How to Play The Mandolin for Beginners: 5 Steps to Get Started

how to play mandolin for beginners

So you want to learn how to play the mandolin. For beginners to playing an instrument, the mandolin is a great option for starting your musical journey. Many people ask, “Is the mandolin easy to play?” or “Is it hard to play the mandolin?”

Fortunately, the mandolin is not a difficult instrument to learn. It’s lightweight and compact so you can practice anywhere. It also has less strings than many other instruments, like the guitar, which makes reading tablature much easier.

The mandolin is just unusual enough that people will be curious as to what instrument you’re playing. This will give you great satisfaction if you like standing out from the crowd!

Whatever your reason for wanting to learn to play the mandolin, this guide is a great source of information for beginners. We’ll provide an introduction on how to play the mandolin, including five steps to get started today.

How to Play Mandolin for Beginners

Step 1. Find Your Favorite Style or Genre

how to play the mandolin for beginners - bowl backed

Throughout the years, the mandolin has been featured in recordings from a wide range of musical genres. For example, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton have both been recorded playing the mandolin on folk and blues songs. Classical composers have written great pieces for the mandolin.

Irish musicians have used the mandolin to great effect in traditional folk tunes. Last but not least, country and bluegrass mandolin players (such as Bill Monroe and Jethro Burns) have made their mark with the instrument as well.

As a beginner to the mandolin, it’s important to listen to music from each of these styles. This will help you decide which one fits your musical preferences. Once you’ve decided which genre you’d like to focus on, a mandolin teacher can personalize your lessons accordingly and teach you relevant techniques for that style of playing.

Step 2. Purchase the Right Mandolin

how to play mandolin for beginners - f style

The style of music you choose to learn will affect several aspects of the mandolin you should purchase. While it’s true that you can play any genre on any mandolin, some designs are more appropriate for certain genres.

Do you want to play bluegrass music? Then you might want to purchase an F style or an A style mandolin. F style mandolins have the swoopy curl at the top of the body near the neck. A style mandolins are more tear-drop shaped. These two styles of mandolin are the most popular for bluegrass players.

If you want to play classical or European folk genres, a bowl backed (AKA “potato bug”) shaped mandolin will be a better fit. Lastly, if you want to play Irish music you might want to consider a larger A style mandolin, or perhaps even a mandola.

Step 3. Get Light Mandolin Strings

Mandolins are slightly more difficult than other stringed instruments in one aspect: they have two strings per note instead of just one string. So while the tablature for the mandolin reads like any other four string instrument, in reality you will have to press down two strings every time you want to play one note.

This can be difficult on the fingers for a beginner to the mandolin, so it’s important to purchase light strings when just starting out. You’ll have less volume, but starting with light gauge strings will make playing much more comfortable. Martin Lights are the perfect strings for beginners as they are durable, but not too painful for the fingers.

You should expect to experience some finger pain and discomfort as a beginner – this is normal. When finished practicing, try soaking your fingers in a product called “Witch Hazel.” This astringent is great for taking the sting out. Many professional musicians use Witch Hazel after shows to ease the pain in their fingers.

It will also help any blisters turn into calluses more quickly. Last tip – if you do get a blister, don’t pop it. You want the swelling to go down naturally so that it can turn into a callus, which will make playing the mandolin much easier in the long run.

Step 4. Find a Good Mandolin Teacher

how to play mandolin for beginners - find a teacher

If you want to learn how to play the mandolin, yes, you could watch hours of YouTube videos and try to improve on your own. But beginners should be cautious, because when you’re new to the instrument, it’s difficult to tell when you are or aren’t getting accurate information.

Without a live person there to tell you when you’re using incorrect techniques, you could easily develop bad habits that you might never be able to fix. One of the biggest benefits of working with a mandolin teacher is that they can tailor lesson plans to your individual needs. (They can also help you build a solid foundation of music theory)!

To start your search for the perfect mandolin teacher for you, check out TakeLessons. They have a wide range of qualified teachers all over the country that can help you learn how to play the mandolin right away.

They also offer lessons via video chat, if you’re interested in learning to play the mandolin online. To get started, browse through TakeLessons teachers’ profiles to find one who has experience in the style and genre you’re pursuing.

If you’re really interested in learning how to play Italian music, a Bluegrass teacher might not be the best fit. Ideally, you should find a teacher who enjoys a wide variety of styles so you can explore the great sea of mandolin music that is out there.

Step 5. Take Advantage of Helpful Resources

If you’re taking private lessons, chances are your teacher has their own materials to share with you to develop your skills. However, it never hurts to have some extra resources for practicing on your own – which will really get you to the next level.

There are dozens of great apps, YouTube videos, and books for just about any style of mandolin playing imaginable. Taking advantage of these resources will inspire you to practice, learn, and develop your skills even more. For starters, see the list of examples below.

  • Mandolin Method Book 1 – This book, written by noted mandolinist Richard DelGrosso, teaches beginners essential skills such as how to read music.
  • Mandolin Cafe – When you have a pressing question about the mandolin and aren’t sure where to turn, check out the helpful forums on this website.
  • Dead Man’s Tuning – These instructional books are available in four unique volumes for learning the mandolin in alternate tunings.
  • MandolinTabs – Want to learn a new song on the mandolin? This YouTube channel features easy tutorials for songs in a variety of genres.
  • Mandolin for Dummies – This book is a good resource for beginners to mandolin who are looking for a more comprehensive introduction to the instrument.
  • Chord! – Chord! is an inexpensive app that can help you learn new chords on the mandolin, enabling you to play many more songs.

In conclusion, if you’re a beginner and want to learn how to play mandolin, you need to discover your style, find the right mandolin for that style, and utilize the variety of resources available to you. Follow these steps and you’ll be playing the mandolin in no time.

Can you think of any more tips on how to play the mandolin for beginners? Share them with us in the comments section below!

Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches mandolin, ukulele, and guitar lessons in Winston Salem, NC. Willy has been teaching for over 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!

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The Fast & Foolproof Way to Learn Flute Notes [Beginners’ Cheat Sheets]

the fast and foolproof way to learn flute notes

Looking for a quick and easy way to learn flute notes for beginners? As you start to become more familiar with the flute, you’ll naturally become curious about learning more notes.

