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Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio

sharyn 18 May 09 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 18 May 09 - 03:46 PM
GUEST,highlandman at work 18 May 09 - 03:49 PM
sharyn 18 May 09 - 04:09 PM
sharyn 18 May 09 - 04:17 PM
GUEST,Ian cookieless 18 May 09 - 04:22 PM
wysiwyg 18 May 09 - 04:30 PM
GUEST 18 May 09 - 04:54 PM
M.Ted 18 May 09 - 05:03 PM
bubblyrat 18 May 09 - 05:53 PM
bubblyrat 18 May 09 - 05:55 PM
sharyn 18 May 09 - 09:50 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 18 May 09 - 10:08 PM
sharyn 19 May 09 - 12:37 AM
Peace 19 May 09 - 01:15 AM
GUEST,Scotsman Over The Border 19 May 09 - 09:21 AM
sharyn 19 May 09 - 10:40 AM
GUEST,Scotsman Over The Border 19 May 09 - 11:03 AM
Tim Leaning 19 May 09 - 11:20 AM
sharyn 19 May 09 - 12:12 PM
Stringsinger 19 May 09 - 12:16 PM
GUEST,Scotsman Over The Border 19 May 09 - 01:06 PM
sharyn 19 May 09 - 02:37 PM
Tim Leaning 19 May 09 - 08:20 PM
Commander Crabbe 19 May 09 - 08:38 PM
sharyn 20 May 09 - 01:22 AM
Crowhugger 20 May 09 - 02:50 AM
sharyn 20 May 09 - 11:10 AM
PoppaGator 21 May 09 - 02:50 PM
sharyn 22 May 09 - 10:11 AM
Patrick-Costello 23 May 09 - 04:52 AM
sharyn 23 May 09 - 01:58 PM
Patrick-Costello 23 May 09 - 02:36 PM
sharyn 23 May 09 - 04:22 PM
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Subject: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 18 May 09 - 03:06 PM

Hi Everybody,

Because I am recovering from a serious hand injury I spend a lot of practice time trying to correct flaws in my playing: if I work too hard for too many days I get depressed because it's all work and no pleasure. I thought we could have a thread about how people like to practice, or practice routines that you find helpful or inspiring. Today, for instance, I started out playing something that was emotionally expressive for me and did not focus on tone or technique for awhile. That aloud me to practice technique longer later. What tricks do you all have up your sleeves? Other instruments okay, too -- I just wanted to start a serious practice thread.

Thanks. Look forward to reading responses.

Sharyn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 18 May 09 - 03:46 PM

In 1975, I had part of my left hand crushed in a bicycle vs. auto accident (his headlight rim hit my hand on the handlebar). Initially, I was told I might lose the index finger entirely. Three surgeries later, with the help of a great hand surgeon (whose assistant was an accomplished guitarist), I was able to begin rehabbing the left hand.

That index finger gave me a lot of pain and difficulty, especially with bar chords. The only thing that worked to loosen it up and keep good motion in the hand was a lot of work, along with exercises with a rubber squeeze ball.

Eventually, I got most of the motion and feeling back in the hand. My doctor said that the guitar was invaluable in returning me to "playing status." I have lost some flexibility, but am able to play reasonably well now, something I once feared I might never do again. It was well worth the discomfort and hard work.


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: GUEST,highlandman at work
Date: 18 May 09 - 03:49 PM

Off the top of my head, probably on the average 60% work, 40% fun.
I play through some favorites every practice session, so they don't get rusty -- for me it can be a long time between gigs.
Of the 60% work, probably only 15-20% is really working on particular techniques and fixing flaws. Most of the time is spent working out whole arrangements and putting the pieces together.
Maybe it's a personal problem, but over the years I have become wary of too much technical practice and not enough smoothing over the seams between sections. If I stuff up a piece in performance, it's not going to be a missed note here and there, it's going to be drawing a blank between a chorus and a verse or something like that.
The transitions are the biggest danger point for me.
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 18 May 09 - 04:09 PM

Oops. I can spell -- that was "allowed" above

Sharyn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 18 May 09 - 04:17 PM

A clarification: the reason I have to work on tone and technique is not because I love doing it but because my current tone is poor -- I have to work with every chord to stretch my left ring finger out as much as possible (it's bent from a break) in order to eliminate buzzing strings. I have made some progress, but a lot of the time nothing sounds good except a few things in dropped D. I'm not so much working on new arrangements as working to be able to play old ones again.

