Attention deficit disorders and performing

I’m having ADHD and sometimes it’s quite hard to be focused on what’s happening on my screen. Do you have ADHD or any other attention disorders ? If yes, how do you deal with that while performing ?
I use the stack function a lot on Tidal Cycles to have different parts so I don’t get lost in the code. What are your techniques?


My trick for resetting my attention is to place a drink out of reach, which forces me to walk over to the drink and take a small break. During that time I try to enjoy the music and engage with the audience and when I come back to the code I have new ideas of what to do next.


Nice one, I really need to try this. I tend to be tense during shows because I only stay focused on my screen so my back is killing me after the performance.

1 Like

Yes, I think getting back into your body for a moment really helps :slight_smile:

This is also why I never perform sitting down; your breathing and blood flow is completely different when standing up.

1 Like

I have super ADHD but once performing its like a high point in focus. I think you might have to look at the distractions differently, what’s actually distracting you besides the code and the performance? - The back pain might be your crutch - make sure you get a laptop riser for longer sets and maybe a wireless keyboard mouse combo for more casual posture so you can stretch out and breath and maybe dance a bit? That aspect of live a portable standing desk mode makes a huge difference in performance and focus.

I mean if your super QWERTY mode you could get a ergonomics performance tool aka Kinesis Advantage2 :sweat_smile:

The crowd and external events (a door opening, what’s happening near me…) are a huge distractions to me, since I am pretty shy and sometimes not confident (I had to organize the latest show I played at, I was so stressed out). As you said, I should reconsider my setup, take a break from my computer screen and take a drink (nice tip from @jarm). I’m using my laptop keyboard which is pretty ergonomic (but a bit small). I used to play seated, now I’m playing standing up, it feels less “worrisome”.

1 Like

I would also recommend considering what you do in the ~30 minutes before you play. If you’re anxious before playing it can be useful to structure this time, by listening to recordings of your music in headphones, or going outside, drinking some water, doing breathing or attention exercises, visualising your performance, etc.

While it’s completely natural to feel anxious before or during a performance - some people have this their whole careers - it’s also useful to realise that after playing 10-20+ shows you might find that these issues fade away as you become more experienced and have a variety of memories (in terms of bad, good and great) under your belt to relate to.


I don’t have an attention disorder but I do use a few techniques when I play that can stop me getting ‘lost’ - even having played 50+ live coding shows I still get super nervous and panicky sometimes and these things help me focus:

  • I write some notes on a piece of paper usually 30 mins or so before I play - I write down any ideas, sounds I want to use etc. I don’t usually refer to this too much but it’s there if I lose track of what I’m doing. Having it on a piece of paper helps as it breaks you away from the screen and allows you to reset. When I was less confident I used to have my crash routine written on there too, but I’ve crashed so many times now I know that off by heart :stuck_out_tongue:
  • If I’m feeling super nervous I will go outside and walk around before I play. Sometimes I make a phone call to distract myself (also do this after a show if I don’t feel it went well) - talking to my dad about his DIY projects or something usually brings me back to earth!
  • Get a drink (like @jarm) - I always have a bottle of water and it’s good to step back, take a drink and refocus
  • Before I play I always methodically check my setup and write my first line of code so I’m not starting in silence (sometimes freaks me out if it takes a while to make the first sound and that can put me off for the whole set) - I’ll do this using headphones a few minutes before I start so that I have time to troubleshoot any issues.
  • I set a timer on my phone cause I find it very easy to lose track of time. In my head I might have a rough structure of what I want to do or at the very least I’ll think something like “I want to change it up every 5 minutes or so”.
  • If I’m getting lost I might just strip everything back to a drum beat or a loop and start again - again having the timer helps here as you can keep en eye on how long you’ve been using a certain sound or beat

Bumping this thread, because one year after, I did a lot of progress! And I’m still interested by your experiences.
I changed my workflow by taking notes, and I did a lot of work on my focus. After doing a lot of shows, I feel like I’m less tense and more into my work.

Anyway, feel free to express your struggles, your ideas, your thoughts on all of this!