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The Trombone ForumHorns, Gear, and EquipmentMouthpieces(Moderators: BGuttman, Doug Elliott) And who in their right mind chooses ANY mouthpiece? Plus how to choose, as well.
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sabutin

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« on: Sep 04, 2007, 06:25AM »

In the long-running thread "Who in their right mind plays a Bach 1 1/2G ?? ", Horn Builder recently posted this comment:

G'day all,

I find it interesting that people have this "rose coloured glasses" view of NY and Mt Vernon Bach product. That they are the "Holy Grail".

That contrasts with the widely help belief that, as stated by Sam Burtis, and echoed by many others, "if you want a custom mounthpiece, line up a dozen Bach's and find the one you like". Sam, I believe, was talking about the Mt Vernon and early Elkhart era. Consistency was not something that was a big selling point for Bach in those days. The way the pieces were made didn't allow for anything like the consistency achieved today with CNC lathes, as used by almost every mouthpiece maker out there, including Bach.

When I was at the shop last week I was shown the safe that holds all the mouthpieces, hand selected by Mr Bach himself, that represent "exactly" what each of the models was supposed to be like, according to Mr Bach. Each of those pieces was digitised and that info was used to program the CNC machines that now cut Bach mouthpieces. The consistency of Bachs mouthpieces today is better than it ever has been, due to the method that they are produced.

But there-in lies the rub. Each one of the "perfect" mouthpieces, which has then been copied hundreds of times over, wasn't one that Chris (and others like him) think are the "very special indeed" mouthpieces. If only Mr Bach had chosen one of those...

M


This got me to thinking, and since I have just been through a summer where I once again went through another level of playing/equipment/idiom/you-name-it and made a certain sort of playing breakthrough...only to once again end up on the same NY Bach m'pces that I was using BEFORE the change...I thought that I would make a post that tries to explain how and why I...and apparently a WHOLE BUNCH of other pretty good players, on other brass instruments as well...seem to keep coming back to early Bach m'pces.

I don't know about these "rose colored glasses" idea...but I personally have used the darkest glasses possible in finding my choice of m'pces. For almost 30 years, I have chosen m'pces blindfolded.

Well...blind, anyway.

And the better I have become as a player...still growing after all these years, thank whatever rules this dimension in which we all live...the more often the m'pce that came up at the end of a choosing session has been a NY Bach.

Why?

Because they are centrist m'pces. That's the best short answer that I have been able to come up with, anyway. That is, they do a combination of everything that I want to do better than any others. Sound first, plus all ranges, flexibility, all volumes and tonguing/attacks. And rim comfort as well.

Now...my main area of trombonistic expertise lies in playing  .525-ish and .500/.509-ish tenor trombones in American idioms. Jazz, latin, B'way, pop...you know. That stuff. And over the years I have fairly well settled into a preference for 6 1/2 AL-ish equipment on the .525 horns and 11C-ish equipment on the smaller ones. I LOVE the way a good 12C plays and sounds as well and have tried and tried again to play them on smaller horns, but I have never been able to manage to get a good, smooth connection down into the range below say 4th partial G on one, and as an improviser my baseline rule in choosing a m'pce is that I must be able to smoothly negotiate all of the ranges on it that I want to use as a soloist. So until I figure out how to do that on a 12C rim or have one made that has an 11C-ish rim but plays JUST like my great NY 12C, I'm 11C player on small horns. I do keep trying 12C-ish m'pces, though. Y'never know...

I have assembled a pretty good collection of m'pces in the 6 1/2AL, 11C and 12C ranges in the process. I had a BUNCH of 6 1/2AL-ish ones made and/or altered from stock originals over the years, and have collected a lot of 11C/12C sized m'pces as well. I gave up on the custom/customizing m'pce route. Too expensive and too imprecise. Since absolutely NO one seems to have ever really codified what makes a m'pce work, custom m'pce design resembles a collaboration on a sculpture between two blind men. Always working in the dark, always working on feel. I have found it better...and much less expensive, as well...to find the general area of m'pce that I like, try many, many of them, choose a few and then leave the really fine adjustments to the soft machine.

To me.

After all...most really fine m'pces that are chosen by a number of fine players are a result of a kind of informal survey that was taken by the maker. Good players X, Y, and Z etc. have m'pces made for them, a general consensus begins to arise, and sooner or later...if the manufacturer is good, of course...here ya go, here's the 6 1/2AL. And so on.

So anyway...there I am, say with a new horn or having not played a particular sized horn for a while or having just altered one of my horns in some way...leadpipe, plating, tuning slide, whatever...and I want to see if a little m'pce change might do some good.