In the beginning, it’s important to start to learn flute notes right away—the sooner you learn them, the sooner you can read sheet music and master different melodies.

Learning flute notes can also help you improve on specific elements of your technique that are crucial to getting off to a good start. You’ll start to see your posture, the way you hold the flute, and your embouchure all improve with practice.

Proper Posture for Learning Flute Notes

Speaking of posture, there are a few key things you should remember to help you learn how to play flute notes comfortably. First, let your fingers curve over the top of your keys using the least amount of tension you can manage, without feeling like you’ll drop the flute.

Don’t try to grip the keys or put your fingertip right on the key. Instead, let your whole hand hold the flute, and remember that your fingertip is simply an extension of your finger that originates near the wrist.

As you learn flute notes, try to release and relax your elbows and shoulders, which are two areas that often try to “help” as you play. Lastly, learn to keep your fingers close to the keys—don’t let them fly away with each change of note!

How to Learn Flutes Notes Quickly

learn flute notes properly

Here are the steps you can follow to learn flute notes for beginners, as easily and quickly as possible. We’ll then discuss ways you can put these notes into practice and start memorizing them.

Commit to One Note at a Time

Each note has specific keys that need to be pressed, and trying to learn all the notes at the same time can be overwhelming! Commit to one note at a time, and continue to review the ones you’ve already learned.

Create Associations for Each Note

In the beginning, each note configuration can seem random. Try to make a specific association for each note so you can easily recall it.

For example, for B flat, you can think of it as “pinchers” – you only press down your left index finger and thumb keys and your right index finger key (plus your right pinky finger key). This creates an image of pinching between your index fingers and thumbs.

Learn Flute Notes in a Logical Order

It’s a smart idea to start by learning the notes of a scale, such as the B flat major scale. This includes the notes B flat, C, D, E flat, F, G, A, and then an additional B flat.

For your very first notes, learning A, B flat, and C (all on the staff) can also be a good option. A has four keys depressed. To switch to B flat, lift up your left third finger and press down your right index finger. Then for C, lift up your left thumb and your right index finger.

Double Check the Fingering

Beginners often make errors in the fingering of notes. Sometimes, the difference in sound of pressing an extra key is very subtle. However, over time this makes a big difference, not just sound-wise but also technique-wise. To avoid learning the wrong fingerings, double check a fingering chart as you learn flute notes.

Tips for Memorizing & Practicing Flute Notes

how to learn flute notes

  • A large part of memorizing flute notes has to do with muscle memory. This is why it’s important to practice good posture habits as you learn notes, because you’re creating a habitual pattern in your muscles for how to play each note. Make it a good one!
  • Use your brain to solve the puzzle. Lots of musical learning can happen without your instrument. While it’s of course important to hold and play your flute, you can also practice notes when you’re on the go or away from your flute.

Print out some blank flute fingering charts and use a pencil to darken the keys you would depress for each note. This type of visual memory practice can cement what your muscles are already learning.

  • Once you feel comfortable with your memory of the notes, start to practice very simple melodies that you can find in a beginner method book. This will strengthen your memory even more, and train your ability to switch between notes smoothly and comfortably.

Practicing this way also improves your breathing and stamina. As you read the music, you’ll be reinforcing a trifecta of musical knowledge: the fingering for the note, its printed placement on the musical staff (what line or space it appears on), and its name (D, E flat, or F, for example).

  • Remember to set specific and realistic goals for yourself. Once you’ve learned all the notes in a specific scale, set a long term goal to learn all the flat or sharp notes. Then ultimately, you can try to master the chromatic scale.

Cheat Sheets for Learning Flute Notes

The best way to learn flute notes is by reinforcing your knowledge in a variety of ways. Check out the following five sites that offer cheat sheets and helpful charts on mastering flute notes for beginners. Get ready to increase your learning speed, while making flute practice more fun!

  1. Flute for Dummies – This page covers learning which hand goes where, as well as finger placement. It also includes a complete fingering chart. In the beginning, you’ll learn the middle range of notes and over time, you can learn the lowest and highest notes.learn flute notes - cheat sheet
  2. Flute Fingering Trainer – Test your flute note knowledge here! You can select your desired level (easy, medium, or hard) and then identify each note by clicking on the keys of the flute. This will help you learn and reinforce the knowledge you already have.learn flute notes - flute trainer
  3. – This is a complete fingering chart, in order from lowest to highest notes. You can start by learning the first A listed (in the low octave) and continue upwards to the A that is one octave higher.learn flute notes - fingering chart
  4. 8notes – This website covers learning a note from start to finish. It features a color-coded guide for putting each finger on the right key. Check it out as a precursor to learning your first flute notes and then advance to “Part 8.”learn flute notes - illustration
  5. The Flute Teachers’ School – Watch this two-minute video to see a visual description of how to read a fingering chart. Then read the tips on how to learn flute notes for beginners, too!learn flute notes - video

Now you know how to learn flute notes! Follow the suggestions above and it will be an enriching process to increase your knowledge and flute abilities. As you gain more knowledge, the best way to advance your skills is to take private flute lessons.

An experienced flute teacher can observe your progress, correct mistakes, and provide personalized suggestions for what to learn next. Remember to enjoy the journey, and before you know it – you’ll know all the notes!

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How to Learn Russian

How to Learn Russian Fast & Easy with 8 Simple Steps

So you want to know how to learn Russian – the seventh most spoken language in the world. With around 300 million speakers, you certainly won’t have trouble finding other students to practice with!  

There are dozens of good reasons to learn how to speak Russian. Perhaps you admire Russian culture, or maybe you’ve always wanted to visit Moscow or Saint Petersburg as a tourist.

Whatever your motivation, Russian is not an easy language. However, it isn’t as hard as you think either! Follow these eight steps and you’ll start your learning journey on the right foot.

How to Learn Russian in 8 Simple Steps

1) Master the Russian Alphabet

how to learn Russian - letters

If you want to know how to learn Russian, the alphabet is the best place to start. The Russian alphabet is easy to learn because it’s very phonetic. Russians use the “Cyrillic” alphabet, named after the Greek monk, St. Cyril.

