Navigating the Score and Strings: A Discussion for tonebuddies with Bifocals and Progressive Lenses 🎸👓🎼

Hey tonebuddies,

We hope you're all hitting the right notes! Recently, an intriguing topic surfaced in our discussions. We found ourselves delving into the often overlooked challenge of reading sheet music and seeing guitar strings clearly while wearing bifocals or progressive lenses.

Here are some of the points that came up:

  • 🎼 The struggle with traditional advice on music stand placement: It seems it doesn't quite work for everyone, especially those wearing bifocals.

  • 👓 The dilemma between seeing the strings or the music: We discovered that sometimes it's tough to have both in clear sight.

  • 🎸 The potential of progressive lenses: These were suggested as an alternative. Has anyone tried them?

  • 📖 The close relationship with sheet music: One of our Tonebuddies shared that they need to have the music so close, it's practically touching their nose!

  • 🖥 The success of "computer" glasses: Progressive lenses covering near and medium distance have been helpful for some.

  • 👁 Varifocal contact lenses to the rescue: One Tonebuddy found success with this solution recommended by their optician.

  • 🎵 Accepting a bit of blur: Another member has come to terms with the fact that the strings might be a bit blurred when focusing on the sheet music.

We thought this topic deserved a bigger platform, and that's why we're here. We'd love to hear about your experiences with this issue. Have you found an ingenious solution or are you still looking for answers? Let's share our struggles and our handy advice. We're sure we can help each other out.

Looking forward to hearing your experiences and solutions, tonebuddies! 🎸👓🎵

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    • Jenny
    • Jenny
    • 11 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I use progressive glasses, that are adapted for ”work” ( in front of a computer screen as well as looking at a person right in front of me.) It works ok. 

    Like
  • I use progressive lenses.  They allow me to see my music clearly and to be able to look up and see my iPad for online lessons and/or a mirror.  I don’t see the strings as easily.  Fret markers on the neck help and I can move my head slightly to bring the strings into better focus if I need to.

    Like
  • I also have progressive lenses. I don’t have issues with being able to read music and look at my hands. The only issue I find is when I am playing very high on the neck, it is a little hard to focus, and if I am playing up there for more than a few seconds, I actually can get a little dizzy.

    Like 3
      • Brian
      • Retired Software Designer/Developer, Inventor, Dog Lover
      • Brian_Bowman
      • 10 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric Phillips ... i'm in a similar situation brother. Progressive lenses that differ slightly in each eye.  I also have neurological strabismus, so my eyes alternate when focusing on a particular measure of music. That alone can really trip me up when sight reading. Glad I don't play a concert band/orchestral instrument where the reading stakes are even higher. If I'm serious about performing a classical guitar piece, I memorize it.

      I have found that after retiring from tech (and no longer looking at a 40 inch monitor for 8 to 10 hours a day), my overall visual acuity has improved noticeably.

      So yes, the focus issue at the higher frets is something I notice as well.

      Like
      • Moyses Lopes
      • Classical Guitarist and Electroacoustic Interpreter
      • Moses
      • 10 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric Phillips Me too!!! Exactly the same! After start using glasses with progressive lenses I felt that a marker at the 7th fret could be useful because things could be difficult to focus in this region and after. Regards, Eric!

      Like 1
    • Moyses Lopes Good to know that I am not the only one! Fret markers really should be standard on classical guitars. It’s only tradition that prevents that.

      Like
      • Barney
      • Barney
      • 10 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric Phillips I have progressives and experience the same problem above the 12th fret.

      Like 1
  • I’ve just got Some bi-focals made up for exactly this purpose!  Took my guitar and music stand into the opticians who measured for music at 1m in the upper part of the lens and fingers at 30cm in a special lower part. Lower part works extremely well, upper part not too sure yet. You have to tilt your head down or have a high music stand to see through the upper part of the lens. 

    Like
    • Low
    • Low
    • 11 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    What a welcomed topic! Now I know that I’m not alone in the struggle. Even with prescription glasses it’s difficult to see both sheet music and the strings clearly. I get a headache having to adjust my focus constantly. So I enlarge a photocopy of the score and  play without glasses as a work around.

    Like
    • don
    • don.2
    • 10 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I have reading glasses and progressive as well.  For reading music, the way I solved it is either using a large monitor to read music or to use ipad and zoom in or to memorize the music. 

     

    For looking at fretboard, I cannot play without my reading glasses as I find it really hard to see.  

    Like
    • Immanuel
    • Immanuel
    • 10 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I wear glasses and find looking at the strings can be blurry. I am trying to be less reliant on looking at the fretboard. I often memorise pieces. 

    Like 2
      • David
      • David.39
      • 10 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Immanuel I am also trying to develop my inner mind's eye and my proprioception so I can rely less on looking at the instrument. I think it will help with sight-reading as well.

