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Going to my first jam tomorrow!
I plan to attend a bluegrass slow jam for beginners.
Topic Rating: 4.5 Topic Rating: 4.5 Topic Rating: 4.5 Topic Rating: 4.5 Topic Rating: 4.5 Topic Rating: 4.5 (6 votes) 
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EricBluegrassFiddle
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I used to play the Mandolin and sing tenor in a Bluegrass band in Florida, and I miss playing Bluegrass and gowing to jams.

Even so, living here in Argentina has afforded me the opportunity to learn the Fiddle, which I've always wanted to do and I'm hoping in a few years I can be good enough to where I'll be able to step up into my first Bluegrass jam and have a go....so I'm excited for you and glad it was such a great experience!

" I just keep telling myself...."It's all about becoming one with your bow"

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KindaScratchy
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September 28, 2016 - 9:34 pm
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KindaScratchy said
Hey everyone. I'm soooo excited! The other day I learned about a bluegrass slow jam for beginners sponsored by the Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance (RIBA). It will be held on Sunday afternoon in Foster, RI, which is about 45 minutes from my house.

Can't pass this up, so I'm goin'! I have so wanted to find an jam to attend, but all the others that I've heard about have been either too far away or at a time I couldn't attend, or both.

My only concern is that I don't know much bluegrass music. But, that presents and opportunity, too, to learn new music and improve my ear learning skills.

I'm planning to bring both my fiddle and my mandolin to get experience on both. Plus, I find it easier to pick up new tunes by ear on the mando. And, I will bring a notebook to jot down the tunes that we do so I can work on some of them with my teacher before the next jam (they'll be held on the third Sunday of every month; this is the first).

I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow night.  

So, it's been just a little over two years since I posted this about going to my first bluegrass jam. Thought it would be interesting to revive the thread and share what I've learned and how that first jam changed my life.

Here are the music related things that have happened to me since then and as a result of going to that first jam:

1. I have improved my improvisation skills and ear-learning skills. Previously, I was dependent on sheet music; now I prefer learning a tune by ear and only look at sheet music when I get stuck.

2. I've increased my knowledge of music theory.

3. I've expanded my knowledge of the structure, culture and history of bluegrass music, as well as the music industry in general.

4. I've learned about the format and etiquette of bluegrass jamming.

5. I've expanded my repertoire of bluegrass songs and fiddle tunes.

6. I've improved my vocal skills.

7. I've gained performance experience, thereby increasing my comfort with performing in public.

8. I've attended some really fun bluegrass festivals and events.

9. I've met many nice, friendly, helpful and talented people, have formed friendships and established a network of musicians that I play with at various jams and events.

10. I became involved in a local bluegrass association and was elected Secretary of the organization, which contributed to all of the above.

I share these thoughts as encouragement for anyone considering attending a local bluegrass jam, or any opportunity to play with others. The benefits are many and can change your life, too.

doneexactly

Disclaimer: for a number of reasons, I've played more mandolin and guitar in bluegrass jamming than I have fiddle, but I plan to rectify that as time goes on.

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
September 29, 2016 - 4:43 am
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Inspirational words for anyone who is hesitant in playing with others, @KindaScratchy  - and congratulations on your progress and your enriched playing-experience ! hats_off

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Schaick
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KindaScratchy said The benefits are many and can change your life, too.  You can say that again!!

I have been a bit slower getting to the improvising stage, just recently being able to identify chord changes.  I am not quite able to pick up a tune by ear.  Sometimes I can if I know the first few note.

Everyone should experience a jam!!  If you can't find on go to your local library and see if they can help you start one.  

I took a class with theses people http://www.drbanjo.com/ , they have some great information about ettiquete http://www.drbanjo.com/instruc.....basics.php that could help you set ground rules.

Violinist start date -  May 2013  

Fiddler start date - May 2014

FIDDLE- Gift from a dear friend. A 1930-40 german copy, of a french copy of a Stradivarius.  BOW - $50 carbon fiber. Strings - Dominants with E Pirastro Gold string.

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KindaScratchy
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October 1, 2016 - 8:24 pm
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Great tip, @Schaick . I've got Pete Wernick's (Dr. Banjo) Bluegrass Jamming for the Total Beginner DVD and found it very helpful. They go through some easy, common bluegrass songs and you can play along.

His bluegrass jamming etiquette tips, which you posted, are very helpful, too.

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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MrYikes
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October 1, 2016 - 10:32 pm
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I read what you wrote and ordered a mandolin.  We have a jam in town on Tuesdays and by next spring, I should be ready for them when they start up again.  I went once with the violin to see if I could find the chord changes,,I couldn't.  I think they were happy when I left, I know I was.

