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Brain Music with Focus@Will with founder Will Henshall

Looking for focus? Like music? Have trouble focusing WITH music? We might just be able to help you out today! Focus@Will is a service offering personalized focus music to help you tune in to what you’re doing so that you can get it done. Will Henshall is the musician and inventor behind the service and joins us today to talk about the tool, the technology, and how it just might be your next secret weapon in your war on distraction.

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Looking for focus? Like music? Have trouble focusing WITH music? We might just be able to help you out this week.

Focus@Will is a service offering focus music to help you tune in to what you’re doing so that you can get it done. Will Henshall is the musician and inventor behind the service and joins us today to talk about the tool, the technology, and how it just might be your next secret weapon in your war on distraction.

What’s different about the music? What makes it so good for focus? Will tells all this week with examples from channels across the site that help a wide range of brains to raise the noise floor and get working. We talk about entrainment, and why it can be both a useful tool for some people, and an even bigger distraction for others. Plus, we dive into a bit of 90’s music history to hear about Will’s past life as a founding musician behind Londonbeat.

About Will Henshall

Will Henshall is a Los Angeles based tech entrepreneur, inventor and music producer. He was the founding member and main writer in the UK pop soul band Londonbeat. Their massive early 90s hit ‘I’ve Been Thinking About You’ reached #1 in the Billboard chart and was the top selling single in all major territories and won him BMI/PRS songwriter of the year. In the mid 90s, he founded San Francisco-based audio tech company Rocket Network. The “DigiDelivery” media transfer system, now part of ProTools 12 Cloud collaboration, is a standard tool used everyday in pro audio production for TV, movies and music. He sold the company to Avid in 2003. His most recent start up is focus@will, a science driven instrumental music streaming service (2m users) that helps people at work and study reduce distractions and be more productive. He holds five patents, and has a new one in on the way.

Links & Notes


Episode Transcript

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Pete Wright:
Hello, everybody and welcome to Taking Control: The ADHD podcast on True Story FM. I’m Pete Wright and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello, everyone. Hello, Pete.

Pete Wright:
Oh, Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh no.

Pete Wright:
Our guests today, Nikki, I’m a nerd and a fan. This is the circle is now complete with our guest today. I’m very, very excited to introduce you to a bit of technology that I think may be of interest to our community members.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
And yeah, it’s going to be fun. Before we dig in, though, everybody, you need to head over to takecontroladhd.com. You know the drill, you get to know us a little bit better over there. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list and we will send you an email each time a new episode is released. Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook @TakeControlADHD. And if the show has ever touched you or helped you manage a change in your life for the better, if you’ve ever found that you understand your relationship with ADHD in a new way, we invite you to consider supporting the show directly through Patreon. Patreon is listener supported podcasting. With a few dollars a month you can help guarantee that we continue to grow the show, add new features and invest more heavily in our community. Visit patreon.com/theadhdpodcast to learn more.
Now, we have the GPS Workshop is coming back around. Are you enrolling now?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. Yes. Enrollment is open now. It will close on Wednesday, June 2nd. If you are interested in getting started with our next round of six weeks, please go to the website, check that out. And of course, if you have any questions, you can email me directly.

Pete Wright:
Excellent. As we record this, it is still relatively early May. Deadline to enroll is June 2nd.

Nikki Kinzer:
There you go.

Pete Wright:
Looking for focus? You like music? You have trouble focusing with music? We might be able to help you out today. Focus@Will is a service offering personalized focus music to help you tune in to what you’re doing so you can get it done. Will Henshall is the musician and inventor behind the service and joins us today to talk about the tool, the technology and how it just might be your next secret weapon in your war on distraction. Welcome to the show, Will Henshall.

Will Henshall:
Hi Pete and hi, Nikki. It is great to be here.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello, welcome.

Pete Wright:
I got to tell you a secret.

Will Henshall:
Yeah, go on then.

Pete Wright:
I can’t believe that I’m talking to you right now. I was in an acapella group when I was in college. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, it gets better. It was in the nineties and I have to say, I am damned proud to tell you of all people that This is Your Life, off of In the Blood, that was a banger in our boozy after party repertoire. Slow the place down, get a good jam going, all that college acapella goodness. I cannot believe Londonbeat is here on the show. What are you doing, man?

