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Flam1ng Dem0n

"Musical Enthusiast" in need of advise

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This time last year I was taking a MIDI production course at a local college where I used to live (have since moved) and during that course my teacher called me a "Musical Enthusiast". He told me that I am someone who wants to make music but however does not have prior music theory knowledge or does not play a instrument.

Fast forward to now. I still seem to struggle with composing/remixes songs so that they have my own "spice" or "kick" to them while still staying true to the original piece. I do have a 48 key Midi Keyboard now and really try to create or remix music. However I find that I get frustrated due to my lack of knowing everything about music composition. I don't fully know how to read sheet music and most just "try" to play something by ear.

My question for anyone who can help me within this community is....What should I do to help improve my music creation/composition skills? I have looked on Lynda.com and have not found much in the way of helpful tutorials as most of their tutorials are just teaching you about how to use the software.

I am currently using FL Studio and understand the Interface rather well, I know how to place notes and use plugins or Soundfonts. Again however I struggle with actually composing the piece I would like to make.

I mainly want to remix currently existing songs right now. Maybe later I will make more of my own music but I really enjoy listing to video game soundtracks and wanting to remix the songs I listen to.

Can anyone lend me some helpful advise?

Thanks

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You should definitely learn basic theory (how to read music, playing scales, what makes a melody/harmony, etc). While it's not "required" if you're making music for fun, it will make the music-making process a lot easier. This link pretty much encompasses what you need to know aside from reading music. (Found this here on the forums and it's pretty awesome.)

Apply the knowledge that you gain by dissecting songs you like/want to remix. (Hell, maybe even add stuff you learn to make the mix more stylish.) The more you make the music, the easier it'll the creating process will be. Theory will simply help guide you in the direction you'd want to take.

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I would recommend studying compositions you enjoy the most and see what makes them tick. Is it percussion-based? are there numerous layers or just in-your-face stuff? Is it a simple arrangement or complex arrangement? Things such as these are what composers decide on their piece before they hit the drawing board. Cheers!

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Mock up one of your favorite songs, note for note. Even if you can't read sheet music, do it by ear the best you can. Then go back and add your own flair. Good for learning and also expanding your creativity.

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This:

Mock up one of your favorite songs, note for note. Even if you can't read sheet music, do it by ear the best you can. Then go back and add your own flair. Good for learning and also expanding your creativity.

As for music theory.. Tricky. If you want to "create" something, you don't need that. You just pick your favorite instrument and PLAY.

Remix? Ha! You do same thing! Just try to play something like source. SOMETHING! But if you aim to big bad orchestra stuff, music theory will help a lot!

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This:

As for music theory.. Tricky. If you want to "create" something, you don't need that. You just pick your favorite instrument and PLAY.

Remix? Ha! You do same thing! Just try to play something like source. SOMETHING! But if you aim to big bad orchestra stuff, music theory will help a lot!

Where I seem to struggle the most is trying to get the notes down to begin with. If it doesn't sound right, I change it and this seems to be a repeating process with me. I guess I am overly critical with myself and it has to be perfect, even from the start.

Anyways, thanks everyone for your helps and good suggestions!

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If that's the case, then try finding a MIDI file of a song and importing it into your DAW. Look at the notes, the chords, notice which instruments are given which voicings. Then delete the melody track and try making your own. Or erase the chord progression and try to make a slightly different one. Or experiment with changing up the rhythm of the track, fiddling with the percussion, etc. This is a great way to go "under the hood" and learn while also dipping your toes into rearrangement.

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If that's the case, then try finding a MIDI file of a song and importing it into your DAW. Look at the notes, the chords, notice which instruments are given which voicings. Then delete the melody track and try making your own. Or erase the chord progression and try to make a slightly different one. Or experiment with changing up the rhythm of the track, fiddling with the percussion, etc. This is a great way to go "under the hood" and learn while also dipping your toes into rearrangement.

