Home: 2006 |
OUCH, It Hurts When I Play (But Please
Don't Tell Me To Stop!)
This article takes a look at
musicians' injuries. For an expert perspective, I interviewed Dr.
Sarah Mickeler, B.Mus., D.C. Dr. Mickeler is a former professional
musician and a chiropractor who concentrates on musicians'
injuries in her practice.
1) What led you to specialize in
I have a very personal connection
to musician's injuries. I had trained as a classical clarinet
player and it was during my undergrad that I started to have all
sorts of problems from playing too much and with poor posture.
Unfortunately, I was told, as many others are, that I should just
play through the pain and that maybe it would get better! Of
course, it didn't, and it eventually led to the demise of my
career as a clarinetist, because I was totally unable to hold up
my instrument. So, I decided to pick a new career that would help
others musicians - and hopefully before they got to the point that
I was at! Chiropractic appealed to me because of the whole health
care paradigm that it embodies - as chiropractors, we diagnose and
fix the cause, rather than masking the symptoms.
2) What is different about treating
musicians than treating the general population?
Often, what I tell people who don't
understand the specifics of musicians' injuries, is that "it takes
one to know one". As a musician, it can be very difficult to
explain to a physician or physiotherapist or even another
chiropractor what the mechanics look like when you are playing
your instrument. But when someone comes into my office and says
that they play flute, or guitar, or tuba, or whatever, I know
exactly what the physical component of playing their instrument
involves. That is a very important first step.
Secondly, not only do you have to
be able to have a good understanding of what playing that
instrument involves, but you have to be able to see that person
play. Even if someone tells me they play violin (I automatically
think: "ok, so they will be leaning their head to the left and
have right shoulder problems, etc..."), I am often shocked to see
how over the years of playing they have contorted themselves into
a little pretzel while they play!
So, on the first or second visit,
all of my musicians bring in their instruments and I do a thorough
playing analysis to see what it is that they're doing right and
wrong. It could be that their posture is contributing to their
injury. Or maybe there's something about the instrument that we
could change; it might just need a minor adjustment in the thumb
rest or a key positioning.
For instance, I have very small
hands and found it difficult to reach some of the alternate
fingering keys on my clarinet - so I had them sawed off and
re-soldered on in a different direction so I could reach them.
Thirdly, it is important to
recognize that there are some really common reasons for
performance injuries. The most common ones are a change in
repertoire, a change in the instrument (such as a new mouthpiece
or something similar), a change in practice time or an upcoming
recital. If we can pinpoint what it is that the performer has been
doing differently lately to contribute to their injury, that helps
And lastly, it is so important to
realize, especially for freelance artists, that you can't just
tell them to take a muscle relaxant, and take a few weeks off. If
these people took a few weeks off, they wouldn't have a roof over
their head or food on the table. While it's occasionally
absolutely imperative that a break be taken, most of the time I
take a holistic approach to treating performers and change and fix
what we can, within the obvious limitations of current gigs and
3) What's the most common injury
that you see in your office?
In my office, there is a tie for
the most common injury. The first is upper back/shoulder/neck pain
- I lump these together because those terms can mean the same
thing to a lot of people - often someone will come in and say that
their shoulder hurts and point to the pain, but to me what they're
pointing to is actually their upper back or lower neck. This one
is often a function of poor posture or poor practice ergonomics.
If we can figure out how to improve the overall posture and
ergonomic situation then this tends to resolve quickly.
And the second most common injury
is hand and arm pain. You would not believe how many people walk
into my office with numb and tingly hands and fingers - which can
be very scary if you're the one to experience it - to find out
that the problem isn't actually their hands and fingers at all,
but it's a little further up the arm and can be quite easily
treated once properly diagnosed. Or they come in with tennis elbow
- but they have never held a tennis racket in their life! In my
office, I call tennis and golfer's elbow "musician's elbow"
because it is a repetitive strain injury. It is really, really
common and surprisingly easy to treat.
4) What can musicians do to prevent
First of all, don't be a hero!
There is just no reason to practice for hours on end without a
break. Always remember to take a little break for every 30 minutes
that you are playing. Secondly, don't play through pain. The pain
signal is there to tell you that you are doing something wrong.