One trick for me is finding what will absorb my attenntion at the beginning of a practice period, something I can get lost in.

Sharyn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: GUEST,Ian cookieless
Date: 18 May 09 - 04:22 PM

I never practice technique as such and am entirely self-taught. Practice for me is 100% fun. If there's something I hear in my head and I want to hear it through my fingers, I work at it until my fingers do my bidding. That helps me to become a better guitarist. In other words, I get better and practice improved technique in the context of a piece I want to play, not as an abstract and boredom inducing exercise.

Ian


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: wysiwyg
Date: 18 May 09 - 04:30 PM

I recall well a whole year spent immersed with a new instrument (autoharp, played my odd way), sitting in a pool of sunshine and just playing and playing for hours at a time. Singing occasionally. I never knew it was "real" practice till years later.

Now, my view is that a certain percentage of our practice time just has to be that way, and another percentage has to be somewhat more, um, intentionally focused. And another, playing with others. Fail to keep those 3 in balance and things will be missed that are key to playing well, and happily, I think.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: GUEST
Date: 18 May 09 - 04:54 PM

Sharyn: "One trick for me is finding what will absorb my attenntion at the beginning of a practice period, something I can get lost in."

That is a perfectly valid rehearsal technique. I highly recommend it (and use it) for instrumental ensembles and choirs, too. Once you get the basic technical warmups done, it makes a great transition into the "work" bits, as well as keeping the rust off the previously-learned pieces.
Enjoy!
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: M.Ted
Date: 18 May 09 - 05:03 PM

One of the things that I've taken to doing lately is to play simple melodies. No sight reading--I always work with something that that is old and familiar, and nothing "instrumental", no fast picking, no solos, no improvisation--I just choose a melody that I like to hum or sing, or even just listen to, and I pick it out in one of the open position keys, usually G or D.


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: bubblyrat
Date: 18 May 09 - 05:53 PM

Like some others of you,I had to adapt after a hand injury.I discovered that chopping logs and drinking a whole bottle of Cinzano Bianco do not mix well,and now the end of my left index finger is part of my left palm !!At first it was dauntingly numb,but gradually,and with persistence,the feeling came back,and now I never think of it (nor do I drink Cinzano !).I never was any good at "barre" chords,so I have practised a lot at playing alternatives---I find Double Dropped-D tuning(with practice,and do I mean practice)gives me the sound,and the playing range,that I want for picking tunes from Hardy,Playford etc.,the sort of thing I like.
                   I generally get a tune in my head,and it just won't go away until I have spent some,or lots of,time just working out the fingering & picking,getting it right,then working on getting up to speed with it.It sounds obsessive ,I know,but that's how I 've always done it ! The last few weeks have been devoted to Merrily Kiss the Quaker and The Upton Stick Dance,but the obseesion is wearing off now,and I can relax a bit,until the next piece I fixate on !!


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: bubblyrat
Date: 18 May 09 - 05:55 PM

Bollocks ! I meant "obsession! !!


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 18 May 09 - 09:50 PM

M.Ted, I like the idea of playing simple melodies-- thanks. Bubblyrat, What is "Double Dropped D?"

