Topic: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

Does anyone have any experiences where they've had a vision problem (need glasses, contacts, etc) and finally found a solution to being able to read the music clearly yet see the conductor or other members of the ensemble clearly?

For a long time I wore contacts and everything was fine but the old eyes changed.  I tried bifocals (progressive lenses) but found the music was too blurry.  I chose seeing the music clearly over the conductor which I'm sure there's a lot of us out there doing that.

After talking with a friend who makes glasses, I've come to realize that the progressive lenses are not very helpful for musicians reading music.  There's such a narrow "sweet spot" where one can read the music clearly.  Everything surrounding that  sweet spot is progressively unfocused.  My friend who makes glasses is making a pair of bifocals for me (not progressive lenses) that will have a prescription in a very small upper quarter of the lenses and the rest of the glasses will be no prescription at all.  By not using the progressive lenses, I hope that I'll have wider visual clarity of the music yet still be able to see the conductor.

Has anyone else had a similar experience with the progressive lenses?  I know everyone is going to have a different vision situation but I'd like to hear of any solutions dealing with seeing near and far in the orchestra.

Thanks for any ideas.

Oboe, English horn:  Amarillo Symphony, Chamber Music Amarillo, Amarillo Opera, Shepherd's Trio
Blog:  http://janet.thelaniers.net/
Composition & Arranging Website:  http://janetlanier.com
"Ever notice how orchestra pits shrink through the run of a show?"

Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

Janet,

I can say a big "Amen!" to the unsuitability of progressive lenses for music -- or anything that requires you to be able to look from side-to-side; for example, reading almost anything but 2"-wide newspaper columns.  The in-focus segment at the center of the glasses is literally about 1.5" wide at reading distance.

My last pair of bifocals started out being progressive (what do they call them? Varilux?), but they just did not work for me.  At my work, I do a lot of looking back and forth at large data models (diagrams), and I have an extra large monitor to accommodate that need.  Well, with the Varilux glasses I was literally turning my head/neck (instead of just moving my eyes) all day long!  I gave it a good try (about 4 weeks, actually), and then went back to ask for a replacement pair of regular old lined bifocals. 

I got a pair of bifocals ground with an "extra-large" bottom section to help me when playing, but the optometrist's idea of extra-large and mine are pretty different wink.  It's only about 2.5mm bigger than a regular pair of bifocals, so that doesn't help that much.

I'm considering having a single-vision pair made for that distance (about 30"), and just live with a nodding acquaintance with the conductor.  My distance vision is actually good enough to see whether he's waving his arms or throwing something at me !!

Susan Richter :: Austin, TX :: bassoon, dulcian

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

A trumpeter friend of mine was struggling with the same issue.  His optometrist made a pair of bifocals for him that are 2/3 music reading Rx on the bottom, and 1/3 distance Rx on the top.  Problem solved.

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

My personal odyssey with aging eyes:

I needed bifocals for near vision from age 42 on, but could still see the music stand clearly for another decade. When this became a problem, I knew that trifocals or equivalent were in my future. After some experimentation, my optician and I solved it in this manner (warning: not necessarily suitable for everyone): He took the largest "executive" bifocal glass blank (with a full-width divider between top and bottom) and ground off only the top segment till the lens was suitable for my spectacles. The top 30% corrected the distance vision problem, enabling me to see the conductor (no editorialization here!). The large lower 70% corrected the mid-range vision, allowing me to see the music stand and large symphonic music without having to move my head around (not easy with a bassoon and seat strap).

My "regular" glasses are also of the executive variety, with the lower segment correcting near vision and allowing me to work on reeds -- the mid-range doesn't do this -- and the upper segment correcting my distance vision.

When seeing your eye professional and the optician, take a folding music stand and some typical music with you so they can understand exactily what you have to see, and at what distance. This will help them arrange for the correct combination of lenses and spectacles.

The effort has been worth it for me over the past 15 years. Hope you can have a similar experience.

Bill

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

I had the same problem with progressives; you just cannot turn your head/bocal/body enough to keep the sweet spot on the couple of measures that it encompasses. I tried having a single correction lens made just for music, even taking my bassoon and music stand to the opthalmologist's office, but they were not effective either; I still had the problem of blurring at the edges of the lenses. I had computer monitor glasses made for work that work very well, however, so I don't understand why the music glasses didn't work. Maybe I should just try again. Right now I wear the first pair of glasses I ever had made, which have a slight distance correction, but they don't quite magnify enough, so I will soon have to deal with this again. As far as seeing a conductor, too much detail is often a bad thing anyway!

