August 9

Positive Piano Resources

Author: admin Category: Piano Resources
Image of a Bösendorfer piano. The removable ca...

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What are piano resources? Is this a measure of how resourceful pianos are, for example, in life threatening situations? Is this an indication of how well pianos think in high pressure situations? In this article, the term explores information that can help you to better determine the history and different brands associated with the instrument. This is useful if you are looking to purchase a new or used piano.

Here’s a very brief list of some of the big names in the
industry:

1. Bösendorfer  (http://www.boesendorfer.com/)

2. Steinway & Sons (http://www.steinway.com/)

3. Bechstein (http://translate.google.ca/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://bechstein.com/&ei=1_wjTuK-KY-Utwf2z4CbAw&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CGcQ7gEwAA&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dbechstein%2Bpiano%26hl%3Den%26rlz%3D1T4TSCA_enCA396CA396%26prmd%3Divns)

4. Yamaha (http://www.yamaha.com/).

Bösendorfer and Steinway & Sons were founded in 1828 and
1853 respectively. They are spectacular pianos and have amazing reputations.
They are also amazingly expensive. Since expensive is a relative term,
determine whether you are amazingly wealthy or amazingly not so wealthy before
spending an arm and a leg on these brands. However, you get what you pay for
and these companies do produce first rate instruments.

Bechstein pianos (founded in 1856) are also awesome
instruments and you could also find yourself taking out a second mortgage if
you choose to purchase one of their spectacular new grand pianos. Baldwin and
Yamaha also produce lovely products, at a more modest price. The former was
founded in 1862, with Yamaha having produced its first piano back in 1900.

If you’re interested in a modest list of some of the
different piano sizes available, the following two links are quite useful:

1. http://www.pianolessons101.com/grandpianos.html

2. http://www.pianolessons101.com/uprightpianos.html

Piano owners need to have their own resource list that they
build on their own. For example, if you’re buying a used piano from an auction
sale or a private owner, you’re most likely going to need a reliable piano
mover. Ask friends if they have contacts and don’t be shy to ask for references
if approaching an unfamiliar piano moving company. Word of mouth and references
should also be used when trying to find a good piano tuner or technician. These
specialists should be reasonably priced, punctual and resourceful. Again, your
best bet is to ask other piano owners who they’ve used, especially if that
owner is a trusted piano teacher.

Picking a brand of piano is both an objective and a subjective
process. Certain brands have a very good reputation and you should have some
knowledge of this. However, how a piano looks and sounds must appeal to you. After
all, this major piece of furniture is going to be in your home and filling your
living space with sound for the next few years. The last thing that you need is
an eyesore with an unattractive sound invading your house everyday for years to
come. Here’s a list of some sites that discuss various brands of pianos:

1. http://www.pianoworld.com/brand_opinion.htm

2. http://www.concertpitchpiano.com/BuyingaNewPiano.html

3. http://www.marthabeth.com/piano_brands.html

As a final thought, make sure that you measure the area that
you wish to place your piano in. The instrument should still allow room space
for chairs or a sofa, unless you specifically want just the piano in the room
(rather overpowering). The trick here is to make the size and the sound of the
piano fit into the aesthetic feel of your home (not the other way around).

 

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July 2

Piano Courses of Course

Author: admin Category: Piano Courses
The piano has 52 white keys

The piano has 52 white keys (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

So you’ve finally decided that it’s time to commit yourself to investigating some piano courses. You are going to pick a course and triumph! Many have tried a failed, but you are going to succeed because you are YOU. Well, I believe in you and am prepared to give you a list of some of the more popular courses available. Here they are:

1. Leila Fletcher has a series that is quite effective at gradually increasing the difficulty and level of its pieces. Knowledge is also introduced gradually, so as not to overwhelm a new student. Kids tend to take quite well to this series, found in abundance on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=leila+fletcher&x=22&y=22

2. John Thompson editions have been around for quite some time. I remember learning from them when I was a kid (centuries ago). They offer both kid and adult courses and feature charts and actual photos to illustrate how to play pieces. The fact that they’ve been popular for quite some time speaks for itself. Here’s a link:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=piano+thompson#/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=john+thompson&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Ajohn+thompson

3. Alfred covers many bases by offering adult books as well as beginner and late beginner courses. For those interested in filling in their music theory knowledge (always a good idea), this publisher has a number of comprehensive theory books. If you are an independent learner, you can go quite far on your own with this publisher’s offerings:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+beginner+piano&x=8&y=14

4. If you are an adult reading this article, it is plausible that you are searching for a completely adult oriented piano course for yourself. The following link shows some of the wonderful books that Thompson, Alfred and Hal Leonard have to offer:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+beginner+piano&x=8&y=14#/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=adult+piano+books&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Aadult+piano+books

Let’s talk a little about online piano courses. I’ve created a few online courses in the form of e-book downloads. There are some students that can completely learn piano on their own from these types of courses. However, most students benefit the most from traditional piano lessons, with online courses acting as a wonderful supplement. We are lucky to live in an age where we can obtain knowledge from both traditional and online sources. This is a winning situation.

