Sting and Dominic Miller – “Lullaby For An Anxious Child”

Please click the link below to view the full score:

Please click the link below to view the full score:

Lullaby For An Anxious Child – Full Score

This is another great collaboration from Sting and Dominic Miller (see my last post on “Shape of My Heart”). I first heard this song from Sting’s 2009 Winter-themed album, ‘If On A Winter’s Night…’ . However, it was originally released years before this along with the single release of “You Still Touch Me ” (1996). I haven’t spent any time comparing the guitar part on the two different versions, but I suspect that there is not a huge difference between the two of them (in regard to the guitar part). That said, the transcription above is based on the If On A Winter’s Night… release. Also, I only transcribed the verse section, not the chorus. One strange side note, the original release of this song was under the title “Lullaby To An Anxious Child,” but the recent 2009 version was changed to “Lullaby For An Anxious Child.” I don’t know if this is significant, or if it was even intentional, but there you have it. Dominic Miller also released a solo guitar instrumental version of this song under the title “Lullaby To An Anxious Child” on his album Second Nature (2000).

In regard to the above transcription, Miller does natural harmonics on the 12th first during the first measure with the exception of the D (this is the 5th note of the guitar line). He doesn’t do a harmonic on this particular note, but plays the 10th fret on the high E-String. However, I notated it as a harmonic on the 7th fret of the G-string. This is what I had always thought that he did until finding the video below, which is a great live performance, and a good look at Miller’s hands. Nevertheless, I went ahead and left it as a harmonic in the transcription, but purists out there would be in good company to play it the way Miller does.

A few notes on natural harmonics for those unfamiliar:

  • First of all, in the transcription above, on the top line (standard notation, treble clef), I used diamond shaped notes to indicate the notes that are to be played as harmonics. Also, there are different ways to notate harmonics, but the notes pictured are the actual pitches that are sounded (not always the fret location). I used the tablature line (bottom) to indicate the fret location of the harmonics.
  • With natural harmonics, use one of your left hand fingers to press lightly directly above the actual metal fret in the locations indicated on the tab. To clarify, normally when you fret a note on the guitar, you try and put your finger near the fret for optimal results. For harmonics, you put your finger directly over the fret in question.
  • Do not push the string down to the fretboard like you normally would on a fretted note. On the contrary, lightly touch the string above the fret without pushing down on it.
  • As soon as you pluck the note, pick up your left hand hand finger off the string for maximum resonance and tone. The note will continue to ring after you pick it up. While you can leave your finger lightly touching the string, it will ring out better if you lift it. Of course, make sure you lift your finger after you pluck the note and not before.
  • Also, you will get better results when your hands are relaxed. The more you try to “muscle” these notes out, the less success you will have. RELAX!!! Don’t be too tense.

71LRsE+8xmL
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Sting and Dominic Miller – “Shape Of My Heart”

Please click one of the links below to view the full score:

Shape of My Heart – Full Score (Melody on the B-string)

Shape of My Heart – Full Score (Melody on the G-string)

Air on a B String.

If I were to look at this song alone, I may jump to some conclusions about Sting’s guitarist and co-writer of this song, Dominic Miller. First, I would assume that he doesn’t like: 1. Open strings. 2. The high E-string. 3. The easiest possible fingering.

I would also take note of the fact that Miller seems to like: 1. Good tone. 2. Good tone. 3. Good tone. 4. Triads. 5. Big stretches.

I remember “learning” this song a while back. The notes I was playing were mostly correct, but it just sounded wrong. This bugged me for a while, and then I put it away for some time. Looking back, I did two things wrong:

  1. My finger-picking pattern was too busy. I did a more traditional travis-picking feel [steady 8th-note bass picking amidst a syncopated melody (think “Dust in the Wind” or “The Boxer”)]. The beauty of this guitar part is the syncopated simplicity (a great example of ‘less-is-more;’ i.e., less bass picking). Also, Miller has a great ‘Big Picture’ view of the guitar’s role in fitting in with the orchestration and groove of the rest of the band. For example, he trusts the bass player to take the bass line; that is, he very intentionally leaves out the bass note at the beginning of each measure. Also, the lowest notes in these voicings are often the third of the chord instead of the root. That said, I should clarify that this is not meant to be an indictment against travis-picking, I’m a big fan and use it regularly. I’m only saying that it’s not right for this song.
  2. The other thing that I wasn’t doing right was I was playing the melody of the guitar part on the E-string which gives it a very thin, overly bright sound. For the studio recording, he played the melody on the G-string. Now he prefers to play it on the B-string (I made a tab for either option). Either way, this gives the melody a much sweeter/darker sound. I should mention, while this was not the easiest song to transcribe, he is unusually generous with his guitar “secrets” on his website (http://www.dominicmiller.com) making it very accessible to get a good idea of what his exact fingerings are (along with a wealth of live videos on Youtube).

I found a great video for getting a good look at Miller’s fingerings (there are some slight variations from the recording that will differ from the tabs but would also be worth learning):

Like I said before, Dominic Miller is very generous about answering fans’ questions and giving away his guitar secrets. There were a couple of key answers on his website that I wish I had seen many years ago when I was trying to figure it out that would have saved me a lot of trouble. I’ll post them here along with the link where I found them. First, here is Miller addressing a question about the overall fingerings used for this song:

“There are indeed different ways of playing this part. The way it was recorded was by having the high note on the G string and 14th fret going down etc. The way I like to play it now is with the high note on the B string and 10th fret. The simplest way but not the best sounding is to play it ‘downstairs’ with the high note on the E string and 5th fret.” http://www.dominicmiller.com/ask-dominic/songs-and-albums/

Secondly, the transcriptions I made are both based on the recording, but I often look to live videos to get a glimpse at his hands. That said, there is one spot that he has modified over the years, measure 9 and 10 where he plays the D6 chord for two measures, so I couldn’t find a video where he not only plays it like the original recording, but one where there is also a good shot of his hands. In short, I could only guess at how he played this particular D6 chord until Miller put this mystery to rest in his answer that follows:

“If so, the first D chord (D, B, F sharp, A) is fingered as follows (from the low to high): 2nd finger on 5th fret on A string. 1st finger on 4th fret on G string, 4th finger on 7th fret on B string and 3rd finger on 5th fret and E string. I hope this is clear.” http://www.dominicmiller.com/ask-dominic/learning-and-playing/

This song is a great song to learn, and it made a big impact on me as a guitarist. Besides the fact that it’s beautiful and a great model of a good melodic accompaniment, it is an excellent study in three-note chord voicings (triads), and it’s a good technical study for your left hand. The stretches needed for some of the voicings are a great way to open up your left hand and correct lazy/bad habits such as scrunching the fingers together or lifting them too far off the fretboard when not in use. Suddenly, normal everyday chords will feel very easy. Finally, his use of good taste and restraint with the right hand is a good masterclass in fingerpicking, simplicity, and musicality.

To fully benefit from this song, learn both versions. The voicings used are worth learning in a couple different positions. Secondly, do some homework and figure out the chord construction of each chord. In other words, do you know what notes are in a D6 chord? What scale degrees are in a D6 chord? In the voicings used in this song, do you know which note is which? Knowing the theory behind the chords you are playing is vital if you want to be a versatile guitarist. This will also give you a deeper vocabulary of chords when composing your own music.

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Christopher Young – “Birth of Sandman”

Please click the link below to view the full score:

Birth of Sandman – Full Score

Spider-Man 3. I liked it. So sue me. And, I loved the original trilogy. Certainly “2” was my favorite. In high school I went through a brief comic book phase, mostly Spider-Man comics. I had a file at my local comic book shop, Galactic Greg’s, of all the Spider-Man titles at that time: The Amazing Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man and Spider-Man Unlimited among some others. So every week I would ride my bike to Greg’s to get the latest Spider-Man mag. All that to say, while I wouldn’t pretend to be the most hardcore Spidey fan, I’m definitely a big fan of the friendly neighborhood wall crawler with radioactive blood.