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KindaScratchy
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October 2, 2016 - 9:05 pm
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MrYikes said
I read what you wrote and ordered a mandolin.  We have a jam in town on Tuesdays and by next spring, I should be ready for them when they start up again.  I went once with the violin to see if I could find the chord changes,,I couldn't.  I think they were happy when I left, I know I was.  

Congrats on your mando purchase, @MrYikes . I'm sure you'll like it.

I should probably explain why I've mostly played mandolin at bluegrass jams. I went to my first bluegrass jam because I was looking for opportunities to play fiddle with other people. I quickly learned that the fiddle plays a difficult role in bluegrass music.

When the singer is singing, the fiddler is typically chopping the rhythm and maybe adding short fills between phrases of the lyrics. I find playing mandolin chop chords to be physically more comfortable than fiddle chopping.

Then, because each player usually only gets one break (solo between verses), you have to be ready to play when you get the nod. I personally find that stressful and when I'm playing fiddle it causes me trouble with intonation and bow bouncing under those conditions.

And then there's the matter of improvisation. A basic bluegrass break is to play the melody of the verse or chorus, but if you don't know the song and can't figure out the melody on the fly, it's acceptable to improvise something that works with the chord progression. I've learned some improvisation tricks that are easy to move around a mandolin fret board to work in different keys. I don't find it as easy to do that on fiddle.

For now, my bluegrass fiddling is confined to "fiddle tunes" like Old Joe Clark and Angelina Baker. I know quite a few other fiddle tunes and am building my repertoire.

I hope that doesn't sound like a lot of excuses. These are just the reasons behind the route I've taken into bluegrass music.

done

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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damfino
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I'll admit I've gotten curious about the mandolin lately. Making myself stick to learning one instrument for now, but maybe someday....

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MrYikes
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Well at my one time experience at Jams, I quickly learned why some old fiddlers hold the violin on their arm,,,so they can hear.  I found it really tough to hear anyone but me,,and I had taken my softest violin.  The other problem I have is that I have taken zero time to learn vibrato or speed.  All my tunes are slow.  My head can understand slow.  But with mandolin I can just chop the chords at whatever speed and tell them I want no leads.  And with that I can "fit in", get to know them and find the musicians I want.  Its just that I really don't enjoy bluegrass(its structure or its mentality), but maybe that's because I have never immersed myself in it.  We will see.

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Demoiselle
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Holding the violin on the arm, yes I've seen that too and it makes sense to me. The girl who was backing me a couple times months ago played a pretty soft classic guitar and I was constantly trying to creep into her instrument.

I played also nothing but slow for 15 months, which was good for precise intonation. This early August I started to speed up by playing something in medium tempo and then going back to a slow piece, suddenly being able to play the sustained eights much more relaxed. Then I went back to the medium piece and tried those eights there and it was hard. So then I paused and afterwards went to medium fast piece which was torture. But after that I was able to play those eights in the medium piece way more relaxed. Over a couple days I ended up playing even faster stuff, so medium fast was just hard but no torture any longer. About a week later I ended up on uptempo pieces in presto. Today I improvise to presto stuff and it's not stressful anymore. So that going back and forth in speed, constantly raising the bar really got me ahead. I can afford to do just slow during 10 minutes acts in our open stage. But in my coming 2 hours concert I have to show more.

Jam sessions are great. Playing an instrument the creative way is like getting yourself a dog: suddenly you realize, it's not just love between you and your dog that makes you happier, you suddenly meet other dog owners! I would go to a concert of a violin player I adore, but just going to concerts to kill time is not my thing. You go there alone, listen alone, come home alone. No, I rather go to a jam session, meet interesting musicians and share something. Afterwards I know I have done something. Making friends in a concert hall, just going alone there to listen? Very unlikely. I made totally different experiences at jam sessions. That's a door opener to new relationships and possibly new band projects. My fairly successful swing combo started with sessions in 1985.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string. Self-made bow, weight: 24 g / 0.85 oz

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Demoiselle
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If my goal is to take my violin to folk jam sessions, I will focus on the keys they prefer in folks sessions. All my practicing would focus then on that. Pushing the speed during the first months is not a good thing, but about a year later it might be time to start doing that. Most human listeners prefer fast tunes to slow tunes. This is no reason to rush myself into uptempo repertoire. But the idea, I play slow ballads the whole evening and the audience will just love it, is not realistic. So the next step after about a year should be medium tempo repertoire. At times I do push myself into fast pieces because this helps me to easily play medium and slow pieces. In classical teaching they prefer the metronome, personally I prefer play-alongs. I can push myself into a certain speed by using a play-along which is faster than what I'm used to. Which is the same stress I will be confronted with on a jam session. I know my body is a lazy dog, so I got to make the lazy dog move. After that it's time for reparation: slowing down to work on precision and cleanness again--because speeding up easily causes inaccuracy. That's how you go back and forth over weeks and months. Over a longer period of time you will learn to master even fast tunes. But the question is, whether it helps to play tunes in Db major if I won't need that in the next session. I guess they prefer keys like C, G and D  there.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string. Self-made bow, weight: 24 g / 0.85 oz

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BillyG
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October 5, 2016 - 1:57 pm
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I do very much like and understand your approach to this....

