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Songwriters Discussion Room--to share thoughts, projects, etc.
8 July 2017
12.47pm
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Dark Overlord
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Ron Nasty said
Here to me, @Dark Overlord, is the flaw in your argument - there is no set way (arrangement) to perform a song. The Beatles found arrangements for themselves that worked for them. Many other artists have found different routes into those same songs that are no less valid but completely different.

Good point. The best example is Revolution , The Beatles did a bluesy arrangement on The BEATLES and for the B-side of Hey Jude , they did a rock arrangement with John and George on electric guitars fed directly through the mixer to give it a very overdriven sound, Paul's simplistic bass, and Ringo's heavy drums, the same song but 2 different arrangements.

Ron Nasty said
You are making your focus far too narrow, I suspect partly because of your interest in the instruments they played.

To quote Sideshow Bob in the episode Cape Feare, guilty as charged. I am very interested in their instrument models, so much that there are songs where I can't listen to them or think about them without thinking about what guitar model a guitarist used. For example, I can't listen to Savoy Truffle without thinking about how George used his Gibson Les Paul Lucy on that song. Also, aren't you at least a little into that stuff as well.

Ron Nasty said
I kind of feel I have had this discussion with you or one of your former proxies before.

Me too.

Ron Nasty said

Yet, on your theory, John should have been thinking about the make and model of instruments that would be used in the studio while he was working out the words and tune for Help !.

Actually, I don't think John was thinking "I think I'll have George playing a descending single note riff on his Gretsch while I strum the Bm chord, followed by the G chord, followed by the E chord on my Framus 12 string acoustic and I think Ringo should overdub a tambourine" when he was writing the song Help !, it often comes after.

Dark Overlord does some thinking

I guess you're right @Ron Nasty songwriting and arrangement are 2 different things, songwriting involves the lyrics and vocal parts whereas arrangement involves the instrumentation and instrument parts. However, I will still discuss arrangement in this thread because I feel that arrangement is very important to a song.

QuarryMan said
Does anybody have any advice for coming up with good chord progressions? My favourite genre (jangle pop) doesn't really use strummed guitar chords but I tend to compose my bass lines to follow a sequence. 

Also, people talk about music first vs lyrics first but I do it differently - unless I come up with a really good melody, I come up with a song title and then I know what I'm writing lyrics about.   

Jangle pop isn't my type of genre so this is going to be hard for me but maybe using some modified arpeggios would help, try something like this.

Acoustic guitar:

Key=G

I IV V I

Electric guitar:

E|--3----0h2-----3--------|
B|---3------3-----1-------|
G|----0------2-----0--0---|
D|------0-----------0--420|
A|-------------3----------|
E|3------------------3----|

Bass guitar:

G|--4747-----------------|
D|55------4740------54--5|
A|------55----33335---75-|
E|-----------------3-----|

Drums:

H S HB H SB

As for coming up with them, I discussed some of it earlier in this thread but I'll give some more advice here.

Think about what you want, come up with a melody line, and find out what chords work best with that melody line.

Here are the basic chords for a major scale:

I ii iii IV V vi VIIdim

In C that would be:

C Dm Em F G Am Bmdim

The major scale in single note form is:

I II III IV V VI VII

Or in C:

C D E F G A B

Watch how that fits:

C (C E G)

Dm (D F A)

Em (E G B)

F (F A C)

G (G B D)

Am (A C E)

Bmdim (B D F)

The minor scale replaces the major 3rd, 6th, and 7th with a minor one giving us this in C:

C D D# F G G# A#

Or in numbered form:

I II iii IV V vi vii

In chord form that would be:

i iidim bIII iv v bVI bVII

In C:

Cm Dmdim D# Fm Gm G#m A#

Now watch how these notes fit:

Cm (C D# G)

Dmdim (D F G#)

D# (D# G A#)

Fm (F G# C)

Gm (G A# D)

G# (G# C D#)

A# (A# D F)

There are other scales, such as the mixolydian and harmonic minor, but these are the big 2.