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

I have SO many glasses. For my normal life and work (woodwind repair) I use trifocals. For reading music or for the computer I have mid-distance single-vision lenses. (For a while I had executive bifocals with distance on the top to see the conductor and mid-vision on the rest for the music  -- I can see my reed without my glasses -- but I decided I really didn't need to see the conductor that well.) I also have distance single-vision glasses  -- for watching stage performances from the balcony or for watching TV in a recliner -- and near-vision glasses for reading. With one pair of glasses or another I can see anything. No one pair will work for everything. Isn't old age fun?

Sydney

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

I am quite near-sighted bassooninst and had difficulty seeing the music and the conductor when I went to progressive lenses.  I agree that there was a limited area in my lens that could see the music well; otherwise I had to move my head around and tended to end up with a headache.

What works pretty well for me now is to use  glasses with the lenses made for a more limited range, set to an ideal distance to my music stand (I'm actually using a pair of "computer glasses"). Although I can't see the conductor perfectly, the correction allows me to see him/her well enough.  My biggest problem now is, depending on the venue, having enough light.

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

Knock-on- wood, but I don't seem to have a terrible problem with my progressive lenses and reading music. I do find that it helps for my glasses to be a bit lower on my nose, and most importantly, I need _good_ lighting, which is usually ok on an orchestra stage, etc. The only problem that I constantly have, is that I can still see the conductor! Peace, Jim

James Jeter, D.M.A., NYC Bassoonist
"To love human beings is still the only thing worth living for; without that love, you really do not live." Soren Kierkegaard
"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Mahatma Gandhi  "Mach' es kurz! Am Juengsten Tag ist's nur ein Furz!" Goethe

Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

I've had severe nearsightedness plus astigmatism all my life and found trifocals better than progressives for music activities.  This year I had cataract surgery  on both eyes and now need a much less strong prescription,  and easier to grind.  Find an optometrist who will patiently work with you,  showing him what you have to read at what distance.  It is very important that the lines in the trifocal be at the right heights.  I used to have the wide "executive" type but find now that an ordinary trifocal that is painstakingly fitted for getting the lines correct height is better than any I've ever used.  I may get a pair made for the intermediate distance  (for computers and music rack only) but can manage quite well even in orchestra with the present trifocal.  For piano playing a wider intermediate distance would be nice since the piano rack is higher and the angle not adjustable.  Good lighting is also very important and investing in  very good stand and piano lights help.    Lois Barton

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

I am now wearing my new glasses which are very similar to what have been described above... a wide executive type lense ground in such a way that the top 25% is for distance correction and the rest is noncorrection.  You can see the line of division but I can now see a full 2 pages of large size music and it seems I will be able to see the conductor and concertmaster too .... all of this just by moving my eyes and not turning my head.  I also chose NOT to get the non-glare.  You would think non-glare would be helpful but I found that it made the staff lines slightly blurred for me.

The suggestions about working with your optometrist and really being specific on what you need is wise advice.  I was very fortunate to have an optometrist friend from my church (who is also a musician) put extra time in on my specific need.  I think some optometrists or the people who adjust the glasses may not always understand how important it is to see the music crystal clear, especially those staff lines without having to move your head. 

As far as the pros and cons of seeing the conductor, I suppose it depends on the conductor. wink  I do know that some conductors will make the tiniest movement of the baton and they assume you can see it (if only they knew!).  Also, some conductors have a lot of expression in their eyes which relays a lot of information so I think it will be a "pro" to be able to see them.

Thanks everyone for all the feedback... cool I hope others will continue contributing to this thread.

Oboe, English horn:  Amarillo Symphony, Chamber Music Amarillo, Amarillo Opera, Shepherd's Trio
Blog:  http://janet.thelaniers.net/
Composition & Arranging Website:  http://janetlanier.com
"Ever notice how orchestra pits shrink through the run of a show?"

Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

WOW!  What a great thread!  I'm going to re-read every word to see if I can get some help with my problematic vision, too.   Seems this is a common problem and I know it's been discussed in the past through IDRS emails.

At the ripe old age of 50, my eyes have changed.  Trying different lenses & glasses - How *FRUSTRATING* this is - and still not finding something perfectly comfortable for both near and far. 

About 2 years ago, I started putting my glasses on top of my head for rehearsals and concerts.  I can see the music on the page better than before, (HUH?!) but it's the conductor who is a little blurry.  Sadly, this causes me to look less at the conductor because of the refocusing issue - but I'm doing the best I can and maybe this is the best that my eyes CAN do. ?