Or...I have changed something about the way I am practicing and playing, reached a breakthrough of some kind and I am curious to see if another m'pce might help.

Whatever the reason, this seems to happen to me a couple of times a year.

And on the table in front of me are all the likely suspects I can round up.

About 10 or 12 m'pces in the 6 1/2AL or 11C/12C class. All with some plumber's tape on them so they fit into my slightly widened leadpipe receivers to the approximate depth that I generally like.

I close my eyes, jumble them all around and commence playing them.

Pretty soon, several have de-recommended themselves. Too stuffy, usually. Then another few. Not right in the high range, not right in the low range. Then one or two more. Sound. Then there are three. Or maybe four. And I start to get a little creative.

As in...which one MAKES ME PLAY?

On which one do I hear the best?

And invariably...and I do mean ALWAYS, at least over the past several years...the survivors are the Mt. Vernon and NY Bachs, and the winners are the NY models.

Why?

Go figure.

Why the NYs over the Mt. Vernons?

They seem to deal with volume better, and they are more open. They are also a little less "refined", to some degree. I have to be the one that is refined. This is a small drawback...the Mt. Vernons are such beautiful singers...but like all beautiful singers, they do not belt as well. And I am a boxer/puncher, to mix metaphors. I have to be able to do both, and I can box on the NYs when I take care of my chops (read...practice correctly) but I cannot punch with the same power on the Mt. Vernons no matter in what shape I may be.

So there I am...blindfold test after blindfold test, several times a year for any number of years.

Playing NY Bachs.

Now...I try every damned m'pce I can get my hands on. I try ones that I hear in a rehearsal or gig; I try them at conventions and in stores. But I only buy the ones that immediately recommend themselves to me. There are precious few of them, and those that I have bought...other than Mt. Vernon and especially NY Bachs in approximately the right sizes, which I will generally buy sight unseen if I have the money and they are in good shape...always seem to disappoint in blind competition with my Bachs.

So it goes.

Now you may well say that I have so thoroughly trained myself to play those Bachs that I am incapable of appreciating other m'pces. And that may well be the case. Y'pays yer money...and of course y'spends yer time...and y'takes yer chances.

Or it MAY well be that Mr. Bach was a m'pce designing genius who found himself in a period of time and in a place... pre-WW II NYC...where brass playing was in a sort of golden age. Before mics became the predominant influence in the production and dissemination of musical sound.  And in the same place but another time...the Mt. Vernon era, post-W.W. II...where ANOTHER golden age occurred. The studio scene. And he listened to great player after great player after great player, took their suggestions and preferences and created great all-around m'pces.

I try to live as much as I possibly can live in a pre-mic world myself.

Hell, except for research purposes I do not even much listen to recorded music anymore. It's like eating canned peas, even the BEST of it. After sitting in a room with the best of the best here in NYC? Fuggedaboudit. It sounds like gruel. Even on the BEST of systems. CDs worse than vinyl, digital worse that tube systems, ALL of them worse than the real thing.

And I choose NY Bach m'pces in blindfold tests.

Hmmmmm...

Now...am I saying that YOU should choose NY Bachs?

No.

Of course not.

But I AM saying that you should choose your equipment...all of it...as much as possible in blind tests. And no matter HOW odd the results may be...go with them. Give ANY result the benefit of several weeks of concentrated effort.

You be bettah off.

Bet on it.

The truth lies in your ears, in your body and in your soul. In instances like this the mind is only good for primitive mathematical equations. It is a critic, not a creator.

Go for it.

You’ll be glad you did.

At least...I'm glad that I did.

Later…

S.
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« Reply #1 on: Sep 04, 2007, 07:01AM »

Nice post Sam.

I've never been disciplined enough to do the blindfold method, but I probably should.

I always seem to come away from a trombone show with a new mouthpiece. The problem is, I am working there at the Shires display, not on my regular practice routine at all, just finding a minute here or there to play a few notes. I try to cover my everyday bases as much as I can, but it never happens in as careful and deliberate a fashion as I achieve at home - even in Vegas, where I was playing in the Cramer choir.

So I usually end up with a good mouthpiece, and one that is "easier" to play than my Laskey 93D (and of all modern mouthpiece makers, it may very well be Scott Laskey who understands best the classic Bach designs), in the sense that I get a good basic sound without thinking too much or being in tip-top shape, and usually the pitch center feels a little easier to come by, whether or not that is actually the case.

I usually play this mouthpiece for several weeks when I get home, but I always find myself back on a Laskey. Why? When I am in shape and taking care of business, I get better results. Better response and better, more colorful sound, more easily changed and shaped for the diverse situations I find myself in. It might still happen that one of these trombone show mouthpieces sticks in the long term - who knows?