I remember that there was talk about a Spider-Man movie happening, and at one point director James Cameron was on board to make it, but after a lot of legal issues, the project was canned along with my hopes and dreams. However, years later all the waiting was made worthwhile by Sam Raimi’s film and the sequels that followed. I loved Danny Elfman’s score from the original two films, and I was particularly struck by Christopher Young’s score at the scene in “3” when Flint Marko is transformed into Sandman. The scene in itself is amazing, but the music is so good, it would have been worth the ticket price alone just to hear it. The title of the cue is “Birth of Sandman” which tragically didn’t make it onto the song soundtrack, much less a score soundtrack.

I consider myself a pretty busy guy, but my wife sometimes observes that I have too much time on my hands. This is one example that she cites:

I spent the good portion of my Saturday one week transcribing this tune for guitar soon after watching “3.” In regard to the video above, sometimes I’ll tape myself on a webcam playing through songs I’m working on. I find it to be a good way to honestly evaluate my playing. Much to my delight, my son steals the show. For that reason, I consider this more of a home video than a legit “music video” as it was taken at our apartment on a webcam, and it contains footage of my kid being cute which probably nobody besides close family will find enjoyable.

That said, I received a request on YouTube for a “tab” of this arrangement, which I was reluctant to give, since I had not made one (having learned it by ear), and I knew that the amount of time it would take for me to notate it would be considerable. But eventually I gave in and made one, so I thought I would share it here as well. I do realize that there is probably not a huge demand for this particular guitar transcription of a somewhat obscure tune, but I figured I spent all this time making it; I might as well share it with the handful of Spider-Man Geek Guitarists out there.

One note about the “tab,” I did make some minor changes to what I played on the video which is common when I write stuff down. This is a great way to evaluate, fine tune, and finalize your music, or in this case, arrangements. Also, I take the details a little more seriously too when I write it down. So as I was “transcribing” what I played on this video, I found some errors when comparing it to Young’s original score that I tried to fix.

Also, I did the arrangement in 12/8 to give it more of a triple feel. I did this because the guitar can’t do crescendos and dynamics with long notes (without a volume pedal) the way that (bowed) string instruments can. So the triplet arpeggio is meant to help the chords resonate more and to give more opportunities for dynamics, and to add a pulse. Certainly, I wouldn’t try to “improve” on Christopher Young’s great score, that would be impossible, and I wouldn’t be the guy to do it if it was. This arrangement just happened because I loved the piece, I love guitar, and as my wife says, I “have too much time on my hands.”

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Peter Gabriel – “Solsbury Hill”

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Solsbury Hill

Peter.

I was at Wrigleyville Sports outside of Wrigley Field buying a Cubs hat. The employees at the store were very helpful, but also very particular about the cd’s they played on their little boombox. They were discussing music when I overheard the cashier saying “Games Without Frontiers” to one of his coworkers. I merely repeated “Games Without Frontiers?” immediately recalling the classic Peter Gabriel tune, and I’ll never forget the response I received. He looked at me and nodded with a side smile as he said one word: “Peter.” I mouthed “Peter Gabriel” as I nodded back and payed for the hat. I asked if he liked the aforementioned “Peter,” and he responded “his early stuff.” I asked if he liked Genesis, and he replied, “their early stuff,” which I interpreted to mean the Peter Gabriel years. Today, I’m writing about the song that marked the transition betweens Genesis’s early stuff and Peter Gabriel’s early stuff: “Solsbury Hill.”

Let me start by saying, I love this song. The first time I heard it, I was smitten immediately. The acoustic guitar intro of course was the first thing that struck me, but also the odd time signature (7/4), the constant bass drum, the melody, the big power chords at the end and the giant crescendo that starts at the beginning and goes to the very end. Actually, the triangle part alone could have carried the song.

There’s certainly a lack of unity online about which fret to put the capo on (or if you need one at all) for this song (2nd fret A-shape, or 4th fret G-shape). Some even debate about what tuning to use. I play it in standard tuning with a capo on the 2nd fret. The song is in B Major, but with this setup, it will feel like A. Certainly, you can argue for one way or another, but if you want to replicate the original studio performance, the second fret is the position used by Steve Hunter, the guitarist who recorded this part (see this interview:  http://www.vintageguitar.com/3752/steve-hunter/). Another clue to this position is when you hear him play the F# (or the open E-string with the capo on the second fret) the E played on the B-string continues to ring. In other words, he plays the two notes on different strings which would be impossible using the G shape (4th fret position). Have I overanalyzed this? Perhaps. Are you just wanting to learn this song so that you can play the first two measure for your friends who refer to him only as “Peter?” Fine! Regardless, I’m sure you can find various live performances with Peter’s guitarists playing it in different positions to justify your personal preference.