We all do things differently, and more to the point, (especially older players with experience in general of other instruments, with "music in our soul" ) it is really good to recognize, understand and acknowledge where our own, personal limitations are...  We are sometimes "reticent" ( in a live situation ) of pushing ourselves to our limit...   And yes - of course - it depends where you are playing and "how important a venue it is"

I see two aspects to this ( which you have touched upon ) - 

(1) In a performance - play within your "known limits" - and I know this myself - as a relative beginner - it could "lack" something and possibly be close to - I am looking for a word here- I do NOT mean "boring" - perhaps "not inspirational" would be a much better description, to an audience if I just played something I was "totally at home with"

(2) You - like ALL performers - simply "know there is more to come" - and you have "touched upon" some of these things in your practice - be it when speeding things up, or adding personalized embellishments - I would "take-heart" from that - I can't put a number on it - but- for the short amount of live playing I do - i would say - if I "know I can get it right, like really good to my ear, feel etc" 3 times out of 10 - but I don;t "own it" yet - I would give it a try....     It DOES of course depend on your audience....

 

EDIT : I thought I should expand on my words "it DOES depend on your audience" - all I meant by that was that our ( your and my own ) live performances on violin differ.   I have played fiddle outdoors, busking, maybe around 30 times so far - it has always been well received, even in spite of my obvious limitations - and I've always kept it "simple" in that situation and never "pushed myself".    I've also done about the same, or indeed more, performances on StreetJelly, usually around 20 to 40 minutes - now - for me - that is different - mostly because I KNOW there will ( or can ) be folks I know there - and they know what I do, where I am in my journey, , and what I'm "trying" to do - so I DO push myself - often beyond what I am truly comfortable with - BUT - that's how we all grow and develop - and the feedback - from other players who just KNOW it "is not as easy as it seems" - is nothing but helpful......  !!!!    Just thought I'dd add these thoughts to clarify what I was getting at....

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Demoiselle
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People are different of course. I just felt like sharing a method how to push tempo as soon as somebody feels like it might be time. I'm now closer to the 60 than to the 50 myself and I don't know exactly where I'm going and whether I will succeed in whatever matter or way.

It is good for me to mostly stay within my limits and I think this goes for anybody. Just now and then it's a good idea to test out where they currently are and how far it's possible to go beyond. Right now I'm at a point where it's important to hold back and work on accuracy. But I do this on a higher tempo level than it was when I felt the need to hold back before.

Limiting myself means in my case, that I will not add anymore keys this year. Also, I limit myself to just one ground position and not even stretch out via pinkie. I want to hear 100 % accuracy before any finger steps beyond that limit.

Today I was rehearsing my performance program, watching myself more carefully than before. I can play fast eighths but shouldn't do that at the beginning of a solo. I have to start with calm phrases which must be very accurate, then I can slowly raise the bar. At he beginning of a solo I don't feel firm enough to rush myself into fast phrasing. In two years it will be a completely different story, but I certainly cannot be that firm after 17 months.

I also feel like vibrato would be a high risk to loose accuracy. I know it's not time for me to train that, it would only distract me from what I really need to practice--possibly even cause a terrible mess. Other people might find vibrato that heartwarming, that they're ready to live with that delay.

Whatever, if folk sessions would be important to me, I would focus on skills I need there and postpone everything else.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string. Self-made bow, weight: 24 g / 0.85 oz

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KindaScratchy
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October 5, 2016 - 9:12 pm
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MrYikes said
Well at my one time experience at Jams, I quickly learned why some old fiddlers hold the violin on their arm,,,so they can hear.  I found it really tough to hear anyone but me.

Good point! I meant to mention that, too. It's another contributing factor to poor intonation at jams for me. Plus, it's considered poor jamming etiquette to drown out the singer or other instruments and that's exactly what I feel like I'm doing when I play fiddle.

MrYikes said

I really don't enjoy bluegrass(its structure or its mentality), but maybe that's because I have never immersed myself in it.  We will see.  

I enjoy the structure of bluegrass myself. It's kind of like a team sport. There are established rules that help participants know what to do and when people follow them it results in an enjoyable experience for all. The whole group working together produces something that sounds great, yet each person gets a chance to shine.

