A.D.D. improving musicianship & playing ability

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by MK50H, Mar 11, 2006.

  1. MK50H

    MK50H Member

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    I'm not too sure if this belongs here or in the Pub, but I reckon it is (at least partly) playing technique.

    I have always had big problems learning some of the more (in my view) boring aspects of playing, and often really just make no progress for weeks, months and sometimes years.

    I now realise that I have "Attention Deficit Disorder" (ADD), and whilst this isn't a great surprise, I hadn't really been aware of how this had affected my playing & musicianship until today.

    I realise that ADD and ADHD are fairly common in artistic people, and could do with some advice.

    In particular, I am undertaking a new musical project that requires me to learn quickly (never a strength of mine), a range of new skills (arranging music, producing backing tracks, and different styles of guitar playing).

    I'd really like to manage this condition in relation to my music projects. I am hoping to find ways to make me more productive.

    Some people use medication, some try diet...

    Any advise is (as usual) most welcome.

    Thanks
    Neil
     
  2. Serious Poo

    Serious Poo Armchair Rocket Scientist Graffiti Existentialist Gold Supporting Member

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    Caffiene is chemically very similiar to ritalin, a popular ADD drug. I'm an ADD poster child who practically grew up on the stuff. Now that I'm older, I've found that coffee in the morning really helps me to focus well throughout the day. Regular exercise helps to increases blood flow and circulation to your brain, which is obviously a good thing. Also, keeping a small notebook handy to jot down your thoughts is a GREAT trick to making sure you don't

    "Oh hey, look at that! How cool..."

    ...forget things throughout the day. Good luck!
     
  3. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    There's your ticket. There's no better recipe for focused diligence than an actual commitment. The other great motivator for me is fear. Yes, fear. Fear of screwing up, fear of not being prepared, fear of looking and sounding like an idiot, fear of getting paid but not delivering the goods, fear of sucking eggs. Fear causes me to work hard.

    To speak more specifically to your plight, I do teach several folks that struggle with ADD. Here's a tip: spend the first fifteen minutes of your practice routine by simply getting organized. Get all your books, charts, reference CD's, diagrams, and related accoutrement in order, and tune the instrument(s). Set up (and write down) a realistic agenda that you'd like to accomplish before your time is up for that day's work. Next, take a break. Yes, take five. Once you've set yourself up to the point of not digging around for this or that, and you're set up to study and work and assimilate, walk outside, stretch, get some air. Then go to the work area and dig in hard towards your work. When you feel your attention span wandering, take another five minutes to breathe. Repeat as often as necessary. I work on music for many hours per day, 6-7 days per week. The stuff done at home is in increments of 15-30 minute focused spurts, with multiple breaks. Work in a well-lighted room with no television or other distractions, such as phones and computers.

    I decided to once again pursue the fulltime musican thing a few years back. During that time, I've realized that I've a hard time saying "no". I've *just about* got too many irons in the fire, or at least it's at the peak of what I'm able to accomplish with a focus on quality, and still maintain a marriage and be a semi-decent human being. With multiple gigging and recording projects, and a weekly student client base that's at 40+ and climbing, I pretty much work seven days a week. Calendars, mapquest directions, 'post it' notes, separate clipboards for different projects, yellow highlighter pens, refigerator magnets, playing phone tag with associates and clients - such is my way of life. I enjoy starting my day with a pot of coffee and tons of ice water, and I prefer to be outside. Typical day has me starting by placing an acoustic guitar on a stand in the carport, and I lay out the reference materials and agenda I'll need for the day's work, as well as a list of phone calls that I need to follow up on, as I enjoy my cups o' joe. I like to eliminate as many distractions as early in the day as possible. Because I'm anal-retentive, I often come home after the day's work has been done and start, well, working. I just enjoy working more after commitments have been met. At the end of each day, I look at what needs to be accomplished within the next day, as well as within the span of that week, and I just chip away at it, a little bit at a time.

    Not at all to make light of the ADD malady, but I think I have an exact opposite condition. Sincerely, I think I suffer from being hyper-focused. I'm prone to totally ignore my wife, family, and friends, if there's something that I'm pre-occupied with (which is more often than not).
     