Playing through it is not going to get you anywhere - other than
in more pain and in worse shape down the road. Thirdly, be aware
of your ergonomics. If you sit to play, does your chair fit you
properly? In rehearsal, do you have to strain at all to see both
the stand and the conductor? Are your arms contorted oddly in
order to be able to play properly? This is not good. And lastly,
seek the help of a professional who can not only help you with the
injuries that you are currently dealing with, but can help you
avoid future injury and optimize your overall performance.
You can find out more about Dr.
Sarah Mickeler and her Toronto-based chiropractic practice
concentrating on musicians' injuries at http://www.drsarah.ca.
To echo Sarah's advice, please pay
attention to any pain signals your body is sending you! Admitting
you're having a physical problem doesn't make you any less of a
musician – it means you're a very smart musician with years of
playing ahead of you!!
This article was originally
published on the Muses Muse Songwriter's Resource website
(February 2005) http://www.musesmuse.com.
(c) Copyright Linda Dessau, 2005.
Linda Dessau, the Self-Care Coach,
helps artists enhance their creativity by addressing their unique
self-care issues. To receive her free monthly newsletter,
"Everyday Artist", subscribe at
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The King of the Delta
Blues Singers - Robert Johnson Still Stands at the Crossroads
Probably the most enigmatic Singer
and Guitarist of the twentieth Century is now one of the most
revered and respected of all Musicians who make up the Genre of
the 'Blues'. I speak of course about the wonderful Robert Leroy
Johnson. Born in 1911 in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, in a Deep South
plantation, he, in his pitifully short life, has become one of the
founding Fathers of the Blues.
He recorded only 36 sides over a
period of a couple of months between November 1936 and June 1937
in San Antonio Texas. These remarkable recordings still bring
tears to the eyes of Blues aficionados the world over and shaped
the face of the music of today.
The post-war Blues of Chicago owe a
great debt to Robert Johnson and it is sad to think what might
have been had he lived! In just a few short years he matured from
a young black guitarist into a superstar of his day. The often
repeated legend was perpetuated by his contemporaries that he sold
his soul to the Devil in return for his amazing guitar techniques.
His story is one of hardship tinged
with great success in his own locality of the Delta and women were
said to be rendered helpless as he sang his compositions. His
death at the hand of a jealous husband at the age of twenty seven
robbed the world of one of Americas finest ever Musicians and
Years after his death, in 1938, a
photograph was unearthed, one of only two in existence. It shows
not only his inimitable style of dress but quite remarkable
slender fingers which helped him to achieve his unique mastery of
the bottleneck guitar technique. He is pictured in a chalk–stripe
suit which would have been somewhat overstated for a man in his
position at that time. When I first saw that photograph the one
thing above all else, that stood out were his beautiful long
fingers that enveloped the guitar fingerboard and obviously
caressed it as though it was a Woman helpless in his arms!
What about his subject matter… well
nothing much has changed in the passing of time; the age old,
painful process of unrequited love; of restless yearnings to move
on down the line to pastures new; to unfaithful liaisons; and of
course much sexual innuendo.
Robert Johnson’s skill as a poet of
the time and place is absolutely unsurpassed in my estimation! For
sure he borrowed words, phrases, and guitar licks from his peers,
but moulded them into something quite unique that not only stands
the test of time but has a relevance to today’s Rock music.
There cannot be any Blues Band on
this Planet that has not been influenced by Johnson and his music
and this is a testament to the greatness of the man! The list of
recordings of Johnson’s songs by modern artists is endless and
forms the backbone of the resurgence of the Blues in the early
sixties in Britain and continues to this day! Most of the long
lasting Bands of the R,n,B revolution of 62, 63, and on into the
seventies have recorded several of Roberts songs. Notable amongst
these would be The Rolling Stones, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers,
Cream,The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Elmore
James, and many more. Johnson’s songs transcribed particularly
well to the new Electric guitar line-ups of the fifties and on
into the sixties. Probably one of the most popular of his songs,
which I can’t imagine anyone not having heard in a modern format,
is of course Crossroad Blues.
This song was recorded live at the
Fillmore in San Francisco in 1968 by the great Eric Clapton, and
his two buddies, Jack Bruce on bass and stickman, Ginger Baker.
