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Old 02-10-11, 10:44 PM
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Any ADD musicians out there?

This is an off-the-wall question, but if there are any of you who are (or were) pretty talented musicians, I'd like to pick your brains a bit.

I was a flutist for 15 years throughout my middle school, high school, and post-high school years. I was very talented, ranking 1st in the state in an individual competition for two years in a row in high school, actually. I loved it. It made me "zen." I could just fall into it.

Yet, I had some peculiar little issues that, despite practice, I could never break, and I'm thinking it has something to do with a little executive control deficit.

1) Have you ever had problems reading sheet music by sight, only? I could NEVER master this skill...and still can't. I realized, even then, that the only way I could play well was to memorize it, using the sheet music only for "reminders" here and there.

2) I also had problems with keying repetitive series of notes. My fingers would trip over each other (figuratively speaking...sort of), which was always very frustrating. Also, sometimes, they would just tense up and become so rigid (particularly if I was concentrating too hard) that I lost most of my fine motor control.

3) Did any of you find that your ADD symptoms worsened after stopping your particular musical talent? Or, did you find they were relieved upon taking up a music hobby?

TIA!
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Old 02-11-11, 12:46 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

I played alto sax in school. I wasn't very good. I never learned to read music. I, too, learned by memorizing. Not very fun when the teacher signaled me out for "faking it" in the middle of a song until I memorized the keys.

It didn't seem to help me, and it didn't seem to help my math, either, and I guess people said it would. It wasn't a big thing in my life, just something I did, and then stopped doing. I've always wanted to take it up again, but I don't know how far I'd actually get
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Old 02-11-11, 12:53 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

I could sightread notation when I was a kid, I can't do it now. Even as a kid, though, I normally just played by ear.

As for repetitive motions, that's a motor control issue. While not necessarily part of the syndrome, clumsiness is a "symptom" of ADHD, in that it isn't uncommon in the ADHD population.

For the record, I play theremin and guitar.
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Old 02-11-11, 01:02 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

Quote:
Originally Posted by footinmouth View Post
1) Have you ever had problems reading sheet music by sight, only? I could NEVER master this skill...and still can't. I realized, even then, that the only way I could play well was to memorize it, using the sheet music only for "reminders" here and there.
I had a pretty hard time sight-reading music for the most part. Usually, if I counted it out first, I could pretty much play it. On piano, I definitely couldn't sight read, nor do I have the coordination to read bass and treble clef at the same time...

Quote:
Originally Posted by footinmouth View Post
2) I also had problems with keying repetitive series of notes. My fingers would trip over each other (figuratively speaking...sort of), which was always very frustrating. Also, sometimes, they would just tense up and become so rigid (particularly if I was concentrating too hard) that I lost most of my fine motor control.
Personally, I can't say I had a problem with that. But it's been a while since I've played.

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3) Did any of you find that your ADD symptoms worsened after stopping your particular musical talent? Or, did you find they were relieved upon taking up a music hobby?
I started playing clarinet in the 5th or 6th grade. I played for about 4 years, and then in 10th grade, our band had a problem with being top-heavy. We had so many woodwinds and high-end brass instruments, but no bass. Our band director at the time recruited my friend and I to play tuba. I took on tuba in about a week, and had it down pretty good. I always had a problem memorizing scales, so I just never tried any harder. In 11th grade, I decided I wanted to be on the drum line, so I was put on 3rd bass drum. That was around the time that (read:stupid) movie came out "Drumline" so we had the drum offs and such. We tried practicing for a grade 8 ensemble, and that was fun. Every other measure had a different time signature, and the first time around it was spoken (which was cool). I also played around on the marimba and took a grade 2 flute solo (I think it was called Death of the little prince?) and made a superior, but it was super easy...heh

I also play the guitar, the piano (by ear-can't read and play at the same time), a little bass guitar, and a bongo type drum called the djimbe. I have always loved music, but I think my ADHD affected me with the fact I could never stick to one instrument. I always picked one up, learned enough to be decent and move to the next. If I would actually practice my guitar, I've been told I could be famous by now. (bahahaha. no.) I also have a low self-esteem, so it's hard for me to get on stage, especially if the crowd is being loud and obnoxious (distracting, I forget my lyrics, and then feel horrible).

Interesting topic though.
TIA![/quote]
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Old 02-11-11, 01:17 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

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Originally Posted by fatif View Post
I played alto sax in school.
Funny, I did too!

I first played piano, but while I was probably above-average in talent and skill, I certainly wasn't good enough to really enjoy it or want to continue.

I also played violin, cello, and drums in elementary school, but again, those went nowhere, really. I don't think I particularly liked any of them anyway.

I've spent a day or two here and there trying to learn guitar, but it just never clicked with me. It's not melodic enough for my tastes, and I'm not very good with the strings.

