I put this under technique and practicing because I wasn't sure where else to put it. I wear progressive lenses normally. When I returned to the violin after a 38 year absence (I did not wear glasses back in high school) I quickly found that progressives don't work for reading music. The "reading" portion is too small so everything outside that tiny area is blurry.
So I play in readers. But they are only good at about 18-24". When I bend down to write notes it blurs out. I tried readers with more magnification than I'm used to, and that's worse.
What do most people who wear progressive lenses do? Do I just need to suck it up?
I agree with you that regular progressives are pretty impossible for reading unfamiliar music - especially the way we string players move our heads around.
I am an ophthalmologist (when I am not playing the violin). I have the same issue - I also learned that progressives are a bust for reading violin music. A “B” can even look like a “G”, and it’s really disturbing.
Progressive are pretty marginal for reading music. I tried to solve the problem by having single-vision glasses made by an optometrist. I brought in a music stand and he measured the distance.
What Scott said. Take your instrument and music stand to the optometrist (or ophthalmologist) and set it up so they can measure exactly the distance you are focusing at. It is true that looking up, you won't see as clearly as you might be used to. Personally I think a blurry conductor could be a feature, not a bug....
My prescription is on my work computer and I won't be back there until Mon, but when I am, I will post it. I do get my glasses at Zenni (love the low prices) and it makes sense to get a pair specifically for music. So I will make plans to go into an optometrist with that in mind. This is really helpful. I do feel that sometimes I don't see what the note is in time--it takes too long to sort it out and it's clearly a vision issue.
I don't think the prescription you have for your progressives is going to be all that informative for a pair of single-vision glasses.
I find if I number more fingerings it helps a lot. I also reprint stuff a little larger. I often wonder what would happen if you had one lense for reading and another for distance like some contact lenses? Probably take awhile to get used to.
I’ll look forward to seeing your prescription.
I paid a small fortune for my progressives...maybe that's why they work.
When sharing a stand in the orchestra the notes can easily be 3 feet away. Progressives don't work for me because my head is at one single angle on the chin rest. Bifocals can add or subtract a ledger line. I have several different reading glasses at different strengths from the dollar store ($1 each!). Be very aware of which eye is dominant.
I have a pair of single-focal glasses for the music stand. Bi-focal glasses, progressive or otherwise, do not work for me when i need to read music.
You mentioned low cost glasses, and I agree with Mary Ellen, you get what you pay for. I have a strong and complex prescription (+5 dioptre with prism correction) with high-refraction index progressive bifocals, which are digitally formulated, and they are just great. Inexpensive glasses give me a pea-size focus zone, which make me dizzy, whereas these offer a much larger in-focus area and smoother transition, but as Mary Ellen said, they don’t come cheap at around $1000. Single focal lenses don’t work for me as I can’t see the conductor without far sight correction.
Much of this will be dependent on each individual's prescription, as well as their particular playing situation, and what they are accustomed to; and yes, good progressives can really cost a lot.
It isn't only string players who have the issue with progressives. I have had several pairs of progressives and they seemed to work ok for everything except music. In playing the piano you can imagine looking at the music through the top of your progressives. I was tilting my head back to see through them.
I do not have the funds for expensive glasses, so the solution needs to be reasonably priced. I can muddle through, but it would be great if there were a solution that would be possible for me financially. I have never had any problem with the cheap glasses--they work great for normal life and reading. It is my understanding that the glasses stores send out to the same places the online stores do--the brick and mortar stores just have more overhead so they change more for the same thing.
I used bifocals many years ago but, as Joel noted, kept seeing intriguing 6-line staves - or even the interesting 4-liner, so I had a single focus prescription specifically for playing the cello, and it worked. I could still see the blur waving its arms in the distance, and seeing bowing by the section leader was no problem.
I actually don't know what "progressives" are! For normal functioning I don't need glasses and my distance and night vision are very good - hence also, my driving vision. But I use drugstore readers of 1.50 for reading a book and 1.25 for music on the stand. If I know the music real well and half have it memorized, I don't always need any glasses. Also, it depends on the size of the music print and the light and how tired I am or am not.
Progressives are like bifocals, sort of, but they blend the two prescriptions so there is not a dramatic change between the two. I need glasses to read, but I also now need them for distance as well. Getting older does suck.
In the UK "progessives" are called "varifocals". For example, the upper part of a varifocal lens may be for distance viewing, and the lower for reading or close work. One will smoothly merge into the other, so you shouldn't be seeing 6- or 4-line staves that can bedevil bifocals for a musician.
I have progressives plus fixed-focus ones for reading at a little more than arm's length. I keep a drugstore pair (+1.00) which I perch in front of the others for fingerings, string-changing etc.
@ Charles - About a year ago, at dinner with friends, one of my friends saw me reading the menu with OTC readers and said that his doctor told him that those would eventually ruin one's eyes. I never heard that before or since. I think in your first post you mentioned that you, yourself used OTC readers. Should I be worried?
I have been advised to avoid OTC readers. I had strabismus surgery in late 2016 and was told that since my eyes are slightly closer together than average, they wouldn't match the focal centers (not sure this is the correct phrase) in OTC lenses, which could put my surgically achieved alignment at risk.