The alphabet consists of 33 letters, and it may seem unfamiliar at first. However, it has many similarities to the English alphabet. Some of the letters look and sound exactly like their English counterparts: A, B, D, K, L, M, O, and T.

On the other hand, some Cyrillic letters have the same pronunciation as English letters, but look differently. For example, the Cyrillic “г” sounds like the English “g,” and the Cyrillic “ф” sounds like the English “f.”

There are really only a few new sounds that need to be learned, but the rules of Russian pronunciation are simple. With a few exceptions, you typically pronounce words as they’re spelled and spell them as they’re pronounced.

Realistically, you could learn Cyrillic in a day. While you may make a few mistakes at first, practice will help you learn to distinguish between the English and Russian alphabets.

2) Learn Common Russian Words First

how to learn russian - common words

Every language has words that are more commonly used than others, so it’s helpful to learn these first as they’ll come in handy during daily conversation. Start by learning the words listed below.

  • Здравствуйте (Hello)
  • Привет (Hi)
  • Доброе утро (Good morning)
  • До свидания (Goodbye)
  • Как Вы живёте? (How are you?)
  • Было приятно познакомиться с Вами (Nice to meet you)
  • Да (Yes)
  • Нет (No)
  • Пожалуйста (Please)
  • Спасибо (Thank you)

If you’re learning Russian for a specific purpose, such as travel or business, there will be a set of vocabulary terms that you should work to memorize first. Be sure to let your Russian teacher know your goals and he or she will help you learn the most useful vocabulary right away.

3) Find Cognates in Russian

how to learn Russian

When wondering how to learn Russian quickly, one of the first steps you should take is to find words that have the same meanings in both Russian and English. 

There are many words in Russian that sound just like their English counterparts. Start with the examples below.

  • Телефон (telephone)
  • Компьютер (computer)
  • Такси (taxi)
  • Аэропорт (airport)
  • Лампа (lamp)
  • Технология (technology)
  • Температура (temperature)

4) Learn the Rules of Russian Grammar

how to learn russian grammar

Russian is a very rule-based language. For example, just like in French and Spanish, each noun has a gender assigned to it that you must memorize.

There are three genders in the Russian language: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Here are the rules for determining which gender a certain noun is. Look at the last letter of the word.

  • If it is a consonant, or “й”, the word is masculine.
  • If it is “а” or “я”, the word is feminine.
  • If it is “о” or “е”, the word is neuter.
  • If it is a silent letter, like  “ь”, then it could be either masculine or feminine.

There are very few exceptions to these rules, but the notable ones occur mainly because of physical gender. For example, the following exceptions occur because the person you’re referring to is male, so the word is masculine.

  • Папа (Dad)
  • Дядя (Uncle)
  • Дедушка (Grandfather)
  • Мужчина (Man)

There are many more grammar rules to learn, such as how verbs change tenses, how nouns become plural, etc. It’s best to learn these rules from a professional language tutor to ensure that you’re practicing them properly.

5) Take Advantage of Flexible Sentences

the best way to learn russian - practice writing

Word order in Russian sentences is very flexible and different from the firm, “subject-verb-object” structure that English speakers are used to. For example, in Russian there are several ways to express the statement, “I live in Miami.”

  • Я живу в Маями. (I live in Miami)
  • В Маями я живу. (In Miami I live)
  • Живу в Маями. (Live in Miami) – You can skip the pronoun altogether!

Here is another example using the question, “What did you talk about?”

  • О чём вы говорили? (What did you talk about?)
  • Говорили вы о чём? (Talked you about what?)
  • Вы говорили о чём? (You talked about what?)
  • О чём говорили? (About what talked?)                              

To use the flexibility of Russian sentence structure you need to understand the system of declension which means that nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and numerals change their endings depending on gender, number (singular or plural), and one of six grammatical cases.

You’ll also have to learn how to properly conjugate verbs. For help with some of these trickier concepts, see the next step.

6) Learn From a Russian Teacher

Best way to Learn Russian

Private lessons from an experienced Russian teacher are the best way to learn Russian – whether you take in person or online lessons. A professional, native speaker can provide a structured learning plan that is tailored to your individual needs and goals.

They can lead you through tricky concepts like grammar rules, and give you feedback on your accent and pronunciation.

To find a qualified Russian teacher, check out TakeLessons. Here, you’ll get to search through dozens of teachers’ profiles until you find one who is the right fit for you.

On a teacher’s profile page, you can learn about their background, rates, and read reviews from students who have worked with the teacher before.

7) Read Children’s Books

how to learn Russian - read books

Children’s books are an excellent way to build your grammar and comprehension skills. You might feel silly at first reading a book for children, but keep at it, as this will help lay the foundation for mastering Russian.

If you’re not quite ready to start reading in Russian yet, try listening to audiobooks or use dual language books that show the English and Russian translation side by side. “The Little Prince” (Маленький Принц) by Antoine de Saint Exupery is a great dual language book to start with.  

One of the most popular children’s authors in Russia is Korney Chukowsky. Many have referred to him as the Dr. Seuss of Russia. Here are just a few of his incredible audiobooks that you can find on YouTube.

  • Doctor Ouch (Доктор Айбоит)
  • Telephone (Телефон)
  • Moydodyr (Мойдодыр)

8) Practice Speaking & Writing

best way to learn Russian

The best way to learn Russian quickly is to use every opportunity to speak it. Become more confident and comfortable in your speaking skills by memorizing Russian idioms, common sayings, and practicing short dialogues daily.

When communicating with native speakers, be brave and ask them to correct your mistakes. Need someone to practice with? Find a language partner near you, or online, with sites like Meetup and My Language Exchange.

Lastly, don’t forget to work on your writing skills. Writing is secondary in learning a foreign language, but absolutely necessary.

Keep a vocabulary journal and find a penpal to write to. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and put all the skills you’re learning into practice!

In Conclusion

Now you know the best way to learn Russian. Everyone is capable of mastering a foreign language, but with these tips and tricks under your belt, you’ll be on your way to learning Russian faster.

Once you master Russian, you’ll be able to better appreciate the rich Russian culture – including the famous writings of Leo Tolstoy, brilliant composers like Tchaikovsky, and the glory of Russian ballet.

