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ADHD and musicians, the good and the bad.

When it comes to musicians and ADHD, I believe that the universal language of music is incredibly helpful.



It can transcend boundaries and speaks directly to the soul. For many musicians, this form of expression is not just a passion but a lifeline, especially for those navigating the world with these traits. While ADHD often brings challenges like difficulty focusing, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, it also comes with unique strengths that can be incredibly advantageous in the realm of music.


ADHD brains are wired differently, buzzing with ideas, thoughts, and bursts of energy. This constant mental activity, while sometimes overwhelming, can be a goldmine for creativity and new ideas. Many musicians with ADHD find that their condition fuels their creativity, allowing them to think outside the box and come up with innovative sounds and compositions.


The ability to hyperfocus, can lead to hours spent perfecting a piece of music or mastering an instrument. I know from my own experience this can be a huge blessing and I can remember spending up to 10 hours a day practicing and honing specific rhythmic or guitar patterns (as a caveat this can also get obsessive! – see last week’s writing)

While there’s no concrete evidence that many of my favourite (jazz - especially) musicians had ADHD, the intense and restless focus surrounding practicing and composing in this artistic domain does hint at the possibility of these traits being highly prevalent in this population.


Many musicians also channel this restlessness into their music, using it as an outlet for their dedication, leading to exceptional skill and prowess with their instruments, contributing to their success and longevity in the industry.


Of course, it’s not all good, many musicians with ADHD often face significant challenges. The difficulty in maintaining focus can make learning an instrument or sticking to a practice routine challenging. At times I do struggle practicing things that I don’t find stimulating enough and it can take some huge motivational jump start to push me into it if I’m not feeling in the mood! It’s an ongoing challenge!


As mentioned previously, for musicians with ADHD, finding strategies to manage our symptoms is key. Many of us benefit from structured environments and routines, even if they are self-imposed. Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps can help maintain focus and reduce overwhelm. I often find it helpful to write a detailed list documenting every 15 minutes I spend on a particular task and of course, using a timer is vital!

Collaboration can also be particularly beneficial. Working with producers, managers, or bandmates who can handle administrative tasks allows us to focus on our creative strengths with others, something that was decimated during the COVID years!

Ultimately, the intersection of music and ADHD is a testament to the power of neurodiversity.


The unique attributes of ADHD – creativity, energy and hyperfocus can contribute to an incredible musical talent. By understanding and embracing our unique minds, musicians with ADHD traits can continue to do their thing, innovate and create music that resonates deeply with people.  As a caveat, also hold in mind that some of these factors I talk about don’t necessarily mean ‘ADHD’, as we are also impacted by our experiences in life which could also manifest as similar traits! Next week I will give a brief overview of some strategies that help.


 

Adam Ficek hosts a monthly show 'Tonic Music' on Totally Wired Radio, where he talks to various guests about music and mental health. You can listen again to any of the previous show on the Tonic Music Mixcloud page.




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