I then took up saxophone in middle school and found one instrument I was truly quite talented at. I only decided to try it because my grandfather and uncle played it and were both very good (my uncle, in fact, has my grandfather's sax). My uncle can pretty much play anything and is the most musically gifted person I've ever met.

Anyway, I started in beginner's band, which was like 10 people. Next quarter, if you were good enough, you could switch to intermediate early. So I switched, and of course started in last chair (there were 6 or 7 alto saxes, IIRC). By the second week, I was second chair, and by the third, first chair. I have no idea how, because I never took my sax home, let alone practiced. Some of the other kids had private lessons every day. I really kinda regret not sticking with it, because I think I had talent, if I do say so myself. I had "feel" that I just lacked with any of the instruments I'd played. I could just play something and it sounded pretty good--I simply couldn't do that on the piano (my uncle can compose something spontaneously on the piano; it's amazing).

I forget why I stopped... I think they wanted you to attend this summer band camp to progress to advanced band, and I had no interest... I can't remember the exact reason, though.

I've thought now and then about taking it up again... it might be somewhat cathartic.

In response to your questions, though:

1) I never had too much of a problem with sheet music, but generally, when you're performing, you do memorize something, more or less, or at least practice it over and over until it feels somewhat like "muscle memory."

2) I experienced this phenomenon, particularly on the piano. I would get too anxious about the repetition, about messing up, and, like you said, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy sometimes. I think ADHDers just aren't good with repetitive anything.

3) I didn't notice either of these at all, but I also didn't know I had ADHD at the time of playing any instrument.
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Old 02-11-11, 02:24 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

I play the drums, both in rock bands and in school. I am HORRIBLE at sight reading. I was lucky that my Band Director in high school wasn't any good at following percussion sheet music and someone told me that all he cared about was the drummer not dropping the beat as opposed to trying to play perfectly. So in try outs to determine what chair you were I completely flubbed the whole thing, screwing up like every other note but I never once stopped playing and I got first chair in symphonic band

I also got to play quads when I was a senior and since it was just me, I gave up on the music sheets and when we were marching in parades and stuff I just made up my own drum solos the entire time. That was awesome, lol...


Now as for marching band when you had to memorize all those charts and movements....that was TORTURE!!!! I had to get the underclassmen to help me figure the steps out, no way I could do that part on my own.

Also, even though I'm a drummer and I've been playing in bands since I was 14....I'm plain crappy at keeping a steady tempo. And I can't count while I play to save my life...
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Old 02-11-11, 02:46 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

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Originally Posted by K-Funk View Post
I play the drums, both in rock bands and in school. I am HORRIBLE at sight reading. I was lucky that my Band Director in high school wasn't any good at following percussion sheet music and someone told me that all he cared about was the drummer not dropping the beat as opposed to trying to play perfectly. So in try outs to determine what chair you were I completely flubbed the whole thing, screwing up like every other note but I never once stopped playing and I got first chair in symphonic band

I also got to play quads when I was a senior and since it was just me, I gave up on the music sheets and when we were marching in parades and stuff I just made up my own drum solos the entire time. That was awesome, lol...


Now as for marching band when you had to memorize all those charts and movements....that was TORTURE!!!! I had to get the underclassmen to help me figure the steps out, no way I could do that part on my own.

Also, even though I'm a drummer and I've been playing in bands since I was 14....I'm plain crappy at keeping a steady tempo. And I can't count while I play to save my life...
Personally, I'm offended you would call yourself a "drummer". The term "drummer", in my opinion is derogatory. You sir, are a percussionist.

But I DEFINITELY agree with the formation charts we had to memorize. And on top of it, having either a giant bass drum or a giant contra tuba on my shoulder really didn't help matters, or make me move any faster! lol

I wish I would have put in some effort and went for DCi. I had so many opportunities I threw away.

Sad day.
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Old 02-11-11, 03:16 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

I play the harp and the bagpipes. Sight reading with the harp took a long time to connect for me. I chose the instrument knowing even if I sucked, it'd still sound good, and that's one of the things that has kept me with it after 15 years. I know what you're talking about with having to memorize a song before you can play it. But eventually it did come. I can also relate to the series of notes, tensing up/rigidity. Totally! That's something that just had to be worked on. There was no cutting corners for this girl. My suggestion when you're practicing is to STOP the moment you realize you're getting tense. Your goal is synergy, and you can't have that unless you relax. Don't go through it tense. You'll actually learn to play it tense through muscle memory.

One of my teachers said once that she was more impressed with how slow a student could play a piece rather than how fast, because once you've got it, you've got it. Whip out the metronome and take it nice and sloooow, baby.

