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Author Topic: Calling all ukulele players  (Read 37785 times)

Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #30 on: May 01, 2011, 09:22:50 PM »
Thought I'd post a link to our local group, the Delta Strummers. The header image, taken before I joined the group, was shot on the rear deck of a member's home. The background is typical  of the water views we have from our family rooms.

I hear that they have a good webmaster  ;)
« Last Edit: May 01, 2011, 09:26:47 PM by Tom »
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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #31 on: May 02, 2011, 10:10:00 AM »
I had a concern about my (lack of) dexterity, but figured I'd give it a try. It's going to take quite a bit of  practice
I have heard many people say they don't have the talent or coordination or dexterity to play a stringed instrument. But learning to play a stringed instrument does not take talent, coordination or dexterity to learn how to play. When you learn how to play is when you develop your coordination and dexterity. Most people think you have to have musical talent to be a musician, and nothing could be further from the truth. The very greatest players of all times are the ones with the talent. The other 99.9% of us have nothing but hard work to get us where we are.

It is called Muscle Memory, that is what makes a person a musician. Watch any great guitar player in concert and notice that most of the time he is paying very little attention to what he (or she) is playing. Even when playing extremely difficult parts. This is because he has played the song so many times that his muscles know exactly what to do. The way to develop your muscle memory is to play anything until you can play it automatically without thinking. Otherwise you will not be able to comfortably sing along with your playing.

Let me give you an example. I was in a group about ten years ago (sierraexpressband.com) and one of the songs we did was Johnny B Goode. I learned to play the song but I didn't learn it exactly, just a rough interpretation. I don't want to or need to play it exactly like the record on stage. But recently I have been getting back into playing guitar and I bought a bunch of instruction books (8 so far) and some books on Beatles and Chuck Berry tabs (sheet music). As John Lennon said "If you had to give rock and roll a different name it should be Chuck Berry. So I am going to go through and learn all the classic Chuck Berry riffs. But the first project I have undertaken is to learn the intro to Johnny B Goode note for note perfectly.

Now Chuck is nowhere near the greatest or most technical guitar player in the world, but he is amongst the sloppiest. That is not a negative comment, in fact it is positive. Nothing sounds worse than some of these mindless shredders that should like a computer in hyper speed. But that sloppyness makes him very difficult to do a note perfect copy. The first four measures are real easy, takes about 5 minutes to perfect. But measure number 5 (out of 13) is really causing me problems. Only 7 notes, but no one can agree on what those seven notes are.

Youtube has at least a dozen Johnny B Goode instruction videos. The first 4 measures in all the videos I watched are perfect. But the fifth measure is done differently by every one of them. So I had to use Audition to slow the intro down to half speed while keeping the pitch correct. I have finally figured out exactly what notes he is playing but I am still not too positive about which position he plays it in. Watching videos of Chuck playing the opening he doesn't seem to change position at the fifth measure, but all the instruction videos do change position.

So for the past week I spend 15 minutes a day of my practice trying to get this one measure down. It took the first six days to figure out what I was suppose to be playing. Now that I know what to play it will take me a few more days until I can play it at 50%. Then I will work on it at 75% until I get that down then 100% until I get that down. But by the time I get it to 100% I will be able to play it in my sleep. I would like to spend more than 15 minutes a day on the measure but I just got a new acoustic electric guitar and it has a 12 gauge set of strings on it. I have been playing on 9s most of my life. The 12s are much bigger and harder to bend and they are killing my fingers. So after 15 minutes I have to go on to something easier.

I am only an average guitarist so I can only imagine the dedication and the endless hours of practice they must endure to succeed.

But the bottom line is that playing guitar is sooooooo much fun that the hours of sounding lousy are worth it.

Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #32 on: May 02, 2011, 10:25:34 AM »
Thanks Tom, appreciate the advice.

Quote
It is called Muscle Memory, that is what makes a person a musician. ...  his muscles know exactly what to do.