I've put away some really good mouthpieces, and I heartily recommend them for people who don't get along with the Laskey: The Schilke Symphony Series and Karl Hammond's new designs are great, as are the new tweaks of the Giddings & Webster line. Doug Elliott has made some changes to his large bass trombone line that I'm eager to try in the future. I don't quite get along with them myself, but I hear people sound great on Griego and Greg Black mouthpieces.   

There are a lot of great choices for people who either can't get their hands on - or need a size that you can't get in - an old Bach. And the best way to choose one (to choose any equipment really) is to have an extremely clear idea of how you want it to sound and feel, and let go of any and all preconceptions of what "should" get you there. That's where Sam's blindfold comes in VERY handy...

It's fun!
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« Reply #2 on: Sep 04, 2007, 07:11AM »

Nice post Sam.

I've never been disciplined enough to do the blindfold method, but I probably should.

---snip---

Discipline?

WHAT discipline?

You line up a bunch of m'ces, play them, eliminate the ones that work least well until you come up with the one that best suits your playing at that moment (A moment, by the way, that should be when you are in passably good playing shape. In the kind of shape in which you normally live and work, anyway.), and then you play it for a few weeks.

If it doesn't work out, you go back to your other m'pce...provided of course that you haven't chosen "your" m'pce in the blindfold test, which happens more and more often as you refine your act...and play it until you have another practical reason to try switching.

AIN'T no discipline involved. Not as much as you need to practice regularly and well, anyway.

Try it.

You'll learn something. Even if what you learn is that it doesn't work for you.

Bet on it.

Later...

S.
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« Reply #3 on: Sep 04, 2007, 09:17AM »

I get what you're saying, Sam (or at least I think I do).  The part that gets me is this:


About 10 or 12 m'pces in the 6 1/2AL or 11C/12C class. All with some plumber's tape on them so they fit into my slightly widened leadpipe receivers to the approximate depth that I generally like.

Plumber's tape? That just seems like you've added a completely new factor in whether or not that piece plays well.  What if you added too much tape?  What if it's too high or too low on the mouthpiece?  Do you think you've ever thrown out a piece because it didn't play well, when in actuality it didn't play well because you toyed with the function/design?  I am really quite curious.  BTW, how/why did you come up with applying tape to the mouthpiece in the first place?  Confused
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« Reply #4 on: Sep 04, 2007, 09:27AM »

Surely the plumbers tape is more detrimental to the buffing or replating of a mpc!!!
I always thought metal on metal is better than having some foreign material between the mpc and leadpipe.
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« Reply #5 on: Sep 04, 2007, 09:38AM »

Surely the plumbers tape is more detrimental to the buffing or replating of a mpc!!!
I always thought metal on metal is better than having some foreign material between the mpc and leadpipe.

I've used the plumbers tape at times as well, and it really works. The whole point of it is that it fills available space to create a seal. I've found no detriment except the hassle. And I've seen the way Sam uses the stuff - he has it worked out.
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« Reply #6 on: Sep 04, 2007, 05:17PM »

I get what you're saying, Sam (or at least I think I do).  The part that gets me is this:

Plumber's tape? That just seems like you've added a completely new factor in whether or not that piece plays well.  What if you added too much tape?  What if it's too high or too low on the mouthpiece?  Do you think you've ever thrown out a piece because it didn't play well, when in actuality it didn't play well because you toyed with the function/design?  I am really quite curious.  BTW, how/why did you come up with applying tape to the mouthpiece in the first place?  Confused
I found long ago that as much as 1/16" difference in how far the shank of a m'pce enters the receiver makes a huge difference in how that combination plays. I started by buffing  my m'pce shanks down until they went into the receiver too far and then building them back up again until I hit a sweet spot. Now, since I have removable leadpipes on my Shires horns I ask them at the factory to open up the receivers a little and then I do the same thing to my m'pces.

How do I know what's right?

Trial and error.

Blinfolded trial and error, to some degree.

How do I know if it's too high or low? I put it on the very bottom of the shank, so that it is parallel to the end. Teflon plumber's tape is VERY malleable. It takes on the contour of the shank/receiver interface perfectly.

S.

P.S. Don't try this at home unless you are a REALLY good player. Results may vary.

Widely and to no good effect if you do not have your act fairly together.
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« Reply #7 on: Sep 04, 2007, 05:19PM »

Surely the plumbers tape is more detrimental to the buffing or replating of a mpc!!!
I always thought metal on metal is better than having some foreign material between the mpc and leadpipe.

Not in my experience.