The included transcription is not an exact note for note transcription. I took some liberties to reflect the bass line and the keyboard part, but it sounds very close to the recording and will work well as the sole accompaniment (but try and find yourself a decent triangle player). This song uses Travis picking, which is essentially a constant bass-note pulse executed by the right hand thumb. Your thumb should be playing steady eighth notes (all the notes in the chart with the stems down should be played with the thumb).

Steve Hunter stated that he played either a Martin D-18 or a D-28 (the model pictured above) when playing Solsbury Hill among other tracks from the album. He borrowed it from an assistant engineer, Jim Frank.

Peter Gabriel’s debut solo album simply titled “Peter Gabriel.”

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Green Day – “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)”

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Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

“Fingerpicking” with a pick 101: Green Day unplugged.

This song had a profound effect on me as a young guitarist. I consider this to be one of those great “picking” songs. It has a fingerpicking sound to it, but it is executed with a pick only. So it offers an interesting alternative to strumming, but can offer the same amount of rhythmic drive and dynamics. And of course, going from picking arpeggios to strumming is an easy transition since you don’t have to put the pick down or pick it up. Granted, using a pick for arpeggios has its limitations. You cannot pick two strings at the same time that aren’t adjacent to each other without having to mute the string in between. However, some very interesting, unique, and even complex arpeggios and melodies are possible with just a a pick.

On the sheet music I labeled the (single-note) picking similarly to how I notate strumming by using down arrows for down strums (down towards the ground), and up arrows for up strums. You will also see arrows with parentheses around them signifying to bring the pick up (or down) without hitting the strings. Once again, subdividing is vital here, particularly when you get it up to speed. For more on the concept of subdividing, click here.

If this kind of picking is new to you, I suggest that you do two things in preparation to learning this song.

  1. Start by just strumming the chord progression using the rhythm below. This rhythm is identical to the one used for the arpeggio in this song. By strumming the chords, this will allow you to get used to the feel of the rhythm without having to try and pick out one string at a time. If you can’t strum this chord progression and rhythm with the proper subdivision, than trying to pick out a single note arpeggio will be impossible.
  2. Try picking out the arpeggio at first using only down strums at a slow tempo (this will not work when the song is up to speed). Once you have memorized the notes utilized in each chord, go ahead and try playing it as written with a constant down/up motion, or what I call “subdividing.” If you still struggle with this, repeat step 1 (above) and strum the full chords till the rhythm feels natural. Also, I recommend at first just playing the arpeggio of one chord at a time and looping it over and over again until you build some muscle memory*. Then move on to the next chord and repeat. Finally, try and put all the chords together to play the song.

*Muscle memory is only a good thing if you practice repeatedly without making mistakes. Muscle memory will not discern between mistakes and perfection. It will merely build on whichever one you practice more. So practice slowly so that you can practice perfection and not the alternative.

Regarding the chord voicings that Billie uses here, take note of the G5 chord. In the context of this song, the “G5” functions as a G Major chord. However, the B-natural, or the 3rd of the chord is left out. Therefore all that remains of the chord is the root (or 1) and the 5th. The scale tones in this particular voicing are from lowest to highest: 1,5,1,5,1 (or the notes G,D,G,D,G). Because the only chord tones being utilized are the 1 and 5, this chord is often called a G5 [aka G5(no3)].

Playing the G5 isn’t much different than playing a normal G Major chord. You will just remove your first finger from the A-string and allow your 2nd finger to lean over just enough to lightly touch the A-string and mute it while also fretting the E-string at the 3rd fret. This is much easier than it sounds. Actually, it’s probably harder to avoid muting the A-string with your 2nd finger than it is to mute it. Also, I should mention that I often see students using their first finger to play the low E-string. The fingering listed above works much better.