Will Henshall:
That was, this is your life, this is your fantasy. I was the founder of the British band Londonbeat in the nineties and there was me and three incredible vocalist, Jimmy Helms, Jimmy Chambers and George Chandler. And they were a lot older than me. They were nearly 20 years older than me and they were American and African-American and lived in London. I had always loved soul music and I wanted to form a band. At the time there was two piece bands like Tears for Fears and a few other things. And so what I wanted to do was find a vocalist to help to form a band. And then I was a session musician and a music producer in the late eighties, around that time, the early nineties and someone introduced me, I was working at a label called RCA Records, doing a production for one of their other bands. And they introduced me.
They said, “You know the three Jimmys?” They’d just been working with Paul Young. These are all the big bands in the eighties, nobody’s old enough to remember. They might be interested. And I was like, that’s interesting because I love R and B. I love soul music. And so I met these guys and discovered there weren’t three Jimmys, there are actually two Jimmys and George and we sat around and I said to them, “Listen, I got a bunch of 90% written songs.” And they said, “Yeah, you need the phrase that pays.” I was like, right.

Pete Wright:
That’s brilliant.

Will Henshall:
The phrase that pays. They were like, “Yeah, because you got some great things, but you need this.” And then the three of them would stand up there and sing and vocalize. And all of a sudden these kind of ideas I had that had kind of something there, but that was the finishing touch. That started a nine year career. We signed to MCA Records. We sold, had five very big hits. The best moment of which is (singing).

Pete Wright:
Oh, that’s the one right there.

Will Henshall:
(singing).
I’ve been thinking about you too.
(singing).

Pete Wright:
That’s right.

Will Henshall:
(singing).
I’ve been thinking about you.
(singing).
That was number one.

Pete Wright:
It was everywhere.

Will Henshall:
Pretty much everywhere in the world.

Pete Wright:
That’s amazing.

Will Henshall:
Was the BMI PRS writer of the year.

Pete Wright:
Check you out.

Will Henshall:
Yeah, it was so much fun.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow.

Pete Wright:
What a trip.

Nikki Kinzer:
What an honor to have here.

Will Henshall:
That’s very kind of you to say, but trust me, it was a few years ago now. But the song is still one of the most, it’s in the top 100 or 200 most played songs ever on the world on the radio. If you ever go to Home Depot, you’ll probably hear it. They like in there. Actually someone who programs the music in Home Depot must like Londonbeat because when I’m in there, I quite often hear other songs off of the In the Blood album and the next album. Someone likes it.

Pete Wright:
I can’t find the first album. What was the first album? Speak, I think?

Will Henshall:
Speak was not released in the US but it was released everywhere else.

Pete Wright:
I can’t find it to save my life. I think a lot of it’s been re-released at some point, remastered, re-released.

Will Henshall:
Well what often happens with a band that is not from the US, I was actually living in New York a lot at the time, but went back to the UK to form the band. Was that you released an album locally and then when you’ve established that you’re a viable proposition, then you’re released internationally. The first album here in the US which was called In the Blood, have tracks in it from the first and the second albums.

Pete Wright:
Well, it was a real trip down memory lane. Listened to those albums yesterday as I was prepping for this show. I think it’s fantastic. I’m so glad you’re here. And now that we’ve got the patronizing fan stuff out of the way, let’s talk about focus. What is going on with your life that put you on the road to help people with their brains through music?

Will Henshall:
ADD.

Pete Wright:
Oh, we love to hear that. Hallelujah.

Will Henshall:
I’m deadly serious. After I was in Londonbeat, I’ve always been an inventor and interested in technology and inventing. In fact, my folks, my dad is an inventor and his dad and my grandparents were inventors. I come from a long line of British inventors. And I got really interested in digital audio recording specifically for recording studios and how you could with the advent of TCP/IP, which is the sort of the framework that the internet works on, we were able to have a singer in New York and then a guitarist in Dublin and then a drummer in London and so me and three other guys, Matt Balough being the other real co-founder and myself formed something called Rocket Network.
And we developed a technology that networks recording studios and we moved to San Francisco, raised about $43 million and created what is now integrated into Avid’s technology as Avid Cloud Collaboration. Anybody listening to this that knows about audio and video editing Avid, they’re the sort of market leader and they have an app called Pro Tools. And so we integrated Rocket Network into Pro Tools and it became DigiDelivery, which then became Avid Cloud Collaboration. That took me a very different route from about in the mid nineties, through 2003, when we sold to Avid, I’d been the CEO, I had a vertical learning curve in how to be a CEO and business. I was an inventor, but also I had to learn rapidly about business. When we sold the company to Avid, part of the deal was I had to work at Avid for a minimum of 18 months integrating our technology into the Avid design technology.
And so I naively assumed when I signed the deal that I’d be able to work as I need to, which is not being in an office all the time, which is being able to walk around, be able to let the brain tick away, to be able to come in and out as I needed, to be able to be as functional as I have been running my own company. But the CEO sat me down and he said, “That’s not the way we do things here.” And I was like, “Oh.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Wait a minute.