If you’re a world traveler, you’ll also be able to explore spectacular beaches, experience the taiga with its diverse wildlife, and visit the Russian Far East like a local.

There is so much to do and see in Russia. Speaking the native language will help you fully experience all that Russia has to offer, and meet all sorts of fascinating people along the way. Get started today!

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Is Saxophone Hard to Learn? Read This Before Taking Lessons.

Is saxophone hard to learn

“Is saxophone hard to learn?” Not exactly. The saxophone, like many instruments, is not difficult to begin playing. It can however, be challenging to master

Many people say that it’s easy to make a sound on the saxophone, but harder to make a good sound (at least, at first). But if you’re considering getting started with saxophone lessons – don’t be discouraged! Any self-disciplined student can progress in their saxophone skills by taking the right steps as a beginner. Keep reading to learn more.  

Is Saxophone Hard to Learn?

The saxophone should be easy to get a sound out of on the first day. If the sound is not responding, the reed and mouthpiece are likely being squeezed together as a result of too much jaw pressure.

The way that you hold your lips on the mouthpiece of the saxophone is called the “embouchure.” This is the most important aspect of learning the saxophone and it has a great impact on tone quality. This skill is developed over several years and will require a great amount of coaching.

You may still be wondering, “Is saxophone hard to learn?” The truth is, certain people will have an easier time learning the saxophone than others. For example, students younger than middle school age shouldn’t take saxophone lessons because of their smaller hands and mouth.

Is saxophone hard to learn

On the other hand, people who have prior experience on any wind instrument, especially woodwinds such as the clarinet, will adapt to the saxophone very quickly. Fortunately, the fingering system for the saxophone is not as complicated as other woodwind instruments.

One of the biggest challenges of the saxophone is that it’s not an instantly gratifying instrument. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop good tone quality.

Some students get frustrated that they don’t sound like a professional within the first month or two. These unrealistic expectations can set a student on a course for disappointment. Keep in mind that college music majors who have been playing the saxophone for eight years still have a lot to learn!

The Easiest Way to Learn the Saxophone

Now that you no longer have to ask, “Is saxophone hard to learn?” you’re probably wondering how to get started. Initially, it’s very important to develop fundamental skills on the saxophone, and not simply work on playing the same songs over and over.

Working on the embouchure, scales, articulation, dynamic control, and vibrato will strengthen your abilities as a saxophonist. To start your learning journey with ease, follow the simple steps below and you’ll set yourself up for success.

Choose Your Equipment Wisely

When beginning to learn the saxophone, having quality equipment can make a huge difference. Stay away from “value” brands. Professionals will tell you that if you’re worried about the initial cost, it’s better to get a used instrument from a trusted brand rather than a cheap, brand new instrument.

To get started on the saxophone, you’ll need some standard equipment for beginners.  Here are our best recommendations:

  • The Selmer S80 C* mouthpiece
  • Vandoren Traditional “Blue Box” reeds (strength 2.5)
  • A Bonade ligature
  • Yamaha or Selmer saxophone. Most beginners start on an alto saxophone (the smaller of the two), although some begin on the tenor saxophone.

Is saxophone hard to learn

For your neck-strap, simply make sure that it is rigid and not stretchy. Most music educators will agree that this is a good quality beginning setup.

Find an Experienced Saxophone Instructor

The best thing a beginning saxophonist can do is to choose a good private instructor. TakeLessons has a great selection of experienced saxophone instructors for both online and in-person lessons. Be sure to choose a teacher who can help you reach your specific goals.

If you hope to play in the jazz, pop, or rock genres, it’s best to start with a classical instructor and classical equipment. This type of instruction will help you build a solid foundation of tone, reading ability, and technique. 

Practice, Practice, and more Practice!

Mastering any instrument is a lot of work, but remember to have fun! With your teacher’s suggestions and feedback in mind, put in the hours properly practicing your instrument. Then, as a reward at the end of your practice session, try some improvisation or play your favorite song.

Including this important step in your practice routine will help you stay motivated. In addition, reminding yourself at the end of a practice session why you love the saxophone will help you avoid frustration and continue thinking positively about your progress.

Now you’re ready to get started. Search TakeLessons today for a qualified saxophone teacher near you. The journey of becoming a saxophonist can be a winding road, but it will also be incredibly rewarding. Good luck!

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5 Keys to Mastering Opera Singing Technique

Opera singing technique

Opera singers are known as the true “vocal athletes” in the music world. They must rely entirely on their body to be heard: no microphones allowed. (Unless they’re performing in a stadium, of course)! Operatic singing requires voices that can easily be heard over a full orchestra in very large houses.

Although pop music dominates today’s televised talent shows and the radio, opera is still a celebrated art form that is more accessible than ever. Every year, many young singers begin their studies of opera singing technique in the hopes that they will have a successful career singing the music of composers like Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi.

Have you always wondered what it takes to become an opera singer? Let’s take a look at the five keys to mastering opera singing technique so you can find out how to get started!

How to Master Opera Singing Technique 

1. Find the Right Teacher

An opera voice teacher must have a strong knowledge of the “bel canto” technique, which means “beautiful singing” in Italian. Renowned opera singers such as Maria Callas and Jussi Bjorling knew the importance of bel canto and made it a point to study with such teachers often.

When looking for an opera instructor on TakeLessons, you can easily find someone with experience who specializes in bel canto. See if the instructor lists who their teachers were, and what master classes or other programs they have attended. If you’re really serious about opera, you should study with someone who has learned from the experts.

2. Practice Opera Singing Technique Daily

Yes, daily. Opera singing requires more than other genres, and to succeed you must have stamina. There are several helpful resources you can purchase that opera singers use, including the vocal exercise books by Vaccai, Concone, and Sieber. These books are inexpensive and can be used daily to improve your opera singing technique!

It’s important that you spend time perfecting your arias. However, keep in mind that there is such a thing as practicing too much! While there isn’t a magic number of minutes that every singer should practice, listen to your body. If you feel any sort of fatigue, it’s best to stop for the day so you don’t strain or damage your voice.

3. Study the Greats

The best opera singers were considered great because there was consistency in their voices, and they knew how to treat them! Watch them closely and you’ll start to notice things, like how they never “push” or put forth way too much effort when they sing.