Now out of the chords in those scales, the ii and bVI aren't often used, although they do occasionally get a chance to shine and I'd try to avoid diminished chords as much as possible leaving us with these for each scale:

Major:

I iii IV V vi

Minor:

i bIII iv v bVII

However, there are some non-fitting chords that you can use to make custom scales.

For example, let's look at the verse sequence to Eight Days A Week :

Key=D

I II IV I

As you can see, John is using an II, which is a lot nicer to use than a ii if you want an upbeat song in the major scale, despite the 3rd of that chord not matching up with the major scale.

Another great example of bending the rules is the iv chord, used by The Beatles a lot, here's the verse progression for Nowhere Man which uses the chord:

Key=E (played in D)

I V IV I ii iv I

That minor fourth chord can really add flavor to a song if used properly.

Another great unofficial chord to use is the bVII, as seen here with Green Day's song Burnout:

Key=G

I IV I IV bVII I bVII V

This song uses what is called the mixolydian scale where it takes the major scale but uses the minor 7th.

One that's great for the minor scale is using a major fourth instead of a minor fourth, I'm A Loser does this during their intro:

Key=Am

i IV i IV

One last one that works great in the minor scale is the triton. Many songs use this but I think that Great Gig In The Sky is a perfect example:

Key=Bm

i bV

Really brings in a surprise when you hear it and it doesn't even have to sound like it's from hell, Pink Floyd's use of it doesn't give a demonic overtone at all.

One last chord to use is the 7#9, this chord is both major and minor.

Taxman uses this chord during the verses on George's Fender:

D7 D7 D7 D7 D7#9D7#9 D7 D7 D7

The chord looks like so:

D-7th%20Sharp%209th-D-x%2C5%2C4%2C5%2C6%2Cx.png

And it goes like (x5456x) with a I, III, bVII, and a bIII, this chord is also used in other Beatles songs, such as Michelle and is great if you're unsure whether you want to use the major or minor scale, although be careful with it.

I hope I helped you with chord progression.

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9 July 2017
12.13pm
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QuarryMan
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Many thanks, @Dark Overlord ! You certainly know a lot about this. 

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9 July 2017
1.19pm
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Dark Overlord
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I've been playing for awhile now and am good enough at ear training that i can play a song in it's entirety fairly well without practicing any of the parts beforehand so i naturally pick up how to play different styles. Anything else you guys would like me to discuss.

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19 July 2017
2.42pm
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Martha
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Wow, I've just seen your post for the first time Dark Overlord and I must say, THAT'S AMAZING! Really, thank you so much! I've tried out a couple of chords you suggested and I love them so much, especially bVII! Funnily enough, I've just stumbled across the II in  Eight Days A Week today myself. 

Thank you again, you don't know how long I've been looking for interesting chords to use already and you explained it so well!apple01

Now, I hope this isn't requested too much, but could you maybe at some time discuss the way one inserts single notes (or plucking only two strings) into a chord progression, please? That would be so fab!a-hard-days-night-george-9

Not once does the diversity seem forced -- the genius of the record is how the vaudevillian "When I'm 64" seems like a logical extension of "Within You Without You" and how it provides a gateway to the chiming guitars of "Lovely Rita. - Stephen T. Erlewine on Sgt Pepper's

19 July 2017
2.47pm
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sir walter raleigh
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I love Paul's use of the bVII on For No One . It descends down on a normal scale, then bounces up to the Bb to start the progression over again. 

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19 July 2017
3.14pm
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Dark Overlord
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Martha said
Wow, I've just seen your post for the first time Dark Overlord and I must say, THAT'S AMAZING! Really, thank you so much! I've tried out a couple of chords you suggested and I love them so much, especially bVII! Funnily enough, I've just stumbled across the II in  Eight Days A Week today myself. 

Thank you again, you don't know how long I've been looking for interesting chords to use already and you explained it so well!apple01

Now, I hope this isn't requested too much, but could you maybe at some time discuss the way one inserts single notes (or plucking only two strings) into a chord progression, please? That would be so fab!a-hard-days-night-george-9  

Anything else that you'd like me to cover because that's a very topic to do.