Sharyn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 18 May 09 - 10:08 PM

Dropped D = dropping just the low E string down to D
Double Dropped D = dropping the low and high E strings down to D


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 19 May 09 - 12:37 AM

Thanks


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: Peace
Date: 19 May 09 - 01:15 AM

For this ol' boy it's songs. I like to write, so that becomes my practice. I strum--don't do scales unless I need them for a song or lick incorporated in the strumming. I seldom let a day go by wherein I don't try to write something. The ratio for what I consider good songs versus bad is about 10 to 1. Ten good to one bad. I tend to stop the bad ones before I have too much time invested.

Come to think of it, I almost never practise. I play everyday for about three hours, minimum. Don't know that this will help much Sharyn.

Bruce


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: GUEST,Scotsman Over The Border
Date: 19 May 09 - 09:21 AM

Open tunings are great if you have trouble with the fretboard hand. You get a massive sound with one or two finger chords in DADGAD or one of it's variants. There are lots of books out there on open tunings, but Ive got one I'd recommend - The Complete Book of Alternate Tunings by Mark Hansen.

As for practice itself, the best thing I've read on the subject came from the great Dan Crary. He said that for practice to be successful you have to have a goal, but a realistic one. the example he used was some people might say, "I'm going to play Black Mountain Rag like Doc Watson, and I'm going to get it by next Tuesday" Of course that's never going to happen, no one will play like Doc, ever! So you get disheartened.
the best thing is you set yourself a goal, "I'm going to get the first four bars of "Drowsy Maggie" in this session, and if you don't get it after ten minutes, then the next time you say, "okay, I'll get the first two bars then", again if you don't, you cut it in half again until you raech your goal. You then build on it by learning the next section......... and so on. Trust me, you get more satisfaction from reaching even a relatively modest goal than you do by just going over familiar stuff.

Oh and never get disheartened by having sore fingers - think of Django Reinhardt!


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 19 May 09 - 10:40 AM

Thanks, Scotsman,

Maybe my goals have been too big: they are usually something like," I want to play this song without buzzes or muted notes, with every string clear," or "Every time I play an "A" I want to play it without the buzz." Then I can't do it, so I retreat to scales and playing the chords more slowly, focusing on stretching my ring finger to a longer reach, moving it down or out after I have set the chord in position. Sometimes I get results, but a lot of the time I get ugly notes, which takes the joy out of accompanying songs.

I play a little bit in two versions of open G and I play in dropped D. I haven't wanted to go to DADGAD or other tunings because then I'd have to learn new chords and scales in addition to working on tone.

Some days I have patience. Many days I get discouraged or depressed. I want to learn to get through those days with some grace.

Sharyn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: GUEST,Scotsman Over The Border
Date: 19 May 09 - 11:03 AM

Sharyn, how is the action on your guitar? If it's too high it can make playing chords very tough.

Do you have a steel strung guitar or nylon? - nylon strung guitars tend to have a much higher action, but less string tension, in any event, it's worth having it checked out.

If it's a steel strung instrument you can lessen the tension by tuning down a semitone, this makes chords easier to hold down (you'd be in good company too, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn did this) - stick a capo on at the first fret and you are back up to pitch!


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 19 May 09 - 11:20 AM

For what its worth I practice quite a few hours a day.
But I write me own stuff so try and combine the two and make me newest song as hard for me to play as possible (or impossible) that way I am stretching myself without having to study as such...
Of course that could be why I am rubbish and few people get to hear so I suppose the main thing is to get enough work done that you please yourself with your results.
Sounds like you would be you own toughest task master.
But I have a lot of fun and I hope you do to.


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 19 May 09 - 12:12 PM

Scotsman,

The action on my guitar is fine: it was easy to play until I broke my left hand in two places (below the ring and index fingers). It is an old Harmony steel string.

I find that if I tune the guitar down I get even more buzzing then I do without tuning it down even with a capo. I play with a capo a lot anyway and find my worst problems occur when I need to play something without the capo.

In December I couldn't play at all. By the end of May I have worked my way back into sometimes being able to play a clear "A" chord, sometimes being able to play a "C." "F"s are woeful all over the fingerboard, even capoed on seventh or ninth. "G"s and "D's" are fine, as well as some minor chords.