They also knew what roles were appropriate for them, as they were fully aware of what their voices could and couldn’t do. Dame Joan Sutherland was often approached to sing heavy Wagner repertoire, but she declined knowing it would ruin her voice. She instead stuck with the bel canto repertoire, which showcased her incomparable coloratura skills.

There is a reason why people still talk about artists such as Sutherland and tenor Luciano Pavarotti to this day. Both were absolutely committed to the art of bel canto.  They both enjoyed long careers on the opera stage because of their reliable technique.

Here is a YouTube video of them describing some of the basics of bel canto, along with revered mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne.

4. Take Care of Your Instrument

You are the instrument! Unlike a pianist or guitarist, you can’t put your instrument away – it is with you at all times and you must care for it almost obsessively. Opera singers should be sure to have an exercise regimen and a healthy diet.  

Many famous opera singers practice yoga as it helps them breathe more effectively. It’s also critical that opera singers get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated at all times. As for your diet, it’s best that singers avoid caffeine and too much dairy, as it can cause acid reflux and excess mucus.

Operas are not known for being short performances. As mentioned previously, you will need lots of physical and mental stamina to sing your role well! Keeping your body and voice in tip top shape is necessary to improve your opera singing technique.

5. Study a Few New Languages

Americanized vowels, such as the diphthongs you hear in country music, are frowned upon when singing opera. This can be one of the biggest challenges singers face when learning opera singing technique, but a good voice teacher will help you master “pretty vowels” (which bel canto is all about)!

The main languages to focus on for opera singing are Italian, French, and German. The more you gain basic knowledge of each language, the more beautiful your vocal lines will be in your arias.

Beginning singers should consider taking classes in as many of these languages as possible. Depending on what happens with your opera career, you might be visiting these European countries and you’ll need to know how to communicate with the locals, too!

So there you have it. If you can master opera singing technique, you can sing anything! Are you ready to get serious? The best place to start is TakeLessons. Find the right classically trained vocal coach for you today!

mollyrPost Author: Molly M.
Molly M. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Schaumburg, IL. Her specialties include teaching Opera and Classical Voice to beginners, shy singers, children, and older beginners. Molly started teaching in 2002. Learn more about Molly here!

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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Taking Video Guitar Lessons

Video guitar lessons

A quick search for “video guitar lessons” will reveal thousands of results on how to play the guitar. For many students it can be overwhelming to sort through countless video lessons to find the one with the information they’re looking for. As a beginner, it can also be difficult to determine when you are or aren’t getting accurate information.

Although there certainly isn’t a shortage of video guitar lessons out there, you shouldn’t rely on pre-recorded lessons alone to learn how to play the instrument. In this article, we’ll explain five ways that learning from pre-recorded video guitar lessons can hinder your progress.  

5 Things to Know About Video Guitar Lessons

They’re a One-Way Conversation

Beginners to the guitar need feedback and constructive criticism, but video guitar lessons are a one-way conversation. You can’t stop mid-lesson if you have a pressing question to ask, or need clarification.

Perhaps the most important aspect of in-person lessons with a guitar teacher is that you have an informed pair of eyes watching you play. When something isn’t going the way it needs to, you have an outside observer who can point it out to you. With a teacher’s guidance, you’ll begin to learn to correct mistakes on your own.

Lessons Aren’t Tailored to Your Individual Needs

Pre-recorded video guitar lessons are specifically made to be applicable to thousands of students with different learning styles. But the most effective guitar lessons aren’t one-size-fits-all, cookie cutter plans taken one after another. Each student has different ambitions and will need different “stepping stones” to achieve them. 

What one student finds impossible to overcome, another student might breeze through with little thought. Without a good teacher to help plan a course of action, students frequently jump between pieces that are either too easy or too difficult. They have trouble gradually building their skills. A teacher will notice where a student’s struggles lie and recommend music to practice that will build those skills.

You Might Pick up Bad Habits

When learning a new chord or song, beginners tend to play however it feels “right” to them. If playing with a certain fingering feels correct, a student has no reason to think they should be playing it differently. Even if they notice something is off, on their own, they rarely know what to replace the incorrect habit with.

This is another reason why it can be dangerous to learn the guitar without any feedback from a live instructor. A teacher is often the sole voice of clarity for students who naturally revert back to motions that their hands are familiar with.

If you’re learning from video guitar lessons alone, it can be easy to fall into the habit of playing something the wrong way, just because it “feels easier.” When working with a private teacher, you’ll learn new ways to to master tricky concepts more efficiently.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things to Look for in a Guitar Teacher

You Might Become Discouraged

When attempting to learn the guitar from videos alone, self-taught students are more prone to choosing a song that is too difficult for their skill level. These students often get frustrated and discouraged when their playing doesn’t sound as good as they want it to right off the bat.

In the rare case that a student begins with something easy, they frequently move on too soon and jump to something much harder right away. Ninety percent of the time when you speak to people who have given up the guitar, it’s because they tried to teach themselves. 

Don’t Miss Out on Music Theory!

Music theory is a necessity when learning how to play the guitar. Most video guitar lessons either focus on a specific technique, or exclusively on theory. But to really understand music theory, it has to be tied into the music!

Students understand theory best if it’s a part of their musical language and expression from the beginning. If as a beginner, you focus on watching YouTube tutorials for all your favorite songs, you are bound to miss out on a deeper understanding of the music itself.

Learning music theory is like learning a foreign language. Because music theory can be difficult to understand, it’s best to learn in an interactive environment where you have the ability to ask questions. Try taking online music theory classes from a live instructor and you’ll find yourself learning much quicker than with pre-recorded lessons.

In Conclusion

With the help of a guitar teacher, you have a much greater shot as musical success. Video guitar lessons are best when used as a supplemental tool in between private lessons. Your teacher can help protect you from bad advice, which is abounding online (some of which can even cause injury).

Don’t keep trying to press forward on your own when excellent, reliable help is so readily available! Find a trusted and qualified guitar teacher near you and start your guitar learning journey on the right foot.

