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Thread: So I have this dream of playing in an orchestra...

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    Default So I have this dream of playing in an orchestra...

    ...but I don't know what instrument I should play.

    I know there's probably a million other threads like this on here so I'm gonna try and make this as short and to the point as possible. Keep in mind I'm a 20 year old electrical engineering student, so music isn't my field of study, but it is something I am passionate about.

    Previous experience as a musician:
    -Electric guitar: 7 years, mostly heavy metal music
    -High school choir: 4 years, baritone
    -University Choir: 1 year, baritone
    -Piano: 3 years, but I've learned very few complete pieces as I always try to learn ones that are beyond my level of playing and didn't practice enough. I also have a hard time with multitasking in general and often freeze up while playing.

    Instruments of interest: Cello and Violin

    Things I like about the Cello:
    - From what I've heard it's easier to learn than violin, especially for guitarists, so I'm less likely to sound like a screaming banshee.
    - It has parts that sound very fun rhythmically(I always see Cellists rocking out more than any of the other stringed sections)
    - More of a well rounded intermediate sound

    Things I like about the Violin:
    - Portable
    - Lots of solo music(Even though I'm not really interested in being a soloist, there's still music I can play on my own)
    - Lots of fast, "shreddy" parts

    So I figure as a pianist, I'll likely never be good enough to perform with an orchestra, but I might have a better chance with a stringed instrument since it's mostly one note at a time. I'm not looking to be a soloist, I just want to be a part of a solid group that makes good music. Not necessarily professionally or to be payed either; like I said I'm an engineering student and music is a hobby of mine. I've considered the viola and bass as well but I think I'm too small to play bass(5'3") and as far as I know the viola just seems to be under appreciated out of the context of orchestral music.

    Any suggestions?

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stringzoffury View Post
    ...but I don't know what instrument I should play.


    Instruments of interest: Cello and Violin

    Things I like about the Cello:
    - From what I've heard it's easier to learn than violin, especially for guitarists, so I'm less likely to sound like a screaming banshee.
    - It has parts that sound very fun rhythmically(I always see Cellists rocking out more than any of the other stringed sections)- More of a well rounded intermediate sound
    Things I like about the Violin:
    - Portable
    - Lots of solo music(Even though I'm not really interested in being a soloist, there's still music I can play on my own)
    - Lots of fast, "shreddy" parts.
    zOMG, I hope your fantasy ambition does not include playing in classical ensembles. Your comments about both instruments show you are without any idea of the rigor of playing from score, in time, accurately, with the other players and the ensemble.

    The pathos of what you've described is more the divo / diva star lead performer, and even there, you notions of 'rhythmically free' will have to go out the window if you want to play with others --in any genre, at all.

    Suggestions? One of those two stringed instruments, or viola, as there are more used in orchestras, the rest somewhat determined by price of the instrument, what you can afford (always rent when you begin, wait and see if you will follow through and then make the investment in owning a half-way decent instrument) -- and don't forget lessons, which I can guarantee you you will need if you want to get anywhere near well-prepared enough (sight-reading is important, too) to audition for and be accepted by even a local amateur ensemble.
    Last edited by PetrB; Sep-04-2014 at 10:12.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PetrB View Post
    The pathos of what you've described is more the divo / diva star lead performer, and even there, you notions of 'rhythmically free' will have to go out the window if you want to play with others --in any genre, at all.
    Congratulations on managing to misinterpret every single word I wrote and on sounding like a pretentious snob as a result, I hope it makes you feel better about yourself. You mention my notions of "rhythmically free"? Really? What notion? I see you bolded part of my post but all I see is that I mentioned I found Cello parts to be rhythmically fun to play. So fun is now dependent on freedom, or are you just deciding to swap some of my words around? Just to clarify, what I really meant is that often times when I listen to orchestral music I find myself thinking: "This Cello part sounds like it would be fun to play!".

    Now in your first paragraph, you write:
    Quote Originally Posted by PetrB View Post
    Your comments about both instruments show you are without any idea of the rigor of playing from score, in time, accurately, with the other players and the ensemble.
    Oh really? Would you expect me then, to have performed in this group of musicians?


    Yes you must be right. I have NO idea what I'm doing. As for my comments, they are simply how I have perceived the playing of these instruments to be; through my own experiences in listening to and watching orchestral music and from opinions given by people who play stringed instruments. Obviously they may be slightly exaggerated or be different from how YOU perceive things, that's because they are slightly subjective to my musical preferences and yours may be highly different from mine.