This song also featured in Cream’s farewell concert at the Albert
Hall in London in 1969. I doubt whether Johnson envisaged this
treatment of his song when he wrote it or that his poetry would
one day be the cornerstone of the Blues Revival of the Sixties.
It is a poignant end to his story
that the great impresario John Hammond, who later went onto sign
–up a young Bob Dylan in 1962, was just too late when he searched
for Robert to appear in the momentous concert at Carnegie Hall in
1938. Robert Johnson was dead but his spirit and his music will
live on for ever in the hearts and minds of the lovers of the
music we call THE BLUES.
© Robin Piggott 2004 Key to the
Robin Piggott is a professional
Driving Instructor based in Limerick,Ireland.He is a life-long
disciple of the Blues and is hard put to choose between his Gibson
and his Car as the most treasured possession.His web site is
designed for Learner Drivers and visitors to Ireland.
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Guitar Players...Learn About The Point Of Discipline.
by Craig Bassett
Have you ever started learning a lick
or exercise and stopped practicing it before you had mastered it?
Now I don't know you, but my guess the answer to the question is
yes! Why is that? Why did you stop, when it was something that you
REALLY wanted to learn?
There are quite a few reasons for it, but the one I would like to
mention now is what I call the "point of discipline". This is the
point when the initial enthusiasm of learning that new
lick/exercise wears off. It is no longer so new and exciting. This
is the time when you will have to use your self-discipline to
complete the task at hand.
A lot of guitar players will tell you at this point…"Hey man,
guitar's supposed to be all about fun! If I have to use my
self-discipline, I'll no longer enjoy it." If anyone says that to
you, have a look at their playing. Most of the time they are not
very good :)They have not reached a virtuoso level of playing, so
why listen to them!
The point of discipline is when most guitar players quit. Rather
than using their self-discipline to TRULY master the
lick/exercise, they stop practicing it and move onto something
new. It's tempting isn't it? We've ALL done this at some point in
development as a guitarist. But what's the cost of doing this?
Some of the negative consequences of quitting at the point of
1.You'll never reach the virtuoso levels of guitar playing. Can
you imagine virtuosos like Yngwie Malmsteen, Rusty Cooley, Michael
Angelo etc, quitting before they have
mastered what they are working on? I don't think so! They didn't
incredible by being quitters. They have learned to tap into their
2. You'll never have that feeling of pride that comes with truly
3. You won't learn to confront your present technical limitations
and overcome them. This will mean that you'll learn a lot of new
things but your overall level of playing
won't become elevated.
4. You'll know about 1007 bits of songs, but if someone asks you
to play a song from start to finish, you can't.
Not a pretty picture is it? So what are some things that you can
do about it? Here are a few ideas…
1.When learning a new lick or exercise, set a speed goal. Keep
practicing the lick/exercise until the speed goal has been
reached. Realise that this can sometimes take weeks, months (or
2. Learn to enjoy using your self-discipline. Feel proud about
yourself every time you follow through and master something.
3. Use visualization. See yourself in your mind's eye becoming a
guitar virtuoso. This will help keep you motivated and
4. Make a commitment to completion. With everything you learn,
refuse to quit. Keep working on it until it has been mastered.
I guarantee that if you learn to tap into your self-discipline
your guitar playing will improve at an accelerated rate! Of
course, if you want to sit on the couch watching TV and eating
bags of potato chips,dreaming about one day becoming an awesome
guitarist, that's cool also!
Copyright 2005 by Craig Bassett.
All Rights Reserved. Craig Bassett (The Guitar Solutions Expert)is
a professional guitarist, guitar tutor and author living in
Auckland, New Zealand. Master the notes on the guitar fretboard...
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Divide and Conquer The Secret to Booking Gigs
Most everything you are told about
booking gigs is wrong. An average band hears so much advice from
so-called experts they can write a book about it. Most
misconceptions are harmless. The ones that cause the most damage
are the ones that are the most popular. Popular opinion should
almost ALWAYS be avoided when dealing with the music business.
This report is meant to deprogram you and tell you what no one
will share about really booking better gigs.
