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The Unwound Third => Gitfiddles, Harps, Washboards & Kazoos => Topic started by: Sweet Bone Willie on January 18, 2005, 09:01:22 PM

Title: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: Sweet Bone Willie on January 18, 2005, 09:01:22 PM
On another guitar forum I visit (The G.A.S. Station), somebody had a picture of a Gibson L-OO reissue with two small vibrators attached with suction cups to the lower bout of the guitar. When I asked about this another poster directed me to an interesting article:  http://www.acousticguitar.com/Gear/advice/vibration.shtml

Has anyone tried attaching vibrators to their newer guitar to achieve an instant vintage sound?  If so how long does it need to be done and what were the results?
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: Muddyroads on January 19, 2005, 06:22:35 AM
What did Barnum say, "There's a sucker born every minute."?  I knew a fellow who did all kinds of things to his Martin D-45 to get it to sound better.  All you really have to do is play it.  It will never sound worse than the day you got it if you take care of it.

Mud
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: outfidel on January 19, 2005, 06:48:43 AM
Even more preposterous are these Fender Relic (http://www.musiciansfriend.com/srs7/search/detail/base_pid/510520//sourceid=qIZwQe5ygZ0WAj6G5snF/befree_site_id=0037652198) models, where you pay an extra $1,000 or so to have the guitar top scuffed up so that it "looks" vintage.

Please, that's why had children -- so that they [/i]could wreck my stuff.  ;)
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: GhostRider on January 19, 2005, 11:17:32 AM
Willie:

Very interesting article. Thanks for posting it.

Makes sense and why not speed things up if you can.

Now intentially scuffing up a new guitar to make it look old is weird!

Alex
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: ozrkreb on January 20, 2005, 08:48:29 AM
I ran across this article about a year ago and I have to admit that I'm skeptical. I will readily agree that there is a possibility that this shaking process has an impact on the sound. However, the "evidence" that they describe, which is in the form of an "experiment," is laughable. Actually, I would probably have been more persuaded that the process has merit if they hadn't even included their little "experiment."

I would argue that they're just hearing what they want to hear...and as a matter of fact, they admit this saying, "Kaiser said he hoped it would come out sounding as though Martin Simpson had been flailing away on it for several years!" And the verdict? Well, Kaiser got what he wanted: "The guitar gained nicely overall and had the "played hard" factor that Kaiser had hoped it would develop."

Of course, they aren't hiding the fact that there are problems with their experiment. They state, "Our "before and after" comparison is obviously subjective and fraught with variables...but the bottom line is that this guitar did seem to be opened up by shaking." Unfortunately, they have no real evidence to support their bottom line.

The good thing is that it sounds like they are actually attempting to come up with some objective empirical evidence: "Rabe is working with scientists at MIT to try to determine if there are observable changes in the wood that has been shaken. Samples of different woods will be shaken and compared with control samples of matching cuts from the same planks left unshaken."

If I see some real evidence, then I'll think about whether this is just snake oil or a real phenomenon.

Az
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: waxwing on January 20, 2005, 10:27:36 AM
Since I'm only interested in guitars older than me, I think all this is pretty funny. Most of my guitars opened up before I was born. The other nice thing about old guitars is that the necks and tops have done pretty much all the moving they're gonna do. A nice new guitar could go anywhere in the first 20 years or so. Even an 80 year old Stella with a big belly behind the bridge is more stable than a brand new guitar. And there are so many orphans out there looking for a home.
All for now.
John C
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: a2tom on January 20, 2005, 11:29:58 AM
so John C, how do you recommend going about looking for/acquiring old guitars?? At this point in my life I'm not interested in spending my time working on them (even though I have done some lutherie in the past), so I'd be looking for something in close to playable condition (minor set up issues are fine, but I'm not doing any neck resets or fixing cracks, e.g.).? I'm not against someone else having worked on them, to a point (but some guitars seem so rebuilt one wonders exactly what is old anymore!).

eBay is a nightmare for me - lots to look at, but buying guitars there has been far less than satisfying.? So, aside from the local guitar shops which don't have 'em, what's a Weenie to do?

