Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
If you’re an indie artist or music producer looking to explore new genres, you may have heard of “bedroom pop.” The name alone conjures up thoughts of something intimate, dreamy, soulful, and quiet — or something that was actually crafted in somebody’s bedroom.
Both interpretations are accurate as many notable bedroom pop artists have crafted their effervescent, bittersweet hits in their bedrooms. And you can do the same.
What is bedroom pop?
Ask one hundred music lovers how to define bedroom pop and you may get a hundred different answers, but the themes will likely remain the same. Bedroom pop:
- Can feel deeply personal, emotional, and even confessional. A good bedroom pop song can make you feel like you’re being whispered a secret by a friend, lover, crush, or heartbroken ex.
- Is highly individual and created with a DIY vibe. Considering that much bedroom pop is crafted in actual bedrooms, the tools and execution often reflect more of an organic, craftsperson approach as opposed to the polish reminiscent of highly produced mainstream music.
- Rarely fits nicely within other genres. Is it singer-songwriter or folk? Indie or alternative? Soy milk or oat milk? Labels don’t work so well with bedroom pop, and with good reason. Many bedroom pop artists grew up on a wide variety of music genres themselves, and all of those influences touch their songwriting and production.
- Doesn’t strive for perfection. You’re far more likely to hear imperfections in bedroom pop than in mainstream pop, rock, and so on — and that’s a good thing. A little bit of raw grit and edge, and genuine emotion, makes the music feel all the more human.
What are the key elements in a bedroom pop track?
- Unconventional melodies, harmonies, and song structures. Lots of bedroom pop doesn’t follow a traditional verse/chorus/verse/chorus pattern, I-IV-V chord progressions, or diatonic melodies. You’re more likely to hear melodies and deliveries that can sound like meandering, spoken-word poetry than lockstep mainstream pop vocals.
- Production that sounds more “bedroom” than “big studio.” You don’t need the best microphones, most sophisticated pre-amps, or sharpest Pro Tools chops to create a great bedroom pop album. What you do need is inspiration, courage, a solid basic recording setup, and enough know-how to render your music in a form that captures the emotion and vibe you want.
- Soft and intimate vocals. Bedroom pop usually isn’t a genre for big-voiced screamers and wailing divas (though artists in both categories could certainly make some interesting bedroom pop if they tried!). More often, you’ll find vocals that can sound almost whispered or personal — like a conversation had in a bedroom. Soft synths and vocals create the unique bedroom pop sound.
- Ambition and experimentation. You will likely hear things in bedroom pop tracks that you have never heard before. Some experiments may fall a little flat, while others could make you weep from joy or sorrow or a little bit of both. Since bedroom pop artists often have total control of their productions —from first note to final master — their imaginations and technical proficiencies are their only limitations.
How did the bedroom pop genre develop?
Bedroom pop would not exist without the democratization of music production — in other words, the ability to craft recordings on a personal computer or standalone workstation, without having to spend boatloads of cash on high-end studio gear. While digital audio workstations (DAWs) aren’t exactly simple to use, they’re not rocket science either, and any dedicated artist can begin to find their way around them with just a few hours of tinkering.
That accessibility led to aspiring artists recording and experimenting in their bedrooms to see what magic they could create with the resources at hand.
Yamaha Music USA credits artists like Elliot Smith, Beck, and even Alanis Morisette with pioneering bedroom pop beginning in the early ’90s; all these artists created landmark albums on home setups, rather than big professional recording studios.
As DAWS, computers, and other home recording tools became more powerful, ubiquitous, and affordable, more artists began taking the creative process completely into their own hands, and more and more of those tracks began to find their way to fresh ears. It’s hard to argue against the fact that Billie Eilish’s success with 2016’s “Ocean Eyes,” and the multiple Grammy Awards and massive hits that followed, announced that bedroom pop had truly become a global force in the music industry.
Who are some popular bedroom pop artists?
- Billie Eilish
- Steve Lacy
- Lana Del Ray
- Phoebe Bridgers
- Omar Apollo
- Jack Stauber
- Mac Demarco
- Conan Gray
- Boy Pablo
- Marie Ulven
And there are many, many more.
Consider this when experimenting with bedroom pop
- Make sure your recording rig works, but don’t obsess. You don’t need the fanciest gear to make great bedroom pop, and you don’t need to be a massively trained recording engineer, either. Do your due diligence and learn as much as you can — but focus on recording something that feels great and authentic to you rather than absolute sonic perfection.
- Try new things. Chances are, you’ll find yourself in a physical and creative space where it’s just you, your microphone and recording rig, and a literal or proverbial bedroom. There are no rules and no limits. Pour your heart out and see what happens.
- Try “speaking” directly to your audience. Great bedroom pop songs can feel like intimate dialogs between artist and listener. See how your music changes when you imagine yourself confiding directly to your biggest fans, your best friend, or even your most painful heartbreak.
- Avoid imitation. Many wonderful bedroom pop artists are true originals. It’s fine to channel your influences and create sounds or lyrics that evoke this artist or that, but don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to craft a sound that will make you “the next ___________.” Your goal is to explore and develop your sound — as unique, authentic, and intimate as it can be. Focus on that goal, and the rest will flow from there.
How do you sell songs as an indie bedroom pop artist?
Once you have your bedroom pop tracks written, recorded, produced, recorded, and mastered, it’s time to share them with the world. Turn to Disc Makers for CDs, vinyl LPs, and custom USBs so you can share your new music with your soon-to-be fans!
Is bedroom pop a powerful movement because its intimacy parallels the isolation of the pandemic? Is it an organic reaction to hyper-synthetic mainstream radio hits? Or is it just great music arriving at the right time? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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