search for the right texture.
Tip 4: Speaking of pitchshifting, load a real-time pitch plugin such as Soundtoys Little AlterBoy over various elements in your mix, then experiment with different transpose and formant settings to shift pitch and timbre in unnatural ways.