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Eyeglass prescription

Eyeglass prescription (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No, not glasses with pictures of pianos on them…
Also applies to cello glasses, trumpet glasses…

Does your vision correction allow you to see what you need to when you practice and perform? If you are over 40, perhaps not.

When bifocals become part of your correction, some things may be harder to see clearly.

Do we have to compromise?

Short answer:  no! Instead, we need to find an ophthamologist who understands the potential problems and can handle our request.

What do we need?

What each musician needs to see will vary depending his or her on instrument, whether s/he needs to see other players or a conductor, and other factors that only each person can know. I’m sure you have your own list.

Speaking for myself, I need to see all of the following clearly:

  • printed music on an upright piano’s music rack
  • the same on a grand piano’s music rack (different height and distance)
  • the same on an organ’s music rack
  • my collaborators, regardless of whether they are near the piano or across the room
  • clarity, not blurriness, when moving my eyes quickly from the music to the keyboard and back

How can we find what we need?

When you go for an eye exam, discuss what you need with your doctor. If you get an evasive attitude, find another doctor.

During one eye appointment, I was ushered into the office of my opthamologist’s husband, who was an optician. (My doctor was out on an emergency call.)  When I told him my concerns, he excused himself to see another patient for 5 minutes. Upon his return, he said, “The prescription for what you need doesn’t exist.” Hmmm… so what does that mean, I have to stop playing?

After that, he strongly recommended trifocals. That won’t work for me because the center prescription area (middle distance) is so small.

There is an organist I’ve seen play in a local church who must be wearing bifocals. She is short in stature, making the music rack too high for her. (Music racks on organs are typically not adjustable.) Her solution: to tip her head back so she can see the music with the reading prescription at the bottom of her bifocals. And that’s fine if it works for her, but I don’t want to look like my neck is out of whack.

After my “it doesn’t exist” and trifocal experience, I quickly changed doctors.

At my first appointment with my new (and, happily, present) opthamologist, I explained what I needed. The doctor listened, then turned to his desk, took out a sheet of violin music, and rigged it up in front of the machine with the reading prescription he had in mind. “How’s that?”

I couldn’t believe it. He plays violin in his spare time! So he had heard everything I’d said before.

A cellist friend, on the other hand, explained what she needed to a different doctor. The doctor indicated that he understood and gave her a prescription. She picked up her new glasses a few days later, then went home to try them out during a practice session. The prescription was inadequate.

So she packed up her cello, music, stool, and stand, drove to the doctor’s office, walked in, set up, and showed him. Problem solved.

My solution for as long as possible

For the past few years, I have been wearing graduated bifocals. The reading prescription goes to the middle of the lens, higher than usual. I’ve been told that musicians often request this.

My opthamologist has suggested a separate pair of glasses with the reading prescription only to use for practicing and performing. When I need to go there, I will.

What is your solution? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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