Pete Wright:
Your 18 month opportunity to integrate becomes a sentence that you have to fulfill.

Will Henshall:
Oh, that was the longest 18 months in my life, I can tell you. Were you at math class when you were a kid and you’d look at your watch and the second hand’s gone backwards, again. The longest five minutes ever. Five to three, it’s still five to three. Every day was like that at Avid.
What happened was I had to work in a cubicle in a very specific space. And as I was always the most recent member of the team, I was nearest to the main entrance and the elevator so there’s always people walking by and I had to deliver these specifications and the integrations of the Rocket technology into the Avid technology. And I did this, I had a lot of stuff to do. And I would sit there just going, oh, now what? The obvious thing to do is to reach for a pair of headphones and put on some music. Duh. I started asking people, “What are you listening to?” And at the time there were two kind of camps. There was people who liked to listen to classical music. You’ve probably heard of the Mozart effect, which by the way, is just complete bull. There is no such thing. It was a journalist made that up back in the day.

Pete Wright:
Playing Mozart in headphones, on you’re on board, child’s in the mom’s belly, doesn’t work?

Nikki Kinzer:
Not going to happen.

Pete Wright:
That’s it.

Will Henshall:
This is all made up. But it does work for some people some of the time. It’s not completely, but for most people it doesn’t. And then the other type of music that people were listening was techno. There’s a lot of trance music at the time. It was these two kind of types of music. And so I’d try either of the above while I was sitting there in my cubicle, trying to be productive, watching the second hand of my clock go backwards and nothing happened. I was like, this is terrible. The Mozart is annoying me and the trance music is okay but if you listen to dance floor techno and any kind of trance, about every two minutes, there’s a thing they do where they pull the bass out. Everybody stands on the dance floor with their arms up like this.

Pete Wright:
Getting ready for the drop.

Will Henshall:
Wait for the drop. And of course, what is happening I later discovered when you’re in that place, you’re waiting for the drop, what’s happening is your brain is waiting for the dopamine hit when they give you the bass. It’s like giving a kid a candy and then pulling it out of his mouth and making him wait. And then he’s like, wait for it. Wait for the drop. And then you’d give the candy back. And the dopamine hit is the thing that gives us the pleasure. What was happening?

Nikki Kinzer:
Totally. Because everybody’s smiling.

Will Henshall:
Right, they’re punching their hands in the air.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh yeah, you’re like, yeah.

Will Henshall:
I found that the trance music was working, but the drops were distracting and it’s like drinking a whiskey when you’re working.

Pete Wright:
Nikki and I know all about that. We do a lot of whiskey work.

Will Henshall:
And so to get a long story short, I was like, I have just this sense that this is possible. There has to be music that will work. And so that just stayed with me, just trying to experiment, trying to put playlists together. And then I’d experiment by getting a bunch of trance music and editing out the drops so it’s just the trance no drops. And I was like, oh, that’s pretty good. It’s kind of dance floor because you’re just dancing, dance, dance, dance.

Pete Wright:
It’s more like an exercise than a build to an exuberant finish.

Will Henshall:
Yeah. And what happened was it was sort of very illuminating for me when I went, oh yeah. I think there was a way to engineer and produce music specifically to help me to do this. And so, winding forward now 18 months after that, I was able to leave my tenure, not so tenured position and get on with real world. And I did a few things after that. I ran a photography agency and did a few things here in Los Angeles. But in 2010, I went to the Singularity University.
They had an executive program, which is talking about future technology and exponential growth in business and how that technology affects us in future. And while I was there, I had this sort of brainwave to come up with a service. They said, “What do you know about?” I said, “I know about music and I know about emotional music. And I know about trying to work and trying to find the music for work.” And they were like, “Yes, and we’ve got a name for your company too.” I was like, “What is it?” They said, “Focus@Will.” I was like, “Oh, that’s kind of interesting.” That’s good.