    See, you make the assumption that I haven't the faintest idea of the rigor involved in playing music at a higher level of quality. The problem I have with this assumption is that I clearly state that I have had years of experience in both the performance and practice of classical music yet you still come at me with this condescending attitude that does absolutely nothing to help me make an informed decision.

    In conclusion, if anyone else wants to help me make a decision or give me any other information that might be helpful in regards to what I want to do, I ask only a few things of you in recognition of PeterB's mistakes:

    1. Don't be condescending.
    2. Don't assume things about me you don't know for sure, instead ask questions that may help you better inform me.
    3. If you disagree with one of my comments about these instruments or feel my perception of them is askew, feel free to explain why but remember rule #1 and give specific details
    4. Don't tell me I need to be able to sight-read or practice a lot, etc., that's pretty obvious.

    Thanks.

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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    Default It is harder than you think.

    I am an amateur bassoonist who plays with several amateur groups.

    PetrB may have been condescending but he is correct.

    It will take a tremendous amount of work and lessons to built up your skills to play with even a basic amateur orchestra. And securing a decent instrument can be very expensive. I have no idea what a good cello would cost but a basic bassoon that musicians play with the groups that I play with would cost about $10,000.

    The one statement you made that made me roll my eyes were your comments concerning the viola. For a person like yourself the best instrument would be the viola. Good cellists and violinists are a dime a dozen. Even with an amateur group, finding a good violist is difficult.

    I am sorry if you consider my comments discouraging but I have known many individuals like yourself who have tried to learn and master an instrument at your age. I only know of a handful who learned the instrument will enough to play with an amateur orchestra. Even with your background it will be very challenging.

    The most successful ones are those who learned how to play a recorder. One can find recorder ensemble to play with. The most successful gentleman that I knew started on the recorder when he was in his thirties. He eventually got good enough to play the recorder in one of the Bach Brandenburg Concertos with an orchestra that I play with. He also played with a recorder ensemble.

    Note: I just thought of a person that I met here at TC who took up the double bass. He use to play electric bass in a rock band and it still took him a few years and he plays with one of the groups that I play with.
    Last edited by arpeggio; Sep-04-2014 at 17:13.
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stringzoffury View Post
    Congratulations on managing to misinterpret every single word I wrote and on sounding like a pretentious snob as a result, I hope it makes you feel better about yourself. You mention my notions of "rhythmically free"? Really? What notion? I see you bolded part of my post but all I see is that I mentioned I found Cello parts to be rhythmically fun to play. So fun is now dependent on freedom, or are you just deciding to swap some of my words around? Just to clarify, what I really meant is that often times when I listen to orchestral music I find myself thinking: "This Cello part sounds like it would be fun to play!".

    Now in your first paragraph, you write:


    Oh really? Would you expect me then, to have performed in this group of musicians?


    Yes you must be right. I have NO idea what I'm doing. As for my comments, they are simply how I have perceived the playing of these instruments to be; through my own experiences in listening to and watching orchestral music and from opinions given by people who play stringed instruments. Obviously they may be slightly exaggerated or be different from how YOU perceive things, that's because they are slightly subjective to my musical preferences and yours may be highly different from mine.

    See, you make the assumption that I haven't the faintest idea of the rigor involved in playing music at a higher level of quality. The problem I have with this assumption is that I clearly state that I have had years of experience in both the performance and practice of classical music yet you still come at me with this condescending attitude that does absolutely nothing to help me make an informed decision.

    In conclusion, if anyone else wants to help me make a decision or give me any other information that might be helpful in regards to what I want to do, I ask only a few things of you in recognition of PeterB's mistakes:

    1. Don't be condescending.
    2. Don't assume things about me you don't know for sure, instead ask questions that may help you better inform me.
    3. If you disagree with one of my comments about these instruments or feel my perception of them is askew, feel free to explain why but remember rule #1 and give specific details
    4. Don't tell me I need to be able to sight-read or practice a lot, etc., that's pretty obvious.

    Thanks.
    My more standard response to dream ambitions in music is this:
    1.) Wake up! It is right now only a dream.
    2.) Go about finding out all and everything one needs in order to learn and acquire along the way toward actually achieving that dream.
    3.) Get to it!

    Now, you rather did go on about if not about rhythmic freedom, the general fun of it (yes, playing well is really really fun) but the tone did sound to me rather like imagined scenarios about violinists playing fast and 'shredding,' the viewpoint I thought, teenish (that is not criminal, but :-) -- and you gave no other real background other than what on face value describes a dilettante who has dabbled in this, dabbled in that, and did not remain with any of those choices long enough to really follow through, with applied discipline, to anything. The one constant there, a good sign, is it was all music and music performance.