A number of musicians have told me the same thing, albeit in slightly different words. However, there are some chords on the ukulele that my fingers can't seem to get to, no matter how hard I try or how long I practice. Some folks play substitute chords (aka cheater chords) for some of them, but I haven't found all the cheater chords.

Mel Bay, among others, has some good uke books; One of his chord books is illustrated with photos of his fingers alongside the finger position diagrams. One player I showed the book to said, in response to my question "how does he do that?", that "he has rubber fingers".
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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #33 on: May 02, 2011, 10:55:05 AM »
I have very small hands and a touch of arthritis, so a lot of those chords that seem unplayable really are. Of course there are many people large hands and long spidery fingers that can play those chords with ease. But you can't fight city hall. If your fingers don't reach there is nothing you can do to improve that. There are finger stretching exercises, but since it really hurts to stretch you fingers I choose not to do them. When you come to an unplayable chord there is a simple way around it without learning all the substitute chords. The answer is you don't need to play all four strings on every chord. So lets say you come to a chord you can't play, simply play as much of the chord as you comfortably can. Rather that strum all four strings, just strum the bottom two or three. And if even that is just too difficult then play only one string of the chord. Especially in a group all you need to do is play any note or notes that will fit with the chord.


Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #34 on: May 02, 2011, 11:39:29 AM »
Great advice Tom. Someone told me last week that I could just strum fewer strings. Now, when those are the top two or three strings, I just need to figure out to stop on a down-strum before reaching the no-play string(s).
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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #35 on: May 02, 2011, 12:24:22 PM »
Actually you don't stop strumming. There are several different ways to accomplish this. Generally it is the higher pitched strings that get played and the lower ones ignored. You can do all down strums and just start at the top string you are going to play. If you want to do alternating up and down strums then alter the angle that you are strumming with your strumming hand so that you miss hitting the strings you don't want to sound. Another way is to mute the strings you don't want to be sounding. You can either use an unused finger and just lay it on the string but don't push it down. Generally when you strum a chord you want every note to ring out clearly. So what you are doing is playing a chord and not all the notes are ringing clearly since one or two are muted. You can also mute a string with the fingers that are pushing down the other strings by adjusting the position of your finger so that it is touching the unwanted string. Or you can just lay you hand on the strings without pushing the strings down at all and play the rhythm with your pick on the muted strings.This is called chunking.  That actually sounds really cool. To hear this effect listen to the last half of Baby I'm Amazed by Paul McCartney.

Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #36 on: May 02, 2011, 12:49:23 PM »
Thanks Tom. I'll need to practice that. Here's one 'simple' chord that I just can't do. In ukese it's a Bb. When I bar the lower two strings on the first fret, my second and middle fingers want to lay down too, and just won't arch up and hammer down on the other two strings. Net result is that they're (incorrectly) laying across the lower two strings (on the second and third fret respectively).
« Last Edit: May 02, 2011, 12:52:23 PM by Tom »
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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #37 on: May 02, 2011, 01:05:55 PM »
On a normal guitar that is the dreaded F chord that gets every beginner. That chord is probably responsible for more people quitting the guitar than anything else. The problem is you are holding the neck of the uke too close to your body. Push the neck away from your body so it is at about a 45 degree angle. Your fingers should just fall into place easily. Here is a shot of me from the 70s showing the position I play in.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2011, 01:20:10 PM by seilerbird »

Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #38 on: May 02, 2011, 02:06:59 PM »
Well I'll be darned. I just had to take a break from the honey-do list and try that on the uke. It certainly helped, although I need more practice because the middle finger still wants to lay down with the first finger.

While I was at it, I tried playing just the 3 lower strings, and that works quite well. Since I was playing only 3 strings, I was also able to use two fingers for the bottom two strings (instead of barring them), and that worked too.

Thanks for the advice Tom!