Online courses often claim that you save a lot of money by buying their courses, as the weekly traditional lessons, including the pressure to practice, are eliminated. In a perfect world this may be true. However, as mentioned before, very few people can get by without traditional lessons. The pressure of weekly lessons is actually a good thing, provided you have a fun and professional teacher. This type of mentor inspires practice and a ‘wanting to learn’ attitude, rather than a ‘practicing in fear of being scolded weekly’ scenario. Also, the money spent on weekly lessons gives you instant answers to questions that arise during the week. A picture is certainly worth a thousand words and a demonstration from an expert piano teacher in invaluable.

In conclusion, hardcopy and online piano courses should be embraced. Having these types of materials in your possession enhances traditional piano lessons. Happy learning!

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July 2

Plausible Piano Equipment

Author: admin Category: Piano Equipment
English: Yamaha electronic keyboard Français :...

English: Yamaha electronic keyboard Français : Clavier électronique Yamaha * YAMAHA PSR-290 61 Piano-size Touch-sensitive Key Portable Keyboard with YES II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I’ve bought my piano and that’s all I need… what do you mean I now need more piano equipment? Haven’t I spent enough already? Have I not suffered enough of a financial setback in this store?”

The person saying the above quote probably purchased a keyboard. Hopefully, he or she does not have a nervous breakdown before being explained that the accessories involved in the purchase of a synthesizer are not going to break the bank.

A person that has just purchased an acoustic piano really does need a decent bench to sit on. A creaky bench or a sore rear end is not an attractive experience to a person just starting to play their new instrument. Benches most often come with the piano that you are purchasing (it’s generally included in the price), especially if the bench matches the piano perfectly. If you require a bench, many dealers will “throw one in”, as you’ve just made a major purchase and it is in their best interest to close the deal with a satisfied customer. It’s not good business sense for a retailer to say, “Well, we want thousands of dollars for this beautiful piano, but I’m afraid you’ll have an extra cost for the bench. Rules are rules… you understand, of course. Our store must make a maximum profit.”

Apart from a bench, having enough space in your home, proper humidity levels and descent lighting are important. You may need a humidifier and lamp, depending on where you place your acoustic piano.

Supplemental equipment for a keyboard include a sustain pedal and a stand. The latter is essential as you need something to mount your keyboard on.  Stands are generally adjustable to a wide variety of heights, so you can stand or sit while playing, depending on the venue that you are performing at. As for the sustain pedal, this comes in handy if you are performing complex solo pop, jazz or classical music.

If you’re playing difficult music, it is highly advisable to get a weighted keyboard, which closely duplicates the touch and feel of a real piano. This type of touch ensures accuracy and fluency in intricate passage work.

Are there circumstances when you do not need to purchase a sustain pedal? Yes! If you are using a keyboard as a substitute for a band instrument, then there is certainly no need for a pedal. However, you’ll still probably need a patch chord, amplifier and possibly a microphone in order to be heard on stage in a concert band performance.

Do you feel like recording yourself on your new piano or keyboard? If you do, then you need computer equipment, a mixer, recording software, etc. This option is viable if you are dogmatic about recording on your own instrument and planning on recording often. If this is not the circumstance, then you are better off recording in a professional studio. Much depends on what your goals are as a musician.

Assuming you have computer recording facilities, you’ll need some good condenser (or dynamic) microphones for an acoustic piano recording and midi connections for a keyboard recording. Modern keyboards can be plugged into your computer and registered into the recording software of your choice.

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May 20

Piano Tabs to Go

Author: admin Category: Piano Tabs
Piano keys and notes. (Brett Rumpel, http://ww...

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Are you a fan of piano tabs? Incidentally, what is a piano tab anyway? Is it a piece of paper attached to a piano stating how to clean the instrument? Is it a button that opens a secret compartment on the piano?

Simply stated, a piano tab is a method of showing you how to play piano without reading notes from a traditional treble or bass clef staff. If you are just getting started as a pianist or are simply looking for the notes to your favorite tune, then tabs have a place in your life.

