Music has been shown to promote attentiveness and focus in people with ADHD. Here’s what type of music may work best.
Music can motivate, elicit intense emotions, or help you relax depending on the genre you’re listening to or your personal tastes.
It also affects everyone differently. For example, you might need fast-paced rock music for motivation to clean the house, while others require the soothing sounds of ambient music while wielding the dust mop. Plus, you may prefer different types of music for different settings — something with a quick beat for when you go running, but something soothing while reading.
For studying or brain-intensive tasks, some people find specific types of music help increase their ability to focus or concentrate. And research indicates that this may also hold true for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
According to a small 2020 study, music does seem to promote attentiveness and focus in children with ADHD.
Scientists found evidence that after children with ADHD listened to 30-minute interactive music and 30-minute interactive video game interventions, the music intervention improved attention management, while the video game intervention didn’t.
According to Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, known as “Dr. E” on television shows such as “The Today Show,” “music therapy improves attention and focus, lowers hyperactivity, and improves social skills in children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD).”
Dr. Lombardo explains, “because many people with ADHD have trouble keeping track of time and duration, listening to music may help them improve their performance in these areas. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, can be increased by listening to music you appreciate. Lower dopamine levels may be connected to certain ADHD symptoms.”
In addition, William Schroeder, LPC, NCC, co-founder and ADHD expert from Just Mind Counseling, told Psych Central, “according to research, music enhances parts of the brain that are weak in ADHD children. The auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain are all strengthened by music. Speech and language abilities, reading, reading comprehension, math, problem-solving, brain organization, focus, and attention issues are all linked to these domains.”
He adds, “there are other theories that center around the challenges of the ADHD brain which have to do with dysregulation in the amygdala, and music allows the distress to settle and thus the learning centers of the brain and executive function to be more engaged.”
Because there are so many genres of music, and everyone has different likes and dislikes, determining which type will help you focus is highly individualized.
According to Lombardo, “some genres of music may be more useful for promoting concentration when it comes to music for ADHD symptoms. Aim for soothing, medium-tempo music with simple rhythms. Consider listening to classical composers like Vivaldi and Chopin.”
Schroeder says classical music can also help with other areas of brain functioning.
“Classical music has been found to be the most beneficial for speech, language, and memory.” However, he adds, “ for those that want something else to listen to — I thoroughly enjoy apps like Calm or Headspace that have libraries full of content to explore and use.”
Schroeder suggests using music without words or overstimulation, like ethereal or nature soundscape genres, as these may allow a person with ADHD to focus better.
He adds, “ I also recommend wearing noise-canceling headphones from any of the major manufacturers to compliment the soundscapes you’re enjoying. These will not only hone in the track for your attention but also eliminate (or nearly eliminate) environmental distractions where you’re working, studying, or thinking.”
For people with ADHD, Schroeder suggests finding tracts with longer run times to reduce the need to interact with the media player, which can create unwanted distractions.
Interestingly, other types of music for ADHD concentration that might help include 8D music or binaural beats.
When listening to 8D music, sounds seem to float around you making it feel like you are immersed in the music. The caveat is — you must listen to 8D with headphones on for it to have this effect.
Binaural beats use two different tones in each ear to allow your brain to synchronize the sounds. This action may help promote relaxation and increase focus.
Now that we know how music may help improve focus and attention if you have ADHD, the next step is to figure out which type might work for you.
Because music is individualized and the level of focus needed differs depending on the task, consider making separate playlists:
- one to use during nonimmersive or high energy tasks like cleaning the house
- another for immersive or deep concentration tasks like studying
- a list for relaxation and sleep
Below are some ideas to help you get started using music for your ADHD symptoms, but feel free to explore different genres to determine what works for you. For example, you may prefer white noise running in the background with no music, or a particular rock song might be more effective.
Spotify and other playlists
- Top tracks for 8D audio playlist on Spotify
- Music to concentrate and focus for adults with ADHD or ADD symptoms (binaural brainwave) on Spotify
- ADHD music playlists on 8tracks.com
Deep sleep 8D audio music for ADHD
Tones only for deep focus
Tones with music
Binaural beats and frequencies for focus, concentration, and memory
Music for studying and immersive tasks
Classical music for concentration
Some music you might consider avoiding
When you’re trying to increase focus and concentration, these types of music may hinder your progress:
- chaotic music without a distinct rhythm
- music with lyrics
- dance club music with a swift pace
- your favorite songs or music you have a strong emotional tie to
- genres that you know irritate you, or you don’t like
- playlists that interject abrupt advertisements
Besides listening to music, learning to play an instrument may also help with ADHD symptoms.
In addition, according to an article by author Sharlene Habermeyer, MA, when children with ADHD learn a musical instrument, they can experience improvement in these areas:
- impulse management
- social functioning
If you experience focus, attention, or motivational challenges because of ADHD, you’re not alone. Although these symptoms can cause frustration, there are things you can do to help improve your ability to stay focused on tasks.
Music genres like classical, 8D, or binaural beats are options to consider, as research suggests they might help manage these types of ADHD symptoms.
So, if you feel music may help you, there are plenty of options to choose from — the trick is finding the type that works for you.
However, not everyone will have success with using music to help concentration, and that’s OK. If you need more ideas to manage your ADHD, here are some resources that can help:
- tips for living with ADHD symptoms
- help with getting motivated
- tips to help complete tasks
- ideas for managing forgetfulness in ADHD
- suggestions to help you get chores done
- a list of ADHD resources with app, book, support group suggestions and more