  4. MK50H

    MK50H Member

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    Thanks for the help guys, it does actually make a difference!

    I was surprised to hear about coffee I rarely drank the stuff before. My wife has heard that apples and omega3 helps too, so it's and apple a day, and a couple of capsules, and some real coffee for me at the moment.

    Bizarrely, it seems to be making a big difference already, (although it has got really sunny here, and I guess that helps too)!

    The organisational tips are really good too, I have been struggling with my workspace, and the order I go about things in, so I shall be trying to make improvements on this as well.

    Well, I guess I'd better stop doing this, and get back to playing some music.

    Neil
     
  5. jspax7

    jspax7 Member

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    I teach mostly kids. Lots of kids. A short attention span is typical. I tell them to use an egg timer. Set it for 5 min. (Then set the timer for 10 minutes, then 15, etc... to build mental endurance.) Practice one phrase until the timer goes off, move to the next phrase, (or set of chord changes) and do the same thing. It's amazing what can be accomplished in a few minutes, if you stay focused.

    For your needs, I'd suggest writing out a schedule. What do you want to accomplish, and how much time can you devote to each subject? Try the 45 on 15 off plan. Set a timer, and be sure to take that 15 min. break. You will have earned it!

    It's not how much time we have, it's how we spend it.
     
  6. GtrWiz

    GtrWiz Member

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    I was diagnosed with ADD about 10 years ago, and in my youthful arrogance, I wouldn't take medication. I tried diet, excercise, meditation, etc. Well, I guess I've achived a decent amount, but I fell into a rut in my late 20's, and about a year ago I had enough.
    I saw a shrink that put me on Aderall, and I really had no idea it would have such a profound effect. While all of the natural remedies did show results and I try to keep up with them to this day, I would say that the biggest mistake/regret of my life is not having done this sooner. It's not a perfect cure, I still make lists, I still struggle a bit with organization. I guess the best analogy, for a musician, would be like:
    my life before the meds was like playing with a blanket over my amp...

    Good luck with whatever action you decide to take.
     
  7. Pointbreakd

    Pointbreakd Member

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    I take adderall as well. I generally take it for school but also use it to study/practice the guitar. I hate taking it live though, it makes me feel very anxious. But for practicing it does wonders, I grasp and maintain concepts much easier. As stated before it's not the absolute cure. I also exercise 5 times a week, am very healthy and I have systems that keep me organized.
     
  8. Chris Rice

    Chris Rice Member

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    I was on Ritalin for just over three years. I can whole-heartedly advise against medication.

    Good suggestions here about work, then take a short break. Less distractions definately help, as does air and a clean workspace.

    One thing that isn't often mentioned about ADD is that you also have the ability to hyper-focus. Use the Force.
     
  9. GtrWiz

    GtrWiz Member

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    Could you elaborate on this? I'm curious as to why you advise against medication?
    I haven't tried Ritalin, but as I said earlier, I'm getting great results with Adderall. Of course everyone is different, what works for me might not work for others.
     
  10. Chris Rice

    Chris Rice Member

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    It brought on major personality changes in both me and my brother. I could feel the exact minute every day that the Ritalin wore off. I was able to focus with it, as soon as it wore off I couldn't do anything. I would take it before school, and at 11:35AM I would lose any ability I had for anything. Take another couple pills at lunchtime and be good for the rest of the afternoon. My brother didn't grow for 3 years (he was in 3rd-8th grade at the time) and they ended up giving him anti-depressants in conjunction with the Ritalin to counteract some of the effects. I stopped taking it after my 7th grade year and found that there were better ways to control it. It just felt that when the ritalin wore off I was worse than ever. Created a dependancy. But, it is the American way to throw drugs at things until they seem fine. Better (IMO) to fix the underlying problem (work environment, organizational skills, diet) than to treat the symptom of that environment.

    What works for me may not work for everybody else.

    There was an article on the benefits of ADD for musicians in Guitar Player several years ago.
     

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