It is important to attack the root
of misconception fast. Therefore I will take a stab at it now. If
you are a good band playing horrible gigs it is most likely
because you have a skewed perspective of "time line". This article
will be littered with the term "maintaining time line". This is
not some trendy "industry term". This is simply the best way to
describe your main priority in the quest to tour on your own 4
What is "Time Line"?
Time line is a concept. It doesn't
really exist. You have to think of it as rule that governs your
music business habits. If your time line is too short, your
success at gigs will be sporadic. If your time line is too long
you will remain stagnant. You have to handle your gigging schedule
with precision and thought. You must tweak your time line in order
to correct what ails your band.
Less is More
This may be a cliché you hear
tossed around a lot in the music business, but it is seldom
followed. Playing too often in any market will kill your draw.
That is the bottom line. Don't listen to anyone who tells you
otherwise. I will spare you all the metrics and sterile accounting
speak that proves this point. You must break free of the shackles
of saturation if you are going to maintain time line and reach
You want to think of booking your
band like a war. There are territories you must win. From here on
out we will refer to these as markets.
You have to find a way into each
market and begin your campaign. For the remainder of the report
these will be referred to as gigs.
You must find allies that align
with your intentions and best interests. In other words, bands.
You must find a marketplace that
has something to gain from your war. This report will refer to
them as promoters.
Who Will Help You The
The one thing that will probably
surprise you the most is where to start getting better gigs. Many
of you started out "cold calling" clubs out of the phone book or
local rag and ask for a gig. Although this smash and grab attempt
can create some lucky opportunities here and there, it will
destroy your time line. The truth is, bands that are already
successful in that venue will be your greatest ally. If already
have some "cherry popping" gigs under your belt, or a demo, this
will be crucial in forging a relationship with bands.
Many good drawing bands will have
very strong connections with local promoters. Promoters are drawn
to them because these bands are a vital commodity in their
industry. Club owners and promoters plan to have these bands a
certain many times in the year and account for so much business.
Usually, in this type of relationship the band can book virtually
at will and many times can create bills, or cards. Your best bet
is to align with such a band. If you can do this it will launch
your time line correctly.
When to Do it Yourself
Assuming your first gig at a venue
was under the circumstance outlined above you should make sure you
meet the promoter and/or club owner that night. You want to make
an impact. When a promoter feels like giving you a bone he doesn't
want to throw it. Your initial gig at a venue via another band is
the best time to see if the promoter was even paying attention. If
they were they might need you for another bill, but you have to
come to them.
Your draw in your home market will
determine your leverage against other markets. In other words, a
following in your market will create opportunities in others. This
does NOT mean "create buzz here and then everyone will beg for us
elsewhere". This means you can now find other bands in other
markets that are successful and trade shows, or "swap gigs". Other
bands that want to break into your market will want to align
themselves with you. Repeating this across multiple markets, and
applying a solid time line, will create success. You will also
always have a good show supporting locals who draw at least as
much as you do on other markets. Creating this leverage, by
raising your draw, will be the key to routing better gigs across
markets. How does one do this? Simple. Maintaining time line.
How Often Should You Gig
in One Market
When you are fist starting out, it
is important to play whatever gigs you can to get the hang of how
it works. Think of those early gigs as practice. Think of the gigs
you do supporting better drawing bands as where you really iron
out your craft. Eventually you are going to want to test the
waters and see what you are really worth. A band will, at some
point, have to go out on its own and try to "headline", or put
their own bill together as the "biggest" band. The first couple of
times you do this it should be no more than once every 6 weeks.
When your time line is ready to be set at optimum performance you
should not headline any one market more than 4 or 5 times a year,
or once per season. That's right, your time line gets longer, not
shorter. When everything is working properly you will play less
gigs, but with significantly more draw at each.
Choosing the Right Venue
You want to fight battle you know
you can win (we will talk more about battles in a moment). You
want to play where you are confident you can draw. If you know a
certain venue is famous for having death metal bands, and your
name is DECAYING FLESH, you should probably put that club high in
the running to become your home venue.The venue you draw the most
at should be the one you concentrate on in the market.