There IS such a thing as vision training - maybe that would be helpful.  Taking my music and stand to my next eye exam is a good idea - thank you Dr. Dawson.  :-)

PS - I do have the inexpensive drug store eye glasses for reed work, of course!!!  They help, but I still haven't been able to make that perfect reed!  ;-)

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

Marsha,

What is the vision training?  Is that when you wear one contact and train yourself to focus with one of your eyes depending on near or far?  I've heard of people doing that but I could never get the hang of it.

Your vision needs seem so similar to mine.  I can see the music, the conductor is blurry, and the reeds are looking  fuzzier the closer I bring them to my eyes.  The glasses I mentioned above fixed the "blurry conductor"...  (sounds like a children's story title - ha!)  The drug store eye glasses helped me a lot too with the reed making (seeing them better that is).  I used to have a lamp/magnifier combination that clamped to my reed table that eventualy wore out.  There are some small portable ones (battery operated) that you can find in hobby shops in the sewing/embroidery sections but lately the reading or should I say "REEDing" glasses seem to work better especially when tying a reed.

Good luck on your next eye exam.

Oboe, English horn:  Amarillo Symphony, Chamber Music Amarillo, Amarillo Opera, Shepherd's Trio
Blog:  http://janet.thelaniers.net/
Composition & Arranging Website:  http://janetlanier.com
"Ever notice how orchestra pits shrink through the run of a show?"

Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

I agree with Bill said!  In fact after talking with Bill at the Contra fest in Las Vegas I had a pair of executive lined bifocals made with the bifocal moved WAY up.  I did take my bassoon, stand and even my black folder with me for the fitting.  The bottom section is set at a 30" distance and the upper portion (from folder up) for far distance (conductor).  It has worked FANTASTIC for me.

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

I have a set with lower 2/3 for close & upper 1/3 for distance which work well for me in most situations.

I did try varifocals but they didn't work for me using floor spike for bassoon as well as contra. My wife however gets on well with them playing the cello & double bass.

Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

Great thread!  I just began wearing bifocals in November of last year, and have had a terrible time using them to read music...the suggestions above are great--I didn't even know that there were different sizes/ratios between the upper and lower lenses that could be used.  My glasses were adjusted to make reading a computer screen (which I do 8+ hours/day) easier, and it never occurred to me to check whether or not my new glasses would work for music reading.  Luckily, I need very little correction (my glasses are mainly to correct a muscle imbalance--like lazy eye--so they use prisms), so often I simply do not use my glasses when reading music (though, I always have them with me just in case I need them).

Candi Morris
Oboe/EH/Oboe d'amore
Dayton, OH

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

what a great topic.  I have a focusing problem, which is corrected nicely by bifocals, but I hate my glasses and have had them for almost 10 years  and never wear them.  Now my eyes are getting worse and worse, with mid-distance getting dragged into the mix as well.  I had no idea how many people have issues with their glasses, have multiple pairs, etc--- maybe that is the way to go.  I hope more people post here with their experiences and what works for them-- I am long overdue for an eye exam and would like to get some pointers on what to ask for.

I have tried progressive lenses too, and they were horrible.  You get a spot about 3mm wide where you can see clearly; anything out of that range is blurry and you have to actually move your entire head to see stuff.  Very unnatural and headache-inducing.

Darlene

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

After cataract surgury a few years ago, I am left with only some rather severe astigmatism to correct.  I have gone the route of a single prescription set at "music reading" distance, which is between reading and no near field correction.  I do not think that you have to see the conductor "clearly".  It's not reading, only some guy flailing around up there, so being a bit blurry in not an issue, I think.  The full lens prescription gives me the maximum range where I really need it - at the music.

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

It's been interesting to hear of so many vision challenges.  I appreciate the great feedback on this.

About 95% of the time I think seeing a slightly blurred conductor would be OK especially if they tend to make rather large movements but once in a while you'll get a conductor with a little more "sophistication" and will conduct a pp section with very tiny baton movements.  I can tell you from my past experiences, those were the times I wanted to have clearer distance vision. 

I also felt as though I needed the distance correction when I played in a chamber orchestra with no conductor.   A concertmaster can make gestures only so big for these "puny" eyes.  Also, I don't know if your concertmaster does this in your orchestra, but in ours, the concertmaster holds up the number of fingers indicating the number of "A's" for the principal oboist to play for tuning.  I'm afraid in the past, I was hoping I was guessing correctly with the number of fingers she was holding up.  Oh well, I guess just stop giving "A's" when the strings start tuning... right? roll

Oboe, English horn:  Amarillo Symphony, Chamber Music Amarillo, Amarillo Opera, Shepherd's Trio
Blog:  http://janet.thelaniers.net/
Composition & Arranging Website:  http://janetlanier.com
"Ever notice how orchestra pits shrink through the run of a show?"

Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

Ah, yes, I too can be counted among the vision-challenged -- I've had to wear glasses to correct severe nearsightedness since age 7............

My setup is a bit different:  contact lenses to correct the distance vision, then several pairs of Wally World glasses to deal with music reading, reedmaking, computer work, or whatever I happen to be doing.  I also have a pair of already described lined bifocal intermediate/distance vision glasses if I need to perform without wearing the contacts.

Barb Levy
barb073@msn.com

Principal oboe, Space Coast Pops Orchestra

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

Ah! How wonderful to find I am not alone. My husband and I are both musicians, but I also teach in my day job middle/high school English!  Our doctor told us outright that progressive are great for those who do "other jobs" but not us. For my husband, who conducts as well, they made the bifocal larger so that when he looks down to the podium, it is clearer while at the same time he can see the kiddies (5-12grade). I went with tri-focal but had the middle (the tri?) larger for the music stand and podium work. I also made sure I didn't get those trendy cute glasses that are only about an inch high. I find I use the tri lense far more than the actual bifocal part! With a slight adjustment of the music stand, I see both the notes and the conductor and can actually move with the music if I so feel the need! Instead of feeling older, I feel like I am re-discovering my music again.  Just a note: I do from time to time, run my parts through the copier and enlarge it. The players sitting around me think it is funny, but I don't miss the "little things" either!

Lori

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

How on earth did it take me so long to find this thread?  Great information, and I've GOT to get new glasses, since last week I misread a low E and played a low F instead - and didn't that sound great!  Especially since the bassoon is so nice and resounding on those low notes!

I've been using progressives for the last 30 years but now understand that they're not the best for music, so I'll go the 2/3 - 1/3 route, I think, and see how that works out.  I'll also take my bassoon, stand, and music with me to the optometrist - all wonderful suggestions and things I wouldn't have thought of.

Thanks to all.

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

Indispensable for reed work is the headband containing a double magnifying lens. There are several on the market. I use the Optivisor manufactured by Donegan Optical in Lenexa, Kansas at #7 strength (six to eight inches from my  face  to  reed  surface). Anytime I  know I might have to  work on reeds, I carry it with me.
If you call the company, they will tell you where your nearest outlet is if you  give them your zip code. Or, of course, you can order it online. Google Optivisor. The Optivisor phone number is: 1-913-492-2500. I paid $35 for mine a number of years ago. The price may have gone up by now.

Best,

john

Best,

john

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

I used to use a large clamp-on magnifying lamp a few years ago until it wore out.  When I looked around for another one, I found some other options.  Sometimes sewing or hobby stores and office supply stores have magnifying lamps (cheap too).  I found one at a hobby store that is the same size as one of those book lights.  It had two interchangeable parts so you attach a book light part or a small magnifying glass with a small light bulb that illuminates the reed.  That was very handy for travel because it was small enough to put in my instrument bag.  Currently, I am using the simple reading glasses.  That seems to work best for me because I don't have to position the reed under the magnifying glass and my back doesn't get so tired leaning forward... getting old is soooo much fun!

Also, I wanted to mention that even after trying different bifocal settings, I still have not found a pair of glasses I can deal with in music performing.  So I'm still seeing the music fine and the conductor a little fuzzy.  Hmmm... sounds like a country western lyric.

Oboe, English horn:  Amarillo Symphony, Chamber Music Amarillo, Amarillo Opera, Shepherd's Trio
Blog:  http://janet.thelaniers.net/
Composition & Arranging Website:  http://janetlanier.com
"Ever notice how orchestra pits shrink through the run of a show?"

Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

I found a glasses solution after many trials and errors. They are the Zeiss RD ("Room Distance") lenses which are a progressive, but with a wide area just right for music reading, or computer use. Here's a little description from an eyewear website:

"If you are presbyopic there are lenses designed to bring your screen into focus while still allowing you to see near and far. One such lens is the Zeiss RD, or "room distance" lens. These versatile lenses provide a large area of magnification for viewing your computer screen, stronger magnification for up close, and a small area of distance power for looking across the room. These lenses are great for musicians and artists too. Since these lenses were created especially for mid-range use, they should not be worn while driving."

They aren't cheap, but are well worth it to me!

Jane Harrison, Cambridge, MA

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Re: Playing and wearing corrective lenses-glasses

I have progressives for everyday use and glasses specifically made for reading music. The conductor will be fuzzy, but since I only look at conductors at the beginning of a piece it doesn't matter. LOL

www.kirkerbassoonrepair.com