Hello everyone! Today we’re talking about challenges with learning the harp because of eyesight problems. Learning the harp can be quite a challenging and frustrating thing at times, and that’s just when you can see everything already! When you’ve got the added complication of eyesight issues, it can be really discouraging. But let’s get started!
I haven’t personally experienced eyesight issues, but I’ve heard from a lot of other harpists who have. So I’ve asked a few from my membership community what kind of tips they have tried that have worked and helped them – so this shortcuts the process for you! This is advice that’s already tried-and-tested.
Most of these tips are from people with mild – moderate eyesight limitations, so if you’re struggling to see more than that, hopefully some of these things can still help you! The very last tip is especially aimed for blind harpists.
I will link all the products I mention in each section.
1) ENLARGE & DARKEN YOUR SHEET MUSIC
You want to be able to see the sheet music as easily as possible. So what you can do before printing music, is change the font size to completely fill the page. You could also get bigger pieces of paper like an A3 size, and then you can increase the size really nicely. Darkening the font helps too, so you can change that in your settings before printing.
2) KEEP SHEET MUSIC CLOSE TO LINE-OF-SIGHT
While playing your music, you want your sheet music to be as close to where your eye-line is (demonstrates). You don’t want to be turning your head, checking every time – it’s easy to lose your place! So I use this really nice harp desk, that’s attached to my harp just in the right spot. So that could work for some of you.
Another suggestion given from the harp community is to use a rat stand. Instead of having a tripod at the end like a normal stand, a rat stand has U shaped feet, so you can bring it really close to you and weave those in between the legs of your harp.
3) MID-RANGE SPECTACLES
Some challenges with glasses could be that you have different lenses for seeing up close or far away – so looking at sheet music can be very difficult because it’s sort of in the middle.
One suggestion is to measure the distance between your eyes and where you can see the sheet music. You can then take that measurement and sheet music to your optometrist to see if they can find or create spectacles that make that distance work. Or you can go to a glasses store with a friend and find some yourself.
4) GOOD LIGHTING ON SHEET MUSIC
The right lighting on your sheet music makes a HUGE difference! So make sure you don’t have any back light behind your sheet music, like a window or lamp – you want the light to be shining onto your sheet music, not into your eyes! There’re two ways to do that.
1) Get an adjustable floor-lamp, to shine in the right place
5) GOOD LIGHTING ON HARPSTRINGS
Have you ever heard of LED light-strips? You can buy them for your harp here! You stick them under the neck of the harp so they shine down the strings (demonstrates). The strip lights come on a roll like sticky-tape, and have a sticky part you peel off at the back (displays).
When people see you they may think you’re making a statement, but apart from looking really snazzy and hip with your strings all lit up, it really does help you see better while playing.
6) USE A TABLET OR iPAD
Musicians often do this to help organize their music without the hassle of folders, binders or books when going somewhere to perform. It really helps you to see the sheet music no matter the lighting! You can adjust the brightness, zoom in on your music, and scroll with the swipe of a finger! There are even little foot pedals that can connect to change pages. Get a Large iPad here!
If you want this, make sure you get a full page sized iPad, not one of those mini ones!
7) MEMORISE YOUR SHEET MUSIC
Now this might seem like an obvious or scary suggestion, as some people have a mental block about memorisation, and it can be really difficult when you’re struggling to see sheet music.
One suggestion I have for you is noting how to practice. Being able to memorise is linked to practicing very thoroughly in very small sections, making sure you’re doing a good job of solidifying it in your brain.
Many people have had amazing success with this technique, while watching my video lessons because we go through things very slowly and thoroughly. People have actually been able to memorise music without purposefully trying!
8) FAMILIARISE STRING SPACING & MUSCLE MEMORY
This is about how it feels when you’re playing. If you can get good at placing your fingers in the right shapes/positions, knowing exactly where you’re strings are and how far apart your fingers must be, you won’t have to watch your hands as much.
9) SOFTWARE THAT ENLARGES & SCROLLS YOUR SHEET MUSIC
There is one program you can use on your computer/laptop called Lime Lighter. This one is quite expensive though, so on the harp community someone found a free alternative called MagniPy. This was designed by a man whose niece went partly blind.
10) READ-ALOUD MUSIC SOFTWARE
You can try out software’s that read out your sheet music! One we’ve heard about is called No-C-notes, which turns your sheet music into a verbal language that’s read out to you like an audio-book. It describes what’s happening in each measure, let’s you listen to it etc. It’s really amazing! The demonstration of No-C Notes is really fascinating.
If you really enjoyed these tips and want to know who all these cool people are that gave them, they are part of a lovely harp community. We love seeing people finally achieving their dreams -we even have a forum dedicated to playing the harp with eyesight limitations.
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