    That was how you presented yourself, and without further history or any demo of 'what you have done / can do,' what kind of advice would you have given, eh? That 'just follow your dream,' without any of the particulars re: my standard response gone at with any constancy or discipline? Now that would be not only condescending, but dismissive.

    So, with what you have so far, find out all that is really required to realize your ambition, assess any holes or gaps, methodically go at it, and pursue your ambition. (I maintain that if yours was a true ambition, it would need no encouragement, the innate drive of needing to do it would already have you busy, both having made the choice of instrument and getting on with it vs. skating about from one instrument to the next, with time gaps in between.)

    As it was, you presented the proposition more as if you are thinking of yourself in a role (like an actor playing a part) vs. a person who actually does, and in my experience, those who state their ambitions as if to be a noun vs. a verb usually just don't follow through.

    Maybe the time has now come where you have that inner drive and will follow through. If you can not settle for yourself which instrument, that is more discouraging than encouraging.
    Last edited by PetrB; Sep-05-2014 at 05:58.

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    I know it will be challenging and a lot of work. That's not what I came here to talk about. When I was first looking at universities I would ask people what my chances of getting accepted at my schools of interest were. I had a 2.7 GPA in high school because I had no real solid idea of what I wanted to do during that time, and as a result slacked off a lot. At the end of my high school career I had at least figured out I wanted to study something within computers or electronics; at that time, it was Computer Science.

    Many people told me that with a 2.7 GPA, I shouldn't even bother going to college because I would likely fail and waste money, especially in a Computer Science program. Funnily enough, here I am about 3 years later at one of the best engineering schools in the world with almost straight A's. When I really want something, I will do whatever is required to get it; that's just the kind of person I am.

    Okay, so I'm questioning which instrument I want to play and simply stating my ambitions rather than immediately going after them, you're right. However that's mainly due to the cost of this hobby, which can be quite high if you get serious about it, as others have mentioned. In addition to the monetary cost, if I'm going to spend a lot of time practicing an instrument, then I'd darn well better like it. I don't want to spend a bunch of time on an instrument and give up on it wishing I'd played something else instead. I kind of did that with guitar and piano. I rarely play guitar any more because once I started learning piano I realized I wished I had played that in the first place and now that's pretty much all I play, even thought I'm not as good at that as I am at guitar.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stringzoffury View Post
    ...but I don't know what instrument I should play.

    I know there's probably a million other threads like this on here so I'm gonna try and make this as short and to the point as possible. Keep in mind I'm a 20 year old electrical engineering student, so music isn't my field of study, but it is something I am passionate about.

    Previous experience as a musician:
    -Electric guitar: 7 years, mostly heavy metal music
    -High school choir: 4 years, baritone
    -University Choir: 1 year, baritone
    -Piano: 3 years, but I've learned very few complete pieces as I always try to learn ones that are beyond my level of playing and didn't practice enough. I also have a hard time with multitasking in general and often freeze up while playing.

    Instruments of interest: Cello and Violin

    Things I like about the Cello:
    - From what I've heard it's easier to learn than violin, especially for guitarists, so I'm less likely to sound like a screaming banshee.
    - It has parts that sound very fun rhythmically(I always see Cellists rocking out more than any of the other stringed sections)
    - More of a well rounded intermediate sound

    Things I like about the Violin:
    - Portable
    - Lots of solo music(Even though I'm not really interested in being a soloist, there's still music I can play on my own)
    - Lots of fast, "shreddy" parts

    So I figure as a pianist, I'll likely never be good enough to perform with an orchestra, but I might have a better chance with a stringed instrument since it's mostly one note at a time. I'm not looking to be a soloist, I just want to be a part of a solid group that makes good music. Not necessarily professionally or to be payed either; like I said I'm an engineering student and music is a hobby of mine. I've considered the viola and bass as well but I think I'm too small to play bass(5'3") and as far as I know the viola just seems to be under appreciated out of the context of orchestral music.

    Any suggestions?
    Have a go at the viola. There aren't really enough viola players for community orchestras so you have a much better chance at getting a place. You will need to find a viola teacher and go for regular lessons. The teacher will advise on what sort of instrument to hire to start on. Think in terms of 8 years of lessons to get the stage where you can play in the average community orchestra. Professional playing takes more practice time than you as an engineering student will be able to give it so forget about playing professionally. Learning to play an instrument takes a lot of time.