BTW, the shaken guitar syndrome sounds like nonsense to me.? Even on the assumption that the basic idea is valid, why would one believe that brief intensive, non-string-originated vibration would do the same thing playing would??

tom
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: NotRevGDavis on January 20, 2005, 02:14:18 PM
I hung a Pork Chop from the ceiling of my studio and locked my dogs in.

All that barking should open up ALL of my guitars, might have to do a bit tomorrow for the National.? >:D

That article was from Acoustic Guitar magazine, February 1997, No.50,
Timbre Technologies Sylmar, CA. doesn't seem to exist any more.
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: waxwing on January 22, 2005, 12:14:40 AM
so John C, how do you recommend going about looking for/acquiring old guitars?? At this point in my life I'm not interested in spending my time working on them (even though I have done some lutherie in the past), so I'd be looking for something in close to playable condition (minor set up issues are fine, but I'm not doing any neck resets or fixing cracks, e.g.).? I'm not against someone else having worked on them, to a point (but some guitars seem so rebuilt one wonders exactly what is old anymore!).

eBay is a nightmare for me - lots to look at, but buying guitars there has been far less than satisfying.? So, aside from the local guitar shops which don't have 'em, what's a Weenie to do?
Well, Tom, first, I think you need to find a way to educate yourself about the various guitars you might be intersested in. Some of this, like understanding the values of various brands and models, can come from online discussions, but really you need to find them and play them. Of course, (plug) going to a gathering like Port Townsend where you can play many different guitars can be quite an education. Also , whenever I take a trip somewhere I always try to find the local vintage shops. And I try to let myself be known to the shops and what kind of guitars interest me. For instance, the two guitars that really interest me right know are the early H braced Gibson L-0's or L-1s and pre war Martin 00-17s. If I had the money and was ready to buy (which I don't and I'm not), there are about 6 or so shops in various parts of the country that I might call and say something like, "hey, I'm the guy who came in with a nice 1930 Style O, played that sweet L-Century you had, and talked to you about such and such and I'm really lookin' for one right now that's in decent playing condition but maybe has lots of honest wear. None right now? Well, give me a call if you get one in." I'd also check the various on line vendors. All of these places have a return policy. Yeah, you're out the shipping, but if you don't like the guitar you don't have to buy it.
The other thing I feel is important is having a good relationship with a topnotch luthier who really enjoys vintage guitars. Not all do. The guys at Gary Brawer's shop love to see me walk in with some new vintage guitar for them to work on. I think it's important to realize that all guitars are going to need something done to them to bring them to good playability. Hell, that's half the fun, I think. You can ask the dealer to do it or you can have your own guy do it. I prefer my own guy. I trust him and we can discuss just what we want to do with the guitar in hand. And the dealer may mark up more than just the cost of the repair on his end. The thing is, needing a neck reset or maybe just a refret and some bridge work is usually gonna reduce the value of the guitar as much or more than it's gonna cost you to have the work done.
In dealing with an online dealer, just like on ebay, the key is in asking questions. You've really got to ask specifically about all the various facets, how high is the action at the 12th fret, how much hump where the fretboard goes over the body, how much saddle is left, cracks in the top, sides, back. All of these things are acceptable but may affect price. The dealer may not think a reset is in order until you get him to admit that the action is 3/8". Ask him to lay a straight edge on the fretboard and discribe which frets touch the straight edge. And get him to play it for you over the phone, you actually can hear alot. Paranoids, of course, will assume he's playing a different guitar, so I guess you have to decide if you trust the guy from his reputation (another thing you can ask about on various online forums). If you feel that the guitar is drastically different from his original description, see if he'll come down in the price.
To me, you have to be into the whole process, the education, the search, and the renovation. And enjoying getting to know the community of people, players and dealers, is part of it, too. And for me the bottom line is not whether all the parts are original, heck, I like a guitar that really looks like it's got some stories to tell (my little Stella has a huge belly and looks like the top was stove in on one side of the soundhole). It's the sound that counts (and that little Stella has such a tone).
If you really want to buy a guitar that's been fully renovated and ready to play there are a few guys who you might go to. Todd Cambio, of course, can speak for himself here if he wishes, but the Stella he renecked and hotrodded for Frank sure is sweet. Todd may be concentrating more on building new guitars in the Stella style now. Neil Harpe, who has developed a good relationship with luthier Mike Hauver, is also a good trustworthy dealer. I did do extensive work on the two guitars that I bought from Neil before he got together with Mike, but their prices reflected that. If you are ever near Annapolis (between Baltimore and Washington) you should definitely get in touch with Neil and visit his guitars at Acousticopia. That's an education if he has a good selection at the time. I'm sure there are others out there, I'm just more aware of Stellas.
Well, I probably haven't told you everything you need to know, but this'll get you started if you really want to go in this direction. First thing is to just get out and play some and listen to the sounds they make. That'll tell you if you want to continue.
All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: a2tom on January 22, 2005, 05:58:00 AM
wow, thanks for the extensive reply John!  Indeed, I do travel a bit for my job, and I do try to always get out to guitar shops around the area when I do.  That is a real hoot.  I think you're right that I have a learning curve here that needs to start with actually playing some more that are "older than I am".  I am not "highly motivated" to buy old guitars, just curious at this point (and he who dies with the most guitars wins, yes?).  In that regard, I am considering a trip to PT, but the logistics aren't all that easy for me in that time period of the year, which roughly translates as my wife might kill me if I go.