Nikki Kinzer:
Great.

Will Henshall:
Yeah. In fact, the guy that said that, Sully Mismale, he was the years that he was running the Singularity events that I was at, he named the business. He said that, “You should call it Focus@Will.” And then he became an investor.

Nikki Kinzer:
Smart.

Will Henshall:
And so we figured this out. I raised a total of five million bucks to do this. I built a music neural brain neuro lab to help figure out what kind of music does work. And the real aha moment in this journey came when I discovered that the different people have different types of brains. Well, as if that’s something you have to discover, duh. But you can predict what kind of music people listen to and like and works while they’re working based on how easily distracted they are.

Pete Wright:
Well I need to hear more about that. What does that mean?

Will Henshall:
Well, if you think about a scale, we developed a thing called the distractibility index. If we think of say someone who really is not easily distracted, like the Dalai Lama. Calm. And if I can talk about dogs for a minute, this is someone who’s a Saint Bernard, really chill all the time. Just got it going. And we got it. I’m over here. Just super chill. And then sort of there’s most people are here in the middle and then you get over to the right hand side where you’ve got people with ADD. I met Dr. Ned Hallowell.

Pete Wright:
We know. We know Dr. Hallowell.

Will Henshall:
You know. And Ned wrote the two bestselling books Driven to Distraction and Driven to Distraction at Work. I met Ned because one day the phone rings and it’s this voice. It goes, “Hi, I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell.” He’s got this big kind of Boston brogue. He goes, “And I just want to speak to Will from Focus@Will because I wrote my book listening to your music.” I was like, oh.

Nikki Kinzer:
Cool.

Pete Wright:
Wow.

Will Henshall:
He goes, “I’m going to thank you in the book.” I’m like, “Whoa, do you want to be on our science team?”

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, no kidding?

Pete Wright:
Ned’s on your science team?

Will Henshall:
Yes he is.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow.

Pete Wright:
Fantastic.

Will Henshall:
With Ned’s help, I learned everything I know about ADD. And he said to me, “Oh, you’re one of us.” I’m like, “What do you mean, one of you?” He goes, “No, you’re ADD.” I was like, “Well, no, I’m not.” He goes, “Here, let me ask you these three questions.” He said, “If you drink coffee, what happens?” I said, “Oh, I get sleepy.” He goes, “Uh-huh. Are you good under pressure?” I’m like, “Yeah, really got under pressure.” He goes, “Are you a startup entrepreneur?” Like, “Oh, I am.” He goes, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re ADD.”

Pete Wright:
If you got to be diagnosed on the fly, it’s good to be diagnosed by Ned Hallowell.

Will Henshall:
Yeah. And he’s ADD himself. Of course he is. That’s why he’s part of this. But with his sort of help and guidance in the last eight, nine years now, the fact that it’s called a disorder really annoys me. It’s a difference, it’s not a disorder. It’s actually an advantage for most of us. And to go back to the distractibility index, if you’ve got a one, which is say the Dalai Lama and then the St. Bernard, most people are in the middle at five or six, which is probably, a golden retriever. And over on the right side, we got a chihuahua.

Nikki Kinzer:
All over the place.

Will Henshall:
My favorite people are all bloody chihuahuas. The ADD people are the fun people. We are the people with the three letter acronyms. I like to joke anybody who’s got a three letter acronym, like OCD, BBC, MBA, MPR. You got a three letter acronym, yep, you’re my people.

Pete Wright:
You’re okay.

Will Henshall:
You’re okay. Just means that, I know you talk about this on the podcast, it just means that to be able to focus and concentrate, you got to have a lot of things going on at the same time.

Pete Wright:
Well I was thinking about that same thing. Because this is my MO in the before times was to head down the hill, to the busy coffee shop and get that sort of noise floor up. I need the noise floor up to do my most focused work. And sometimes it doesn’t work because it’s too quiet. There’s only a couple people in there and I start picking out voices. But when it’s just right, I can really nail it. I also, I was wondering when you were talking about, you can tell the kind of music that they listen to when they want to focus by how distracted they are. And I wonder what it says about me, that my go to is Trent Reznor or Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scores from their films. And there’s something, I’ll listen to those all day long.