Sounds like a good plan! Thanks for the help. Now to either work with Halo: Covenant Dance or Mega Man Legends: Main Gate theme. :mrgreen:

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So I am trying to pull apart The Main Gate theme from Mega Man Legends. From what I can tell there are two Melodies, and one Chord section (Strings to be exact). The first Melody plays throughout the song and the second Melody plays a specific times during the song.

However I am still struggling with figuring out how to make it unique or my own.

Any suggestions?

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Listen to arrangements that other people have written and notice what sets their arrangement apart from the original. Try to think of big picture things.

Right now, you lack the capacity to desire something specific as far as what you want to do, and the reason for that is because you haven't quite looked at all the things you can do. It's not enough to have the tools and understand the original tune, you need to be able to say "I want to make it jazzier" or "I want to make it more hard rock" or "I want to make it like a classical waltz" and then have the appropriate method of making that a reality.

Focus on listening to other people's remixes and getting inspired by something. It can be something simple like "oh, I want to make this game song sound like that zircon remix!" You need to desire *something*, because right now you're unable to be self-sufficient in terms of creativity, since you're just starting out and have come to asking the question "how do I make this song unique or my own?".

More mechanically speaking, ways to write unique arrangements are:

-Reharmonizing (changing the chords of the melody)

-Varying the rhythm of the melody

-Extending or rewriting the melody

-Transposing to different keys and modes

-Adding intros, re-ordering sections, adding bridges, endings

-Improvisational sections (solos)

A large aspect of arranging is redefining the form. An original may have melody 1 play, then melody 2, then 1, then 2, etc. My arrangement could be an intro, then using melody 2 as a build-up to melody 1, then a solo, then melody 1 again, melody 2, then an ending. As you can see, the possibilities are too vast to summarize neatly.

Edited by Neblix

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First thing I want to say is that the teacher calling you a 'musical enthusiast' is an asshole and you should forget they ever said it and erase it from your head. Otherwise, you'll have a psychological limitation on yourself and anytime you experience difficulty, you'll think back to the teacher calling you a 'musical enthusiast' and you will assume that because you lack this, that, and the other, (or whatever else) you will somehow be incapable of making musc remixes.

I'd like to say that is a complete pile of steaming bull. Toss that right out the window.

The truth of the matter is that writing music and/or remixes of music takes a huge investment of time. It doesn't require a Ph.D in music, and there is no magic button. The only thing required, besides time, is creativity. That's it. I took one music theory class in my entire life, and I walked out the moment the teacher told me that songs have to be written in a certain way and certain things can't be done.

Experimentation is how we ended up with all the music we have today and it will be how we end up with new and different kinds of new music tomorrow.

My advice to you is to forget all that garbage, take a MIDI file of a song you really like and learn how to play it first. After that, mess about until you get that feeling. You'll know. Write that down. If it sounds good to you and you like it, then that is what and how you should write it. PERIOD.

I have no formal education in music, so I suppose you can take my rant with a pinch of salt. But I have been doing this for 15 years and with time, practice, consistent effort and the willingness to grow, you will achieve whatever it is you want to achieve with remixes.

:smile:

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My advice to you is to forget all that garbage, take a MIDI file of a song you really like and learn how to play it first. After that, mess about until you get that feeling. You'll know. Write that down. If it sounds good to you and you like it, then that is what and how you should write it. PERIOD.

This is a good advice and that's what I usually do, also doing the things that Neblix said:

More mechanically speaking, ways to write unique arrangements are:

-Reharmonizing (changing the chords of the melody)

-Varying the rhythm of the melody

-Extending or rewriting the melody

-Transposing to different keys and modes

-Adding intros, re-ordering sections, adding bridges, endings

-Improvisational sections (solos).

That way It will become a REMIX and don't a REMAKE.

But I will say one thing about what DOOM said; don't take the MIDI file, train your ear and play it by yourself, that way you'll learn a lot, trust me.

