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Andy Henriksen

 

From:
Michigan, USA
Post  Posted 15 Jul 2020 8:06 pm    
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Another vote for harmonica. It’s got its own sound that adds something unique, is (relatively) easy to play (and transport), and since I’m also singing a bit, I have a mic there already. I play probably steel on 70%, sing lead on 20%, and blow harp on 10% of songs.
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Bob Watson


From:
Champaign, Illinois, U.S.
Post  Posted 15 Jul 2020 9:01 pm    
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If you are looking at this as nothing but a financial decision, I would say Keyboards or Bass. Both of those instruments are constantly in high demand and you don't have to be a virtuoso to be able to play most of the "record parts" that you hear in popular music these days. Also, knowing how to sing harmony is always a big plus. Otherwise, I would suggest learning how to play the Squareneck Dobro. It's a really fun instrument to play and it will open up the door to playing acoustic gigs, which is whole new world.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2020 12:05 am    
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I have a different take, as usual. I don't refer to any OTHER Instruments as secondary, I view them all as equal.

But what is the premise, second instrument in the band you are in ?

Or

secondary instrument for OTHER gigs and calls not related to the band you typically play with ?



Pick one that you are most comfortable with and GO with it.

Guitar , Dobro ,(Sq Neck) , Mandolin etc.. treat them as primary importance.

Another thought, as we are playing Steel in band A, if we are filling in with a band on another Instrument, we may be faced with a totally different genre of music and set lists.

Also ask yourself, in your current band, will you be able to perform as efficiently on the 2nd instrument ? The answer should be YES.

Do not assume we can pick up a Dobro and just join a Bluegrass band, they play a multitude of songs in A and D which is a million miles away from OPEN G. As simple as 3 chord Bluegrass songs are, they are not simple if we don't know them . If we actually don't know them we will be behind the groove all night and they expect us to solo. Same thing with the Flat top, strumming chords is one thing but if they are playing Whiskey Before Breakfast, they want us to play it. For EX; Capo second fret, play it in D in the C chord position for the open notes. We gotta know this stuff , its standard knowledge.

Think of it another way, in YOUR existing band, would you bring in a Steel player, or maybe as LEAD player who only played a little bit ( secondary) but didn't know the songs ?


Its a study, well worth it, a totally different study. It opens up doors that we never knew existed because we were never part of a bigger picture.

Don't view another instrument as lessor it will show in NY minute.

Go for it but make it a serious study not an after thought. There is NO EASY .

"I'm a Steel player and I only mess a little bit on the Dobro"

"Yes, we can tell "

Guitar and Sq Neck Dobro make the most transfer sense, ( from Steel) Mandolin and Fiddles are tuned in 5ths, as Chris Thile once said, going from Mandolin to Guitar ( 4ths) is a piece of cake, going the other direction can be a nightmare !

As the late great Bobbe Seymour would say, some of these Instruments are really EASY to play REAL POORLY ! Laughing
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Last edited by Tony Prior on 17 Jul 2020 12:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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Peter Leavenworth

 

From:
Madbury, New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2020 3:25 am     Secondary instrument
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I agree with Anthony in regard to transferable skills that lap steel is great for bands that verge from country to rock covers. They are small so it's not adding very much bulk to what you bring to gigs and with a good overdrive pedal they can sound like another guitar for rhythm backup (I don't like overdriving my pedal steel). And when you solo, you're guaranteed to not sound like the lead guitarist in the band. A small, quality keyboard for organ parts also fits well in rock band situations and you can set them up in front of your steel guitar and just reach over to do backing fills for your favorite Tom Petty covers.
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Larry Bressington


From:
The beautiful sunsets of Nebraska
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2020 4:17 pm    
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Can't beat a good old harmonica, (especially at the end of the night) he he
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Ned McIntosh


From:
New South Wales, Australia
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2020 6:33 pm    
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There are two ways of looking at this:-

Do you need to be capable of making your band preferentially employable because you bring a number of different sounds and instruments to it?, or:-

Do you just want to be versatile and not rely wholly on pedal-steel in your band?