Will Henshall:
Yes. With Ned’s help, we did a lot of experimenting. We have a neuro lab and we were trying to find out, is there a way to predict which genre of music works best for you? And there is. In fact, it’s on the website focusatwill.com there’s a quiz. And I recommend you guys just check it out. Folk will come, look at the quiz. And it will predict, it has an 80% accuracy of predicting what kind of music will work best for you. Right here in the background, I’ve got some examples of music that could work with actually, I’m going to start with something that if you are ADD like me and they intuitively say, what we want to do is play something kind of like this. Help you calm down. Or maybe something like this. The answer to that is.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I can’t do that. I can’t do that.

Nikki Kinzer:
No, I like the first one.

Will Henshall:
No, I can’t do that either because the more easily distracted you are, the more energy you need in your sound, in the genre music you listen to. About 35% of our listeners, we got a couple of million users so that’s sort of large amounts of data. Listen to this. This is called Alpha Chill.

Pete Wright:
I can totally see myself listening to something like that.

Will Henshall:
And then about 35% of our listeners, listen to this.

Nikki Kinzer:
Too fast for me.

Will Henshall:
That’s the Uptempo channel. There’s three flavors of each of these. But 5% of our users listen to this. This is the ADHD type one channel. It’s just warming up. I’ll turn that off.

Pete Wright:
I listened, so as I was preparing my notes for this very show, I turned that channel on last night on my headphones. And after about five seconds, I said to myself, I absolutely hate this. I detest it. It’s breaking my brain but I shall persevere. And I will see what it actually does for me. And lo and behold, after about 60 seconds, I was working through it. It had done exactly what the coffee shop does for me. It raises the noise floor and I’m suddenly seeing I’m typing right through it and I had no issues at all. And I realized that’s of course, that’s Trent Reznor. Those are the kinds of beats that I can be activated by.

Will Henshall:
We get some very funny mails from people. And my favorite just a few weeks ago, it was from someone said, he’s an adult. He says, “My kid has ADHD and I read somewhere that your stuff will work.” And we were like, okay. He goes, “I went into his bedroom and I put this on and I played this piece of crap music and I was just like, what the hell?” And then he said, “I had the first real conversation with my seven year old that I’ve had for a long time.”

Pete Wright:
When he had the music playing in the kid’s ears.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow.

Pete Wright:
Fascinating.

Will Henshall:
He said, “Well, I’ll go and try it myself.” He goes, “I don’t have ADD.” He goes, “Put this piece of crap music.” He goes, “This works and it’s worked.” I didn’t explain that is because you too, sir, are one of us.

Pete Wright:
It’s best not to do that in a customer service email. I totally get it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Let me ask you three questions.

Will Henshall:
Are you sleepy when you drink coffee?

Pete Wright:
I want to ask you a little bit more about the technology. First things first, what are you doing to that music that is different from my Trent Reznor tracks? And second, I need you to introduce us and explain by neural entrainment and what that does. Because some of your channels actually have added stuff going on in there. Let’s talk about that.

Will Henshall:
They do, they do. Focus@Will work because we have a vast library of music which is specifically engineered for this. There are no vocals. There are no DJ drops. There are no instruments that sound like vocals. Why vocals? Well, I’ll tell you why. The best way to think of our brain and I’m quoting Ned directly, Ned Hallowell here. Is there’s two parts of the brain. There’s my conscious attention, me talking to you two now. And then my non-conscious attention, which is mostly my hearing, which is evolutionarily, highly trained to figure out how safe it is right now to talk to you. I’m in a locked office. I’m facing the door. There’s no other sounds around and I can concentrate on talking to you two. However, here’s the however, if I hear a voice behind me, if I hear anything that sounds like a voice. If I hear the sound of footsteps, my non-conscious attention is going to go, Nikki, hang on. Hang on, I just got to see what it is. We can’t help it.
If you are sitting like Pete, at the moment, you are sitting with your back to the door. And if that door opens, you hear that door even very faintly in the background, you’re going to be looking around to see who it is. If you play music that contains vocals or contains sounds that sound like vocals, what’s going to happen is you will find you pay more attention to it. And the secret of Focus@Will, why it works is that this is music for calming your non-conscious attention. This is your limbic system. This is the part of your brain that drives the fight or flight. And so the music is all about emotion and music is all about feeling. And if you play music that has lyrics, vocals of any kind, you will pay attention to it. Or your non-conscious attention will say, “Hey, pay attention to this stimulus, to this sound.” And you will find it distracting.
You asked about binaural entrainment. There’s a new channel on the system, that’s called Naturebeat and I can talk a lot about this because it’s actually my channel. I’m an artist, as you know, from Londonbeat. Londonbeat turned into Naturebeat. I’ll play you a burst of it. You can hear birds. I’ll turn that off a sec. Naturebeat is a unique channel to Focus@Will, you can’t hear these tracks anywhere. At the moment there’s about 15 hours worth of brand new material in this channel. And it’s called Naturebeat because there’s the sound of nature and what happens is when you’re playing music for your non-conscious mind, so that your conscious mind can concentrate on something, your non-conscious mind is looking for patterns and looking for reasons to ignore the stimulus.
For instance, if we were back in the day, we were in a cave and we’re having a cave bear and Pete is drawing on the cave. Say Pete is a great cave artist and he’s drawing a buffalo or something on the wall. And me and Nikki are watching, ah whatever.