LOTS of it.

30+ years and counting since I started doing this.

The DEPTH is the thing.

Listen...

So there you are with a leadpipe receiver. Soldered in or not.

And you put a m'pce in it that you have been told has the right taper for the receiver.

For almost ALL receivers. (How's THAT for a corporate myth, by the way?)

I don't believe it.

What if the taper(s) are off? Either or both. Have you SEEN what's working on the assembly lines at some major manufacturers? Lawnmower blade grinders. Bet on it. What if at the end of your m'pce there is a gap between the lip of the shank and the wall of the receiver? What then? What if on an older horn or m'pce the receiver or shank metal has worn down?

Plus...as "objectively" as I can manage to test this, the proper depth...which appears to be consistent on any one horn, by the way, no matter which m'pce I am using AND no matter how long or short the entire m'pce may be...just works better. I can tell on a horn that I know well when the tape is wearing down too far without looking. I start to chip Abs and Gs above middle C when I am not in the best of shape. Maybe 40 times this has proven to be true, and the other 10? Leaky spit valve.

Hmmmm...

Proof enough for me...

Inefficient, turbulent airflow.

Further...with a little creative (and blindfolded) experimentation you can often find SEVERAL sweet spots. One that helps the low range and flexibility, one that helps the high range and slotting, and one...the Goldilocks spot, as far as I am concerned...that is a perfect blend of the other two.

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it until proven otherwise.

Later...

S.

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« Reply #8 on: Sep 04, 2007, 06:55PM »

Sam,

The point of my initial post has been missed.

I wasn't saying that NY or Mt Vernon mouthpieces weren't good (they most cetainly can be fantastic), but that consistency was not a strong point of this era. The point about "rose coloured glasses" was aimed at the people who believe that every one of these mouthpieces was a "holy grail".

Having owned several of various sizes, (including one 4G that was "Very" individual)I feel I have some basis for the opinion. But it's just that, my opinion....
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« Reply #9 on: Sep 04, 2007, 08:19PM »

Sam,

The point of my initial post has been missed.

I wasn't saying that NY or Mt Vernon mouthpieces weren't good (they most cetainly can be fantastic), but that consistency was not a strong point of this era. The point about "rose coloured glasses" was aimed at the people who believe that every one of these mouthpieces was a "holy grail".

Having owned several of various sizes, (including one 4G that was "Very" individual)I feel I have some basis for the opinion. But it's just that, my opinion....
My post was not put up in opposition to yours.

Just as a commentary on the whole idea of m'pce and equipment choice.

It "got me to thinking".

Thanks.

S.
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« Reply #10 on: Sep 05, 2007, 01:12AM »

I've used the plumbers tape at times as well, and it really works. The whole point of it is that it fills available space to create a seal. I've found no detriment except the hassle. And I've seen the way Sam uses the stuff - he has it worked out.
One of Sam's first good posts about it :
http://forum.samburtis.com/viewtopic.php?p=2226#2226
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« Reply #11 on: Sep 05, 2007, 02:09AM »

I quite agree that the mouthpiece/leadpipe relationship is a very important factor.... yet ANOTHER important factor. I've never liked the idea of tape as a solution... but what else can you do?
On instruments with removable leadpipes I can try my collection, which covers a wide range of apertures, but then, of course, the whole pipe is different each time. I've seen on a trumpet, an adjustable reciever which allows any mouthpiece to seat correctly... but trumpets have step-type leadpipes (so do King bones)that allow such an approach... traditionally, trombones do not.
The critical factor is the distance between the venturi at the mouthpiece throat and in the leadpipe.. it does make a difference... one good reason that one mouthpiece will not be the best in every trombone... but that's another thread.... and by the way Sam... it's a shame you split this thread off mine... they are in pretty much the same place at the moment... and my 1 1/2G thread has survived major digression in the past, and is all the better for it.... still, you were just showing respect for the rules, eh ?  Evil
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« Reply #12 on: Sep 05, 2007, 06:43AM »

I quite agree that the mouthpiece/leadpipe relationship is a very important factor.... yet ANOTHER important factor. I've never liked the idea of tape as a solution... but what else can you do?

Well, if you are a basically non-experimentinmg player who basically uses only one m'pce, you can have a good brass tech custom match your chosen m'pce with your chosen leadpipe once you have found the ideal depth that you want to use. But my whole life seems to be an ongoing experiment, so I have never gotten around to doing that. I am thinking about doing it with my .525 Shires/NY Bach Clarke S  and .500 Shires/NY 11C combinations, but to tell you the truth since I do play so many different setups I have almost no reliable "feel memory", to coin a term. That is, I adjust very quickly to equipment changes and thus have to A/B equipment within a minute or so of each other or I get lost in the forests of possibilities and physical memory and thus probably won't be able to accurately compare the two feels..