Piano tabs are not a substitute for learning traditional notation. Even if you are a visual person, you should eventually learn how to read music from a staff, as not doing this limits your ability to read anything that has rhythmic, harmonic or textural complexity.

If you want details with respect to piano tabs, check out http://www.tabnabber.com for detailed explanations on the workings of typical piano tabs. Basically, tabs contain the letters of notes and a numbering system indicating which octave on the piano you place these lettered notes.

Apart from tabs, there are many visual methods of learning that break away from traditional notation. Computer programs offer wonderful graphics and charts. In the link below, you can select a chord or scale and the keyboard display will show you the notes that need to be depressed in order to play what you have selected. Here’s the link:

http://www.pianoworld.com/fun/vpc/piano_chords.htm

The problem with the keyboard display in the above link is that you do not have fingerings included. Also, scales often carry on for more than an octave and chords have multiple ways of being voiced. These options are much easier to show using traditional notation. Even if you are a visual learner (learning through pictures and charts) you will eventually be able to process music by reading notation. It may take you a bit longer, but you’ll come around. I’ve never encountered a student that I wasn’t able to teach reading skills to, regardless of their personality and/or learning preferences.

So why is fingering so important in piano laying? It’s a good question. For starters, let’s talk about what piano fingering actually is. In traditional music notation, pianists have the option of placing numbers over notes in order to determine exactly which fingers plays which keys. This type of meticulous detail allows a pianist to repeatedly play the same notes with the same fingers. Since memory on an instrument is mainly acquired by touch, this type of detailed work is crucial in learning a piece securely and properly.

As a concluding thought, pianists who read traditional music notation well should also acquire the skill of being able to identify chord symbols (both popular and classical). So much popular music has simplified transcripts, and being able to identify a chord associated with a music measure that you are playing frees you up to be a more effective improviser. Your playing becomes more adventurous. If you read notes well and you are deciphering chords well, you are well on your way to becoming a well-rounded musician. Well done!

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May 6

Purchasing Piano Sheet Music Wisely

Author: admin Category: Piano Sheet Music
Sheet music of "Indiana". Page 1 of 2.

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Are you a wise person in need of some piano sheet music? If your answer is, “Of course I’m exceedingly wise, and yes, I need some sheet music because I’m a decent human being in need of wholesome repertoire”, then read on.

It’s fairly obvious that music of most genres can be purchased at your local music store. These days, more and more retailers are offering sheet music, instruments, lessons and the kitchen sink all within one building! These types of stores typically have the greatest hits of pop and rock songs in a front of the store display case. So should you buy a single song in sheet music form or a complete book of hits?

If you absolutely need to have a single, then you should purchase it. There’s no point in denying yourself music if the piece that you really want will make you practice enthusiastically. However, a book of chart toppers is much more price-friendly, as it contains a huge amount of hits. Even if you only like a few selections within the book, you will find that the price per song is more favorable with a book purchase. 

If you’re the type of person that likes to shop online, there are some useful sites that you can visit. Downloading music is quite popular these days, as you can have the music of your dreams in a matter of seconds. This type of purchase is quite inexpensive, as you save on shipping and binding costs. However, if the seller/publisher allows you to print out and bind your purchase, make sure that you are still saving when calculating these extra costs (you usually still come out ahead). Here’s a site for downloading music:

http://www.musicnotes.com/

If you’re not a “download kind of guy or girl”, then you can buy online in a more traditional way through a retailer. They will mail out a hardcopy to you and will often add a discount for the shipping and/or music on multiple purchases. A good strategy is to wait until you need a number of piano works. Buying in bulk usually means savings. Here’s a good place to shop:

http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/

Who wants free music? We all do! The problem is that free music often means crummy music. Typically, sites that offer free downloads on recent hits do not have copyright clearance, although there are exceptions. Remember that you really only want to add first rate music to your repertoire, especially if you wish to perform your music in front of an audience. If in doubt, ask a teacher or professional colleague which edition they use. There are plenty of great publishers out there.

Here’s a final thought. If you like popular music, you’re usually better off buying music that contains the melody of a song in the piano part. If the melody is not being played by your fingers then, guess what? You have to sing the actually melody from a vocal staff. Now this gets tricky, especially if your voice is not the greatest. Here’s a good test. If you sing in your house, observe whether family members scatter like frightened deer when you begin vocalizing. If they do, then you definitely should purchase music with the melody contained within the piano part! 