Pete Wright:
That’s on brand.

Will Henshall:
And then behind us, just imagine there’s the entrance to the cave and we can hear the sound of a forest outside. Now we will be conscious of that with ears, we’ll be hearing the sound of the birds. We’ll be hearing the sounds, but if it stops, large predator. We’re listening constantly for the sound of change. And if the sound of the forest is very consistent, we will start ignoring it. And our limbic system goes, oh, it’s safe. I don’t have to pay attention to that. But if you have a sound that has very specific birds coming and going and then slight changes in volume, you pay more attention to it. Naturebeat, I’ll come to the question about the binaural beats in the second because they’re integrated too. I’ll just play a burst of this again. The nature recordings in Naturebeat have been recorded by a Hollywood effects engineer that I know. And what the bird sound is doing is it is helping your non-conscious penchant continue to pay attention to the sound.
Now that’s important because it’s like having the kids in the backseat when you’re driving. You give them a Game Boy, to my kid back in the day when he was, “Are we there yet?” I’m like, play your Game Boy. What you’re doing is you’re giving the kids in the backseat, which is a non-conscious attention something to do so that the you, which is your conscious attention, is able to concentrate on what you’re doing. Earlier on Pete, you talked about how the ADD type one channel worked for you and after about 60 seconds, you’re able to tune it out and then kind of get on with what you’re doing. And that is the secret. The secret to get on with what you’re doing and using music is to find the exact genre music that works for you, fine tune it. There’s three levels on the Focus@Will system, and then get on with your work.

Pete Wright:
What I like so far about it is that you don’t actually have to do much from a mastering perspective to the actual sound, to make it work. You find the style that works for you and just put it on and see what happens. But from what I’ve read, there are some controversial perspectives on does entrainment work? Can you tune your brain into a particular state? And most of your channels don’t boast any sort of entertainment at all. Some of them do.

Will Henshall:
We’ve spent plenty of time in the lab with this very question. And the short answer to your question is do binaural entrainments work? They do very well for some people, some of the time. That’s the bottom line. But weirdly you may find a drink that has binaural entrainment that works really well for you today, that same exact track will not work well with you tomorrow.

Pete Wright:
It’s really hard to come to conclusive answers on this research.

Will Henshall:
Well, the reason why is we have a channel called Water on the system, I’ll play a burst of it. Now you can hear it better, can’t you? Now if I play the Naturebeat, you can hear similar. What’s happening with binaural entrainment is there are pulses that are happening at a very specific speed and different speeds of that entrainment are known to help entrain your brain. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this as a kid. If someone sits on a piano and they put their foot on the sustain pedal, so all the dampers are off and if you sing a note in the piano, the piano will develop a sympathetic resonance. And the note you are singing, the piano will resonate at the same way. It’s a known thing and it’s a sympathetic resonance. And the brain does a very similar thing. If you play some music and then there is a pulse within the music or a sound, your brain is able to sort of line up with that.
And between eight and 14 Hertz, which is clicks per second, if you like, there is something called an alpha wave created for most of our brains. Now the human brain is this complicated thing, and there are millions of different frequencies all going on at the same time. But if you’re able to get most of your brain to trigger between eight and 14 times a second, you are able to get into a focused flow state. And so it’s possible to use entrainment to help you do that. But as I said earlier, it works for some of the people some of the time.

Pete Wright:
And this is what you spend your days trying to figure out. How do you make it work for more of the people more of the time?

