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Glasses for a Trombonist!

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    Glasses for a Trombonist!

    Hello all, after a long lurking absence I am back... mainly because my increasing addition power combined with my musical hobbies have allowed me to indulge in some interesting experiments that haven't really worked out.

    Background: am an optometrist who also dispenses (regional norm here in Southeast Asia), who also plays multiple brass musical instruments. Of those instruments, the trombone is proving tricky, since the music stand is more often than not off to my right side and maybe 20 - 30 degrees off center from my main line of sight. Has to be there, since the bell of the instrument is over my left shoulder, and straight ahead of me is the telescoping slide of the instrument, which could sideswipe the music stand. So the music goes on the right and off-center, and I work in a diverse range of venues ranging from standard orchestra layouts to cramped bar gigs (think The Blues Brothers, but without the chicken wire cage).

    Which becomes a problem since that's either 1) right where the peripheral distortion is in a PAL, and/or 2) if I crank up my music stand and raise it higher into the progressive's upper half, things aren't quite clear due to the full distance Rx being there.

    As I'm the only trombonist I've dispensed for to date (the local music scene isn't too vibrant in that regard, sadly), I thought I'd put it out there for wiser and more experienced folks to perhaps chime in :)


    So, my Rx is approximately

    RE -5.00 DS, LE -7.00 DS, Add +2.00

    Typically I happily wear a short corridor progressive for daily use without issues at all distances, or designs similar to the Shamir Duo for work since the lack of intermediate doesn't interfere with me doing retinoscopy. Local labs no longer stock bifocal blanks that can accommodate my full distance Rx.

    Again, the trombone has stumped me, and my current attempts to find a balance of clarity and comfort when playing trombone have led to the following experiments of varying success:

    - Single vision intermediate power for my right eye: Works ok, but I can't always guarantee the placement and distance of the music stand relative to me is optimal and within the depth of field.

    - Fudged bifocal/PAL for intermediate/near for my right eye: Also works ok, since it gives me some wiggle room in placing my music stand. No problems with binocular near vision despite the increased power imbalance due to what's binocularly a modified monovision progressive fit. Yes, the bifocal pair is a blended bifocal on RE with a PAL on LE, and it works well enough I've accidentally driven home in it before! But, again, this is contingent on the music stand being limited to a few places (for a fudged bifocal) or presents some distortion (for the fudged PAL).

    - Contact lenses for my distance Rx, with either bifocals/PALs/office lenses worn over for the add: Works very well, especially if I put a multifocal contact lens on my right eye that's been fudged slightly to offer some intermediate support at primary gaze, but as always, I'm wondering if I could resolve this with glasses alone.

    - Coming soon... ? I'm tempted to try ordering a generic + affordable PAL from my local indie lab (which I'd rather avoid due to how they do business, but optics is optics) whereby I could request zero inset, then fudging it for intermediate/near AND turning the lens sideways so the widest part of the design occupies the entire temporal half of the lens (similar to how I used to flip a Sola Access on its side for various patients, regrettably that lens has been discontinued locally). I figure this approach would allow me some additional wiggle room in placing my music stand.

    ... of course, I'm aware that the ergonomics of the trombone are against the logic of how lenses are designed, so perhaps a single pair of lenses may not be possible for resolving this matter. It's a shifty instrument that literally changes in size as it is played, after all! :)

    As for the other trombonists I work with, they've been blessed with little to no distance Rx (and most are younger than me anyway), so my continuing misadventures with eyesight in music have become a running gag to them. Bless their hearts, I love most of them to bits and wouldn't trade them for the world (especially seeing as how some of their parents are also my patients, and who are likewise amused by their kid's stories of the optometrist whose eyes give him problems!).

    For other trombonist eye care professionals who might be reading this and going, "Why don't you just point your trombone downwards under the music stand and keep those sheets straight ahead?"... some conductors and colleagues of mine dislike this due to how it affects the sound, so my experiments continue to try and reach a compromise. Maybe someday if I truly get fed up with this matter, I'll rig up a collapsible contraption that allows me to dangle the sheet music ahead of me in primary gaze, or give up paid gigs on trombone in favour of the horn or tuba (happily, no such issues on those instruments, and less competitors for those gigs... also less gigs overall, but oh well).

    Or maybe I'm just overthinking, and should learn to live with slightly fuzzier vision of my sheet music :P

    So... how would you rig a pair of glasses for a trombonist?

    Would an office/computer style lens work out? More wiggle for mid (depending on what focal range you select, I guess), some distance at the tippy top if you need it


      I used a st35 decentered vertically and horizontally as needed for the charts and conductor when PALs were inadequate. Barry Santini here on OB is a concert trombonist- maybe he will check in, or try contacting him with a PM.

      Hope this helps,

      Robert Martellaro
      Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. - Richard P. Feynman

      Experience is the hardest teacher. She gives the test before the lesson.


