I need repetitive music for optimal brain function.
January 20, 2014 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Based on my limited cues, can you recommend more music to help my poor ADHD brain focus?

There can be loud noises near my desk and I often have to resort to music in headphones to drown out the ambient noise (earplugs are insufficient). The music that works best is minimalist and/or repetitive, and if there are vocals they should be mostly repetitive as well.

I generally choose Philip Glass (Einstein on the Beach, Akhnaten, North Star, Glassworks, Orion, etc) or recent releases by Sparks (Lil' Beethoven mostly, Hello Young Lovers and Exotic Creatures of the Deep occasionally). But I'm getting a little bored...

I am familiar with other well-known minimalist composers: Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Michael Nyman, etc, etc. However, nothing that I've listened to by them has hit the right notes (ha. ha. ha.) or has met my brain's needs.

I've got a Spotify subscription so links to there are cool, otherwise just give me a name and/or a composition and I'll look it up. Thanks!
posted by elsietheeel to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
As an ADD person, I find Benedictine chant to be calming and non-intrusive, great for focusing on work or studying.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:32 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you tried white noise apps? I have the paid version of THIS app and it is perfect for this kind of thing (I am ADHD as well).
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:32 AM on January 20, 2014

posted by powerbumpkin at 9:38 AM on January 20, 2014

I have a Spotify Playlist of music like this that works for me!

Please feel free to raid it for ideas :)
posted by greenish at 9:50 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

You could look into gamelan music, the Indonesian tradition that inspired a lot of Western minimalist composers.
posted by KathrynT at 10:05 AM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

or Arvo Part, whose post-minimalist tintinnabulist style can put me into a Zen state almost immediately.
posted by KathrynT at 10:10 AM on January 20, 2014

I'll go with some an old standard...

Halcyon and On and On
The Box (Part 1)
The Box (Part 2)

This is a little less straight piano and more like variations on Pachabel Cannon with a synthesizer. I'm actually listening to their 2012 album as a result of this, but the music I linked was all from the mid/late 90s. They've had a long career and made lots of music. The other good news is a live track is a very different than a studio track with the same name...
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:32 AM on January 20, 2014

Mozart's complete piano sonatas
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 10:35 AM on January 20, 2014

I don't really have a good grasp of what it's like for you, but my go-to work isolation music is dub.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:43 AM on January 20, 2014

Not sure if it's exactly what you're looking for, but when I need to focus I put on Nine Inch Nail's Ghosts series. (It's not the angry, nihilistic sounds he's most famous for.)
posted by feistycakes at 10:59 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Boards of Canada. Start with Music Has the Right to Children.
posted by davejay at 11:01 AM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Build your own loop with the Buddha Wall. Choose something from the first two columns to start, then add as you see fit.
posted by maudlin at 11:28 AM on January 20, 2014

Zoƫ Keating
posted by neushoorn at 11:45 AM on January 20, 2014

I have ADD and have spent years training a Pandora station for exactly this purpose:

Instrumental Trance Music for Work

posted by Jacqueline at 11:54 AM on January 20, 2014

What you need is soma fm!

Especially the 'Drone Zone' channel, but also check out 'Space Station Soma' and some of the other ambienty channels.

When you hear something cool, you can usually google it and find it on soundcloud or something to save for later. I've found it the indispensable solution to the work-music problem.
posted by moorooka at 12:08 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Instrumental flamenco Pandora channel.
posted by serena15221 at 12:39 PM on January 20, 2014

Check out Stars of the Lid - very slow moving but not at all new-agey.

When I really need to block sounds out to concentrate I use sounds, not music. I use the Ambiance app on my iphone which gives you access to a few thousands sounds which you can mix on your own. I use the humming of a server room and the click clack of a train mixed with some brown noise.

Or you can try out the free SimplyNoise noise generator - I open it in one tab and SimplyRain in another and mix them. It'll block out anything.
posted by kdern at 12:52 PM on January 20, 2014

I've been using iTunes Radio set to Ambient music or Classical, but they both have mixed results.

I read Superlearning years back, and they cited "studies" in which Baroque music, especially played at 60bpm, helped to put the brain in an optimal state for relaxed concentration (alpha, maybe?)

Anyway, they also sold a CD of said music, and I still find I can put that on shuffle and do a solid hour of writing without looking up. 60bpm does seem to have a positive effect on my ability to focus. Amazon doesn't carry the CD, but you can see the contents here.
posted by ToucanDoug at 1:29 PM on January 20, 2014

SomaFM - drone zone. Perfect for ADD Brain.


Boards of Canada, Geogaddi or Music Has the Right to Children. I think I've played both of those albums thousands of times for my ADD Brain.
posted by barnone at 2:33 PM on January 20, 2014

Jacqueline - is there a trick to getting that to open in Pandora? I can't seem to get it to work.
posted by barnone at 2:35 PM on January 20, 2014

You might like repetitive sequencer-based music, of which there is a ton. In my opinion, Steve Roach is one of the best at this kind of music. You might start with Empetus, Arc of Passion, or Life Sequence.

I also recently got an album by Steve Moore called Light Echoes -- I think it's fantastic.
posted by MyFrozenYear at 6:56 PM on January 20, 2014

Sigur ros
Pink floyd
posted by jander03 at 10:43 PM on January 20, 2014

Give Focus @ Will a try. The have several genres to choose from to fit your personal preferences and have tailored them to help you focus. Which might all be BS, but it works well for me.
posted by Ookseer at 11:22 PM on January 20, 2014

My go-to for this is Groovera Low Mercury, "deeply chilled soft electronic instrumentals to calm the active modern mind."
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:13 AM on January 21, 2014

Ryuichi Sakamoto's solo piano stuff has been my go to work music for years. It's background-ish, calming, allows me to concentrate. Try out BTTB and Playing the Piano.
posted by naju at 11:33 AM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Charlemagne Palestine!

He's a kooky minimalist composer, and his song "Strumming Music" is 55 minutes of sweet piano riffs.
posted by mermaidcafe at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2014

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