Will Henshall:
Yeah, yeah. The bottom line is that entrainment doesn’t work reliably enough for enough people to make it the standard go to in the system. And we found that you can do a very similar thing musically. The channel Naturebeat that I played a little bit of before, there are three different speeds and there are musical pulses, as opposed binaural pulses that help trigger the same state. If I play, for instance, let me do this. And I’ll just go into the live system here and I will play this one. You can hear this little sequence going like this, ticky ticky ticky ticky ticky ticky ticky. The speed of this, ticky ticky ticky ticky ticky ticky ticky ticky ticky, that is actually creating an entrainment in your brain.

Pete Wright:
And you’re not doing that with any particular underlying wave. You’re just doing that with the music.

Will Henshall:
It’s to do with the shape of the sound and the speed, very, very specific and the frequency of the notes and then as the sequence of sound gets brighter, it’s coming up. Can hear it there. What’s happening is your non-conscious attention is paying very specific. It’s just getting a little brighter and it’s paying attention to it. Oh, it changed again. You hear that? When I created the Naturebeat channel, there was a lot of science involved. I was wanting to know, okay, well, how can I use music and production and composition tricks to be able to achieve the same end as binaural beats? The problem with binaural beats is they don’t sound very good.

Pete Wright:
They can be distracting. And I only bring that up because my experience on services that do use binaural beats on everything, is that there’s less sort of general utility because I find it pulls me out of the flow. It works exactly the opposite. It’s like drinking coffee and getting sleepy.

Will Henshall:
Yes. I have found that the more ADD, in other words, the more easily distracted you are, the less effective binaural beats are for you. If you think of the population, I’m holding up my hands to the camera here. Sort of on the left side, we’ve already established you’ve got a St. Bernard and on the right side you’ve got some chihuahuas. Most of the population is in the middle. Most of the population is not super ADD and is not super chill. Most of the so-called normal people are in the middle, in my opinion, the boring people. But anyway, the people are in the middle there. What we have found when we go into a company with the folks that we’ll service, typically about 20% of the employees in a company will find this incredibly useful. If we go into a 1,000 person company and we say, “Listen, everyone can have this.” We do it. We have an enterprise model where we just pay per employee per month and it’s part of the HR package.
We find about 20, it was about 200 people out of a 1,000 will use this all the time. We have found something really intriguing, who are those 200 people? And the answer is, this is the most talented, this is often the most highly paid. This is the most creative, most productive members of staff. And typically represent 80% of the payroll cost, the 80/20. And these are the folks that are the most easily distracted. These are the folks that are the designers, the developers, the C-suite people these are the folk that are the most valuable to the company on a financial level.

Pete Wright:
That’s interesting.

Will Henshall:
Here’s the really intriguing thing, out of those, so you could say that this works really well for about 20 to 25% of the population. Out of those, about half of them are ADD.

Pete Wright:
10% of the company is.

Nikki Kinzer:
That makes sense, statistically, that totally makes sense.

Will Henshall:
Ned Hallowell will tell me, 5% have significant attention deficit challenges in their life and another 5% a kind of.

Pete Wright:
It is just fascinating. And I want to make sure that people know there’s a trial. You can get the free trial, seven day trial if you sign up and check it out and just see, put on some headphones and see if you’re one of the 20%.

Will Henshall:
There are a couple of other channels on the system that are in the labs section. Did a project with the Google Glass team in Palo Alto a few years ago. And I met their main team. There was 19 of these genius level developers, hardware and software team. And it was a meeting of the odd fellows. They were the strangest social people. I felt immediately at home because I really understand folks who are differently abled in a lot of different ways. And someone there, two of them, these two Russian people, a man and a woman, they said to me, “The problem with music is that they find it confusing.”
And I sat with them and I said, “Why?” They said, “Well, we are Asperger’s.” And I was like, well, obviously, yeah. And they said, “We, as anybody is on the autistic spectrum, has difficulty understanding emotion and music has emotion in it. And so when we hear music, it’s confusing to us.” And I like, oh, a light went on. That’s why we like music. What about dah dah dah dah. Dah dah dah dah. De de de de de de, for Beethoven’s Fifth? It’s all about pomp and glory. But if you are on the spectrum, that is just kind of confusing to you. These two folk both said to me, “Could you do something that’s just got rhythm on it.”

Pete Wright:
Oh, these are your drum channels.

Will Henshall:
This is Drums and Hums. I’ll play you a burst of it. And they said.

Pete Wright:
Well, now there it is.

Will Henshall:
And they said, “Could you add entrainment?” I’m like, “Okay.”