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19 July 2017
3.52pm
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Martha
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Dark Overlord said

Anything else that you'd like me to cover because that's a very topic to do.  

(Really sorry for my language, but does that sentence mean, that this is a too general and multifarious topic to discuss?) 

No, thanks, you've already given me enough inspiration to try out and ponder on for the next weeks with your amazing chords, but thanks a lot for the offer!paul-mccartney-thumb_gif

Not once does the diversity seem forced -- the genius of the record is how the vaudevillian "When I'm 64" seems like a logical extension of "Within You Without You" and how it provides a gateway to the chiming guitars of "Lovely Rita. - Stephen T. Erlewine on Sgt Pepper's

19 July 2017
4.07pm
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Shamrock Womlbs
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Dark Overlord said:
The minor scale replaces the major 3rd, 6th, and 7th with a minor one giving us this in C:
C D D# F G G# A#

Just a quick note on that. If you write C major chord like this: C (C E G) using I - III - V then why you write the minor chord like this: Cm (C D# G) using I - II# - V ?

C minor key has three flats: E , A, and B. E flat (Eb) is the minor third of the chord, and not D# which would be a second augmented. So the right notation is (for C minor): C Eb G.
Also the scale should be: C D Eb F G Ab Bb.
Anyways, for people interested in learning chords and chords progressions i'd higly recomend take a look at jazz chords and mix them with plain major or minor chords. There are a few Joe Pass videos in youtube (here and here) . Real master classes for free... They have no notaion of any kind but you could find them pretty interesting in any case.
Also, Barney Kessel here it has both classic and american notation if i remember well.

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19 July 2017
4.18pm
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Dark Overlord
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Well then, let's get started:

Throwing single notes into chord progressions is easy, here's an example:

D D/C# D/B A G G/F# Em7 A single notes (A B C#)

On a piano that'd be played like so:

D4 F#4 A4

C#4 F#4 A4

B3 F#4 A4

A3 C#4 E4

G3 B3 D4

F#3 B3 D4

E3 G3 B3 D4

A3 C#4 E4

A3

B3

C#4

On a guitar, it'd be like so:

D (xx0232) D/C# (x4x232) D/B (x2xx32) A (x0222x) G (320033) G/F# (2x0033) Em7 (020033) A (x0222x) A|0-2-4|

It sort of gives the impression of a bassline being played on guitar, especially if you choose to play the root on it's own before playing the chord like so.

Dsingle DD C#single D/C#D/C# Bsingle D/BD/B Asingle AA Gsingle GG F#single G/F#G/F# Esingle Em7 Em7 Asingle A|0-2-4|

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20 July 2017
3.39am
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Flyingbrians
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I've been songwriting for a while now and i've found there are a few different ways to go about it.

Each has a different effect on the song.

1. Jamming with other people - This can get creativity rolling and it's helpful to hear how a song could sound like with drums, bass etc. I'd say that jamming is probably the easiest method of songwriting since it's very collaborative. Songs created from jams normally sound different to ones that weren't. Main downside is that you need other musicians around you, which isn't always possible.

2. Coming up with a chord progression or melody with a guitar or piano - This is probably the most common method and is the one I use. You sit down, create a chord progression or melody and work from there. If you're struggling with chord progressions then try playing other peoples songs. The Beatles did this extensively in their early years and it showed in their songwriting ability. 

3. The lyrics first approach - Coming up with lyrics (which can be poetry) and then building a song around them. I've never used this method but if you're able to do it then it seems pretty effective. 

4. The complete idea approach - Very rare but there are some famous examples of this (i.e. Yesterday ). Basically the entire idea of a song comes into your head and you go and write it down. I think you either have to be a natural musical genius or someone very skilled at songwriting for this to happen. 

I'll normally sit down with a guitar and strum random chord progressions before humming lyrics/melodies on top. Knowledge of chord progressions and scales does help and it eventually becomes natural to know what fits. At the same time running off common chord progressions and building off scales can be limiting and uninspiring. I find that songwriting is more effective when you are in the right mood and can get a feel for the song rather then getting bogged down by theory. This doesn't apply to all genres though, such as Jazz, which relies heavily on theory. 