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The truth of the matter is that writing music and/or remixes of music takes a huge investment of time. It doesn't require a Ph.D in music, and there is no magic button. The only thing required, besides time, is creativity. That's it. I took one music theory class in my entire life, and I walked out the moment the teacher told me that songs have to be written in a certain way and certain things can't be done.

[...]

My advice to you is to forget all that garbage, take a MIDI file of a song you really like and learn how to play it first. After that, mess about until you get that feeling. You'll know. Write that down. If it sounds good to you and you like it, then that is what and how you should write it. PERIOD.

One problem... taking a MIDI file and learning to play it could begin a habit of using MIDIs instead of learning by ear, which inhibits your creativity. Really, what should have been said is "if it sounds good, go with it". What sounds good "to you" one day will sound worse "to you" next year, if you really have been improving. And when you aren't good, how can you say you're good? If you've watched a show called "Kitchen Nightmares", so many of those chefs say "my food is good. I don't agree with Chef Ramsey's remarks", but it's just bad, because it's either cross-contaminated, old, frozen, canned, microwaved, or otherwise poorly handled. Falling into that subjective trap is what you shouldn't do to improve. You shouldn't say, "well, it sounds good to me, so whatever."

What you should do is be open to critiques and have a thick skin for it.

And songs DO have to be written a certain way. However, that way is just very vaguely defined. Certain things can't be done, and that's right. That's why there's bad music out there. You can't have overly sparse textures for the context, large amounts of rhythmic error (to the point of sloppiness), completely random notes that make zero sense (to the point where others scratch their head), etc.

Edited by timaeus222

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One problem... taking a MIDI file and learning to play it could begin a habit of using MIDIs instead of learning by ear, which inhibits your creativity.

This is your opinion and that's fine.

Really, what should have been said is "if it sounds good, go with it". What sounds good "to you" one day will sound worse "to you" next year, if you really have been improving. And when you aren't good, how can you say you're good? If you've watched a show called "Kitchen Nightmares", so many of those chefs say "my food is good. I don't agree with Chef Ramsey's remarks", but it's just bad, because it's either cross-contaminated, old, frozen, canned, microwaved, or otherwise poorly handled. Falling into that subjective trap is what you shouldn't do to improve. You shouldn't say, "well, it sounds good to me, so whatever."

If you like it - that's all that matters. Who gives a damn otherwise? If you're in the business to write music to make money - then yes - you need to write formualic garbage. If you want to mess around, experiment, do something new and have fun then what you said does not apply. Again, your opinion and that's fine.

What you should do is be open to critiques and have a thick skin for it.

Meaningful critique is always good. The rest is a fart in the wind.

And songs DO have to be written a certain way. However, that way is just very vaguely defined. Certain things can't be done, and that's right. That's why there's bad music out there. You can't have overly sparse textures for the context, large amounts of rhythmic error (to the point of sloppiness), completely random notes that make zero sense (to the point where others scratch their head), etc.

That's just called bad musicianship. I'm talking about experimenting with songs, structures and ideas.

You have your opinions, I have mine. Cheers.

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But I will say one thing about what DOOM said; don't take the MIDI file, train your ear and play it by yourself, that way you'll learn a lot, trust me.

Did you ride a bike right away without training wheels? If you did - it probably really sucked and that wasn't a lot of fun.

Most people here had some training wheels.

Taking a MIDI for the first couple times to learn it would be the training wheels. Good musicians develop their ear over time and are able to "see" the music on their instrument of choice. That is a given and doesn't need to be said.

My advice? Download the MIDI and learn it. You'll quickly realize that everybody rips off everybody and you'll recognize chords and melodies quickly after learning songs. What these people are saying is that you should never look for an aid but to put your dick to the grindstone and hammer it all out by ear. That's good if you're a masochistic individual who enjoys pain and long fruitless hours.