Pete Wright:
It’s interesting. How at home entrainment sounds in a drum track.

Will Henshall:
Right. And part of the reason was that we were able to time the drum track to the speed of the entrainment. Diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly. This is called Drums and Hums. This is the medium version. I’ll play the fast version. Ready?

Pete Wright:
Nikki, that was again, the medium version. This is the one for you.

Nikki Kinzer:
This is the fast one?

Will Henshall:
It gets faster.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, you can hear it.

Will Henshall:
And we have a number of our users that only, only listen to that.

Pete Wright:
How was this created? Is this all algorithmically created music? Or you have session drummers to come in and just wail away for an hour?

Will Henshall:
We hired a well known session drummer to come and program all these drums for us. The Russian team at Google Glass said to me, they’re not the Russian team, but they just happened to be Russian. They said, “Could you make faster?” I’m like, “Okay. How about this?”

Pete Wright:
Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.

Will Henshall:
Oh very good. Yeah, this is, it’s like Animal from the Muppets.

Pete Wright:
Yes. That’s exactly what it is. I like focus.

Will Henshall:
Right. But it really taught me a lot about how autism is about being, there are many aspects of autism, but one of the best known is that people with autism can’t read social cues, they find emotion to be confusing. And so there’s an overlap between folk with ADD and people on the spectrum. Of course there are.

Pete Wright:
This is fantastic.

Will Henshall:
Yeah, if you are on the spectrum and you’re listening to this and you’re looking for music that isn’t music, but it’s still entrained and da da da, check out Drum and Hums channels.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Wright:
There’s a large variety of channels over there that that is absolutely worth checking out and really browsing. I was surprised in my shopping last night through the channels at how many I was able to just sort of let go. That totally surprised me. And I think that’s one of the things that is really important. That part of the reason it works is because it’s not something I listened to day to day. It is different than what I’m normally accustomed to.

Will Henshall:
You just put your finger on something, which is, this is not music for entertainment. No, no, no. This is music for working. This is your go to while you’re working. There’s a timer on the system that we recommend a 25 minute session works well. And so that if you were to hit the timer, you will always hear this sound. There it is.

Pete Wright:
Very pleasant.

Will Henshall:
We’re still set to this which is the Muppet drums channel.

Pete Wright:
Love it. Love it. Will Henshall, this is fantastic. People just go to Focus@Will. Any specific guidance or instructions for newbies?

Will Henshall:
Have a look at the quiz.

Pete Wright:
Yep, start the quiz.

Will Henshall:
It’s based on hard science. It’s related to the, you probably heard of the OCEAN score, which is a standard psychology test. And we have amended and appended to the standard OCEAN score questions. And there are a number of other questions. And it, as I said, it has a high accuracy at determining what will work. And by the way, it’s not often the music that you like.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s what I was saying. There’s a lot of stuff in there that I don’t like, but also does let me get to work.

Nikki Kinzer:
But I like what you were saying too, that there’s the intention that it’s for work. It’s not for entertainment. It’s not for pleasure. It’s just it’s for work. And that intention, that’s huge. Right there that’s going to help.

Will Henshall:
Someone said to me, “What’s your sort of goal in life these days?” I said, “Well, it’s to get in, get work done and then get out.” I want to be productive, deliver it and then go hang out, see my family. Time is the only thing that we never get back here. It’s so easy when you’re ADD to sit and just beat, well, it depends what kind of ADD you got. But if you have impulse control challenges, you are going to be tidying the pencils on your desk as opposed to actually you’d be very productive doing the wrong thing.

Pete Wright:
I don’t know anything about that. Shush. This has been fantastic. Will, where do you want people to go find you? Obviously Focus@Will’s going to be in the show notes.

Will Henshall:
Will@focusatwill. Focus A-T Will.

Pete Wright:
All right. Will@focusatwill.

Nikki Kinzer:
Like it.

Pete Wright:
Love it. Thank you so much, Will.

Will Henshall:
It’s a pleasure.

Pete Wright:
It’s been a real treat, real treat and shout out to Londonbeat. We appreciate you all for downloading and listening to this show. We absolutely appreciate your time and your attention. Don’t forget if you have something to contribute about this conversation, head over to the Show Talk channel and the Discord server, and you can join us right there by becoming a supporting member at the deluxe level. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer and Will Henshall, I’m Pete Wright and we’ll see you right back here next week on Taking Control: The ADHD podcast.

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.