Ask the Experts

Q: Does My Son’s Study Music Really Help Him Focus?

The short answer is yes. Music is a focusing influence on ADHD brains, which respond well to its structure. And no two homework soundtracks will be the same.

Q: “My son has a hard time focusing, especially when he has to do homework. He blasts music all the time. I tell him to turn it off, but he says it helps. How could it? We fight all the time about this. Does it help? Should I let him listen?” – nomusicmom


Hi Nomusicmom:

The short answer is yes. Your son is telling you he needs to listen to music to help him attend and initiate. And he’s right: Research has shown that music can bolster attention and focus.

Here’s the longer answer: Some of us need music to drown out distracting sounds around us. Others need it to get their adrenaline going. Others find that the music provides a rhythm for the work they are doing! And still others use music to soothe and calm their brains while working on a difficult subject. There are many fantastic articles right here at ADDitude Magazine that will give you a deeper understanding. This one in particular is my favorite.

Let me shed some light on how I use music to help my students motivate and stay on task. I have them create a “study soundtrack” – a 30- to 45-minute playlist of music they love. The key is to play the SAME playlist every time they sit down to work. Eventually the music will act as a motivator; when they hear the music, it sends a signal to the brain that it’s time to get work done. Playing the same playlist every time they sit down to work eliminates the distraction of changing songs on their desktop or portable device. I find that distraction comes from the “Spotify Switch up,” not from the tunes themselves.

I also encourage my students to choose songs they know well, so they don’t get too focused on the music itself at the expense of focusing on the work. Encourage your son to make a playlist for each of his subjects, or different playlists for shallow vs. deep work. Just have him customize it to his needs. And, yes, I have students who listen to everything from heavy metal to Hamilton! (#CommissionsEarned)

[Click to Read: How Music Unlocked My Son’s ADHD Brain]

The goal is to transform the playlist into an activation device. When we hear certain music, it elicits a response. I know when I hear my disco, I’m ready to exercise. It’s the same with homework.

I hope you will check out my newest book, How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away: An Expert Guide to Getting Stuff Done, where I dive deep into using music as an activation tool. (#CommissionsEarned)

Good Luck!

Study Music for ADHD Brains: Next Steps


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Updated on January 3, 2021

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