With the bagpipes, that's not really my focus. I started lessons a little tongue-in-cheek. I've done weddings with my harp, so I thought I'd offer funerals with the pipes. It's fun, but I don't put in the time with them that I have with the other and that's just because they aren't as satisfying to me. That's okay. I still enjoy it, and that makes it worth it. "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly" right?

Okay, back on topic..
Quote:
3) Did any of you find that your ADD symptoms worsened after stopping your particular musical talent? Or, did you find they were relieved upon taking up a music hobby?
I wasn't aware I had ADHD when I started. I have been aware that it was very difficult to learn, more so than my peers I had around me, and keep my private lesson appointments. But there was a love there that keeps me going even now. Can I sit down and practice for hours and hours? No way. I've never been able to. I wouldn't say my ADHD symptoms have been relieved through it. But it has built self esteem when I've performed, it's been something I could look at as an accomplishment even at early stages, and it's been something that I've felt a drive to do, of which each of those aspects in a person's life can be cut down from ADHD. It's something that makes me happy and feeds my soul. It adds to my quality of life and feeling good improves cognition but that would be related to depression.

Good luck to you! Stick with it! That's a gorgeous instrument.
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Old 02-11-11, 06:34 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

I play the trumpet, in fact I have a rehearsal tonight!

I can read music fine but I just cannot sightread, unless someone who can sightread very well is playing right next to me. I don't have too many of the problems like for the saxophone /flute when playing quickly because we just have the 3 valves.

After we've played something a few times I don't have to count those measures of rest anymore, I just know that "we play when it sounds like this". also I pick up technical bits very fast.

I love the feeling of playing in a band or orchestra, I was in various music programs growing up, then I stopped for 15 yrs and started up again about 5 years ago. It's like this one thing I do where everything makes sense and is one coherent piece, between my childhood and the US and my life here. - I have some musical talent actually.

I daydream terribly in rehearsals though! no idea where we are starting, etc. I've made some good friends in our band (it's a municpal concert band, I guess), most of the guys in the brass section are like older/younger brothers.
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Old 02-11-11, 07:05 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

I think that Joe STRUMMER had ADHD.

If you want to see ADHD personified, go to u tube and look up some videos of the CLASH'S early hits from albums like "Give 'Em Enough Rope" - If you watch Joe STRUMMER in these old clips, it will give you an idea of what it's like to have ADHD; that is what it feels like to have a serious case of ADHD happening in your head.
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Old 02-11-11, 09:33 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

I'm new here, this turned out a bit longer than intended, I hope I didn't stray too far from the topic, it just hit close to home so I kept writing.

I've been a professional bass player/musician for over 13 years and I was only recently diagnosed with ADD. Part of the reason I was diagnosed so late (I'm 32) was because I hyperfocus on music, I self medicated for years when playing clubs every night (marijuana, alcohol and various pills mostly) and eccentricities/mood swings/being impulsive and even being late (depending on the gig) up to a point...etc.. are much more accepted when you're a musician. I would show up at a corporate gig in a nice hotel in the evening and have 3 gin and tonics before I even started and no one batted an eye, they practically encouraged it.... of course different bands/venues have different policies.

I play all kinds of music, I've been sight reading since my teens, it didn't come easy for me but I had to learn how to do it to play in the Jazz Ensembles at College so I learned. I basically did nothing else for the better part of a year, now I still read music regularly. I don't have to think about it as much anymore.

I freelance daily/nightly with many groups so the issues that tend to trouble me are: being overwhelmed with all the music I have to play, shutting down when I get too busy and doing nothing but zoning out...I'd have horrible anxiety attacks and just feel stripped of all my powers, my tendency to procrastinate learning songs I don't like (while playing songs I do like even though the gig is the next day and I hadn't even begun to learn all the material I needed to learn), generally not being as prepared as I could be, always getting lost and running late, it was just my ability to perform under pressure that allowed me to survive those gigs. I've always had issues with planning a career course which has left me floating around in the world playing a million gigs but with no definite direction, it was always just one day at a time for me and I loved getting paid in cash every night. I'm also totally comfortable not having a plan so that helps when you just have to wing it! (having a plan on the other hand makes me feel like a prisoner on the verge of a nervous breakdown!) The stage and a crowd were always very performance enhancing for me and still are.

I don't really know how ADD effected my music other than I've pretty much just always hyperfocused on whatever style of music I'm into at any given time so it's been good in that way. It's rounded me out in an un-rounded way, I play gigs most nights with all kinds of different bands. It would be bad in my earlier years when I'd be in a rock band trying to turn every song into a jazz song because I was obsessed with Jazz at the time, not Rock..... basically that would equal getting fired, my experiments on stage led to being fired more than once. I never liked following the rules, so I usually didn't.