In all genres theory should only be a supplement to your songwriting. It's the method used to translate your emotions of a song. 

I find it helps to not even think of genre when writing something. Music is best when it's self-expressive so you should always let your individuallity flow. If you like rock music then most likely you'll just come up with a rock song naturally anyway. 

After coming up with an idea i'll record it on my phone and then play along to it with drums. Doing this can completely transform a song. I'll then record each instrument simultaneously and put them on Garageband or Logic. 

It doesn't matter if a song is rubbish, you need to create bad songs first to get the good ones. This is where commitment and hard work becomes important - you need both if you want to become great at songwriting. The Beatles are an excellent example of this. 

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20 July 2017
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Dark Overlord
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Nice job there, i really like your take on it.

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20 July 2017
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Dark Overlord said
Nice job there, i really like your take on it.  

Thanks @Dark Overlord. This is just my approach to songwriting but everyone's different at the end of the day! 

Maybe i'll post one of my songs on here one day.

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20 July 2017
3.37pm
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Martha
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I agree with Dark Overlord, that were some really great thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing them! However, if you don't mind, I've got just a tiny little question regarding this paragraphs:

@Flyingbrians  said

[...]
2. Coming up with a chord progression or melody with a guitar or piano - This is probably the most common method and is the one I use. You sit down, create a chord progression or melody and work from there. If you're struggling with chord progressions then try playing other peoples songs. The Beatles did this extensively in their early years and it showed in their songwriting ability. 
[...]
I'll normally sit down with a guitar and strum random chord progressions before humming lyrics/melodies on top. Knowledge of chord progressions and scales does help and it eventually becomes natural to know what fits. At the same time running off common chord progressions and building off scales can be limiting and uninspiring. I find that songwriting is more effective when you are in the right mood and can get a feel for the song rather then getting bogged down by theory. This doesn't apply to all genres though, such as Jazz, which relies heavily on theory. 
[...]

With 'random chord progression', do you mean that you play chords you know but randomly put together or do you press your fingers down on random strings? I hope that's not a stupid question, but as a beginner on guitar, I feel often limited by the basicness of all chords I know. The most special chords I know are maybe chords with a ninth. Therefore, I sometimes randomly press fingers on strings and when I find something I like I realise it's some super complicated chord but it sounds nice. Now, does that happen too when one is more proficient like you or should I avoid it and stick to the chords I know and try to learn new chords as fast as possible? 

Not once does the diversity seem forced -- the genius of the record is how the vaudevillian "When I'm 64" seems like a logical extension of "Within You Without You" and how it provides a gateway to the chiming guitars of "Lovely Rita. - Stephen T. Erlewine on Sgt Pepper's

20 July 2017
3.46pm
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sir walter raleigh
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@Martha to expand your chord knowledge, especially when it comes to songwriting, play through some Beatles songs or Dylan songs. When you come across a chord you don't know, learn it, and try to figure out why it fits in the song. Then try to write a progression using that chord. It doesn't have to be amazing, but the more you do this the more chords you will learn and the more accustomed you will be to using more complex chords. 

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20 July 2017
4.24pm
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Martha
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Thank you, sir walter raleigh! I'll definitely put this on my list of what to do in the holidays! Two songs I've already done this with are Here There And Everywhere and This Boy . So beautiful chords in both of them!a-hard-days-night-paul-7

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Not once does the diversity seem forced -- the genius of the record is how the vaudevillian "When I'm 64" seems like a logical extension of "Within You Without You" and how it provides a gateway to the chiming guitars of "Lovely Rita. - Stephen T. Erlewine on Sgt Pepper's

20 July 2017
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Dark Overlord
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Have you tried using a 7#9 chord, it's great for expanding your chord knowledge.

