ADHD professional musicians here?


#1

Having any trouble with self dicipline when it comes to practicing when there is no specific and imminent concert/audition to prepare for?

I teach the cello, and so working on my own stuff is really important to maintain and improve my performance skills. Also, I find even 20min will really wake my brain up (yup, playing a musical instrument is fireworks for the brain!!). But even on medication, I have real trouble getting started (except if it’s a sunny day outside which works wonders also). And then I feel guilty because freakin heck this is my passion, so why am I not gagging to do it?! And where is that hyper focus super power when you need it???

Anyone else have these experiences?


#2

So much so! Not diagnosed yet but most likely ADHD anyway.
I studied music at university and 1,5 year out of uni now and I’m still truggling to activate myself into gear to start my career!

I love music and I want to work within music, but I find it really hard to get myself to practice and create content and network and all that jazz.

I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it! Super frustrating!


#3

Create content? So you’re in more the performance and truly freelance line of work? Yes I can imagine the difficulty…! My lifeline is the fact that teaching, i.e. showing up for kids’ lessons, provides me with an automatic structure that I cannot let slide. As for creative stuff and self improvement… oh dear.

A few days ago I decided SOME practice is better than NONE, and so even if I have to set the (time) bar ridiculously low, it eventually adds up, and again, at least it’s something. So I’ve been doing the pomodoro thing. One measly 20min pomodoro a day before work. But that’s 20min more each day than I had been doing, so, yay…!

Also, I gave my boyfriend the power to police me a bit. And actually he doesn’t have to say anything, it’s enough (so far) for me to just know that I’ve told him he CAN. :blush:


#4

I think you’ve pretty much summed up why I for one am not a professional musician.


#5

Well I’m wanting to be a singer-songwriter, and also make YouTube videos, so songwriting, creating videos, practicing my singing and instruments. Not to mention trying to join a band. So many things I want to/need to be doing, yet can barely make myself do any of them. Even though I really want to!


#6

I guess I’m a weirdo. I liked to practice and then I’d go into hyperfocus.


#7

Well, I wouldn’t call that weird. I would call that lucky —that the thing that made you go into hyper focus was the thing you were meant to be doing anyway.

I never had any experience about hyper focus (unless it was about getting stuck in front of a tv screen) until I was diagnosed and started the medication. Until then I never realised how feathery light and loose my mind had always been. The medication makes it more steady, and only after I started taking them have I sometimes gone into the hyper focus thing. But even then not ever channelled solely towards practicing.


#8

Sounds about right :blush:

Do you have any friends or colleagues or family that you could ask to help you find some sort of structure or routine or something? I mean not like they have to Do anything much except sort of act as a human deadline for things. Because it sounds like you have a lot to give, but you can’t get yourself to materialise the ideas you have.

Also I would suggest inventing small bribes for yourself to get yourself to do stuff. That’s how I get more boring/ « mechanical » stuff done sometimes. Like taking out the trash — reward: a nice cappuccino from my favourite cafe. Or cleaning — reward: watch a movie whilst knitting a sock.

I wonder what bribe I could use to get myself to do _two _ pomodoro sessions tomorrow… It is Saturday, after all, so I have more time.


#9

Sounds like me back in the day, except for YouTube because that wasn’t a thing yet. (I did try to get some tunes down for MP3s but my old four-tracks were too crappy and once I tried to polish them up for publication, I got lost in notgoodenoughs.) I used to play in a blues band that never made it out of a buddy’s living room, then in another potential band that never even met up for a session, we’d just jam along whenever two or more of us met. Also. I’d write songs and record them - crappily, more as sketches than actual songs - to four-track for that would-be band but they never got that interested.

There are certain things I did and didn’t do that probably have an ADHD ring to them.