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May 5

Premiere Piano Books

Author: admin Category: Piano Books
Piano Concerto No. 26 (Mozart)

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Who wants premiere piano books published by superior publishing companies? As a pianist, I would think that you would want the absolute best. There’s nothing more frustrating than having an edition in your library with terrible layouts, too many bars per line, wrong notes (it happens), and so many edits that you can’t tell which are the composer’s markings and which are the editor’s.

The type of piano book that you buy very much depends on the level that you are at. If you’ve never played piano before, there are many effective publications out there, both in hardcopies and in download format. Here are some editions that have been around for quite some time and are still popular:

1. Thompson editions are nicely put together:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=leila+fletcher#/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=thompson+amazon&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Athompson+amazon

2. Leila Fletcher also has some effective beginner books that are diverse and entertaining:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=leila+fletcher

For teens and adults that are just beginning their piano adventure, Piano Lessons 101 has an effective download to help beginners get started in a fun way. This e-book and video package delivers detailed instruction and assumes nothing when it comes to teaching brand new students some classical music arrangements. I produced this package with my colleague, Joseph Shalita.

http://www.pianolessons101.com/piano-survival-guide.html

For composers and advanced pianists looking for improvising and composing tips, I recommend my other e-book:

http://www.musicmasterstudios.com/ready-set-compose-themusicbook.html 

If you are into examinations and certificates, you are probably acquainted with one of these two large exam boards: the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM). Here are some links that may be of assistance:

1. Next, a catalogue of books of the ABRSM:

http://www.abrsm.org/exams/gradedMusicExams/latestSyllabuses.html

2. Here are some RCM exam books from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.ca/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=rcm+piano+books&tag=googcana-20&index=stripbooks&hvadid=6090043377&ref=pd_sl_15z5azf42j_e

If you want a direct source for RCM exam books, here it is:

http://www.frederickharrismusic.com/FHMCsite/capricorn?para=showPage&docId=catListProd&section=CARESOURCES.

Have you ever wanted a gigantic list of hundreds of music publishers? Guess what? Your days of “wanting” are over. Check out this list:

http://library.music.indiana.edu/music_resources/publ.html

One of the publishers that I particularly enjoy purchasing from is Dover Publications. They have some wonderful Brahms editions and I find that these particular piano books are extremely durable. In my youth, I remember occasionally throwing a book to the ground in frustration when a passage eluded me in practice. The Dover editions always survived this type of temperamental outburst. Here’s the link:

http://store.doverpublications.com/

Of course, no piano book article would be complete without the mention of Hal Leonard. They are extremely prolific in their output, especially in popular music. Someone sings a new song on the radio and seconds later, BOOM, out comes this publisher with the printed music. Well, it’s not really that fast, but their output is quite amazing. See for yourself:

http://www.halleonard.com/

So what’s all this talk about urtext? These days, it’s “urtext this and urtext that!” Well, maybe not, but here’s a brief explanation about this term. Urtext editions are publications that contain the most authentic and/or earliest versions of music by a given composer. One of the biggest urtext publishers is Henle. Here’s a link:

http://www.henle.de/

As a final note, many publishers allow you to download music. Some even allow you to print and bind the PDFs that you download. If you are going down this route, the advantage is that you can have the music you want in a matter of seconds. However, make sure that the download is of a reasonable cost, as binding and photocopying should be calculated into your final price. Although you are sometimes better off going to a conventional store for your purchase, downloads usually take photocopy and binding expenses into account and price their PDFs very competitively.

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April 21

Piano Tips to Go

Author: admin Category: Piano Tips
Interior of a grand piano Intended to illustra...

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“I never practice much, because I know some piano tips and special secrets that help me learn pieces away from the piano. It’s a shame you are wasting so much time because you don’t know my wonderful secrets. I’d tell you my secrets, but I can’t. They’re secrets”.

I hate when pianists talk in a similar way to the above quote, boasting that they have secrets that save them hours upon hours of practice time. Many websites also promise secrets that will change your piano playing overnight and make you a great piano player in no time. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, piano tips can be practical and save you a lot of time and agony. They are not, however, a substitute for good, old fashioned hard work.