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    Senior Member dgee's Avatar
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    You've played guitar, right? Why not try bass - the strings are in fourths at least. I realise you are "not tall" but basses come in differnet sizes and dimensions so you could talk to a bassist first before writing it off.

    I'd reiterate that this is a many-year project requiring lessons (so you can make consistent progress) and accepting that baby-steps is what is on the cards. You ain't doin nothin coolon your new orchestral axe for a LONG TIME. First step is talking to teachers! Also, consider visitng a local community orchestra to see up close what is involved - it's a lot different to choir and rock band

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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    Default Playing as an Enemble

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaws View Post
    Have a go at the viola. There aren't really enough viola players for community orchestras so you have a much better chance at getting a place. You will need to find a viola teacher and go for regular lessons. The teacher will advise on what sort of instrument to hire to start on. Think in terms of 8 years of lessons to get the stage where you can play in the average community orchestra. Professional playing takes more practice time than you as an engineering student will be able to give it so forget about playing professionally. Learning to play an instrument takes a lot of time.
    I do not know where the gentleman is from, but the viola phenomenon is true here the states as well.

    I also sensed another problem. As dgee mentioned above, playing in an orchestra is not the same as singing in a chorus (I had experience singing in a chorus when I was in high school and college) or playing in a rock band (I did that too). Playing in an orchestra is like playing on a football (soccer) team. Only one player at a time can have the possession of the ball. His teammates are usually running around the field in a supporting role. When playing in an orchestra you are a part of an ensemble. Every once and a while a section has a melody but most of the time you are in a support mode. And when you have the melody you have to pass it off to somebody else. No matter how many instrumentalists are on the stage you have to play as if it is a single instrument. With a chorus one may have between four and eight lines. With an orchestra one frequently has over twenty. When reading the OP it appears that he does not understand the ensemble part of playing with an orchestra. This is critically important when playing in a string section. One may be playing with five or more cellist in even a small orchestra. They still have to sound like one cello.

    Jaws, I know you are a player as well. Probably more advance than I am. Any problems with what I have just stated?
    Last edited by arpeggio; Sep-05-2014 at 03:16.
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    Senior Member senza sordino's Avatar
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    Your background sounds similar to mine. I picked up the violin at 32 because I too wanted to play in an orchestra. The advantage of playing the violin is that you don't need to be that good. And here's why:

    You can sit at the back of the second violins and follow along. This is how I first began. Viola would also be a good option because orchestras usually need violas. Bass would be a good option too, and as mentioned, a bass is tuned in fourths.

    You could learn a brass or woodwind instrument but I think it would be more difficult to get into an orchestra.

    I took lessons and played in a student orchestra first, along with children 1/2 my age. We have an excellent music camp for adult amateurs here in my part of the world, which I attended. Then I got into a bigger adult orchestra.

    I suggest you do some research to find local amateur orchestras. There are at least six in my part of the world. Two play at a very high level.

    I can tell you from personal experience that it is possible to play in an orchestra.

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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by senza sordino View Post
    Your background sounds similar to mine. I picked up the violin at 32 because I too wanted to play in an orchestra. The advantage of playing the violin is that you don't need to be that good. And here's why:

    You can sit at the back of the second violins and follow along. This is how I first began. Viola would also be a good option because orchestras usually need violas. Bass would be a good option too, and as mentioned, a bass is tuned in fourths.

    You could learn a brass or woodwind instrument but I think it would be more difficult to get into an orchestra.

    I took lessons and played in a student orchestra first, along with children 1/2 my age. We have an excellent music camp for adult amateurs here in my part of the world, which I attended. Then I got into a bigger adult orchestra.

    I suggest you do some research to find local amateur orchestras. There are at least six in my part of the world. Two play at a very high level.

    I can tell you from personal experience that it is possible to play in an orchestra.
    Excellent advice from someone who has actually done it. Congratulations. I know of very few people who have accomplished what you have done.
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by senza sordino View Post
    Your background sounds similar to mine. I picked up the violin at 32 because I too wanted to play in an orchestra. The advantage of playing the violin is that you don't need to be that good. And here's why:

    You can sit at the back of the second violins and follow along. This is how I first began. Viola would also be a good option because orchestras usually need violas. Bass would be a good option too, and as mentioned, a bass is tuned in fourths.

    You could learn a brass or woodwind instrument but I think it would be more difficult to get into an orchestra.