For the Csus2 (C suspended 2), do the same thing more or less. The only thing that makes the Csus2 slightly harder than the G5 is now you also need to mute the low E-string. While this may seem unnecessary if you are very accurate with a pick, it is an important precaution that I believe is vital to getting a clean sound. Of course, playing that low E-string won’t sound too bad, since it fits right in with a C Major chord. However, it will make the chord sound somewhat muddy and will obscure the true bass note of the chord.

I read somewhere online that Billie is playing a Guild D-55 (above) in the music video for "Good Riddance." I cannot confirm or deny that, but he does play both Guild and Gibson acoustic guitars. However, it seems to me that the guitar that he's playing in the video looks more like a Gibson J-45 (below). Regardless, I would be happy to play either.

Gibson J-45

Here are some other great picking songs (to name a few):

  • “Here Comes the Sun,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Ticket To Ride”  – The Beatles
  • “More Than a Feeling,” “Hitch A Ride” – Boston
  • “Til I Hear It From You” – Gin Blossoms
  • “Over The Hills And Far Away” – Led Zeppelin
  • “Drive,” “Radio Free Europe” – R.E.M.
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Jars of Clay – “Worlds Apart” – EABEBE Tuning

Please click one of the links below to view the full chart:

Worlds Apart – EABEBE tuning (full chart)

Worlds Apart – standard tuning (full chart)

In my last post I spent some time talking about the influence that the band Jars of Clay had on worship music. This is particularly true of the rhythm that they used in a majority of the songs from their self-titled debut album (including “Worlds Apart”). Granted, they may not have invented this particular rhythm, but after the success of this album, it became almost the default rhythm of aspiring acoustic guitarists everywhere.

Another thing that was used a lot in this album was an unusual alternate tuning, which is from low to high, E-A-B-E-B-E. I would be curious to know where Jars’ guitarists, Stephen Mason and Matt Odmark, discovered this tuning, or if one of them came up with it himself. I googled “EABEBE tuning,” and it corrected me by directing me into a search for BEBEBE tuning. Then when I reassured the web search that I did want EABEBE, I found mostly content about playing Jars of Clay songs, particularly their early stuff. They do not use this tuning much any more.

I won’t go into much detail about this particular tuning other than to say that if you want to learn any of Jars’ early stuff, you will not be able to nail that sound without using this tuning. There’s certainly ways to mimic the drone sound (accomplished readily in EABEBE) in standard tuning (I did include a chart for “Worlds Apart” using standard tuning above), but believe me, it’s not the same (insert confident nerd laugh here). Just tune the D-string down to B and the G-string down to E, and you’ll find it to be a very simple tuning to work with.

Below is a video with a live version of the song that I found very helpful when I was transcribing the rhythm part. You get a decent view of Stephen Mason’s left hand. Also, the arrangement here is closer to the original recording. They often do it more like the arrangement from their live album, Furthermore.

I pulled from a lot of different sources to try and put down an accurate transcription of the chords for this song. First, to be clear, this chart is meant to be a transcription of the rhythm part of the original recording. That said, I did listen to the Furthermore version as well but deferred to the original when there were differences. I also relied heavily on the above video to figure out where on the fretboard his hands were located. In regard to the chord voicings that I listed in the EABEBE chart, certainly there are other positions that would also work and even sound accurate, but I tried to reflect as best as I could the fingerings and positions used by Mason in the video. Finally, here are a couple more links that deal with the EABEBE tuning and “Worlds Apart” that I found extremely helpful.

Jars of Clay's debut eponymous album

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Shawn McDonald – “Here I Am”

Click the image to view a larger version.

This song has two musical components that are very common to contemporary guitar-driven worship music:

  • This particular rhythm pattern (shown above).
  • The key of E Major

I graduated from a Bible college that will always be dear to my heart, the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I remember my first time of worship there was breathtaking. I believe it was an acoustic set with an acoustic guitarist, a pianist, a djembe player/auxiliary percussionist, and a bass player. I remember everything was much more busy then I was used to rhythmically. Most of the songs utilized more of a busy 16th note feel, as opposed to a more laid back 8th feel. I really loved it.