My ADD messes with my life outside of music more than in music, I'm terrible at planning ahead in real life, my bank account is almost always overdrawn even though I make enough money. I forget to pay bills, I forget to clean things, I forget to show up for family events and **** off friends cause they always think I'm just in my own little world. I'm only beginning to uncover my inexhaustible list of ADD habits that I wasn't even aware of until recently.

I almost fear that although I may have been technically a more rounded out player if my ADD had been found out and treated earlier, I would have lost some of my originality and deep feeling that has always been a strong point for me. I guess I'll never know.


I was only diagnosed recently, but the process started when I tried to clean myself up after a break up a few years ago, I couldn't do it without being depressed, I just felt dead unless I had substances in me and was out either playing music or watching a show or doing something that I shouldn't be doing. First they tried to treat depression and anxiety for a couple years with no real success. Then a doctor suggested I get evaluated for ADD, he said I seemed like the "type" (an E.R. Doctor ironically enough, I was in the E.R. from a car accident... caused by a bad reaction to some anti depressants). I was beginning to suspect ADD myself before this incident so I took the Doc's advice and saw a Psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with ADD only 6 or so months ago and it has changed my life. The diagnosis fits me so perfectly in every way, I still have my doubts at times but the diagnosis and treatment have been like an epiphany for me, finally an explanation for the way I am! and a treatment that works! However I realize the fight is ongoing, I have years and years worth of bad habits to unlearn...

I take 40mgs of Ritalin a day and I no longer feel the need to drink or get high all the time, actually I have zero desire to drink or get stoned at all anymore even though I drank and got high daily for years. It also has taken away alot of my depression and helped my anxiety issues. I'm also in therapy, a whole other can of worms, what a mess! I wasn't even aware of it either.

I work with a lot of great musicians and I suspect a decent percentage have some sort of ADD going on. It's a strange way to make a living and as much as I love musicians I must admit we are a strange bunch, even the most professional ones.

I didn't intend to make this so long! I just wanted to say that in a strange way I think my tendency to hyperfocus helped my music in most areas related to music and messed up my life in most other areas. I've always spaced out on things that didn't interest me and I'm only now realizing the damage it's caused.
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Old 02-11-11, 09:55 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

I am am new here and I am also a percussionist. I have been playing drums for 30 years now and having been playing out professionally for 21 years of them. I took six years of lessons when I was a kid and was taught how to read. I always had a real hard time with it and even now I don't really do it. I have a great abillity to remember songs and feel changes so that has helped me greatly. I play everything from rock to blues to jazz and have pretty muched faked my way through all the jazz tunes because I can pick up on the changes so well.

I am definately in my own world when it comes to music! I also play piano, which I picked up by ear and have almost perfect pitch. It can be very frustrating for me because I get distracted by music so bad! Even if I hear something on a muzak it can pull me out of a conversation and I totally focus on the song. I also try to figure out pitches and notes. I drive my wife crazy! I always have a song in my head. The song could be good or bad but it's always there getting in the way of my thoughts.

I was diagnosed recently and i first started taking tenex. That stuff made me very tierd, depressed, and very sore leaving me to feel totally out of it. I just recently started on adderall and that stuff seems to be working much better. I'm definately not zoning out tierd now! It has only been three days though.

I just hate the fact that my wife will tell me things and I don't remember the conversation. How does one do that?! It sucks because it makes her feel much less important when I can remember things about music so well yet forget something we talked about just hours before. I hate it and I sometimes feel like I am cursed. I love being a musician and still play out regularly but it sure makes having a relationship difficult sometimes. I really hope the adderall helps long term
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Old 02-11-11, 10:09 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

i love music, especially classical music, i tried to learn a percussion instrument when i was 12, but quitted in 4 months mainly since i couldnt manage those repeating sequences,
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Old 02-11-11, 10:26 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

I think tab music is not good for increase your skill.. I never try that ... By hearing i covered song. Try that
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Old 02-12-11, 06:31 AM
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Re: Any ADD musicians out there?

I think anyone who was born with the ability to play music should just be thankful for their gift and cultivate it as much as they can. For me it's my life, for others it's a hobby but either way it's a wonderful gift to be able to play music.

Tab is good for fingering stringed instruments, mainly good for beginners. I always encourage my students to learn to read music if they're serious about it.

I apologize for the looooonnnnnggg post of mine above, it's been an intense six months since being diagnosed with ADD. I'll make sure my post are more readable in the future!

I do think music has medicated my ADD or been therapeutic, it also helped mask it because nobody would consider an ADD diagnosis considering I could play such complex pieces of music so easily. I've always said life is hard, music is easy, I just had no idea how much harder life was for me than many others.

If you have a musical gift be thankful for it and nurture it, all life's difficulties disappear in the midst of a great performance, music is therapy and food for our souls with or without ADD.
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