To bring different sounds, I'd go along with those suggesting mandolin or fiddle, bearing in mind these are tuned the same, but played very differently. I'd also suggest Dobro and 5-string banjo, because both are played with the same picks you use for steel, and they share commonality in tunings (provided you are in G-tuning for both).

To make your band more employable, that very much depends on the venues you play, the musical genres you play and the music which the management prefer or find brings in the greatest number of patrons through the door. You'd need to do the research on those issues and make your choice accordingly. There have been some very good suggestions in previous posts so I won't add to them.

For what it's worth, in the band I currently work with, I am primarily on pedal-steel, but I also play backup 5-string banjo, Dobro, some mandolin, 6 or 12-string guitar and (when things are really getting desperate) I can do some pretty basic stuff on a fiddle. I wouldn't claim to be hot on any of these, but I can get by with the rest of the band, and the audiences haven't thrown stuff at us (not even money).
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2020 7:01 pm    
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My other instruments are electric bass and marimba. When I play either of them, I don't bring my steel. Too much to haul. Lately I've been learning keyboard as well. I'm too old to get really good at it, but I can play for my own enjoyment. The piano part for "Blue Jade" is one of my favorites.

I think that the best instrument for a steel player to double on is saxophone. You don't have to carry an amp, and it's often used in songs that don't expect a steel guitar.
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Nicholas Cox


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2020 10:36 pm     Dobro
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It’s dobro for me. Don’t have to take the picks off and sounds amazing through my Webb amp.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2020 12:12 am     Re: Secondary Instrument
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Corbin Pratt wrote:
What does everyone think is the best secondary instrument? Lap steel, dobro, keys, mando, banjo, etc. I play guitar as well, but most groups I play in already have guitar players so I'm exploring other options.



Are you wanting a second instrument for the band you already play in or is it to seek additional gigs with other artists bands etc , unrelated to what you currently do ?

Because they are not the same scenario.

just curious
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Jacek Jakubek


From:
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2020 4:54 am    
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Bob Watson wrote:
Also, knowing how to sing harmony is always a big plus.

Glad someone mentioned it. The voice is also an instrument and I think knowing how to add a good harmony part to a song is the best thing you could possibly do to make the music sound better. You don't even have to have the best voice as long as you sing it in tune supporting the lead singer, it will sound good.
Those Bluegrass tenor harmonies give me goosebumps sometimes.

I would love to learn to be able to do this. Got some instructional CDs but haven't yet dedicated any time to practice. If anyone is interested, here's where you can download or order CDs that teach harmony singing (They also sell instruction for all the other instruments talked about here): https://www.musicians-workshop.com/index.php/singing-harmony.html. They are very reasonably priced. You can practice along in your car while driving if you listen to music while you drive (I prefer not to listen to anything while driving).
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Rick Campbell


From:
Sneedville, TN, USA
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2020 5:14 am    
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Dave Mudgett wrote:
I think what has the highest "utility" depends on the playing context.

Of course, guitar is ubiquitous - but a lot of steel players play guitar. And if you play pedal steel, why not transfer some skills to the nonpedal context?

But for someone wanting to be more versatile and marketable in a country music context, I'd definitely say fiddle. Good country/bluegrass fiddle players are hard to find. I wish I played, but with everything else I do, it's too late for me to start. And if you play fiddle and guitar, you might as well play mandolin since it's laid out like a fiddle and uses picking technique similar to most guitar players. And banjo does frequently creep into even mainstream country music.

Style-independent, I'd say bass and drums. I play enough of both to function at a basic level if I need to, and I think I know enough to evaluate whether or not I'm really dealing with a good bass player or drummer. To me, bass and drums are the key to a good band, at least in the styles of music I prefer to play.