      Like
  • I have been using progressive reading glasses for decades. The only problem I have is when performing with the score on my iPad and a very low music stand, which puts the notes just a bit too far away. Nothing compares, though, to when I was young and did not have such nearsightedness and presbyopia.

    Like
    • docmoore
    • docmoore
    • 10 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I experienced the stress of reading and playing when I was working on my Advanced Certificate in Jazz with Berklee online.

     

    I would get finished and find that I was dizzy and could not focus for 40 - 50 minutes after playing. This was with progressives ... I discovered that the minimum focus distance was

    not close enough so I was stressing my eyes to focus when looking at the fretboard.

     

    So I had a set of progressives made with a closer focus distance but also a medium to long

    distance for reading.

     

    Works very well ... as long as I remember to wear them. I recommend close distance of

    about 8 inches .... you will rarely be that close but it gives a bit of room to accomodate for

    different distances. You may also want the minimum focus position to be in the top of the

    lower third of the lens so that you are not moving your head like a bobblehead when you

    transition from strings to score.

     

    And I try to memorize music and hand position .... the less I look away from the music the more

    I can stay in the score. I do look when making big shifts in position ... until I gain the root position

    for the shift.

    Like
  • Progressive lenses don’t solve the problem.   Differentiating between 1 and 4 or between 2 and 3 can be very challenging.  I end up writing them in below the staff.   Same for string numbers.   

    Like
  • At one point I took my guitar, music and music stand to my eye doctor appointment. That really helped  (and I do add additional fret markers for quick location on the fretboard). 

     

    This worked until I started to play in a guitar orchestra where they like us to share stands. I needed to go against the standard so that I could position the music where it would be in focus for me and I could still see the music director.   I take my own chair (a drum throne)  to rehearsals so that all the setup is optimal for me.

     

    I do wear progressives. And the newest digital lenses work great. However, I am facing cataract surgery in the future and I guess that will require me to start all over again figuring out what to do.

     

    Overall, I am pleased that into my 8th decade this is the biggest problem I face as I continue to play guitar. 

    Like
      • Ken
      • Ken.6
      • 10 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Martha Kreipke 

      everyone is saying the same thing and it seems that moving quickly back and forth between focusing on the music and fretboard can not only make one dizzy and create headaches, but can interfere with the entire experience of learning. I have tried bi-focal glasses and other lenses that are designed to gradually increase vision from the music to the fretboard, but it’s frustrating when you have to think about not seeing one or the other organically in the moment. The only real solution for me is to learn the piece by memory as quickly as possible. A wonderful new tool I have discovered is the Vidami Blue pedal. This tool allows me to watch at virtually any speed on YouTube a performance of the piece and if you know the fretboard well you can watch and loop as fast or as slowly as you want without having to change focus. You can also obtain great fingering ideas from not only the composer or arranger, but in many cases a virtuoso artist. 
      this is not commercial by the way. I use this tool for learning and I still read the sheet music but I don’t have to flicker my eyes back and forth between my fretboard and sheet music when I get the score memorized.

      Like 1
    • Jim King
    • Retired
    • Jim_king
    • 10 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I have 2 pairs of glasses – my everyday glasses and my “computer” glasses.  At least, that is what my previous two optometrists call them.  Both pairs have progressive lenses.

     

    The computer glasses are the pair I use when playing my guitar.  The bottom half of the glasses are set up to focus on things close to my face, such as reading a book.  This section of the glasses does reasonably well with looking at the fretboard.  The top half is set to focus on things that are about an arm’s length from me, such as a computer monitor or my music stand.

     

    All in all, this arrangement works best for me if I am focused on the score on my music stand or on my right hand.  I get a bit of out-of-focus when I am looking at my left hand but I try not to do this too much unless I am trying to working on a difficult fingering or jumping between positions.

    Like
    • Timothy
    • Timothy.2
    • 10 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I read music (wearing progressive lenses)  on my iPad. I find that the flexibility in lighting and the ability to flip to landscape mode when initially studying a new work to be a big help and the progressive lenses are easier to use than single purpose glasses I’d tried previously. Harmonics are a bit of an issue with progressives, as is parallax looking at the fingerboard, but the arrangement is still a great improvement over paper scores and other types of glasses. 

    Like
  • Yes I have the same issue. I am glad to know I am not alone. I have to make sure the "type" is large enough for me to see it. Many times I have had to scan the score into, my computer and increase the font size and then print it even though I have progressive lenses   I have also developed good fingering of the notes by not looking at the fret board. My hearing of the difference of the tones does tell me If I hit the wrong note. This is a constant learning challenge. If I completely memorize the score in detail I am able to look directly at the fret board. But the closeness  makes the strings fuzzy. I tried "music" glasses from my eye Doctor but they were of little help. Over the years of playing this way I have adjusted to it. It takes me longer to, learn pieces and I hope my hearing stays good.  I am 78 years old and I worry about my hearing. My ears are my eyes. I hope I have encouraged others to develop their hearing.   

    Like 1
      • Jose
      • Jose.1
      • 10 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      peter hancock 

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