I came to Moody in 1998, and I believe Jars of Clay’s debut self-titled album had just come out a few years before. So I would hear people out in the plaza, in the dorms, in the cafeteria, everywhere playing Jars of Clay’s “World’s Apart” from their debut self-titled album (maybe I will post a chart of that tune soon). I only bring this up because, this album had a huge impact on Christian music. For one, it brought the acoustic guitar back into the limelight. Secondly, it seems to me, I would regularly hear worship music that was done in the style of Jars of Clay. To put it another way, any time you listen to something a lot, it will rub off on you whether consciously or not, and you’ll start to mimic and emulate it in your own playing. I know that I wore out my copy of that record. So while I didn’t often hear a Jars song in a worship service, the arrangements of the songs were very much Jars inspired. More recently, I’m hearing more of a U2 influence in worship music. The quarter note kick drum feel accompanied by the Edge style delay coming from the electric guitarist is frequently being utilized. “Indy” music <gag> is a thing now too, so certainly I’m seeing that type of music is makings it’s way into worship musical styles with more of a folk feel (Actually, I love folk music. I’m not crazy about the term “indy.” It just feels pretentious to me.).

Let me be clear about something, I am only talking now about arrangements and arranging music in a particular style. When I say “arrangement” or maybe even “genre,” I’m referring in big part to how a song is accompanied. You could take the song “Happy Birthday” for example and do it in any style: folk, rock, hard rock, polka, metal, punk, jazz, techno, classical, muzak, hip-hop, etc. Or, even the instrumentation used can really effect the arrangement: a string-quartet, a power trio (drums, guitar, bass), a choir, a jazz combo, a big band, just piano, organ, acoustic guitar, etc. If you strip any song down to just lyrics and melody (listen to a 3-year old sing it a cappella), you could potentially eliminate any genre labels. Certainly, punk lyrics are going to differ greatly from gospel lyrics, but musically speaking, the arrangement of a song can really change the feel, and in my mind can often make or break a song. That said, I believe that the arrangement should reflect, evoke the emotions, or paint a picture of the lyric. So maybe doing “Silent Night” as a punk tune may be a bit misguided.

To make a long story shorter, Shawn McDonald’s “Here I Am” uses a very similar strumming pattern as Jars of Clay’s “Worlds Apart.” Actually, this rhythm is used on a good majority of the songs from Jars’ first album. I’m not at all saying that “Here I Am” is a rip off, but I am saying that this is an extremely common rhythm. I actually really like this rhythm and use it often. It can provide an exciting energy when you speed it up, but it can make even a slower song more intense. That said, if you find yourself doing this rhythm for every song, call me up, I’d love to teach you a new one. Regardless, if you don’t know this one, it’s definitely a good pattern to have in your guitarsenal (maybe I should start trying to fit the name of my blog into every post). Here is a video of me demonstrating this particular rhythm for the song “Here I Am:”

To learn more about subdividing and strumming, click here (ex. 3.g and ex. 3.h are particularly relevant here). It’s also worth mentioning that I picked “Here I Am” as opposed to another one of the 1000’s of songs that use this rhythm, mainly because the chords are fairly simple. So, if you are new to this particular rhythm, this is a great song to start with.

Now, in regard to the key of E Major, this is a common key loved by guitarists because of the possibilities afforded by the open strings. That being said, there are only two open chord shapes that naturally occur in this key: namely, E and A Major (B7 would be honorable mention). F#m, G#m, B, and C#m would all necessitate the use of a barre. Every guitarist ought to be able to play in this key with the use of barre chords. However, there is one particular system of voicings (used in “Here I Am”) that will allow more of an open resonant sound, and also makes for an easy alternative to using barre chords in the key of E Major. I refer to this as the The Drone System (click the link to see a list of common voicings that demonstrate this system).

This post has gotten out-of-control long. By the way, I don’t mind going too long with these blog posts. I figure that pretty much everything that you need to learn this song on the guitar is right up top in the sheet music. If anybody out there needs more tips or is just interested to hear what I have to say (hi mom), she can read it.

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