But almost any mainstream instrument is worthy. Keyboards are the key to understanding music theory IMO. I did 8 years of piano before I switched to guitar. I can still play some, but have never really worked on it since. Woodwinds/brass like sax and trumpet (and many others) are generally welcome in many musical contexts. If I want to think about how to compose melodic solos, I listen to horn players. And to me, that's a good enough reason to learn an instrument - to let it channel you.

But I, personally, can only take on so many varied instruments without becoming a total dilettante. So for me it's guitar, steel, banjo, bass, and drums. I started to play mandolin in the 90s, but in the end, I prefer the others.


While they do tune the same, that's where the similarities of fiddle and mandolin end. I play both. Steel guitar is actually a secondary instrument for me, or maybe even a third, fourth, or fifth, depending on who you ask. Very Happy Fiddle, being a fretless instrument, involves different kinds of slurs and slides, and of course using the bow. Bowing technique is a whole world of it's own musically. Incidentally, it seems that people associate the bow with a universal item like a guitar pick. Fact is, theres a huge difference in bows. I've got bows that value in price from $30.00, to ones that cost more than the most expensive steel guitar money can buy. The most expensive ones are not always my favorites. Also, strings differ. A good set of eight mandolin strings cost around $8.00. A good set of four fiddle strings cost around $50.00 and can be as much $80.00.

I agree that a basic knowledge of music, 1,4,5's and timing are transferable from instrument to instrument. I always recommend that people learn basic guitar chords and rhythm strumming before they attempt to learn any other instrument.

RC
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Darrell Criswell

 

From:
Maryland, USA
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2020 6:40 am     Re: Secondary Instrument
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Curt Trisko wrote:
Corbin Pratt wrote:
What does everyone think is the best secondary instrument? Lap steel, dobro, keys, mando, banjo, etc. I play guitar as well, but most groups I play in already have guitar players so I'm exploring other options.


For hobby bands, I am coming to learn more and more that it is percussion. For small acoustic folk/country music groups, percussion seems to be the afterthought and it is a great thing for a steel player to supply on songs that don't need steel guitar. For full electrified bands, finding a reliable drummer who is willing to play what the songs need seems to be constant struggle.


What about a computer drummer? I have heard people say you really can't tell the difference and you never have to worry about the drummer showing up drunk!
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2020 7:01 am    
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Rick Campbell wrote:

While they do tune the same, that's where the similarities of fiddle and mandolin end. I play both. Steel guitar is actually a secondary instrument for me, or maybe even a third, fourth, or fifth, depending on who you ask. Very Happy Fiddle, being a fretless instrument, involves different kinds of slurs and slides, and of course using the bow. Bowing technique is a whole world of it's own musically. Incidentally, it seems that people associate the bow with a universal item like a guitar pick. Fact is, theres a huge difference in bows. I've got bows that value in price from $30.00, to ones that cost more than the most expensive steel guitar money can buy. The most expensive ones are not always my favorites. Also, strings differ. A good set of eight mandolin strings cost around $8.00. A good set of four fiddle strings cost around $50.00 and can be as much $80.00.

I agree that a basic knowledge of music, 1,4,5's and timing are transferable from instrument to instrument. I always recommend that people learn basic guitar chords and rhythm strumming before they attempt to learn any other instrument.

I’m glad somebody laid out the fiddle thing. If you’ve never tried it, you don’t know what a different world it really is, and it is definitely not for everybody. Having taught guitar for a short career, I can say that it is not for everyone either - playing or teaching.
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Curt Trisko


From:
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2020 8:17 am    
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Jacek Jakubek wrote:
Bob Watson wrote:
Also, knowing how to sing harmony is always a big plus.

Glad someone mentioned it.


Seconded. I have much respect for people who don't think of themselves as singers who work on it for the sake of the final musical product.

Quote:
You don't even have to have the best voice as long as you sing it in tune supporting the lead singer, it will sound good.