Anyway, thanks much.

tom
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: uncle bud on January 22, 2005, 08:39:59 AM
I am considering a trip to PT, but the logistics aren't all that easy for me in that time period of the year, which roughly translates as my wife might kill me if I go.
Yeah, but Tom, you'll die happy...  :P
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: waxwing on January 22, 2005, 08:43:58 AM
Bring your wife. It is a beautiful part of the world. She can spend some time in Seattle during the week, or travel up to the San Juan Islands, or check out the Hoh Rainforest or other natural points of interest on the Olympic peninsula. All within a days travel. PT is a beautiful little town itself.
For me, it's not the most, but just the one's that work best for the songs that I want to play, representative of different styles. Check out Dai Thomas' list of Blues Singers and the Guitars they were photographed with or rumored to play (http://www.earlyblues.com/blues_singers.htm). That's where I get some of my motivation.
All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: Richard on January 22, 2005, 10:54:50 AM
Quote
I am considering a trip to PT, but the logistics aren't all that easy for me in that time period of the year, which roughly translates as my wife might kill me if I go.

This is the problem of course ^-^


And, as regards
Quote
Another trick that I've heard of, but haven't tested empirically is putting guitars in bass cabinets and leaving them in there with the volume cranked for a day or two. I'm skeptical, to be sure.
one could always send them for a trip on UPS... worked in my case  ;)
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: Cambio on January 22, 2005, 11:37:26 AM
Waxy brings up a lot of good points.  You really do need to educate yourself and play as many guitars as possible, figure out what sounds you like and what you like the feel of. 
I want to weigh in on the subject of old vs. new instruments and opening up.  I think an important question to ask is: How much of an old guitar's sound is related to its age vs. the way it was built?  Certainly guitars open up, I prefer to have them open up from playing rather than with a vibrator (call me old fashioned). But don't the old guitars sound great on the old recordings, when the guitars were new?  If you find a vintage guitar that is in mint condition because it was never played, won't it sound great?  I think that after a few weeks of playing, it will sound great (provided that it's a worthy instrument.  Instruments like to be played, they open up the more that you play them.  If you don't play them, they start to shut down and will need to open up again. 
Vintage instruments have a certain sound and mistique that new ones don't but oftentimes they require more maintenance.  That's not a problem if you know of a good luthier and have the funds to pay for repairs.  I think that it is possible to make new instruments that sound as good as the old ones, based on the fact that the old instruments sound good on old records, when they were new.   
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: Johnm on January 22, 2005, 12:17:19 PM
Hi all,
I absolutely agree with Todd, John C. and everybody else that instruments want and need to be played to open up and develop their full potential.  Lots of good brand-new instruments start out with a lot of confused high overtones--it's like they are arguing with themselves.  It takes a lot of playing to get the overtones in agreement with each other, when a guitar gets to that point, I think of it as being lined up.
I have to admit that, for the most part, I do not think the guitars on the old recordings sound very good.  I think the playing is incredibly good, how could you not be impressed with Lemon, Blake, etc., but the instruments themselves generally are pretty underwhelming to me.  If I think of the entire corpus of recorded Country Blues, I can think of very few recordings where I have listened and thought, "Wow, he's really playing a great guitar!".  Peg Leg Howell's guitar has always sounded fantastic to me, and Josh White always sounded like he was playing a really good guitar as was Lonnie Johnson.  Some of the twelve-strings, Leadbelly's and Barbecue Bob's, sounded really great, too.  But I think a lot of the enthusiasm for the old instruments stems from the association of the great music that was played on instruments of that type, rather than the intrinsic merits of the sound itself.  The musicians were so great they would have sounded great on a tub of guts, they just happened to be playing what was available and affordable at the time.  For the most part, I don't think the guitars they played were anything special.  I imagine I am in the distinct minority on this one.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: waxwing on January 22, 2005, 02:13:21 PM
That's a great way to put it, John, "being lined up". You sure have got that nice OM of yours lined up.<G> Maybe it's the challenge of sounding good on the same "tub of guts"?<G>

