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It’s “All About That Bass”

Helping Ruth see the music

Just think about it, you’ve had perfect vision all your life, then things start to go wrong. Slowly at first and nothing to serious, but over time your vision starts to deteriorate. It happens to most of us, those under 40 will find out in due course. We all adapt by using reading glasses from the opticians or varifocals or bifocals or some of us resort to using off the shelf ready readers, or magnifiers. But most people find a solution of sorts.

 

However, it isn’t that easy if you are a musician who relies on their sight to read and play music for a living. String Bassist Ruth Ker was experiencing these symptoms of presbyopia and it was really beginning to get in the way of her playing. Ruth was becoming very frustrated at not being able to see. A Cellist colleague Fiona Mayo recommended that she contact us at Allegro Optical Opticians.  Allegro Optical Opticians are specialist musicians’ opticians based in Meltham, near Holmfirth, Huddersfield and Saddleworth, arguably one of the most musical parts of the country. Ruth and Fiona play together quite often and Fiona had recently got some musicians glasses from us and was delighted with them. Ruth said she had  “gone from having brilliant eyesight to completely rubbish”! Ruth explained to us that she plays the double bass and would be interested to get some glasses from us.

Focusing on the music stand and the conductor

So we arranged a consultation with Ruth, does have very good vision with no refractive error for the distance at all. She did, however, struggle to see the music on the music stand. Music for large bass instruments does tend to be fairly large and that had been her saving grace up to now. All bass players tend to have their music stand a good 120cm in front of them so the print needs to be quite large. Ruth was managing by moving the stand away, but there is a limit to how far away you can move it without it interfering with playing.

Ruth plays with both orchestral groups and Jazz so her working distances are quite varied and this gave us some challenges when designing her lenses. We dispensed Ruth with a pair of adapted multifocal lenses, as even freeform digital varifocals would not have met her positional requirements. Ruth didn’t take to her new lenses straight away, and she is the first to admit that “They took some getting used to”.  We’ve had quite a few tweaks and frame adjustments to get them how Ruth liked them and there has been a prolonged period of retraining Ruth’s eyes. Now she has adjusted to wearing glasses Ruth is using them every day and finds they are really helping.

A musician’s opinion

When asked about her glasses Ruth said “I hate having to wear glasses, however, my new glasses are vastly better than anything my usual optician had been able to make for me. Sheryl has been incredibly patient and persistent.” There are a great many Musicians who experience focusing problems. They struggle with all the different distances required of their profession and are unaware that there is a solution to the problem. Many optometrists or opticians either prescribe and dispense single vision lenses for the music stand, leaving everything else blurred. Or they suggest varifocals which often exacerbate the problems due to the narrow corridor, or they recommend office lenses which give a reduced working distance.

Understanding a musician’s visual needs

At Allegro Optical Opticians we understand the many visual requirements placed on different musicians. As a result we prescribe a variety of our own lenses designed specifically to suit their needs. We either adapt existing lens designs or we will create a lens design especially for the client to create a perfect optical solution. We understand the variety of dispensing challenges that practitioners may face when a musician presents in practice, but as musicians ourselves we are able to meet their individual needs perfectly.

If you are a musician who has problems seeing the music give us a call at Allegro Optical Opticians on 01484 907090 for advice or to book a consultation.

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Cello good.

 

Fiona Mayo BA(Hons) Dip Mus, LRSM, LTCL, is a Cellist and Cello teacher. Like many mature musicians, she was struggling with the effects of presbyopia. Sight reading was a problem as was focusing on the music on the stand. She was also having problems seeing the music when teaching, as she uses a shared music stand.

A problem with sight reading

A long term varifocal wearer Fiona was experiencing difficulty with the narrow corridor and peripheral distortion provided by the spectacles her optician provided. Fiona needed to be able to see the conductor from as near as a few feet (when leading a cello section), to as far as the furthest distance on a concert stage(when providing playing support from the last desk of cellists in a big symphony orchestra).

She was finding particular difficulty when teaching, as music teachers often position the music stand in front of their pupils and then read the piece being played from the side. Although Fiona’s current lenses were a free form design this had become problematic, due to the narrower field of view provided by the lens corridor.

Seeing the music

We dispensed a pair of spectacles adapted to take into account Fiona’s  various working distances and seating positions. Having collected and used the new spectacles Fiona said: “I have been wearing my new spectacles since I got them”.  “I have worn them for:

  • Cutting tiny wedges to fit mortices in the re-hairing of cello bows
  • Teaching, from a single music stand, as well as sideways on from a stand placed in front of the pupil.
  • Reading piano music to accompany pupils.
  • Attending a String Quartet concert at Leeds College of Music and being able to see clearly.

The biggest surprise is that I no longer have to take the specs off for close work. It’s all looking fantastic. Thanks again for helping me and  the service has been exceptional.”

Harrogate philharmonic orchestra

Summary

Focusing at many different distances can pose real problems to musicians. Many struggle with the varying focal distances they work with. In fact, many musicians also suffer from postural problems as a result. With an understanding of the playing and seating positions of professional musicians, this problem can be overcome. The musicians working and playing life can easily be extended, due to the improvement that this solution provides. Many Musicians who experience focusing problems at different distances are unaware that there is a solution to the problem. Many optometrists and opticians either prescribe and dispense single vision lenses for the music stand or varifocals, which often exacerbate the problems due to the narrow corridor.

Conclusion

This case study has illustrated the variety of dispensing challenges that practitioners may face when a musician presents in practice and the individual.