Kirk RPost Author: Kirk R.
Kirk is a classical and acoustic guitar instructor in Athens, GA. He holds a Bachelors and Masters of music in Guitar Performance, and has been teaching guitar since 2011 to students of all ages. Learn more about Kirk here!

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Everything You Need to Know About Open Handed Drumming

Open handed drumming

It’s known by a few names: “Open handed drumming,” playing with a “left hand lead,” playing “uncrossed,” or simply “open.”

Whatever you decide to call it, open handed drumming is a way of setting up and playing your drum set so that one hand doesn’t cross over the other while playing the time-keeping cymbals (like the hi-hats, or ride).

It can equate to playing time with your non-dominant hand, and it also can mean playing the hi-hats or ride cymbals in unusual locations around the set to keep your hands from crossing.

In this article, we’ll share the proper way to learn the open handed drumming style, as well as its pros and cons. First, let’s take a quick look at how open handed drumming began.

A Brief History of Open Handed Drumming

Open handed drumming is not a new phenomenon at all. When Jim Chapin’s book Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer was first published in 1948, he encouraged drummers to play with their hands “uncrossed.”

The first wave of high-profile open handed drummers came about in the mid ’60s, and it has continued through today. This is only a fraction of the well-known, open handed drummers:

  • Gary Chester (studio drummer/author)
  • Lenny White (Miles Davis, Return to Forever)
  • Billy Cobham (Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra)
  • Dennis Wilson (the Beach Boys)
  • Joe English (Paul McCartney & Wings)
  • Rayford Griffin (Jean-Luc Ponty)
  • Scott Travis (Racer X, Judas Priest)
  • Phil Gould (Level 42)
  • Mike Bordin (Faith No More)
  • Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews Band)
  • Mike Mangini (Dream Theater)
  • Bobby Jarzombek (Halford, Fates Warning)

Pros and Cons of Open Handed Drumming

Could this style of playing be right for you? Here are some of the pros and cons of open handed drumming to help you decide.

The Pros of Open Handed Drumming

The biggest advantage of open handed drumming is the most obvious one: ergonomics! You can set things up more easily to work with your arm and leg lengths, your hands don’t get in the way of each other, and you’ll be able to hit parts of your set without having to stop hitting another.

With your arms in an open position, your torso opens up, and your lungs can take in more oxygen, which is necessary for your muscles to work properly. Your posture is also likely to improve.

With open handed drumming, your hands can become equal strength partners. Making sure that you don’t have a “weak hand” opens up a lot of possibilities for you.

You can also get more creative with your set-up. With the parts of your drum set in non-traditional spots, your mindset will be different and your playing has a much better chance of sounding unique.

Working on open handed drumming can benefit ANY player, regardless of whether they’re right-handed or left-handed. It also works in ANY genre of music. There’s really no musical situation in which this approach wouldn’t work.

The Cons of Open Handed Drumming

The biggest con with open handed drumming is that you might struggle to make your non-dominant hand do things it’s just not used to doing. It takes a lot of time, effort, and consistent practice to make it happen.

If you concentrate on open handed playing exclusively, you run the risk of having a hard time playing on other drum sets. On the flip side, if you’re the one providing a drum set for a multi-band event, other drummers will all have to adjust things to play on your set.

Another potential issue is cost. In order to place things in non-traditional spots around your drum set (for example, a hi-hat on the right side for a right-handed player), you might have to get some specialized hardware (like X-hat or cable hat rigs, percussion mounts and clamps, additional cymbal and snare stands).

SEE ALSO: 11 Drum Exercises for Speed, Independence, and Control

How to Get Started with Open Handed Drumming

If you’ve decided that you want to give open handed drumming a try, it won’t take much to get started! Here are a few simple steps you can take:

  1. The first step is simple – just lower your hi-hat cymbals to a level that permits you to play them with your non-dominant hand comfortably, with all the stick angles of attack that you use with your dominant hand.
  2. Next, begin to play very simple grooves with just quarter notes on your hi-hats at first, then eighth notes, and eventually, sixteenth notes.
  3. Concentrate on the evenness and timing of your hats, but keep in mind that it’ll affect your snare drum hand and bass drum foot too, so remember to keep your hands and feet hitting together consistently.

At first, things will sound a little rough and ragged, but keep at it! Before you know it, it’ll start to sound a lot smoother. You can decide later if you want to move any other parts of your drum set around to experiment.

As mentioned earlier, open handed drumming is a technique with rich history and a lot of great, inspirational drummers choose to play this way. It takes some getting used to if you’ve already been drumming for a while, but there are several benefits that definitely make it worth considering.

To get the most out of your drum learning quest, it’s always best to work with an experienced drum teacher. There are lots of highly qualified teachers at TakeLessons, so you can be sure to find someone who’s a good fit for you and your needs. Best of luck learning these and other drumming techniques!

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Is Cello hard to learn

Is Cello Hard to Learn? Read THIS Before Taking Lessons

Is Cello Hard to Learn

Many beginning musicians wonder, “Is cello hard to learn?” The process of learning the cello is not difficult, but it’s important to keep in mind that the cello is not an instrument of instant gratification. It does require focused, daily practice time and a good teacher to guide you along the way.

How far you progress with cello is a direct result of the amount of quality time you put into practicing the instrument. Even someone who puts in just 30 minutes a day will notice a significant improvement after a few weeks, regardless of their age.

A student who continues to take cello lessons and practice beyond their first year has the potential to develop into a talented amateur, and a young student with the right dedication could continue their studies all the way through to a rewarding professional career.

Is Cello Hard to Learn?

When learning how to play the cello, very little is spoon-fed to you by the instrument. Keyboard and fretted instruments (such as the piano and guitar) are a little easier to learn the basics. Simply putting your finger on the right key or fret will allow you to produce the note you want to hear.  

With the cello, you need to have a teacher guiding you through the early stages to ensure you’re learning in a healthy way. This will lead to a lifetime of enjoying the instrument. If you have the right teacher, anyone can learn the fundamentals of playing cello.

As with most instruments, the cello will come more easily to someone with experience reading notes and rhythms. Most of cello music is written down, rather than transferred aurally from teacher to student. But with a little patience, students of all ages can learn the musical language without prior knowledge or exposure.

Does Age Matter?