Of course, doing this in slow motion is quite different from moving to it for one chord in the middle of a tune, then immediately moving to something else. I'm still "thinking" where to put my fingers, and I look forward to the day when they just "know" where to go without me having to think.

All this thinking, fingering, and strumming sure makes a mess of my singing. It's like trying to pat my head with one hand, rub my belly with another, and scratch my butt with a third hand  :(
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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #39 on: May 02, 2011, 02:29:09 PM »
Don't even try to sing and play at first, just concentrate on getting the chords right. There are a few other angles you can play with on your Bb chord. Are you rolling the top of the guitar back so you can easily see the fretboard and your fingers? Wrong, you really shouldn't be able to see your fingers very well if the guitar is in the right position. I know as a beginner you just have to look your fingers, but try and keep them out of sight as much as possible.

The other angle is the up and down angle of the neck. Most people prefer the headstock a few inches above level. Play around with the full chord and vary all three angles. You will eventually find the one that works best. And generally if it works best for the Bb chord it will be best for most all chords.

One last option you have is to barre all four strings with your index finger instead of just the two highest strings. This will be awkward at first, but most guitarist find the barred F a whole lot easier than the one you are trying.

Here are a shot of each chord on a guitar. You would just eliminate the top two strings and on the barred one use the third finger instead of the fourth finger on the top string.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2011, 02:30:41 PM by seilerbird »

Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #40 on: May 03, 2011, 08:03:42 PM »
Today Chris and I attended a luncheon at a local club where the entertainment was provided by William Florian, formerly a lead singer and guitar player with the 60's/70's group The New Christy Minstrels. What a blast! It brought back lots of memories, although I couldn't keep my eyes off his chord hand  ;D

I frequently open and close these club events by leading the audience in a couple of well-known songs, including God Bless America. William, having heard my opener, invited me to join him on stage for a duet. What an honor, but I declined, preferring not to risk messing up his act  :(
« Last Edit: May 03, 2011, 08:37:20 PM by Tom »
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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #41 on: May 03, 2011, 08:37:05 PM »
although I couldn't keep my eyes off his chord hand  ;D
Yep, you are becoming a player. That is what we all do. I remember in 1965 watching a movie of English rock acts doing their big hit of the day. The Animals came on and did House of the Rising Sun. I was with the two guitarist in my band (I was the drummer) and we didn't know how to play HOTRS and sheet music was not available for anything back them. So we all sat there in the theater announcing the chords as we saw him change chords. We walked home saying A minor, C, D, F, A minor, C, E. Then I spent the next month trying to get it note for note to the record. It was a real struggle but I finally got it. 40 years later I discovered they were lip syncing and the guitar part was really two parts, with one of them overdubbed since they only had one guitars. The first bass note was played by one guitar and then the sweep picking was done by another. Trying to play both parts when I could barely play guitar was a real challenge. But it was worth it.

Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #42 on: May 03, 2011, 08:47:50 PM »
Quote from: seilerbird
So we all sat there in the theater announcing the chords as we saw him change chords.

LOL Tom, now I don't feel so bad. Part of our gig last Saturday included a few hours of teaching by a talented music teacher and uke player. One of the lady's techniques was to assign "positions" of her uke to a given chord. So, for example, if she held her uke in a vertical position it signified a C chord. If she held it horizontally to right it signified a G chord, and so on.

I couldn't remember what the various positions stood for, so a guitar player in our group (sitting next to me) called out the chords for me. However, he was also watching the gal's fingers, and he'd sometimes call out the guitar chord, which was obviously wrong for the uke. Then he'd correct himself, which made for an interesting training session.

Quote
40 years later I discovered they were lip syncing and the guitar part was really two parts, with one of them overdubbed since they only had one guitars.

Now that's funny!
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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #43 on: May 03, 2011, 09:01:47 PM »
It is a funny story but I am glad I learned it like that since just playing one of the guitar parts without the other sounds terrible.

Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #44 on: May 05, 2011, 06:57:26 PM »
Quote from: seilerbird
Let us know what you end up with.

After an all-day trip, including a long drive each way and playing a bunch of different makes & models of ukulele, I came home with a concert Fluke. It's small brother, the Soprano Flea, is a neat instrument, as is it's cousin the Flea banjuke. They're supposed to come out with a Fluke banjuke in the next year or so, and by then I'll be ready to play it.
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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #45 on: May 05, 2011, 07:02:31 PM »
That looks really cool Tom, I have never seen one shaped like that. I assume you are happy with the way it sounds. How are you coming on the Bb chord? I have got 10 of the 12 measures of the opening to Johnny B Goode down pat at 50% speed. It will be at least one more month until I have all 12 measures at 100% speed. The reason it is taking so long is I am going to get perfect to the record.

Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #46 on: May 05, 2011, 07:16:06 PM »
Aye Tom, there are now two of us in the group with Flukes. I stopped by the other guy's house on the way home, and had him play both his and mine. He feels I got a decent uke at a good price.

Quote from: seilerbird
I assume you are happy with the way it sounds.

Yes, it sounds at least as good as equivalently priced wooden ukes I tried, and a whole lot better than some wooden ones. Obviously not in the class of a $4,000 Martin, but definitely better than the soprano Lanikai I have.

Quote
How are you coming on the Bb chord?

Slow, but your tips helped a lot. Now I have to re-train my fingers for the wider neck and further-spaced frets on the Fluke.

I have to learn a bunch of Hawaiian songs I'd never heard before. We have a live performance on June24, which doesn't give me much time. So I've been busy downloading them from iTunes and played them over and over in the car today. Unfortunately, a number of the songs have different arrangements and, until I hear them played at practice on Monday, I don't know for sure which arrangements they'll be playing.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2011, 08:14:20 PM by Tom »
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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #47 on: May 05, 2011, 07:30:14 PM »
Can you do an audio recording of a practice session so you could play along with that? Or maybe you could get one of the other members to record the songs for you.

BTW - it seems like it takes forever for a beginner to feel confident with the Bb (F) chord. But once you do it is all a lot easier. And then as soon as you can get the chord changes on your first song down pat you will have an "ah-ha" moment realizing you actually can play a uke. Just don't get discouraged and give up. But with you new baby you will be wanting to play more often.

Jim Dick

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #48 on: May 05, 2011, 11:17:28 PM »
Tom,

Many years ago I built a UKIN from plans. It's the size of a ukelele but more round. I have it on the coach. Might just have to drag it out and see if it will play. ;D ;D If I do I'll post a photo.
Jim

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Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #49 on: May 05, 2011, 11:48:37 PM »
Looking forward to seeing the photo Jim. I couldn't figure out what a UKIN is. Would it be like a banjuke? This guy made a banjuke from an Oreo cookie tin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbkgkSfOigA&feature=player_detailpage
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Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #50 on: May 05, 2011, 11:50:40 PM »
Quote from: seilerbird
Can you do an audio recording of a practice session so you could play along with that?

Aye Tom, I might take a recorder to the next practice session. Once I have the tunes in my head I can use the respective fake sheets to play them.
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Jim Dick

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #51 on: May 06, 2011, 07:11:57 AM »
Tom,

The Ukin is the size of a Ukelele but the body is round. It's in the back of a cabinet so I'll have to dig it out when I have time.
Jim

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Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #52 on: May 06, 2011, 09:40:15 PM »
Quote from: seilerbird
I would suggest .... having a guitar tech check the set up to make sure it is intonated properly (this insures the strings are in tune with each other).

This had me curious Tom.

The way I would tune each string to the others would be:

  • First, tune the open 3rd string (C) to either middle C on a piano, or to an electronic tuner.
  • Tune the open 4th string (G) to the 3rd string, 7th fret.
  • Tune the open 2nd string (E) to 3rd string, 4th fret.
  • Tune the open 1st string (A) to 2nd string, 5th fret.
Why would I need a tech for that?
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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #53 on: May 06, 2011, 10:39:31 PM »
You are putting all the strings in tune with each other. That is the proper thing to do.