Piano practice is very much a mental game. If you have an optimistic attitude and avoid some common destructive patterns, you will create a path that will help you get the most out of the hours of practice that lie ahead. Here are some tips that will definitely be of assistance:

  1. Try not to have marathon practice sessions. For starters, your family will occasionally want to see your wonderful face and you should definitely find time to go to the washroom, have a snack or simply zip outside for a couple of minutes of fresh oxygen. A good solid forty-five minute session is about the maximum that I would recommend before taking a break. By all means, have a few forty-five minute practices in one day if you have the stamina, but have breaks between them. You’ll make fewer errors and won’t exhaust yourself.
  2. Try not to practice with a ton of errors. Again, your family will appreciate the accuracy in your playing and you will be reinforcing your touch and muscle memory by playing the same patterns with the same fingers. Remember that a mistake is also registered as a memory pattern if it is constantly repeated, so it is best to slow things down a bit and play conscientiously.
  3. Recognize that rhythmic difficulties are quite common among students, and that clapping or tapping rhythms away from the piano is a great method of speeding up the rhythmic learning process. Piano playing is complex enough without correct timing. You have to concentrate on hand position, technique, dynamics, phrasing, etc. By merely clapping rhythms away from the piano, your mind can focus exclusively on timing and make an aural memory of the rhythm of a sequence of notes.
  4.  Be positive in detecting improvement. If you can’t see improvement from week to week in your playing, look harder. It is most likely there and waiting for you to recognize it. There is a wonderful satisfaction in being able to detect where you have improved. It helps to give yourself a pat on the back and become your own best friend in your practice session. This is all part of enjoying the journey of piano practice.

 

The worst thing you can do is to sink into a state of mind that makes you say: “I can’t believe I’m so dumb. I’ll never play this stupid piece”. Here’s the preferred mental approach: “This piece still needs more practice, but it is a bit better than last week” or “It looks like I have to play with fewer errors. I may have underestimated the amount of time it takes to get this work just right. I’ll work harder”. This may sound corny to many, but it’s certainly much healthier than calling yourself stupid or putting yourself down emotionally. Remember to always try to enjoy your practice journey though optimism, hard work and smart practicing.

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April 19

On With Online Piano Lessons

Author: admin Category: Online Piano Lessons
Hamburg Steinway D-274

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“Welcome to the wonderful world of online piano lessons”. This quote can be sincere or sarcastic, depending on which websites that you choose to explore online. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of online piano lessons and there value in learning to play the piano effectively.

Many websites argue that traditional lessons are expensive. They state that for the cheap price of their e-book or CD collection, you can have great information and practice at your own leisure, without having the pressure of a piano teacher barking at you every week to practice. This can help you avoid comments like, “I know you didn’t practice this week” or “Look who is back for a lesson. It’s turtle-brain.”

There is certainly an argument for the above. Private lessons are expensive and there is pressure to practice, which may or may not suit your lifestyle and personality.

Here are some things to consider with traditional lessons. For starters, make sure to never pick a teacher that has a habit of calling you “turtle brain”. I like turtles, but I think I prefer for a mentor to think of me as a person equipped with a “human brain”. Secondly, traditional piano lessons are expensive for a reason. Quality teachers can often teach you more in a half hour then pages and pages of a website can. Also, there is something to be said about the pressure of weekly lessons. A bit of pressure is motivational. I know many of us think that we are self-motivated. However, if this were the case, exercise clubs and gyms would be extinct. Diet plans and clinics would be a thing of the past. The truth is that many pianists thrive on a bit of pressure, thus avoiding laziness and apathy!

The big question is: Can we combine website information and online piano assistance with traditional lessons? Actually, this is not really a “big” question. It’s an “obvious” question. Of course you can! Many of my colleagues have come to embrace online information as a valuable supplement to their teachings.

When choosing either a teacher or an online piano website, you should like the personality of that teacher or website writer. If you can’t stand who you are learning from, you’ll feel the following symptoms: headache, heartache, nausea and a sense of gloom and doom. Of course, if you like feeling this way, you should seek out jaded, bitter teachers and websites that get one or two visitors every year.

Successful teachers motivate and make you feel passionate about wanting to better yourself. Teachers of quality make you remember facts based on the way they deliver their information to you. If teachers are fun to learn from, then the material you are learning tends to stick. Websites that are sincere do the same. Piano websites of quality also give you a lot of free and useful information, delivered in an accessible and motivational manner.

As a final point, the best piece of advice is to know who you are and what you want. Try to find a traditional teacher that suits your personality and that is open to occasional online supplements. Have them recommend a site to you or search on your own, remembering to look for piano sites with a lot of useful, free material presented in an attractive and accommodating way.

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May 21

Helping Concert Pianists

Author: admin Category: Educational Videos

Video number seven by Music Master Studios discusses the importance discusses the importance of concert pianists and stage performers taking active steps in order to combat negative post-concert emotions.

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April 23

Temperamental Concert Pianists

Author: admin Category: Educational Videos

Video number six by Music Master Studios discusses the importance concert pianists controlling and managing their emotions after a concert performance.

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