Young students make great beginner cellists. Often with youth comes unbridled enthusiasm for learning a cool new instrument and a mental elasticity that helps them absorb new information like a sponge.

These advantages can carry a student a long way. The excitement encourages them to practice more on their own and their ability to retain information helps them progress quickly in their studies.

One difficulty that young students face though, is the challenge of critically analyzing their playing. As a result, they need an outside observer to help them identify things that cause them trouble, whether it is posture, intonation, tone quality, etc. Young beginners are also generally less coordinated than their adult counterparts and will remain that way until well after puberty.

Adult beginners have their own set of advantages. Firstly, they’re better in control of their bodies which helps them make changes to technique and posture more quickly. They also have a strong ability to critically analyze their own actions, and better sense of how they want to sound.

As a result of their ability to critically analyze their own playing, adult learners can sometimes go straight to the criticizing part. This can lead to discouragement when they don’t immediately sound the way they want. However, the student is probably playing at a level appropriate to how long they have been studying.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practicing in between lessons is another necessity that makes learning the cello much easier. Without daily practice times, you will find your teacher going over the same concepts week after week during your lessons. Make a commitment to find a small chunk of time each day to practice playing the cello and you’ll set yourself up for success.

If you only have five minutes, play some open strings for tone quality. Have a little more time? Add in some scale practice. If you have even more time, pick apart the challenging sections of your newest solo piece. There is always something you can practice, but focus on the most important concepts with the time that you have.

Start Learning Cello Today

You no longer have to wonder if the cello is hard to learn. With a teacher guiding your technique, regular practice times, and a willingness to learn, you too can become an excellent cellist.

You won’t have to worry about twisting your left arm into an uncomfortable position like violinists, or pushing air through several yards of tubing using only your lungs like a brass player. Instead, you’ll get to enjoy the comfort of the relaxed seated position for the cello.

Overall, the cello is an incredible instrument with a wonderful depth of sound and breadth of repertoire. To get started now, sign up for your first cello lesson right here at TakeLessons with one of our many talented instructors.

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How to Learn German Fast

How to Learn German Fast: 10 Learning Hacks & Shortcuts

How to learn German fast

Want to know how to learn German fast? Different sources say it could take anywhere from 400-1200 hours to learn the language.

A number of factors will affect the amount of time it takes you to reach fluency in German. Your native tongue, your availability to practice, and your method of learning are just a few.

Do you plan on taking German lessons with a private tutor? Are you trying to learn with simply an app to help you? Or, are you immersing yourself in the German culture? Whatever your learning style, there are a few tips and tricks that will undoubtedly speed up the process of mastering German.  

Here, we’ll share 10 learning hacks that will show you how to learn German fast. Follow these tried and true shortcuts and you’ll be fluent before you know it.

How to Learn German Fast – 10 Learning Hacks

1. Play Charades

If you were dropped by parachute without any resources or local knowledge into a random city in Germany, you would quickly find that the most important skill for your survival would be the game of Charades.

You can learn any language simply by using gestures to get a native speaker to say the words you’re looking for.

Stephen Krashen, leading expert in the study of language acquisition, argues that perceiving meaning is the most important and effective way to acquire any language. When you use gestures in association with words, you are doing this in its purest form.

Next time you’re practicing your language skills with a German speaker and you don’t know the right word or phrase to say, use body language. Point to things or do descriptive motions to get them to say the words you want to learn, and you’ll find yourself naturally learning much quicker.

how to learn german fast

2. Get Real Immersion

The best way to get complete immersion in the German language is to move to a German-speaking country, but making friends who speak German near you can also create very real immersion situations.

Don’t be shy about asking people in your social circles to help you have German-only conversations. Find Facebook groups for German speakers or use sites like Meetup to participate in language exchange experiences near you.

There are also dozens of places to find a language exchange partner online, such as italki. Any of these sites would be a valuable resource for learning German quickly. 

3. Find a Language Tutorhow to learn German fast

Working with a German tutor will not only help you learn faster, but it’ll ensure you’re learning German correctly. Your language tutor should be someone you feel comfortable speaking in front of. Here are some more of the key characteristics to look for in a tutor. Your German tutor should…

  • Be invested and excited to help you learn.
  • Encourage you to speak more in your target language.
  • Be available to meet up on a regular basis.
  • Hold you accountable to reaching your goals.

TakeLessons language teachers are an excellent resource for learning German fast. Teachers are available for both online and in-person German lessons.

4. Go on a Language Adventure

There are a few everyday activities that lend themselves extremely well to learning a new language. Some examples are cooking, coffee runs, grocery shopping, and watching sports. The vocabulary required to do any of these activities “in German” is fairly elementary.

Choose one of these language adventures to do with a friend and make a commitment to only speak in German. If you’re not at that level yet, keep 90% of the talking to “charades.” This will help you acquire fundamental language skills in an easy and fun way.

5. Make a Plan

how to learn German fast

Having a plan, although it takes some time and mental energy to create, will greatly increase your chances of success at speeding up the process of learning German.

Ask your language tutor to help you make a plan for how you’ll master the German language. Understanding the learning process is what tutors do for a living, and the right tutor will be able to help you focus your goals into a realistic plan of attack.

Keep in mind that fluency will take 400-1200 hours of practice depending on your learning methods and how much effort you’re able to put in.

Sit down with your instructor and make a plan that you can accomplish in 6 to 12 months. Aim for a plan you’re excited about and one that you believe in!

SEE ALSO: 50+ Fun Facts About Germany You Didn’t Know

6. Use Mnemonics

Studying mnemonics accelerates the learning process immensely. Here are a few of our favorites for learning German.

  • “Est Ten Ten” helps you remember the endings when conjugating regular verbs. Ask your German instructor to explain how it works! Trust us… it’s magic.
  • Word visualizations. Come up with quirky explanations for why German words sound the way they do. For example, the word for “deer” is “der Hirsch.” You could say that “deer” are very quiet, so if you want to “hear” (or “Hir-” them) you have to say “shh” (for the “-sh” ending). This may take a little longer in the beginning, but will increase your recall dramatically in the long run.
  • Gender symbols. When you learn German nouns, you must learn the genders that go with them. Pick an image or symbol to associate with each gender and picture it in your mind. For example, the masculine pronoun “der” is pronounced much like the English word “deer,” so you can picture all masculine nouns with deer antlers on them. This little trick is an excellent memory aid.