    I took lessons and played in a student orchestra first, along with children 1/2 my age. We have an excellent music camp for adult amateurs here in my part of the world, which I attended. Then I got into a bigger adult orchestra.

    I suggest you do some research to find local amateur orchestras. There are at least six in my part of the world. Two play at a very high level.

    I can tell you from personal experience that it is possible to play in an orchestra.
    YAY! The long haul done, willing to be the old coot sitting in with people half your age who can play circles around you, and a success story!

    If the OP wants this, this is likely 'how it will go,' and I hope the desire / ambition is for the remainder of a near lifetime of it... it will take quite some time to get 'there,' get in a group who will be happy with you (and vice versa) and if that is done, I can pretty much assure you a lifetime of working pleasure outside of your profession.

    But, man, the past is a lot about this, that, and at least vacillation: remember you can rent instruments, find a teacher, and then know better, directly, if this is for you. You seemed to me soooo ambivalent it might be worth your while to do just that, rent an instrument, take several months of lessons, and then do the same with the other instruments you are wondering about choosing. But, hobby though it may be, this is still an endeavor of earnestness and commitment, and that can not begin until you are fully committed to an instrument!

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    My response to yet another 'Which instrument should I choose,' question. It is just as valid in the case of you, the OP as it is for the OP of that other thread.

    "These "Which instrument should I choose?" conundrums always have me nonplussed.

    Surely, one of those has a stronger pull or appeal to you. If not, then you really must make a somewhat arbitrary choice in order for you 'to get on with it.'

    No one can give you input enough of any sort to sway your innermost voice, and that is what you have to find, listen to, and rely upon. There are no 'plan B's' if you want to really become good at playing an instrument, or any other profession for that matter.

    Reassurance, encouragement, or suggestions from total strangers who have never heard you play anything is surely worth -- nothing."
    Last edited by PetrB; Sep-05-2014 at 06:32.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arpeggio View Post
    I do not know where the gentleman is from, but the viola phenomenon is true here the states as well.

    I also sensed another problem. As dgee mentioned above, playing in an orchestra is not the same as singing in a chorus (I had experience singing in a chorus when I was in high school and college) or playing in a rock band (I did that too). Playing in an orchestra is like playing on a football (soccer) team. Only one player at a time can have the possession of the ball. His teammates are usually running around the field in a supporting role. When playing in an orchestra you are a part of an ensemble. Every once and a while a section has a melody but most of the time you are in a support mode. And when you have the melody you have to pass it off to somebody else. No matter how many instrumentalists are on the stage you have to play as if it is a single instrument. With a chorus one may have between four and eight lines. With an orchestra one frequently has over twenty. When reading the OP it appears that he does not understand the ensemble part of playing with an orchestra. This is critically important when playing in a string section. One may be playing with five or more cellist in even a small orchestra. They still have to sound like one cello.

    Jaws, I know you are a player as well. Probably more advance than I am. Any problems with what I have just stated?
    Actually I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you, because with my experience in choirs, my choral directors have ALWAYS focused on those qualities you mentioned which you think differentiate the orchestra from the choir. Obviously you know there is sections in choirs as well and just as you mention with the orchestra, different sections have the melody at different times and they all take turns with it just as you said.

    The same goes for sounding like one instrument. If everyone isn't blending with each other, using the correct vowels, consonants, etc., it's just going to sound pretty awful especially if you have a choir the size of my university's with about 200 singers, and Carmina Burana was a good example of the importance of "ensemble unity" because of the variety of text in a foreign language with so many different pronunciations. I remember one time in high school we were singing an 8 part arrangement of Shenandoah by James Erb and our teacher just kept beating it into our heads how important it was for each section to sound like one person, especially in the opening melodies.

    Essentially, everything you mentioned about the orchestra applies very much to a choir as well, it's just the instrumentation is different, in the case of the choir you obviously use your voice, but it's still an instrument. Obviously there are going to be differences, but personally I'm just not convinced the ones you mentioned are any of them.

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    I might be the exception to the rule, but I started playing in the student orchestra within six months, and the adult orchestra six months after that. I took to the violin well, it suits me. I already knew the music, it was a question of learning to play along. As I said, you don't need to be that good to sit at the back of the second violins in a second rate amateur orchestra.

    Now I play in a bigger orchestra a step or two above the first ones I played with. I can't play every note, I fake some of the challenging passages. There are others around who usually can play those tricky bits. We play for friends and family and the local community, we don't pretend to be the Berlin Phil. I don't expect to play with the professionals. I don't expect to be the concertmaster for my local orchestra.

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