Todd, I agree with you. I really think that bracing is perhaps the biggest influence on the tonal identity of a wood guitar, with body size and, yes, neck length (i.e. bridge placement) being seconds. Tone woods maybe third. Ah, but what do I know? It is exciting to me that you and a few others are reawakening the art of ladder bracing.

All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: Cambio on January 23, 2005, 08:07:50 AM
Bravo John, very well put.  I've seen a few Stellas where there was no rhyme nor reason to the placement of the frets, causing intonation nightmares, but, it had a "sound".  If somebody wanted to sound like Sam Collins or Rube Lacy, I'd say a guitar like that would be a great. 
I was thinking this morning that, while violin makers work in an age old tradition and are essentially all trying to make a very similar instrument, most guitar makers snub traditional methods in favor of the latest technologies and advancements, in order to save time and hassle.  Unfortunately, a lot gets lost in the process.  I'm mainly thinking about glues and finishes.  What do microwaveable glues and polymerized finishes, that a rabid wolverine couldn't scratch, do to the tone of a guitar?  Will some of the new guitars ever open up?  More than I lament the loss of tone, I lament the loss of tradition and craft.   
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: GhostRider on January 23, 2005, 09:57:13 AM
Hi John:

Thnks for saying that about the guitars on the old recordings, I totally agree, most are terrible. In many ways I think that recreating the notes of old blues tunes on better guitars is "releasing" these creative works. I sometimes wish that I coul transport back in time and give some of these guys a decent guitar to record on.

Right on John!

Alex
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: ozrkreb on January 23, 2005, 02:58:33 PM
I have to admit that I'm a little skeptical of the idea that guitars "open up" naturally over time. I hear knowledgeable people talk about it enough that I'm willing to give it some credence, but I'm highly skeptical. I realize it proves nothing, but I've been playing for 22 years and I've never experienced it. Does my Gibson acoustic sound different now than it did 22 years ago? Yes, but it's because I'm a different player now than I was then. Heck, my hearing ability has even changed over those years, so I'm bound to perceive the exact same sound a little differently than I did all those years ago.

Maybe it's my academic background....maybe it's that I'm from the Show-Me state....but I'm just skeptical of a phenomenon with no evidence to back it up. As a matter of fact, there is a wealth of evidence from the fields of psychology and economics that people regularly perceive differences when none exist.

My intent here is to generate a little discussion.....not to irritate those of you who feel that you are able to perceive an instrument that has opened up. Again, I hear enough knowledgeable guitarists discuss the phenomenon to still be willing to admit that it might exist. However, there are so many other variables changing that I find it very hard to believe that people are actually able to hear sounds that are produced by physical changes in the guitar over time.