7. Play Some More Games

how to learn German fast

To learn more vocabulary in a fun way, find a game that you like and play it with some other German speaking friends. Here are a few ideas.

  • Apples to Apples. This fun game will help you learn essential nouns and adjectives. You can buy the German version known as “Äpfel zu Äpfel” or you can make your own cards for any set of words you want to study!
  • 20 Questions. The word order of German questions can be a little confusing since it differs from English and there are several different types of questions. Have your language tutor explain how to phrase a certain type of question, then write 20 questions using that sentence structure for some extra practice.
  • The Wikipedia Game. Play this intermediate-advanced game alone or with a friend. Go to Wikipedia and choose the German language option, then use the Random Page tool (called “Zufälliger Artikel”) twice and try to go from one article to the other only by clicking links within the articles. No translation tools allowed!

8. Know What you Need to Knowhow to learn German fast

In language study, it helps when you know what you need to know in order to accomplish your goals. Your language goals will differ from other students depending on why you’re learning German.

Whether you’re learning the language for business or pleasure, try to focus on one topic at a time. Here’s one way you can prioritize the skills you’ll need to learn.

  1. Gesticulation – being comfortable talking with your hands
  2. Nouns and verbs relating to topics you care about
  3. Glue words – prepositions and conjunctions
  4. Essential grammar – tenses and word order of special phrases like questions
  5. Grammar details – word order, declension, special tenses, etc.
  6. Accent

Some would argue that accent is actually the most important since it affects how you hear the whole language. But if you’re in “emergency mode” and you need to learn functional German ASAP, start with #1 on this list and work your way to the end.

9. Digitally Immerse Yourself

In the digital world, it’s easy to immerse yourself by changing the language settings on your computer’s operating system, your phone, your email account, and all your social media pages.

One key recommendation: only convert platforms that you are very familiar with and don’t have to perform important functions on a regular basis. Making the switch can really slow some processes down, so if you’re already trying to tackle a new project and you have to deal with a language barrier as well, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot.

If, however, you’re pretty familiar with a program and you want to learn all its vocab in German, switch it over and keep a dictionary app open so you can look up the words you don’t know.

10. Hit the Books

how to learn German fast

Books are the best way to learn new vocabulary and grammar. They’re inexpensive and extremely valuable for increasing your understanding of German.

Get advice from your language tutor on an appropriate book for your level. It can also be fun as an adult to pick up a German picture book for kids. It’s amazing how much you can learn from them, even after you’ve reached basic fluency.

The “Kleiner Bär” is a really good series to start with. Another great novel for students is “Monsieur Ibrahim und der Blumen des Koran.” It’s a really interesting story with a lot of good reading challenges.

Now you know how to learn German fast with these 10 shortcuts. Mastering any new language can be a challenge, but if you’re not afraid to jump into the deep end and ask for help when you need it, you’ll learn much more quickly.  

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Violin or Cello

Violin or Cello: Which Instrument Is Right For You?

Violin or Cello

Choosing whether to play the violin or cello can be difficult, but this article will help you consider the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

The violin and cello are two of the most well-known and commonly studied instruments in the string family. Each one is central to the makeup of the orchestra we know today. Becoming familiar with the pros and cons of these two instruments will help you decide whether the violin or cello is a better fit for you.

Violin or Cello – How to Decide

Pros and Cons of the Violin

The violin’s most commonly cited advantage is that it’s practical. The violin is (on average) significantly less expensive than the cello. It’s also smaller and more portable. In addition, many people appreciate the violin’s range and tone, which is similar to that of the human voice.

Because the instrument has been popular now for around 400 years, there isn’t a shortage of repertoire to keep both budding and experienced violinists challenged. Within orchestras, spaces for violinists also tend to be the most numerous, so in that sense violinists have an advantage (especially over winds, brass, and percussion).

Compared to other string sections however, violin can also be more competitive because so many people play it. It might not be too difficult to earn a spot in the second violin section, but earning a place among the upper ranks can be more difficult.

Pros and Cons of the Cello

The cello is often cited for its practical disadvantages – mainly its size and expense. But for students who enjoy the sound of the cello more, hauling around a larger and more expensive instrument is well worth the care and effort.

The cello’s low register and tonality resonates with many musicians far more than the violin’s higher register.

Both the violin and cello have a unique range and repertoire that tend to draw different people. While violin repertoire is probably more extensive, the cello also has a well-established and diverse repertoire, including significant solo works.

Fewer students study the cello than the violin, so cellists are usually in higher demand than violinists. This tends to hold true even when taking into account the typically lower number of cellists required to create an orchestra or chamber ensemble.

Which is Harder to Play: Violin or Cello?

Many students wonder, which instrument is more difficult: the violin or cello? People who have tried both instruments tend to say the cello is less difficult due to its more natural position. The position of the violin can feel awkward at first, however advanced violinists insist that it becomes natural over time.

Many experienced musicians say that both instruments have their own difficulties. For example, although a cellist’s playing position is easier to learn, the thumb position on the cello is difficult for many students. Advanced cellists also must learn three clefs instead of just one.

SEE ALSO: How Easy is it to Switch Instruments? [Infographic]

Making the Choice Between Violin or Cello

Music students and their families can do a number of things to help them in their decision between the violin or cello.

  • First, consider what opportunities are available at school or in the community. Keep long term goals in mind.
  • Make sure the student has exposure to both instruments. This can include videos, CDs, or local concerts. Local colleges and conservatories often perform concerts for the general public and many of these feature the violin and cello. Local symphonies also put on free concerts in the park.
  • To be sure you’re making the right choice, it’s always a good idea to sample each instrument and take a couple lessons. Check out this directory of violin teachers, and this directory of cello teachers. Lessons are available both in-person and online all over the country.
  • Above all, the student should love the sound of whichever instrument they choose, whether it’s the higher and more cheerful violin or the deeper and rich cello.

What are your thoughts on whether the violin or cello is a better instrument? Let us know in the comments below!

Post Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in Sacramento, CA. She currently plays viola in the Rancho Cordova Civic Light Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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