Friday, December 29, 2006


Playing with Glasses

No, not playing with glasses, but playing music while wearing eyeglasses. My once-perfect eyes began to fail when I turned 40 - almost to the day. I had to start using reading glasses - at first to read those paperbacks with the miniscule fonts. Over time I found I started needing reading glasses to read the newspapers, and memos at work, and so on. For many years I carried reading glasses - simple magnifiers - in my shirt pocket and slipped them on only when needed. But when it got to where I could no longer see the numbers on my speedometer, I started wearing bifocals full-time. My distance vision has remained acute - it is only just recently that I've had to add a minor correction to the main part of the glasses. I still use my reader glasses for general reading and computer work.

Now the problem. No matter how close or far away I put the music stand, I can't see the notes without glasses. If I wear the bifocals, I have to tilt my head back in order to use the magnifiers, causing a crick in my neck. I tried lowering the music stand so I wouldn't have to peer through those small little bifocal windows, but it didn't help much, I still can't scan the whole page, or read ahead. So I have to wear my readers when I play my cello. Even though reading glasses aren't really intended for use at that distance (about 2-1/2 to 3 feet), they have worked out OK, which pretty much takes care of the issues about reading the music at home.

But now, when I go to orchestra, I can only see my music. The conductor, her baton, and anything else going on in the room are pretty much blurred out by my reader glasses. I end up having to wear them lower on my nose and peer over the top of them to see what else is going on. So, I once again find myself tilting my head back to see the score, I may as well just use the bifocals...

I think what I really need is a reverse bifocal, with the bottom part taking up 2/3 to 3/4 of the lens and leaving the top portion for distance vision. My optomotrist said he'd never seen this type of setup (after a quick glance at me to see if I was kidding him or maybe to see if I was crazy...)

I'm guessing most other musicians who wear glasses have a similar problem. But how do people deal with it?

I don't know if it's a coincidence, but after I read this entry, I read this blog which dealt with the same subject and which referred to this article. I hope you find your answers here.
As for myself, I don't need reading glasses yet, but I have 'normal' glasses to see things at a distance (TV, the conductor). A few years ago when those really small frames were trendy I had a hard time finding a fashionable frame with which I could read music and see the conductor without having to lift my had a whole lot.
And 'this article' is this one
As per my eye doctor's suggestion I brought some sheet music along with the measurement distance to the music stand when I went to get my eyes checked. Then I had a pair of single-vision special glasses made up just for reading music. This has been working well for me for the past 5 years. I have a stronger distance perscription for driving, but sometimes I use those "music glasses" for watching TV.
After a couple of years of trial and error, I also ended up wih a pair of intermediate distance glasses (similar to computer glasses) with a small bifocal lense at the bottom. I tried without the bifocal at first, but found I really needed it when I was marking my part. The main lense is great for reading the music and adequate to see the conductor.
I wonder if a big "magnifying screen" would help...
Thanks for all the feedback. Somewhere I recently saw a computer-screen/music stand (for more than $1000)- which hopefully would allow for larger fonts...

Another vision-challenged player in my orchestra group painstakingly rewrites his music with bigger notes and wider/darker staff lines, using oversized sheets cut down from poster paper.

I think I'll bring some music to my optomotrist and ask if there is a middle distance prescription that might work for me...
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