War is Made Up of Battles
As General, it is important to have
a keen sense of delegation. You must be aware that the entire
campaign is on your shoulders, but you have resources and a team
of people to help you. Your band may not seem like an awesome war
machine now, but you have to think logically. You have to
The easiest way to start creating a
draw is to first hit your friends via your band mates. Delegate a
realistic amount of responsibility to the other players in your
band with a real value. You should start with "heads", or people
they bring. Every member of your band should feel they are
responsible to bring 20 heads that pay to get in. Instead of
looking at your promotional campaign as a daunting war you will
gain more ground with your band fighting smaller battles at once.
Some of the members of your band
will have 20 cousins who will love to come. Some of your band
members will have to resort to begging ex-girlfriends they dumped.
Most of you will go the traditional route and hand out fliers at
shows. No matter how, you each must meet your goal of 20 heads.
The PR and marketing front is a
whole other battle. The Internet has made it possible to have your
music heard, gigs found, and pictures seen across the world in
hyper-speed. Properly presenting your image will be very important
on this front. If you feel you need help in presenting your image
you should refer to my previous article "The Truth Behind Press
Kits, Bios, and Controlling Your Image". Remember, there are bands
in other markets looking for bands to swap with, so make sure you
are easy to find on the Internet.
Optimizing Your Time Line
At first, you might be surprised
that you do not meet our goal of 20 heads per member. Do not be
discouraged. But when you finally create that watermark you are
ready to begin stretching your time line and playing less gigs.
You should reserve your headlining events for once a season and
only break that rule for an opening slot for a national act or a
great promotional opportunity like a benefit.
At this point you should be
concentrating only on creating new fans. Think of the first wave
of friends as your new soldiers. Delegate some task to them with a
real value. A good starting point is having all your friends get
at least 2 people to the next show or to at least sign up for the
mailing list on your website. You have a website with a mailing
list don't you?
You should not neglect historical
methods of creating interest. Giving away free tickets to people
who sign up to your list always gets some response. Promoting the
fact you are giving away something for free at the next gig works
The actual venue that you play is
often overlooked as a great place to promote. Not just by handing
out fliers to patrons, but perhaps posters and banners. Most clubs
will not have a problem with you putting up promotional materials
around the venue. Always get a professional artist or art student
to create your posters and fliers. This is the first thing many
people will see promoting your band, make sure it counts.
If you can afford merchandise, or
"merch", like apparel and stickers, it can be a great revenue
stream for your band. But again, you have to apply time line to
your stocking habits. You want to be able to create and sell a new
item at every couple of shows. Even if all you can afford are some
new stickers or a new style button, do it. So if you really want
to get those expensive glow-in-the-dark sweaters that say your
band's name when you press a button make sure you have enough to
get some more new merch soon.
New merch is a great way to train
your fanbase. You have to train your fanbase to bring money to
your gigs. When your fans are expecting new merch they are more
likely to come prepared, or "armed with dough". Go to
Scenejumper.com for more info
Divide and Conquer
Use your newfound leverage to
repeat success across multiple markets. Trade shows wisely and
always do your research. Always make sure a gig swap is really
worth it. Choose your markets carefully. It should be practical
and affordable to gig other markets. You want to move out from
your home base logically. Eventually you will be able to easily
route yourself across your surrounding markets. Applying the
proper time line and work ethic you can do mini-tours every
Bishop Dolarhyde is co-founder and
editor of music news blog
http://www.scenejumper.com. Bruce had his first live gig at 15
and has had various jobs in the industry since. He spent years as
a guitar tech, tour manager, endorsement liaison, bassist in a
national act, and promoter in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
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Today’s technology for the
recording musician has been getting better and better with each
passing month it seems. Software and computer interfaces are
getting much less sophisticated and more user friendly for the
average Joe. And,let's not forget, less expensive.
Software like Acid Pro 4.0
is what I use to create and upload music to the web. I've been
using products from Sonic Foundry Sony) for 4 years now. Their
software products are superb to say the least. I highly recommend
this software to build your music creations.
is where I upload
my music and Video for the whole world to see and hear. As a
member, you can upload music and video files for free.
Software like Vegas Video
(also made by Sonic Foundry-Sony), it is what I use to create
Now, don’t get me wrong… this is
the software I use and recommend. There are many reliable programs
out there to choose from.