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20 July 2017
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Flyingbrians
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@Martha as Sir Walter said trying out different chords and progressions from songs that you like is a good way to start. I think in regards to sticking to chords you know or trying out new chords, it's best to have a balanced approach. Once you get a good knowledge of chords and their relationships with each other, coming up with progressions because more natural. For example, If i'm starting on a normal C major chord then I know i can move to F major, or E minor then maybe an A minor and so on. The chord you choose to move to depends on what sound you are trying to achieve. 

The most important chords you need to know are the basic major and minor chords for all keys. I think there is a misconception that in order to write a good song you need to include a lot of complex chords, when in reality millions of amazing songs are written with very simple chords and progressions. Take a song like Hey Jude for example, most of the chords are simple major/minor chords, however Paul throws in a few 7th chords to add tension (7th chords are essential chords to learn by the way once you've mastered all basic major/minors). So yes, basic chords should be your building blocks. Complex chords are used to add depth and variety but they are not essential. To be honest, there's loads of complex chords which I never use and most artists in 'popular' music don't use, so you really don't need to know them all... unless you want to play something like jazz. It just depends on what sounds you like, for example I tend to use a lot of major7 and minor7th chords just because I love the way they sound. 

I think it's cool that you place your fingers randomly to try and create chords because sometimes you'll run into something great, so yep there is nothing bad about doing it. I still do this sometimes but I normally use my chord book if i want to find out new chord positions. So to answer your original question, yes I stick to chords that I know mainly but i'm willing to experiment at the same time. I think a lot of artists start songs with random things they discover. 

Final bit of advice, I don't know if you can play them already but you should master and focus on your barre chord ability and knowledge. They are important because barre chords have unified finger patterns wherever you play them, so it becomes simple to know how to play certain chords for a particular key. This last part is quite hard to explain, but the video in the spoiler might help

I tend to get carried away when talking about guitar so apologies if i've overloaded youa-hard-days-night-ringo-13

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20 July 2017
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Dark Overlord
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Compared to me, you don't get carried away when talking about guitars at all. Anyways, that's a nice video but it's flawed. First of all, most guitarists rarely barre their dominant 7th chords with an A string root, instead we prefer to barre either based off an E7 or B7 shape, look at this example to see how us rock guitarists like to use our dominant 7th's.

F7 (x8786x) x4

A#7 (68679x) x2

F7 (x8786x) x2

C7 (8108911x) x2

A#2 (68679x) x2

Also, guitarists often play the bVII on the B string with E7 based barre chords instead of the V as shown in the video, although their both used.

Another note is that while he does mention playing A based barre chords with just the 1st and 3rd fingers instead of the cramped version where you use all 4, he forgets to mention how guitarists mute the high E string when doing this so instead of (x24442) we now have (x2444x).

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21 July 2017
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Martha
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Thank you so much for your helpful, informative, and well-written answer @Flyingbrians!apple01 I found it especially great  to get the confirmation that using only basic chords does not have to be a bad thing at all, because I had the misconception that one has to always insert some super complicated to make a song sound good for some reason (stupid I know).

Thank you again, all of you who have answered my questions, your answers were all so incredibly helpful and encouraging. Should I finish a song with a good chord progression, I'll maybe share it over here. It's really heartwarming to see how we're all connected by the love for music!a-hard-days-night-george-9

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Not once does the diversity seem forced -- the genius of the record is how the vaudevillian "When I'm 64" seems like a logical extension of "Within You Without You" and how it provides a gateway to the chiming guitars of "Lovely Rita. - Stephen T. Erlewine on Sgt Pepper's

21 July 2017
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Flyingbrians
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@Martha No worries, i'm glad we have been able to help you. I can't blame you for thinking that complex chords were vital for a song, it took me many years to realise the importance of basic major and minor chords. I look forward to hearing about your progress!a-hard-days-night-george-9

@Dark Overlord Interesting point about the chords and I see where you're coming from. To be honest I normally play full barre chords as shown in the video simply because I prefer the fuller sound of a chord across all strings. I tend to use the 7th chords you listed when playing things that are funkier or jazzier because they have a snappier sound and I think this is generally reflected in the songs that use them. I think the video is valid for beginners because learning full barre chords is a good first step. I'm sure it's were most guitar teachers would start. 

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