In my opinion, sometime it's better if you have a cruddy voice... as long as it is cruddy in the right way. It makes the lead voice sound better and adds flavor. When we talk about tone we don't talk enough about how if you're combining instruments, it is only the final, combined tone that really matters.
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Chris Brooks

 

From:
Providence, Rhode Island
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2020 8:30 am    
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Horns are not appropriate for every musical situation, to be sure. But a trumpet, for example, has several plusses as a double:

1. Different sonority.
2. Playable with one hand.
3. Easy to tote: horn in case + stand
4. Easy to grab, play, and put back.
5. Minimal stage space.

I often double (not very well) on sax but it is more of a hassle: Take off picks, pick up sax, clip it onto neck strap, remove mouthpiece cap--then play.

With a trumpet or fluegelhorn, no mouthpiece cap, no strap--and it's one handed.

And [heresy alert!] the sound is a relief from guitars and drums.

Chris
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Tom Dillon


From:
La Mesa, California, USA
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2020 8:48 am    
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I'll expand on my one word "fiddle" reply earlier. I can say that I wouldn't be playing steel in a band every week (in normal times) if I didn't play fiddle. I'm the utility guy in my band covering fiddle, steel, mando, guitar.

I've played fiddle for almost 50 years and it's my primary instrument. I started on steel about 4 years ago when I retired. I was always interested in it but never had time to dedicate to it. Since I started playing in country and bluegrass bands in the 70's, it always seemed that fiddle was in demand and I always had a band to play with. From my experience there are lots of fiddle tune players (including me, I love that stuff), but fewer players that can improvise solos on electric fiddle in a band setting playing in lots of different keys. So, having some ability to play fiddle at that level is gonna get you more gigs, IMO.

If you are primarily a PSG player and wanted to learn fiddle, there some similarities - no frets, lots of double stop/harmonized scale licks, a lot of classic breaks to learn from. Your musical knowledge applies just as much. Articulation with the bow is really the key to any fiddle style. Like any instrument it's possible to learn at any age but it takes about a year (with practice) to get past the scratchy squeaky phase. They are obviously very different, but I think steel and fiddle are about the same difficulty to learn.

Mandolin is a whole different thing. I actually find fiddle easier than mando if a lot of ways. Again the style is in the right hand.
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2020 9:37 am    
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When we started the duo Wine Country Swing, it became obvious that I'd have to do a lot more singing. My vocal pitch isn't real good, so I bought a TC Helicon vocal processor that included a chromatic pitch assist knob. I didn't use it the the point of being obvious, but it sure helped and it boosted my confidence. Also, it was great for singing harmony notes. I just had to get in the ballpark of the right note and it did a subtle correction.

It's not a studio quality effects unit, but it works fine on stage. Set it and forget it. Yeah, I cheat. Embarassed
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Corbin Pratt


From:
Nashville
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2020 9:55 am    
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Thanks for everyone's suggestions. This is mainly referring to making yourself more marketable within the modern country/singer songwriter scene. Preferably something that doesn't take a lot of time to get to a giggable level. I have also been in bands where there are two guitar players already so playing guitar doesn't make sense.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2020 1:22 am    
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Corbin Pratt wrote:
Preferably something that doesn't take a lot of time to get to a giggable level.


To become more "marketable" may require something more than that.

There are millions of average players. Hopefully that is not the goal, to become average. Proficient, is not average.

We don't get calls because we are average, why would they call us ? We get calls if we bring something to the table .

STUDY and work hard, become proficient. Rise above average.

The late great Bobbe Seymour once told me in a discussion, "Tony , wanna play in Nashville ? I can get you the first gig, but the second one is on YOU ".