Before the fall that affected my fingers I had played for nearly forty years, mostly fairly simple fingerpicking as song accompaniment

Would some of you like to address how you play on a bad day, how you play when you feel frustrated with your playing, how you play when you feel stuck, how you jolly yourself along?

Thanks,

Sharyn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 May 09 - 12:16 PM

For those interested in folk music, the best practice is accompanying songs or playing them as solo pieces. Unless you decide to explore music theory on the guitar, scale practice, and finger exercises for their own sake is not too productive. Unless you know how to apply scales, arpeggios and isolated patterns in an application to a song, it becomes effort which doesn't accomplish much.

I don't generally like to practice too much so I get together with other musicians to play
and this is a kind of practice. Being with other good musicians is a motivator for me to
sit down and run some stuff. In spite of not wanting to practice, I do it anyway.

If you have limitations in what you can play on the guitar, the best solution is apply basic accompaniments to songs or easy solo pieces. How well you play has more to do with how you apply what you know rather than technique for its own sake.

My motto: You'll be successful if you play the right notes at the right time.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: GUEST,Scotsman Over The Border
Date: 19 May 09 - 01:06 PM

Hi Sharyn, the Dan Crary strategy of setting yourself modest goals is designed for just the situation you raise. By achieving your goal, however small, you will have had a success and that will lift your spirits. Tomorrow you can achieve another goal and that way, little by little, you lift yourself off the plateau that we all find ourselves on from time to time.

I sometimes try to work out something I know already, but in another key, or I take a banjo run I like and work it out on guitar, or a melody of a song .........

:-)


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 19 May 09 - 02:37 PM

I should say that one thing I do that I like the results of is I keep a practice journal: after each practice session I write down what I did, problems I encountered, sometimes how I felt about the practice session -- it's usually less than a paragraph. In the front of the practice journal I keep a list of everything I have played, even if I only play a few bars of something for a minute. I've kept this since March 1st and it is useful to reread to document improvement or enjoyable moments.

Sharyn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 19 May 09 - 08:20 PM

Did you think of using lighter strings for a while?
Build back up as you get more control..


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: Commander Crabbe
Date: 19 May 09 - 08:38 PM

Sharyn

I have a guitar on a stand next to the seat where I sit. I pick it up regularly and twiddle with something I am working on, if I haven't got it after about ten minutes to avoid frustration I put it down for a while and come back to it later.

When I feel stuck I tend to prefer playing along with others if this doesn't work I have a beer and watch/listen/sing. This also helps on bad days too.

I don't read music so its fairly trial and error for me and I find that once I have cracked a little the rest starts to come easier. Sometimes I just play anything that my fingers take me to without thinking about it too much. Its a great stress reliever.

This also suits my wife who gets a bit peeved at listening to the same three bars of music for four hours whilst i'm trying to get it right.

The hand injury doesn't sound too good although from what you say it appears to be improving with time are you having post injury physiotherapy at all?

Try not to write negative stuff in your journal such as "I felt I didn't play that very well" it will only re-inforce the negative aspect next time you read it. If you come across problems counter them in the journal with possible solutions.

CC


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 20 May 09 - 01:22 AM

CC:

I did have hand therapy from December through February. Both the hand surgeon and the hand therapist thought my recovery was brilliant because I can type, use a knife in cooking, etc. In other words, I can do everything I did before except play the guitar. I even brought my guitar to the hand therapist to show her what I couldn't do and what caused pain. I still do hand exercises, warm my hands before playing, work with Chinese medicine balls, type and play music everyday.

