ADHD and Music: A Functioning Relationship

Kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often react well to music playing in the background while they work or need concentration to accomplish their tasks.

Baroque or classical music is recommended to play to children with ADHD. The sounds of this genre increase the dopamine levels of the ADHD brain and stimulate their working environment by placing structure and rhythm in their unstructured and hyperactive minds.

Today we will pay attention to answering questions related to ADHD and music and also which instruments are recommended for them to play. But first, it is essential to understand how these people feel about having ADHD.

How does a child feel like having ADHD?

Imagine your brain being a house with rooms. You have all of the rooms in order and you can think clearly. But then, little firecrackers go off randomly in your brain house. Out of surprise, you jump up and start to look at what is causing all of this.

For kids who don’t take medication against it, staying concentrated during all the noise and fireworks in their minds could be challenging. We as adults only see our kids acting spontaneously and having difficulty sitting still.

We need to place ourselves in their shoes and take their disorder seriously to understand what they are going through and how we can help them.

Why is music good for ADHD kids?

All the external and rhythmical noise that enters their minds, contributes to the firecrackers in their brains that causes more hyperactivity, and spontaneous- and unconcentrated behaviour.

Playing music places organisation and structure in their minds with the sounds and rhythm. This relieves them from the unstructured world and they will be able to refocus again. There might still be elements that draw their attention away, but they will be less spontaneous and more controlled.

What is the best focus music to play for people with ADHD?

It is tough to pinpoint exactly what works for each individual.

The loudness of the music is not the same in all cases. With some people, it can be over 100 dB and they can still focus and perform their tasks. Others are distracted by softer or more gentle types of sounds. For these individuals, I would recommend using over-the-ear soundproof headphones.

For kids with ADHD

  • Classical music is a safe and neutral genre to play. It is recommended for all ages and is mainly used as background music.
  • Forrest Sounds which are birds and water flowing are another type that I have experienced to be very helpful.
Forrest sounds to soothe the mind and calm the soul.
  • Beach Bar or Roof Top music are types that I regularly had success with. It has a modern and electronic vibe to it and kids aged 8 and up feel more connected to it. Don’t forget that beach bar music is made to make adults relax and enjoy a drink or two. The music is good, and the kids like it too.

Just a tip from my experience: Please never force your ADHD child to stay seated. Allow short work periods and breaks in between and use a timer to practice perseverance.

For adults with ADHD

As an adult, I need familiar fast paced metal to stay concentrated for longer periods. As a teacher, I could remain seated and correct a whole class of tests. The consistency and predictability of the music were important to me.

Are people with ADHD good musicians?

People with ADHD usually make very good musicians for the following reasons:

  • It’s a practical activity where they actively practise a skill.
  • They are able to use their creativity and apply what they like doing.
  • There’s a solid structure and framework to work within. People with ADHD need the security of knowing that there are rules and boundaries to the activity.

This post was written and posted by De Wet from on 02.02.2023. The content was stolen from me if this blog post is seen anywhere else.

Group lessons are an excellent way of getting ADHD kids engaged with music. They will feel the responsibility of others relying on them to contribute and deliver their part.

A Q&A with a 9-year-old ADHD guitar and bass player

I had a quick chat with a boy that has mild to strong ADHD. He is taking medication to support his general classroom concentration

Why did you choose guitar and bass?

Anton: I chose to start with the guitar because my dad was a guitar player when he was younger.

How do know what instrument to take to your lessons?

Anton: My music teacher will let me know. She tries to balance the lessons between the two instruments.

Do you prefer solo lessons or with a partner?

Anton: I love having my lessons with a partner. Mostly because we are actively playing most of the lesson.

Do you also have group lessons?

Anton: Yes, once a year my music teacher has a show with her whole music school and would like all of her students to participate in the concert. During the preparation phase, we have an extra rehearsal lesson on Saturdays altogether to prepare for the big concert at the end of the year.

Do you lose concentration when you practice your instruments?

Anton: Sometimes, especially when I practice the guitar I get distracted when my practice goals feel too challenging for me to reach. This does not happen when I play my bass guitar.

Do you feel that since you’ve been practising an instrument your concentration in class has improved?

Anton: Without a doubt, yes! It is hard to say why. I can just feel that I am generally more concentrated and that I accomplish more of my tasks in class instead of having to do homework.

What is the most challenging part of doing your schoolwork?

Anton: Just to get started. I tend to hang around and waste a bit of time because I have a tough time sorting out what I need to do or what to start with. Once a teacher gives me some direction, I can persevere and push through that activity.

If you found this interesting and would like some more info about how playing an instrument has helped other kids to improve their school work, don’t miss the post I wrote about it! Anton has also been featured there.

Is playing an instrument good for ADHD kids?

Absolutely yes! As with adults, kids with ADHD also have the need to move themselves and have a structured framework for the activity awarded to them.

Here are the 3 main reasons:

It’s a practical activity where they actively practise a skill.

It’s not a situation where they feel trapped with the tension hanging over them to complete school work. It is a relaxed environment where they can move around and use their fingers actively.

They are able to use their creativity and apply what they like doing.

Within the music rules, ADHD kids have a chance to colour in over the lines and show their skills and creativity in an environment where they feel comfortable and understood.

There’s a solid structure and framework to work within.

People with ADHD need the security of knowing that there are rules and boundaries to the activity. This guides them to become the best versions of themself knowing that they have freedom within this framework.

The best instruments to learn for ADHD kids

The piano is a great instrument to learn, feel and apply the theory of music. The downside is that it could become a bit passive which frustrates ADHD kids. They will need extended motivation.

My rating for an ADHD child to learn the piano is 6/10.

The guitar is an instrument that I would recommend to ADHD kids. It could be practised actively or passively with different instrument variations as well.

My rating for an ADHD child to learn the guitar is 7/10.

Playing the drums is an active instrument also for underperforming students that are rather keen on tapping and keeping beat. I had a culture of about 5 boys in my class last year constantly tapping out their drum beats on their laps. It helped them to regain focus in class and persevere through their work.

My rating for an ADHD child to learn to play the drums is 9/10.

A bass guitar would be my instrument of choice, but a bit of music theory will be needed. You can get into partner lessons rapidly and become part of the school concerts with just a few months of practice.

My rating for an ADHD child to learn the bass guitar is 8/10.

Having vocal lessons is also good for students with ADHD. They will actively and spontaneously enjoy new training exercises while fiddling with something between their fingers.

My rating for an ADHD child to have vocal training is 7/10.

Once you discovered the instrument suitable for your child with ADHD, motivating them will also be a task not to neglect. If you would like to have more info on How to keep your kids motivated to play their instrument, don’t miss the post I wrote about it.

I hope this has guided you to the answers you were seeking for. If you have any other questions, please post them in the comments below.

Till next time, Rock ‘n Roll!

De Wet

The dream started during a school tour at the age of 15 years old. One that might take a long time to reach. De Wet was 16 years old when he got his first bass guitar as a gift from his dad. The guitar was found, hidden under boxes. As if it was waiting for its owner to come by and pick him up. He practiced every day to improve and to teach his fingers to dance to the music. After finishing high school, he played in various bands where he collected valuable experience, before being signed by a record label as an upcoming band. He reached success at age 22 when he released two albums with his band, which also included televised music videos for publicity. By age 24, he co-started management, artist promotion, and booking agency for successful and upcoming musical acts.

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