We may very well be capable of playing Instrument A in a band , changing to Instrument B may require a totally different perspective and musicianship. Learning to play the Instrument is only ONE part of the equation , the bigger part is learning how to execute within the band. THATS why we get called back.
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Asa Brosius

 

Post  Posted 18 Jul 2020 4:08 am    
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With that clarification Corbin, I'll add that vocals are a big plus, and I'll double down on a versatile keyboard, especially with your caveats- modern country, singer/songwriter/and relatively quick to learn-of course the sky's the limit with any instrument, but you'll be playing keys pads correctly long before you play an in tune c scale on fiddle with acceptable tone. To the post above, it goes without saying that you should be very good at your instruments- in a competitive market in a questionable industry with near 0 job security and disappearing budgets-and currently no venues or crowds- heck yeah, be versatile. As in, second career vs second instrument.
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Jacek Jakubek


From:
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2020 5:13 am    
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b0b wrote:
When we started the duo Wine Country Swing, it became obvious that I'd have to do a lot more singing. My vocal pitch isn't real good, so I bought a TC Helicon vocal processor that included a chromatic pitch assist knob. I didn't use it the the point of being obvious, but it sure helped and it boosted my confidence. Also, it was great for singing harmony notes. I just had to get in the ballpark of the right note and it did a subtle correction.

It's not a studio quality effects unit, but it works fine on stage. Set it and forget it. Yeah, I cheat.


That is interesting, the technology they have now. Wonder if I'd be able to tell if I heard your band live. If it works, I need to get two of these gadgets, one for my singing and one for my steel playing. Then I'll be unstoppable. Watch out world! Very Happy

This discussion inspired me to want to try messing around with harmonica again. I'm not too much a fan of that sound anymore but I remember it was really fun to play, with the breath-work involved. Some years ago I went through a blues harmonica phase and still got my Marine Band harps somewhere for all 12 keys.

I was reading some harmonica instruction once and the author, a gigging blues harp player, recommended a Fender Twin Reverb amp for harp. I went to the store to check one out and the store guy told me he thought a Fender Twin Reverb was a bit "overkill" for harp. I listened to him, which was not a good decision, because now I'd have a nice Fender Twin Reverb Sad
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Tom Cooper

 

From:
Orlando, Fl
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2020 7:26 am     Secondary inst.
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For me dobro has been huge secondary. It is just so intuitive to have it nearby. I am sideman to a really good songwriter and when we do acoustic or in studio quick type things dobro covers it all. That said usually I am on electric guitar for some of his stuff as well as mandolin. Sometimes I use a mixer if I don't trust sound ppl, if just us I send acoustic Mando and Dobro thru his p.a. I strap a Sennheiser cab mic to front of dobro and it works great. When I played this setup with full band fortunately the guitar player was an authentic country player, i.e., he played at proper volume and I could hear ok. I won't play if drum and gtr player go overboard. That's the worst. Usually if singer bandleader wants pedal steel and dobro they will make it happen. Got to be carful with mic on dobro, there is a threshold for feedback. I usually make sure to keep it out of monitor, and rely on other monitor further away or house. It's not easy but it can work if everyone is careful and on board.
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Brett Day


From:
Pickens, SC
Post  Posted 18 Jul 2020 7:08 pm    
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Dobro for me, because I decided that even though I love playing steel, I needed an acoustic instrument to play in addition to steel, so I decided to play dobro. I take the dobro to jam sessions because the jam sessions are mainly for acoustic instruments, and at the jam sessions, I play a lot of classic country songs acoustically, so there are a lot of dobro solos and fills. Since I'm also a steel player, my dobro is a squareneck, and I love how the dobro blends in with other acoustic instruments. A lot of the parts I play on dobro are parts I play on steel.

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Rich Upright


From:
Florida, USA
Post  Posted 20 Jul 2020 12:57 am    
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I play guitar, banjo & bass. But it don't matter; there ain't no gigs anyway.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 20 Jul 2020 1:51 am    
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Rich Upright wrote:
I play guitar, banjo & bass. But it don't matter; there ain't no gigs anyway.



well yeah there are. I've played 4 outdoor gigs ( state protocols observed) over the last 4 weeks and have 4 or more booked going forward.

PRACTICE, be prepared. The phone will ring.
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