        Originally posted by juno View Post
        Would an office/computer style lens work out? More wiggle for mid (depending on what focal range you select, I guess), some distance at the tippy top if you need it
        Yeah I like this suggestion, have you tried a NVF? I've had success with some musicians and Hoya's iD Screen, a near variable focus lens.

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          The best music glasses I had were Superfocus. But they’re gone.
          I suggest SV DV with 0.75 to 1.00 plus added to DV.

          THAT’s worked well.

          Last edited by Barry Santini; 02-17-2023, 04:33 AM.


            Hi all and thanks for the replies, very informative and helpful... also nice to see that there's a fellow trombonist here on the boards! :D

            It completely slipped my mind to detail what happened with dedicated office/NVF lenses when I tried them, didn't really work out for tromboning... basically I've tried 4 designs: the Zeiss Office lens, Nikon Home & Office, and Hoya ID office, and a generic office design similar to the Zeiss but from a local indie lab (patient feedback was generally that it looked and felt like the Zeiss, but with more swim, which I figured wasn't a big deal since I'm usually static when playing anyway). All were ordered using variants which provided, or tweaked to give my habitual music stand intermediate power at the fitting cross (at the time, 0.50 to 0.75 add over my distance Rx).

            Interestingly, all of the above actually presented me with even less visual wiggle room than a fudged PAL/bifocal/etc, since moving laterally the clear zone is actually not as wide as I expected (my fudged PALs are definitely wider on top, what more the bifocals!), and vertically the 'height' of the clear zone is also smaller than a fudged PAL or bifocal. So I pretty much have a 'spotlight' zone of clear vision I have to move across the music sheet by turning my head to scan with when using these lenses (tricky when there's about 2 feet of brass tubing telescoping straight out in front of me), as compared to using a fudged PAL or bifocal.

            Also, possibly related and interestingly for the Nikon and Hoya designs, in (well-illuminated) rehearsals they were often tolerable, but in dimmer performance venues there occurred a 'softening' of the vision through the lenses, where the view just wasn't as sharp as compared to a more illuminated venue. No such issues with the Zeiss or the generic indie office lens, maybe it's a pupil optimisation thing (since I do have larger pupils with a noticeable myopic shift in the dark). I do get some semblance of this with almost all the Japanese PAL designs I wear in daily life also, so I believe this might be a design characteristic of those families of lenses.

            So, while I'm disappointed that the office/NVF designs didn't work out for me and my trombone, it sort of makes sense: after all, it was my understanding thanks to some solid lens reps over the years that office designs are meant mainly to improve ergonomics of intermediate/near vision as opposed to widening the zones of clear vision as such.

            And they work well for my instruments where I read music from a stand in front of me (the horn and tuba), so they're still in my bag of music glasses that I take to a gig :)

            Meanwhile, looks like I'll be tinkering with fudged PALs and bifocals for the foreseeable future, and I suppose there's worse places to be at. Thankfully, my short-term memory isn't too bad (yet), and so I can usually memorise trickier bits of music placed in awkward parts of the page... which occasionally leads to improvised hilarity and a bemused look from the conductor.

            Sorry for the lengthy posts, as you've likely guessed I'm some sort of lens nerd... and one happy to be in this trade since it means experimentation remains financially and practically feasible. If nothing else, the end results of these sorts of rambles and misadventures occasionally help my patients (including an old man operating a crane out of an elevated control booth to lower piling into building foundations, etc).

            Cheers and stay safe, folks!


              Have you tried any of the "add bump" SV lenses such as EyeZen +, Shamir Relax, etc? It would reduce peripheral distortion.


                With my Add of +2.00, and an intermediate Add of +0.75 for my music stand, the required degression of 1.25 is slightly beyond the reach of most such designs even after I fudge the Rx to make them into intermediate/near lenses.

                There is indeed the Zeiss version with Add up to +1.25 which would in theory work... but having dispensed several of that type for patients and trying them over my contact lenses to evaluate the swim, I'm much happier with a lower Add PAL or actual office design. The swim in those +1.25 Add accommodation relief designs was horrible, the worst swim I've experienced to date.

                The patients loved them, but then again, unlike me, they still have healthy amounts of accommodation at their disposal.


                  Originally posted by Barry Santini View Post
                  The best music glasses I had were Superfocus. But they’re gone.
                  I suggest SV DV with 0.75 to 1.00 plus added to DV.

                  THAT’s worked well.

                  Or use a valve trombone with sv like I played in High School jazz band having played the baritone in band.

                  Oh- wait---that was so long ago I forgot I was 20/15 back then...:giggle:

                  The only student or teacher who didn't wear glasses or contacts in opticians school!!!


                    A valve trombone! Something I'm actually saving up for... since no local dealers have them, and it's almost a month's salary to fly one in from a reputable dealer! :P

                    But yeah, I agree on that. Valved brass don't give me such issues, since as noted above my horn and tuba are fine with all sorts of lenses :)