I have the exact same problem I wear progressives and they don't do well reading music. So, my solution was this, when I went for my eyes testing I took my music stand, a piece of music and set it up in the exam room, I asked my optometrist to give me good readers for the distance that my music was away from my eyes, in my case it was 36 inches, This worked well and now each time I have my eyes tested I do the same thing.
To Michael - When you have cataract surgery, the intraocular lenses (IOLs) can be selected to achieve whatever refractive result you want, usually with great accuracy. Most people elect to set both eyes for distance as you suggested, and then use reading correction for near. It is also possible to do "monovision", with one distance and one near focal point, usually the the dominant eye for distance (R in most R handed people). Given all the comments above, I would not highly recommend that for musicians - one eye will be out of focus for everything you are trying to do. It's better for those who are willing to make that optical concession to avoid wearing glasses.
Thank you Charles.... ! very good info.
Thank you, Charles! Fortunately I have very good (and very expensive) progressive lenses that work quite well for everything from close reading to driving, including reading music. Before my surgery, I had increasingly strong pairs of prism glasses to use over my monovision contacts. The monovision contacts were prescribed before my strabismus became so apparent or bothersome, and probably exacerbated existing tendencies in that direction. I will never use monovision again and have given up on contacts.
That’s really interesting re the monovision, and makes perfect sense with your strabismus history. Fusion (the ability to see one image cooperatively with two eyes) can be deficient with a strabismus history, even after muscle surgery, and monovision only further disrupts the fusion stimulus by making one image blurry.
Bifocals (and progressives) are usually problematic for music reading because the standard calibration for reading is 12-15 inches.
"Don't be scared away from cheap glasses -- they're fine if you don't need high-end features."
If your frames aren't 1980 big...or if your prescription is within normal human variance. Glass lenses in my prescription are the proverbial Coke bottle bottoms.
I am very nearsighted with astigmatism and progressive lenses. I started having trouble reading orchestra music in concerts a few years ago. It seems that my prescription was good for 10" and 100' away, but made for a difficult transition between the two distances.
And to Raphael, Charles? ;-)
Sorry for the omission, Raphael, but it overlapped with Ellen’s question. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with OTC readers if they are optically appropriate for you. Even if they aren’t, it is just not possible to “ruin one’s eyes” with them - it can’t happen. Now that’s not to say that things may be uncomfortable if they are not appropriate for you, with blur or visual discomfort (asthenopia), but emphatically there’s no risk of physical damage.
As someone that requires a correction of over -7.00, I am very envious of you all.
Thanks very much, Charles!
OK--Charles, here is my script.
Having said the above, maybe the answer IS 2.00 readers? The 2.75s, which work for reading books, might not work for music b/c the music is farther away than the book??
The way to buy OTC readers is trial and error. Bring music with you to the store, hold it at the same distance you would normally be from the music stand, and pick the magnification that makes you comfortable.
Thanks for setting up the new server!
Thanks, Charles! :-) I am 55. I have been using 2.75 readers, and I guess they work OK, but not great. I will try some 3.0s and up in the store. And I guess I will go to an ophthalmologist to see if they can do any better. I appreciate your help! :-)
Wanted to add, since you mentioned contacts, that I have been really resistant to the idea of contacts, largely b/c for about 5 years, before my distance vision started to go, I used readers and OMG I hated having them around my neck (like a granny) or in my purse and having to pull them out all the time to read a label in a store. Losing the distance vision was actually good in a way, b/c I got progressives and just left the darn things on all the time! Contacts would put me right back where I was before.
It may be that the asymmetry between the two eyes is symptomatic. OTC readers can’t compensate for this but Rx eyewear can. In any case no harm can come from any use of any glasses, apart from blur and/or temporary eye strain.
LOL--I did mention my age in an earlier post, above, so. . . No prizes LOL. I usually just go to mall eyewear stores for eye exams (usually timing them so I do it when they offer free exams once a year--thrift R us ;-)). Is Vandy going to be markedly better? I guess you'll say yes LOL. I will find out what it costs. Insurance does not cover it.
Not necessarily - Where to go, and what you get for what you pay for are perfectly reasonable questions, but not with simple answers. If you’d like to discuss, I’d be happy to, but we should probably spare the other violinists - but please feel very free to email me direct via the email address in my profile.
I slept on this discussion because I didn't have anything to add. But I loved reading it. I used progressives for years and had no trouble reading music with them. I switched to multiple single prescriptions because the upper part of my progressive lenses were getting scratched and making them almost useless for distance. My midrange prescription is for the computer but they work fine for music and even driving. (But I have a distance pair for driving legally, which is important at night.) I didn't know that cataract lenses were also prescription--I know I'll have to deal with that eventually. I also do quilting and beading. Sometimes I use readers for that, sometimes I use a magnifying visor, and sometimes I don't use glasses at all. It depends. Having very good light is helpful. I was also happy to hear that I'm not the only person who feels they are paying a lot for their glasses. I don't spend a lot on frames but even the lenses are shockingly expensive. I need high density non-glass because my prescription is so strong.
I thought I would update this. My first orchestra rehearsal (in 38 years!!) was Monday night, and it was rough. I knew it would be--knew I couldn't play the fast bits up to speed--but I could feel myself staring desperately at the music and not being quick enough. Some of this may be just my brain LOL, but I think at least some of it is eyesight. It's not blurry per se, but it all just seemed to run together. I was desperately focusing on a tiny bit at a time, and missing what was coming up. I think that is because I am trying too hard to see.