People's playing ability changes, their hearing changes, the listening environment changes....heck, even your ability to hear the various textures of sound changes...how do you know you don't just hear the sound differently. Maybe the guitar is producing the same sound but you hear it differently? It also seems farfetched to compare vintage instruments today with how they sound on old recordings...they are bound to sound different because of the fact that you are hearing them through a completely different medium. It's like comparing an apple and an orange. If I record myself playing my guitar...and then we sit down and compare the recording with me playing live, it'll sound different.

Thoughts?? ?Those of you who can hear it, how do you know that what you are hearing is an actual physical change that has taken place in the guitar rather than something else?

Az
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: Cambio on January 23, 2005, 03:17:34 PM
Sorry that you're so doubtful, but guitars open up, all stringed instruments do.  I don't really know how to explain it, but they do.  An educated ear can tell.  I think it's most noticeable with new instruments or instruments that have undergone some major work on the top, but you can tell that their sound radically changes from day to day.  When I finish a new guitar, I don't even bother listening to it for the first day, because it's not going to sound like much.   The second day it will start to sound better, and the third day and so on.  It's the same thing when I put a new bridge plate in an old guitar, it's always tight for the first couple days and then it starts to open up.  It's not just something that you can hear either, you can feel it too.
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: Johnm on January 23, 2005, 03:42:34 PM
I absolutely agree with Todd on this.  On occasions in which I have purchased a new guitar, and have done an initial heavy playing session of an hour or more I have heard the guitar pass through four or five distinctly different stages of sound/tonal development as the instrument starts to sort itself out.  The opening up/lining up slows down greatly after that initial period but continues for some time. 
The effects of being played show up even more dramatically on older instruments that, for whatever reason, were never played after their initial purchase.  I once bought a 1930 OM-18 that showed up at a music store of a friend of mine in Ithaca, New York.  The guitar had never been played; original bar frets, pyramid bridge, banjo tuners, etc. with zero fret wear.  When first played the guitar was quiet and boxy-sounding, despite being as dry as a bone.  I played it a ton, and did it ever wake up!  It had the potential, but playing woke it up.  Incidentally, I don't know anyone with extensive experience with stringed instruments who considers this phenomenon of "opening up" to be anything other than gospel truth
All best,
Johnm   
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: waxwing on January 23, 2005, 04:23:19 PM
Az.
Coming from a Science family (and having a fair amount of background myself) I understand the desire for quantifiable data, that you can see. Since we are a more visually dependent species, variance in sound seems to be much more subjective say than the fact that a brand new  spruce topped guitar is usually quite light colored but over time, and exposure to light, that color usual darkens or "deepens". Of course, no one will argue with that, even if I said, "well the photo of the new guitar may have faded." Those who have trained their ear to be more discerning than the average homo sapien have no trouble hearing the differences because it's not just a slight increase in volume or slight shift in tone, but an actual dynamic change in the quality of the sound. John M describes it very well. And it is a phenomenon that has been known throughout the history of stringed instrument construction, particularly in the golden age of violin construction. The fact that no one has ever felt a need to set up an experiment to prove that it exists would seem to indicate an acceptance of it as reality. No?
All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: Slack on January 23, 2005, 05:26:50 PM
Much more study and analysis of violins is available - but there has been some guitar analysis too - mosly in an old publication called The Journal of Guitar Acoustics.  This is still available and at least one article is a time study.

http://www.ukuleles.com/Technology/JGA.html

But the easier way is to befriend a luthier and tell him you'd like to play a newly strung guitar for an hour in his shop.  the changes in sound in that first hour or so (as mentioned above) are remarkable.

cheers,
slack
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: ozrkreb on January 23, 2005, 06:02:27 PM
Good replies. Again, let me just say that I'm not denying that it happens...all I'm saying is that I'm skeptical. I'm just curious as to why it hasn't been empirically verified. Sound is something that we can measure and represent graphically. So we should be able to "view" the sound and see if, objectively, the "opening up" phenomenon happens.

It seems perfectly reasonable to me that the sound of a guitar will change right after it has had work done...the structure has been altered and the physical structure of the object will change as the parts adjust to the new configuration.....I have no problem with that. Same with a brand spanking new guitar.