Sharyn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: Crowhugger
Date: 20 May 09 - 02:50 AM

A couple of years ago I broke my left wrist and my physio folks were delighted with my fast, thorough recovery. But what do they know? I wasn't fully recovered IMO because it still hurt like hell to play any fretted instrument due to the twisting required. My solution was to return to the songs I'd once used to learn & practise barre chords. These are SLOW songs in keys like E or A or D with lots of B minor, C# minor, F# minor etc. Emphasis on slow tempo so there is lots of time, relatively speaking, to get from one chord to the next. By singing these songs I could fairly easily ignore my struggles and simply enjoy singing. Of course this involved some deliberate suspension of my inner critic's voice.

After my arm would become stiff from several minutes' playing I switched to a (slow tempo) song with a run or two to work finger independence. I was able to pretend the awful fumbling had less to do with a possibly long-term consequence of the break and more to do with tiring out my arm on barre chords. A mind game, all of it. Worked for me.

I didn't expect it to sound the way it used to for a good 3 months, but in fact it took longer probably because I wasn't playing very long, 1/2 to 3/4 hour at a time. It so happened that shortly before breaking my wrist I'd become involved in both handbells and a cappella singing, so my time for guitar & banjo practise shrank accordingly.

For me it was all about outsmarting those negative voices that lurk in my head. I think that's what practising really boils down to: outsmarting those voices long enough to get good at something.

My way worked for me because I loved singing the songs and because I could see that, while it didn't sound too good at first, bit by bit over time I missed fewer and fewer chord changes as my flexibility and strength improved.

oooops, didn't mean to be so long winded.


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 20 May 09 - 11:10 AM

Good story, Crowhugger. Congratulations on your recovery. I am quite the    slow singer myself. Never could play barre chords though beyond a half-barred A7, which I haven't tried lately. Hmm -- another experiment.


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: PoppaGator
Date: 21 May 09 - 02:50 PM

Another concurrent thread has been discussing very similar issues:

thread.cfm?threadid=120887&messages=30#2636814

I've developed bad enough arthritis in my left-hand fingers that I have had to come up with new ways to play certain chords, and have even had to completely abandon trying to play others. Rather than repeat myself, I'll just provide the above link ~ you'll probably find at least part of that discussion relevant and interesting.


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 22 May 09 - 10:11 AM

Thanks, Poppagator. I've been following that thread, too. I am also concerned with larger practice issues.


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: Patrick-Costello
Date: 23 May 09 - 04:52 AM

Stop thinking in terms of the guitar or a specific instrument and focus on finding ways to make music that won't screw up your hand as it is healing up.

Try playing with a slide. Pick up a harmonica. Learn to frail the banjo. There are a million options open to you - but you have to open your eyes and mind to the possibilities.

Forget about goals. Forget about progress. Forget about all of the pointless nonsense that people use to validate bad art and just throw yourself into the craft of making music.

The guitar is just a box with strings. The real musical instrument in question is your body and mind.

-Patrick


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 23 May 09 - 01:58 PM

Patrick,
It's a little hard for me to appreciate advice like this: I am quite musical and have a separate existence as an a capella ballad singer. I have played Celtic harp and fiddle. I also write songs occasionally.

Unfortunately, before I broke my hand I had begun a long overdue project of recording some of my own songs and other items in my repertoire. I can't sing a capella all of the time (no breaks for the voice). I have neither unlimited time (none of us do) nor a wealth of instruments at my disposal: I have a guitar and a voice to work with at the moment. I do work on harmony singing, diction, ornamentation. I listen to music. I sing with others a couple of times a month.

Far from "screwing up" my hand, guitar practice improves its range of motion S L O W L Y. I do play and I am going to continue to play.

I was looking for helpful practices and inspiration. And I had the thought that other people might like to discuss the rigors, challenges and rewards of regular practice. I've picked up one good idea from M. Ted, which was to start practice sessions by picking out simple melodies.

Best,

Sharyn


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: Patrick-Costello
Date: 23 May 09 - 02:36 PM

You have got to be kidding me.

-Patrick


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Subject: RE: Guitar practice: flaw to fun ratio
From: sharyn
Date: 23 May 09 - 04:22 PM

Not at all.

Sharyn


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