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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Demoiselle
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15 years ago, just having moved to Berlin, I joined the session of Breton folk music. I didn't really understand what I got myself into. These people where not French, but the music sounded very French and old and reminded me a lot of French baroque composers at the sun king's court. Yes, there was lots of resemblance in the sound of that music. But what did not fit was my idea of developing my personal solo recorder style. These people preferred to play unisono, everybody was following the melody line and everybody lined in. My idea was, this would right down call for adding a second voice and this could be enrichment. One day a lute player joined who was really grooving a lot in an ancient music way. He was giving me the feeling it was 100% baroque music. So I went over the top and must have improvised really great solos and second voices, also filling gaps with improvised phrases. But even the lute player seemed not to appreciate that. I was disturbing the musical 'socialism' with too much individualism. It took me many months to understand, I was not in a community where it was possible to develop my style like at the French court 300 years go. Until that day I had lot's of inspiration there and really improved my style.  And I just couldn't believe how anybody would choose to deny creativity that radically. They finally asked me to stay, but I was sure it was time to leave for I didn't fit. My ideas didn't fit and I was not ready to give up my ideas. I also quit Breton folk dance and joined a baroque dance class. Both dancing styles also resemble quite a bit, but baroque dance is more ambitious and there's no limit up to 1600s solo ballet.

That's always the question: Should I follow my personal dreams and ideas, or should I give them all up and become an ant in kind of musical socialism. To these Breton folkers a hard working soloist is just not a good person.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string. Self-made bow, weight: 24 g / 0.85 oz

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Schaick
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Demoiselle said
... folk music. I... old ... people preferred to play unisono, everybody was following the melody line and everybody lined in.....
That's always the question: Should I follow my personal dreams and ideas, or should I give them all up and become an ant in kind of musical socialism. To these Breton folkers a hard working soloist is just not a good person.  

Yes.  I discovered this early on.

Bluegrass jamming - individuals and improvisations can shine,

Folk music groups - follow the melody all the time, at the same time.  There can be slight variations but the melody must follow!!

I enjoy both of the groups I am in.

Violinist start date -  May 2013  

Fiddler start date - May 2014

FIDDLE- Gift from a dear friend. A 1930-40 german copy, of a french copy of a Stradivarius.  BOW - $50 carbon fiber. Strings - Dominants with E Pirastro Gold string.

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Demoiselle
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October 6, 2016 - 2:41 pm
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Of course I don't throw bluegrass folks into the the same category with Berliner Breton folk style people. Many of those Breton folkers tend to middle age and renaissance music and you saw medieval instruments very often joining the jam sessions. At large these people tended  to the new social movements. I'm actually not a fan of meritocracy, but it kinda must have looked like because I was very fanatic and ambitious. Their model was the music making peasant, my model highly educated townspeople who possibly even had gigs or even jobs at court. Those were very different worlds in 1600s and 1700s.

I find my story of the early 2000s very interesting and kinda funny. I had no clue I was part of a clash between two diverging worlds with totally different values. I like these people, but it musically doesn't match at all.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string. Self-made bow, weight: 24 g / 0.85 oz

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Fiddlerman
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October 10, 2016 - 9:28 am
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Demoiselle said
................That's always the question: Should I follow my personal dreams and ideas, or should I give them all up and become an ant in kind of musical socialism. To these Breton folkers a hard working soloist is just not a good person.  

I believe a combination of both. Naturally never give up your dreams or ideas but try to learn from their ideas and routines. We learn more when we listen than when we teach. There is a time and place for everything IMAO.

Never give up your dreams. 🙂

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Demoiselle
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One day I will find the right guitarist and a cellist with similar ideas, we will listen to each other, learn and share our dreams. At least one of them will also contribute a beautiful tenor, baritone, or bass voice so I'm not the only one to sing ...... 😉

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string. Self-made bow, weight: 24 g / 0.85 oz

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coolpinkone
California, the place of my heart
October 22, 2016 - 3:15 pm
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Ericbluegrass - I am excited that you are motivated to Jam.

 

I have been very inspired by Diane and Schaick's journey into jams and Bluesgrass playing.

 

I can't see myself doing that, but then I wonder if I will remain the loneliest violin player.  Thankful that we have other online ways to play and motivate.  I don't know bluegrass, blues, fiddle tunes..... I learned a few for fiddlefest and thanks to Barry, Bill, Street Jelly, I do have a few fiddle tunes under my belt.  OH yea.. and my friend Taryn taught me Snow Deer and helped with some other songs...

Talking this all out sometimes I think perhaps that is how I get "lost" or "lonely" in playing. 

Hummmm I am rambling... and Mandy I don't even have a cold. 🙂

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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