It's the opening up over long periods of time that I am more skeptical of. So many things change over time that I'm just hesitant to believe that someone can actually isolate the variation that is due only to the physics of the guitar itself. Humidity changes, the guitar's setup can change, the strings can change, how you hear the sound can change, how you interpret the sound can change, etc....and yet people can somehow peal all of that away leaving the "opening up?"

I realize nobody can give me solid evidence one way or the other, we obviously can't prove anything here....I'm just curious as to how confident people are that they are really identifying something that is real. This kind of remind me of the gambler's falacy, which is the term used to describe the belief that if you just experienced a loss, that event itself increases the probability of a win on the next try.....so people who just lost will tend to increase their subsequent bet.....all because they "know" that if you just lost, your probability of winning is higher on the next shot...because two losses in a row is highly unlikely....right? Wrong way to think about it....they are believing something that has no foundation in reality. But yet, they'll argue that it's real....and they can give you story after story about how it has paid off for them.

I believe that it's definitely possible...there are a lot of guitar players out there, some in here, who claim it's real, and that's why I've been thinking about it lately. However, history is full of example where people "knew" and experienced things that weren't real. I'm just curious.

It wouldn't really be that hard to test with the right equipment. There might be a creative component there for a masters music or psychology student. Heck...if you did it right it could be a dissertation. I'll check out that cite to the literature slack....maybe someone has already done it.

Az
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: a2tom on January 23, 2005, 06:36:17 PM
I have no desire to get into the middle of this one - I haven't the experience to claim or disclaim the phenomenon, and certainly know of many experienced players who assert it confidently (as seen) - but I'll throw out that I find the difference as new strings play in to be very obvious, even on an older guitar.  I never like the way new strings sound until a couple days time and a few hours of playing.   Too brash, if that's a word.  How much short-term guitar opening up is due to the new strings?

tom
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: Slack on January 23, 2005, 06:37:56 PM
Quote
I realize nobody can give me solid evidence one way or the other, we obviously can't prove anything here....I'm just curious as to how confident people are that they are really identifying something that is real.

Hi Az,

As an amatuer luthier - I'm very confident -- the first hour or two is only the most dramatic change.  Wood is (or was) a living material - one theory on why the sound changes over time is that the wood resins continue to harden and crystalize over time. 

I think you can find solid evidence - but you've got to look at luthier groups and violin groups in particular - because folks have studied violins to death. ;)  One of the most well known in the US is: http://www.catgutacoustical.org/

cheers,
slack



 
Title: Re: Instant vintage guitars
Post by: ozrkreb on February 02, 2005, 01:44:24 PM
Here's a post I found over on Ari's message board that reminded me of this discussion....thought you might get a laugh out of it. Sounds to me like he got a little ditch-weed mixed in with his other smoking material.
Az

_________________________________
Here's a little note of interest -
I had been touring around for the past couple of years and found, after playing in a lot of crowded Indonesian clubs, that my guitar started to sound a bit sweeter than usual. I started to think about what might be going on that would cause this. After doing some experimentation in my lab back in the states (I'm a research biologist), I found that cool humid clove smoke, when infused into dried wood, imparts a characteristic into the wood that causes it to vibrate a little differently. In Indonesia, tobacco is more expensive than clove, so most folks there smoke clove cigarettes, and fill the bars with clove smoke. Anyway, after a long set of experiments I figured out a way to "cure" the inside of my guitars with a mix of clove and some other scented barks. The smoke and vaporized oils appear to actually stabilize the wood, and causes it to "open up" and become more tonally complex. I also ring out chords up and down the neck while it’s curing, causing the soundboard to resonate at different frequencies. This also seems to open the wood up along a wider frequency range. A cool side effect is that after being cured, the guitar sort of “breathes” when you play it; causing a sweet clove/cinnamon bark smell to emanate from the sound hole while it’s resonating. Anyway, I don't suggest you go out and do this to all of your guitars (I went through a bunch of trial and error experiments until I got it right), but it is interesting to note.
 
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