  • Did: Practice. A lot. We’re talking whole afternoons for weeks.
  • Didn’t: Practice with any sort of focus that would actually make me better at stuff. (Like, techniques. I never learned top coordinate the full amount of hands I have.)
  • Didn’t: Learn actual licks or even songs. I just can’t seem to memorize lines. Also, repeating old songs bored the crap out of me, especially the popular favorites. I did manage to memorize a few chord progressions as long as I didn’t have to do anything fancy with those chords…
  • Didn’t: Develop a taste or even just a tolerance for what people wanted to hear. I still cringe at campfire music. Even before I started playing, I was always the first in my class to get impatient with a new song just as it got popular and everybody else wanted to hear it, all the time. (In my experience, that’s a good trait in a musician who’s in the position of calling their own shots, but not for one trying to get into that position.)
  • Did: dive deep into musician interviews, guitar magazines and all that. I’m talking whole weeks at the library when I was supposed to do research for non-musical term papers.
  • Did: Pick up some basic knowledge of other instruments - I started out on harmonica, then moved to huitar and bass (mostly bass) but also picked up some keyboard and percussion.
  • Did: get a feel for arranging music.
  • Did: Write songs because, see above re: old songs. Not that many, though, because it used to take ages for me to actually get down and record them. Or finish the lyrics.
  • Did: Record, to the point of getting the idea down.
  • Didn’t: finish most of those recordings.
  • Didn’t: get in a band and stick with it long enough to actually get good at it or play any of those songs. We did cut a few nice jam sessions, though.
  • Didn’t: figure out how to get organized into semi-professional musicianing - you know, get a practice room, gigs, musicians who’d stick around.
  • Didn’t: submit anything, anywhere.

Looking back, I think I needed the variety that writing, recording and playing several instruments brings. Also, doing my own very unique thing as opposed to developing a routine, always working on the next litle project but never on my own skills. I’m still doing that with comics, except now it’s the internet and I know how and where to publish stuff. And I got better at the skill thing by identifying better what it was that I was lacking and seeking that out.

One of the afore-mentioned buddies started playing the guitar by learning basic techniques from a book, practicing hammer-ons for ages before even learning the first chord. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine doing that. (The cautionary tale version of that would have me at a pretty good level soon but staying there while he got better and better, but that never happened. He’s completely tone-deaf.) I never would have got even as far as I got if I hadn’t had the next challenge in mind, the next thing I couldn’t quite do yet, the next thing to apply a skill to which I’d now have to acquire.


#10

Yeah I totally get that. I study opera right now, and our department suggests 30 minutes of technique and rep training a day. I usually have choir every day and practice my technique through that, but I always end up getting close to juries having had none of my rep memorized. Thankfully, I sing throughout the day, but it’s so weird because all my friends practice so much, and I am able to learn the music so quickly that I feel like I don’t need to practice as much. I have melodies in my head really after only a couple times learning them and it’s only the words/ translations that I procrastinate on learning. I keep telling myself to practice more, but just practicing technique without my teacher there is boring and I can’t get myself to do it. Not a great problem to have as an aspiring classical singer.


#11


I am in AUDIO PRODUCTION. We hang the monitors, aim the instruments (lights), snake the pit, and run the boards. BEST. JOB. EVER.


#12

I totally get you. I also pick up the melodic side really quite fast. And when I was studying, technique stuff was my least favourite thing to do on my own, but with my teacher present I really wanted to do it. Thing is, when I was a student, I had no idea about my ADHD or my dyslexia. So when my friends were diving into their scales and excercises and keeping their practice pace at a steady ”6 hours per day if you want to become a professional” (as instrumentalists), I was living in constant guilt over the fact that Never In You Life could you get me to do SIX HOURS in ONE DAY.

Now though, I know what I have, and after a recent re-adjusting of my medication, I have got myself to create a system that is realistic, and also to stick to it! Good old alarms! …and post-its, notebooks, apps and colouring pens… But set with instructions: the alarm tells me what to do. And another tells me to stop.

And here’s the key thing (or has been for me): Never more than 30min at a time (that includes setting out the music, the chair, the music stand, unpacking the cello and tuning :blush:), and very importantly: the alarm controlled time periods need to be set so they allow for enough empty time. This last bit is ultimately what makes me agree to stick to this self imposed system day after day.

And it has been working for three weeks already! :scream: And not just for practicing either!


#13

That alarm system is a good idea. I think for me, I have a lot of free time but it’s unstructured, and I probably need to write into my schedule when I should practice (like every MWF at 3pm or something). Singers can’t possibly practice for six hours a day (we’d get too vocally tired) so I’m saved on that front, but I still got to work on my practicing outside of rehearsal skills.