I'll do it eventually.

Any day now.

Aaaaany day now...

Quote
On instruments with removable leadpipes I can try my collection, which covers a wide range of apertures, but then, of course, the whole pipe is different each time. I've seen on a trumpet, an adjustable reciever which allows any mouthpiece to seat correctly... but trumpets have step-type leadpipes (so do King bones)that allow such an approach... traditionally, trombones do not.

Chris...could you tell me more about the difference in King leadpipes? I have never heard of that.

Quote
The critical factor is the distance between the venturi at the mouthpiece throat and in the leadpipe.. it does make a difference... one good reason that one mouthpiece will not be the best in every trombone... but that's another thread.... and by the way Sam... it's a shame you split this thread off mine... they are in pretty much the same place at the moment... and my 1 1/2G thread has survived major digression in the past, and is all the better for it.... still, you were just showing respect for the rules, eh ?  Evil
Chris Stearn.

It wasn't about the rules, Chris. I don' do so well with steenking rules. :-0 :-0 Don't know Don't know :/

I just wanted to attract the attention of non-1 1/2G and/or non-bass players as well. I know your thread has done so, but I'll bet a LOT of people have skipped it because its title contains the term "1 1/2G".

Later...

S.
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« Reply #13 on: Sep 05, 2007, 07:06AM »

Right Sam. I did skip it because of the basstrombone inflection but did indeed poke my nose into this thread of yours which I find very . . .  stimulating. I'll be following the discussions vividly . . . .
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« Reply #14 on: Sep 05, 2007, 07:18AM »

..Chris...could you tell me more about the difference in King leadpipes? I have never heard of that.
Later...S.
[/quote]

Most, if not all,  the earlier Kings and some of the new ones have a two piece leadpipe.
There is an actual mouthpiece receiver that is soldered onto the leadpipe, and then inserted into the upper tube.
I think the 2 & 3B's now are the only ones made as such.
Makes it a little more difficult to pull the pipe when requested.

Eric
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« Reply #15 on: Sep 05, 2007, 07:38AM »

Right Sam. I did skip it because of the basstrombone inflection but did indeed poke my nose into this thread of yours which I find very . . .  stimulating. I'll be following the discussions vividly . . . .
Go check out the other one as well, Erling.

http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,23254.0.html

12 pages of interesting stuff.

Sam
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« Reply #16 on: Sep 05, 2007, 07:40AM »

..Chris...could you tell me more about the difference in King leadpipes? I have never heard of that.
Later...S.


Most, if not all,  the earlier Kings and some of the new ones have a two piece leadpipe.
There is an actual mouthpiece receiver that is soldered onto the leadpipe, and then inserted into the upper tube.
I think the 2 & 3B's now are the only ones made as such.
Makes it a little more difficult to pull the pipe when requested.

Eric


Hmmm...

Does anyone have any ideas about how that procedure affects and/or p[roduces the typical King sound and blow?

Classic 2Bs and 3Bs?

I have noticed that any number of manufacturers make horns that are relatively Conn or Bach-like, but only Kings are really Kings. In those models, anyway.

S.
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Visit <http://samburtis.com/>. Lots of information on that site in the form of articles plus a link to my method book "Time, Balance & Connections-A Universal Theory Of Brass Relativity" which includes several chapters of the book.
Erling

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« Reply #17 on: Sep 05, 2007, 07:50AM »

Quote
Go check out the other one as well, Erling.

http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,23254.0.html

12 pages of interesting stuff.

Sam
Yes, Massa, will do  Good! Way cool
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WaltTrombone
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« Reply #18 on: Sep 05, 2007, 08:43AM »

I hope nobody minds, I put a sticky on this topic so that it stays at/near the top of the queue. This and Chris' 1 1/2G thread are both worthy of featuring, IMO!
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Walter Barrett
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« Reply #19 on: Sep 05, 2007, 09:31AM »

bonearzt beat me to it with the leadpipes in Kings, thanks. The Callet bass pipe was also made this way. What you get.. as you do in all trumpets, is a step, that the bottom of the mouthpiece should butt up against if it is a good fit. the adjustable reciever allowed the mouthpiece to slide in and out so that it could be pushed in until it met the step in the pipe. In theory, the trumpet has no sudden jump in the bore, where the trombone will always have one at the end of the mouthpiece shank, unless it's a king or Callet pipe.

Chris Stearn.
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Still cannot think of anything better to do. Back on an old 1 1/2G again !
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