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Reading Music Onstage

Veggie Dave

Sax Worker
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Citizen of Nowhere
I'm wondering if anyone else suffers from eye strain when they have to read music onstage?

Taking music in front of an audience is a new experience for me. Up until recently it was something I thought I'd never have to do but it turns out that learning dozens of songs at the same time, to the point where you can play them without any sort of prompting, isn't actually that easy. ;)

I do try to keep the music, a tablet on a stand, out of the line of sight of the audience, and to play to the audience rather than to the tablet but this means having your head up but your eyes looking down and to the side. And it's this eye position that leads to eye strain, which can be quite painful after a while.

Looking at other sax players, those that use music and play stood up seem to have their stands even lower than I do, so I wonder how they can see the sheets (as the sax appears to be in the way) and if their eyes start to ache after a while, too?
 

Ivan

Undecided
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Peeblesshire
I'm wondering if anyone else suffers from eye strain when they have to read music onstage?

Taking music in front of an audience is a new experience for me. Up until recently it was something I thought I'd never have to do but it turns out that learning dozens of songs at the same time, to the point where you can play them without any sort of prompting, isn't actually that easy. ;)

I do try to keep the music, a tablet on a stand, out of the line of sight of the audience, and to play to the audience rather than to the tablet but this means having your head up but your eyes looking down and to the side. And it's this eye position that leads to eye strain, which can be quite painful after a while.

Looking at other sax players, those that use music and play stood up seem to have their stands even lower than I do, so I wonder how they can see the sheets (as the sax appears to be in the way) and if their eyes start to ache after a while, too?
Find tablet holder that fits to mic stand in front of you?

You are suffering for your art and only you know if it's worth it

Personally I would put the music wear I can comfortably read it
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
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Lundy Island
I would get a pair of glasses focussed specifically from that distance (whether you normally need specs or not)

If you don't normally wear them, find out from an optician if they can improve that exact distance

If you do normally wear glasses, then distance glasses will be bad for that, varifocals better but the reading part is usually set for reading a book and may not be as good as getting the either the lower part exactly for the on stage stand, or else dedicated stage glasses for that.

As my computer monitor is larger than normal, it is set further away (about 1.2 meters) and I get glasses made specifically for that purpose.
 
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Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

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Sorry, I didn't explain properly. The strain isn't from focusing (at least, I don't think that's part of it) but from having my eyes physically looking down and to the side for long periods of time.

If you look down as far as you can and then look to the side, does it feel a little uncomfortable? Like holding a posture that your muscles and ligaments would rather you didn't do? That's what I'm experiencing, but putting the music at a height that is less extreme means having the sheets quite high - higher than musicians who stand when they play seem to have them.

I was mostly hidden on this gig so I didn't mind having the tablet at a comfortable height. Bearing in mind I'm a smidge over 6'1" this is quite high:
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Here is as low as I can go before it starts being uncomfortable. Even here it's still high, and I'm leaning forward a little to see it, too, which means I'm playing to the tablet as much as the audience:
12937


In both instances my music is much, much higher than other players seem to have their scores. And that also makes it far more intrusive to the visual aspect of the performance.
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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The Malverns, Worcs
Personally, I’d set the stand where is was comfortable.
I have learned to read music with my stand set fairly low, so I can see the audience over the top of it (and logically, they can also see my face) but I wouldn’t set the stand to one side.
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
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3,524
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Surrey, UK
Are you actually reading the music all the time, or is it there as a reminder for the pieces you don't yet know well?

If you do need to be reading continuously, then put the tablet where it's comfortable and you don't get eye-strain. Maybe as you get more and more familiar with the music you could shift the tablet further away.

Rhys
 

tenorviol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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Whitchurch, North Shropshire UK
OK, from someone who has back issues etc... having a music stand very low is not a good idea as it means your head is forward of your spine, which means the tendons and muscles in the neck are holding a 10lb bowling ball of weight all the time (yes that's what your head weighs). In an ideal world your head would be level and centred... In reality, I suppose we have to arrive at a compromise that works for us.

Since I had replacement lens surgery, my distance vision is OK, but I need glasses for reading and intermediate reading i.e. music on a stand and being able to see the conductor. I have what are called 'occupational lenses' which have a reading zone and an enhanced intermediate zone and better depth of field. These work very well, but the lenses do cost £200, but that's half the price of full-on varifocals (which I don't need).

EDIT. As an orchestral player on cello and a wind band player on sax, no-one would expect us to play without music as it's just not realistic to do that. I realise that bands that play a fixed repertoire that is less necessary, but if you are playing a wide and varied repertoire with a lot of turnover of material, then music becomes essential.
 
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s.mundi

Member
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411
Location
Houston Texas
That's a great question. There was a time that I had a lot of sight reading performances and I faced some problems. I desliked the barrier between the audience and I, the difficulty seeing paper sheet music, and the strange body posture it put me in...
In my world, the solution was easy.. I started gratefully declining all jobs that required reading music on stage..
I have memorized all 89 of MY songs (vocal/sax)..

Good luck finding a good stand to eye ratio...
 
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Veggie Dave

Veggie Dave

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Are you actually reading the music all the time, or is it there as a reminder for the pieces you don't yet know well?
Up to now it's been because I don't really know the songs. I'd rather know the songs inside out and not need any music at all but that's not really possible a lot of the time. And long may that be true because I'm loving playing with all these different people :D
 

tenorviol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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Whitchurch, North Shropshire UK
There was an 8 piece bad at the local festival yesterday, including a horn section of trumpet, alto and Bari sax. So, I deliberately went to see what they did. The horn section and keys all had stands of some sort and didn't seem to bothered about them being in the best position for playing. Two of them were using 'orchestral' stands similar to mine, one had an iPad
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Zugzwang

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United Kingdom
[…] other sax players, those that use music and play stood up seem to have their stands even lower than I do, so I wonder how they can see the sheets (as the sax appears to be in the way)
If they’re reading chords, then much easier to ‘grab’ in a glance than the dots.
 

guidocreo

Member
Messages
107
Location
anzio - Italy
...

I do try to keep the music, a tablet on a stand, out of the line of sight of the audience, and to play to the audience rather than to the tablet but this means having your head up but your eyes looking down and to the side. And it's this eye position that leads to eye strain, which can be quite painful after a while.
....
I think that looking down and to the side is the problem; I struggle with it when I play baritone
 
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