The Benefits of Music Lessons for Kids (and Adults) With ADHD

Jan 17, 2024

Without a doubt, one of the most common childhood neurodevelopment disorders is ADHD, or ADD. In Canada alone, 4-6% of adults and 5-7% of kids, totaling around 1.8 million Canadians, are affected by ADHD. The most common treatment is medication, which is effective but may carry unpleasant side effects. It’s no wonder that adults with ADHD, and parts of kids with it, may be looking for complimentary help.

One approach gaining popularity is music lessons. Studies have shown that learning music improves focus and self-confidence, while also impacting specific brain functions. These benefits help kids and adults develop more positive thought and behaviour patterns. What’s more, these patterns stay with them for the rest of their lives.

What is ADHD?

While the causes of ADHD are still unknown, it is known to be a biological disorder. It’s usually characterized by three primary symptoms: hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsiveness. While nothing is certain, mental health experts believe the cause may be related to a delay in the maturation of the brain, particularly the cortex.

Benefits of Music Lessons for ADHD

Children with this disorder grow up with learning difficulties and concentration issues. Adults live with these problems. For both groups, this can lead to low self-esteem. However, music lessons help improve concentration, brain function, perseverance, and self-confidence.

Here are five of the biggest benefits music lessons have for the ADHD brain.


In a classroom setting, with a large number of kids, teachers have to divide their attention among the group. This makes it easier for students’ minds to drift away from the topic at hand. However, with music lessons, especially private lessons, this isn’t the case. Here, students, no matter their age, are learning something they love in a one-on-one setting. This makes holding their attention and staying on track much easier. While this is true for all instruments, students learning piano, guitar, and other complex instruments, will benefit the greatest.


Learning to play an instrument is difficult; and any student might storm out of a lesson in frustration, holding back the urge to spike their instrument into the floor. But they will come back. Not only is making and learning music fun, but it teaches that reaching a goal takes time, and they can only succeed through hard work, and most of all, patience.


Learning to play an instrument is not only a creative outlet, but it’s also an opportunity for students (especially kids) to learn a new language, improve their skills in math, and learn to set goals and reach them. When it comes to that last one in particular, the sense of achievement can be huge. Looking back at how far they have come since they first picked up their instrument can be eye-opening. This is a well-spring for feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem. What’s more, research suggests that improvements in self-esteem help to reduce behavioural problems associated with ADHD.

Improved Brain Function

One of the key biological characteristics of ADHD appears to be abnormally low quantities of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine acts on the areas of the brain that create feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. Additionally, it plays a role in controlling memory, mood, sleep, learning, concentration, movement, and other body functions. However, dopamine levels can be increased when a person accomplishes something significant to them. For a music student, this may include things like learning to play scales, getting a difficult passage right, or performing a piece flawlessly. Because dopamine helps regulate emotions, any increase can be beneficial.

In addition to improved dopamine levels, music lessons also appear to increase brain fiber connections in children; especially in the frontal cortex, which is often underdeveloped in kids with ADHD or autism.

Better Grades for Kids

All this adds up to a positive effect on cognitive function and attention span. For kids, this often results in better grades and improved participation in class. It may sound far-fetched, but those piano or guitar lessons might actually be improving your child’s performance in school!

Supporting Students with ADHD


ADHD can have an effect on learning in a number of different ways and to varying degrees. That means your or your child’s music teacher will need to tailor their approach. With limited attention spans, students with ADHD (especially kids) will need music lessons are are more energetic than the average student.

Music teachers can help their students set goals that are positive, specific, and attainable. An example may be, “practice guitar thirty minutes per day, five days a week,” rather than “stop playing slow.” The best teachers help their students work with their limitations and progress steadily.


As a parent, the best way to support your child’s music education is simply by providing the same support you do for school. Start by speaking with your child’s music teacher to let them know your child has ADHD. Explain how your child experiences the disorder and how it impacts their learning. This way the teacher can work out their approach accordingly.

At home, create a practice structure for your child. Step one is to have a specific time and space – free from distractions – for them to practice. Consistency is key, and practicing any instrument is much easier without the TV on or conversations nearby. Finally, keep in mind that music lessons can be challenging. Sometimes simply sitting down with their instrument can be a big victory. Praise for a job well done can go a long way towards encouraging them to stick with it.

Final Thoughts

The root cause of ADHD may still be a mystery, but the benefits of musical instruction are clear and last a lifetime. Not only does it improve focus, attention, and self-confidence, it literally alters brain chemistry and neuro-connectivity for the better. Each of these benefits helps to set them up for success throughout their life.

On the hunt for private music lessons for yourself or a child? Check out the many programs The Music Studio has to offer!