I've been doing some online music
collaborations as of late myself. This has been a great experience
for me. However, as with anything else, there is a learning curve.
So... I thought I'd pass some
simple tips that will help anchor you to a basic format you can
These are common sense tips that
I'm giving here and they work well if you follow this basic format
First, you need you find a website
that has musicians who have the same interest you do. Yes,
"online music collaborations."
"Musician Forum Boards are a
great place to start. Here are just a few that will help get you
Guitar Noise Forums has
recently created a page called, appropriately enough, Online Jams
and Collaborations. It’s pretty much a bulletin board where you
can hook up with others who are interested in putting together an
online jam, hosted by another site. You can join in on a jam or
announce one of your own.
“GuitarDuel.com" is a site
for guitarists of all ability levels to display their work. The
best part is that it's free to join, but we'll have weekly
contests with real prize money," says site creator, Don Harrold.
The appeal of
is the unique way in which it uses the Internet to find talented
Artistopia is committed to
building the ultimate end-all solution for music artists,
musicians, songwriters, and industry professionals to develop and
do business in one spot. Armed with comprehensive membership
plans, industry experts, expert technologist, business management,
and solid online presence, Artistopia is leading the frontier in
online artist development.
Whenever a site such as these have
a Forum Board, use them to find other artist that have the same
taste as you. I usually introduce myself right away after signing
up. It doesn't take long until you find some really cool musicians
that are more than willing for an online collaboration.
Acidplanet.com is where I upload my tunes.
Once I get on the Forum Board, I'll
look for topics of discussions. Songwriting Topics, Recording
Topics etc. This is where you'll find folks to collaborate with.
A great why to start is by taking a
consensus. Throw the idea out there with some guidelines
established. Remember, it's all in the approach. Then, folks need
to hear what you are working on first, just to find out if it's
something they can get into...
My first "collabs" were done by
posting backing tracks for others to download and do their own
Some of the top players on AP
really had a good time with that, and it grew into something way
beyond what I intended. Very cool…
You can do the same thing by
building the backing track, and listing the lyrics you want in the
You'll probably get a lot more
folks involved if you let them post the songs on their own pages
To collaborate with others takes
time. Just being vague and asking for a collaboration will
probably not get very many responses. Having your ideas laid out
before hand would probably get more responses. Most good musicians
I know are looking to be challenged a little when it comes to
making music. Remember, it's got be worth while I'm sure.
Any "collaboration" is a
community effort between people, with equal input and
participation throughout the project.
A great approach would be to
post a subject idea for a group project, discuss ideas posted by
participating members on that subject, and come to a consensus on:
What the outline of the
song should be (genre, instrumentation, time signature, tempo,
key, section layout of verses/choruses/bridges/solos).
Which people will
contribute what parts and instruments
3. Where the finished parts
of each collaborator will be uploaded to
4. Who is responsible for
collecting/mixing/mastering the parts
5. A timeline for when parts
need to be done to keep the project moving smoothly
What profile the song
will be uploaded to
A "project head" to
oversee the entire process and make sure things are running
smoothly, communication is consistent and informative, and every
participant is included equally in the project.
"Hope these tips and
guidelines help you get you on the right track."
Internet Jams By
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And speaking of
jamming, if you're tired of jamming alone, check this out!
Guitar-Backing-Tracks is a brand new site that allows you to
select ANY drum beat - ANY bass riff - or ANY synth track... and
start jamming immediately!
Improve your guitar playing... create your own songs... improve
your lead with over 125,000 different combinations of beats, riffs
and synth tracks behind you!
For the last 6 months, Chris Elmore and the team at Guitar Tips
have been flat out recording and he's just told us he's finally
Because you're already a subscriber on our newsletter -- we wanted
you to be among the first to check it out. It's called
"Guitar-Backing-Tracks" and like all his other sites, you can
access the site any time of the day or night, at the times which
suit you best!
Whether you enjoy slow jazz beats, hard rock beats, ultra fast
grooves or slow mellow tunes... ... you'll be jamming in your own
home, with your own virtual 'Backing Band' behind you!
There's so much more to explain, so check out his new site over
http://www.guitar-backing-tracks.com.au before everyone else gets in!
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