Music for ADHD: Benefits & Types to Improve Focus

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While it may sound counterintuitive, music can actually help people with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) focus. 

Although it can be tempting to write off listening to music as a frivolous pastime, studies show that engaging with music can actually promote general well-being. The activity can help with the management of emotions, facilitation of self-development, and providing respite from problems.

In people with ADHD, music intervention studies have shown that music can decrease inattention, reduce negative mood, and promote reading comprehension for those with ADHD. 

Many people with ADHD gravitate to instrumental music because it generally has a very structured rhythm that helps people focus. In addition, instrumental music is more common because it doesn't have words that can be distracting. Other kinds of music that have consistent and repetitive rhythm patterns, like electronic music, may also be helpful. 

If you have ADHD—or just want to improve focus—read on to find out how listening to music might help you and get some suggestions of what to listen to.

Benefits of ADHD Music

Many people with ADHD are typically in deficit of dopamine and require dopamine to get work done. Music can provide that hit of dopamine they may need to either get started or keep going.

The part of the brain that feels a reward from music—the nucleus accumbens—is the same one that psychostimulant ADHD medications work on. The nucleus accumbens can be thought of as the brain's control center between motivation and action.

Music may also help improve mood in people with ADHD. Research shows that music significantly reduced sadness and hopelessness. (The good news: it also helped people who *don’t* have ADHD!)

It has also been found that keeping a stable rhythm and musical beat can have a calming effect that helps with a sense of security and stability that can lead to emotional well-being and regulation of stress hormones—something people with ADHD may have a hard time doing.

Brit Barkholtz, MSW, LICSW

Music can be really helpful for people with ADHD because it can provide a singular background noise rather than twenty.

— Brit Barkholtz, MSW, LICSW

The Load Theory of Select Attention

A concept called the load theory of select attention says that maintaining attention in a given circumstance depends on the balance between late-stage attention and early-stage attention. 

Early-selection attention is concentrating one’s focus on something deliberately; late-selection attention is being “directed involuntarily” (i.e., distracted) to something.

The idea of using music to help people with ADHD is that it suppresses the brain's ability to direct itself toward irrelevant stimuli. This allows the attention to be better directed towards the early-selection stimuli. 

In people without ADHD, however, there is no need to redirect that late-selection attention. In fact, this may actually create a distraction for them, diverting resources from the earlier-selection stimuli.

Types of ADHD Music

Just as music in general can be such a personal preference, so can music for ADHD. While many people prefer to listen to music without words to focus, it may work for others. 

Similarly, “for some, it can come down to familiar music versus unfamiliar—which may also vary by person,” says Barkholtz. 

Furthermore, according to Barkholtz, familiar music for some people can be distracting because the temptation to hum or sing the lyrics will be too powerful. For others, listening to music you've already heard before can be more easily tuned out.

Here are some types of music you might want to check out to help you focus if you have ADHD, and why.

Binaural Beats

Binaural beats work by stimulating both sides of the brain, forcing them to work together to communicate with each other to create the singular wave that is sensed by your awareness.

If you are searching for binaural beat music on your own, you can usually just search something like “binaural beats for ADHD,” but if you are looking for something more specific, you’ll want to look at music in the Alpha frequency (9-13Hz).

Listen to this music style on YouTube.

Rock Music

Though it may be hard to believe, rock music has been proven to help people with ADHD improve their rates of task completion. For those with hyperactivity, it is also shown to reduce the hyperactivity because the repetitive beat reduces the muscle tension common in those with ADHD. 

Listen to this music style on YouTube.

Classical Music

One of the reasons that classical music may help those with ADHD is that it increases arousal and puts brains in the alpha state, which leads to improved cognitive performance. Mozart in particular has been proven to help.

Listen to this music style on YouTube.


With its predictability and steady rhythm, lo-fi music helps the frontal brain lobe focus by reducing outside distractions.

It has been shown to increase memory recall and the quality of the music can almost be described as white noise. Many playlists exist that are specifically meant for studying or working. 

Listen to this music style on YouTube.

Or, You Can Listen to Whatever You Want

Ultimately, just because a study says that a certain type of music helps concentration doesn’t mean that it’s the only type of music that can feel helpful—or even enjoyable—to you. 

“And maybe you notice different things are helpful for different situations,” says Barkholtz. “Personally, music is great for helping me focus on administrative tasks but podcasts keep me more focused [when I'm] cleaning or [going] on a long run.” 

A Word From Verywell

So, depending on your musical tastes, you might want to listen to rock, pop, hip-hop, or even smooth jazz. You might even want to listen to house music. Just choose whichever genre feels right for you. You can also try switching back and forth between genres.

If you find that you're still having difficulty concentrating, reach out to a mental health professional.

12 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Theodora Blanchfield, AMFT
Theodora Blanchfield is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and mental health writer.