Adjusting the intonation is making sure the string is in tune with itself. But now that I think about my remark I realize that a uke might not have an adjustable bridge at the price point your is.

Here is a better explanation. If you take a guitar string and depress it at the 12th fret (that special fret with two dealybop things to mark the position) then you are effectively cutting the string in half. The note you sound at the 12th should be exactly one octave higher than the unfretted note. In other words from do to Do (do re mi). Now if the bridge is placed perfectly then the two notes will be PERFECTLY in tune. If the bridge is not placed perfectly then the distance from the nut to the 12th fret will be different than the distance from the 12th fret to the bridge. It the distance from the 12th to the bridge is shorter than the nut to 12 distance then the note will be sharp. If the distance is longer the note will be flat. When you are first beginning you will be playing only in first position (right next to the nut) so you won't notice bad intonation or the fact that your guitar isn't really in tune.

But the reason I recommend making sure the intonation is set correctly for a beginner is that you don't want to be starting out listening to a (very slightly) out of tune guitar (uke). It really helps to have an instrument that can be tuned properly so you can learn to hear the notes properly right from the start. If there is no adjustment on the bridge you should still take it into a guitar tech and ask him to check the intonation. He will probably do it for free since it can be done in 15 seconds. If he says it is not intonated properly and there is no easy way to adjust it then you should return it and get a different uke. This is why I suggested at least spending $200 on a uke because at that price point it will probably have acceptable intonation.

Learning guitar is hard enough. Learning on a perpetually out of tune instrument is way harder.

If he can set the intonation you should have him then do a complete set up which includes making sure the string height is correct and that there are no string buzzes. This setup is something you should have done as soon as you buy the thing and then you will probably never have to have it done again, unless you use it in defense against Chris ;D

Tom

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #54 on: May 06, 2011, 11:01:01 PM »
Thanks for that explanation Tom.

Quote
.... I realize that a uke might not have an adjustable bridge at the price point your is.

I'm not sure I've seen or read about any uke with that feature, but I'll do more research.

Quote
The note you sound at the 12th should be exactly one octave higher than the unfretted note.

Using my keyboard and my ears, as best I can tell, all the strings meet that criteria.

Quote
This is why I suggested at least spending $200 on a uke because at that price point it will probably have acceptable intonation.

Does $199.99 count?

FWIW Chris is out of town for the weekend, so I'm having a musical weekend with the dog. Fortunately the dog has long floppy ears and, so far, isn't complaining ;D
« Last Edit: May 06, 2011, 11:08:39 PM by Tom »
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Jim Dick

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #55 on: May 06, 2011, 11:16:10 PM »
Tom,

Here are some photos of the Ukin. Appears I need new strings. ;D
Jim

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #56 on: May 06, 2011, 11:18:06 PM »
Thanks Jim. That sure looks like a banjuke. Does it have a banjo kinda sound?
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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #57 on: May 06, 2011, 11:20:26 PM »
Tom,

No, it definitely sounds like a Ukelele. It has been many years since I "tried" to play it. May just get some strings and give it another whirl!
Jim

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seilerbird

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #58 on: May 06, 2011, 11:22:22 PM »
Tom,

Here are some photos of the Ukin. Appears I need new strings. ;D
Oh yeah, I recognize that. I saw a woman wearing it as a hat at the Royal Wedding. ;D

Boom Crash....

Jim Dick

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Re: Calling all ukulele players
« Reply #59 on: May 06, 2011, 11:25:22 PM »
She probably had a headache after.  :)
Jim

Titusville, Florida
U.S. Navy Veteran
2000 American Dream 40' DP
2012 GMC Terrain
2006 Suzuki Boulevard C50T Motorcycle
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