Common musical aesthetics include a bass-heavy drumbeat, often emulating the slowed down breakbeat samples typical of hip hop in the 1990s, giving the genre a more psychedelic feel. Vocals in trip hop are often female and feature characteristics of various singing styles including R&B, jazz and rock. The female-dominant vocals of trip hop may be partially attributable to the influence of genres such as jazz and early R&B, in which female vocalists were more common. However, there are notable exceptions - Massive Attack & Groove Armada collaborates with male & female vocalists, Tricky often features vocally in his own productions along with Martina Topley-Bird, and Chris Corner provided vocals for later albums with Sneaker Pimps.
Trip hop is also known for its melancholy sound. This may be partly due to the fact that several acts were inspired by post punk bands; Tricky and Massive Attack both covered and sampled songs of Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure. Tricky opened his second album Nearly God by a version of "Tattoo", a proto-trip-hop song of Siouxsie and the Banshees initially recorded in 1983.
Trip hop tracks often incorporate Rhodes pianos, saxophones, trumpets, and flutes, and may employ unconventional instruments such as the theremin and Mellotron. Trip hop differs from hip hop in theme and overall tone. Instead of gangsta rap with its hard-hitting lyrics, trip hop offers a more aural atmospherics with instrumental hip hop, turntable scratching, and breakbeat rhythms. Regarded in some ways as a 1990s update of fusion, trip hop may be said to "transcend" the hardcore rap styles and lyrics with atmospheric overtones to create a more mellow tempo.