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This is your opinion and that's fine.

It's not my opinion, it's a prediction based on what I've witnessed so many times.

If you like it - that's all that matters. Who gives a damn otherwise? If you're in the business to write music to make money - then yes - you need to write formualic garbage. If you want to mess around, experiment, do something new and have fun then what you said does not apply. Again, your opinion and that's fine.
It's not my opinion, yet again. It's a completely objective statement. You can like your own music, but it can be completely terrible. When you are NOT good, you can never know how good you are, unless you let someone else tell you and you believe them, because at that time, you don't have the objectivity to perceive your own music with disregard to your own subjectivities.

You don't have to write "formulaic garbage" to make money; that's a mentality coming from someone who feels restricted or can't imagine how to write music in a way that satisfies both them and their client. It's defeatist, pessimistic, and unhelpful to your own improvement.

Meaningful critique is always good. The rest is a fart in the wind.
Nope. Even something like "I'm not sure how to say this, but there's something off with that guitar" can tell you to look at that guitar performance again to see what's off. Only if they are mistaken should you not do anything with it. And not mistaken in that you think they're wrong out of your own subjectivity, but that they truly are, objectively mistaken.
You have your opinions, I have mine. Cheers.
Again, not my opinions. They're observations based on experience, and not subjective.

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It's not my opinion, it's a prediction based on what I've witnessed so many times.

And? What? You're right - always?

It's not my opinion, yet again. It's a completely objective statement. You can like your own music, but it can be completely terrible. When you are NOT good, you can never know how good you are, unless you let someone else tell you and you believe them, because at that time, you don't have the objectivity to perceive your own music with disregard to your own subjectivities.

If it's not your opinion, then whose opinion is it?

If an individual makes music for themselves and enjoys it themselves - then who cares? What part of that is so hard for you to comprehend? Most reasonable musicians want to improve. They seek out help and they do enormous amounts of self-critique.

There are those that, by God, just want to mess around in ACID with some drum loops and whatever and 'make a song' that they think is cool and already wouldn't give a hoot about your overinflated opinion that apparently isn't yours.

You don't have to write "formulaic garbage" to make money; that's a mentality coming from someone who feels restricted or can't imagine how to write music in a way that satisfies both them and their client. It's defeatist.

Defeatist, eh? You're a gem. :lmassoff:

Nope. Even something like "I'm not sure how to say this, but there's something off with that guitar" can tell you to look at that guitar performance again to see what's off. Only if they are mistaken can you not do anything with it. And not mistaken in that you think they're wrong out of your own subjectivity, but that they truly are, objectively mistaken.

I'm fairly certain I said that meaningful critique is very good. Only a scared little kitten would never put their personal music up for critique. Those are the musicians who are too scared to develop and I'm not talking about those or the OP of this thread.

Do you read what I type or do you just like the sound of your keyboard?

Again, not my opinions. They're observations based on experience, and not subjective.

So, your subjective experience means that your subjective opinions are fact. Edited by DOOM
Spelling.

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And? What? You're right - always?

No, only when it's proven that I am.

If it's not your opinion, then whose opinion is it?

No one's. It's not an opinion.

If an individual makes music for themselves and enjoys it themselves - then who cares? What part of that is so hard for you to comprehend? Most reasonable musicians want to improve. They seek out help and they do enormous amounts of self-critique.

That you can enjoy it yourself and indefinitely not get critiqued for not being good. Because it's certainly correct that you can believe, subjectively, that you are good, but in reality are NOT good. Surely you can see that...

There are those that, by God, just want to mess around in ACID with some drum loops and whatever and 'make a song' that they think is cool and already wouldn't give a hoot about your overinflated opinion that aparently isn't yours.
Completely misconstrued, again. It's not "my" opinion because it's not AN opinion. This type of person wouldn't KNOW to give a "hoot".
I'm fairly certain I said that meaningful critique is very good. Only a scared little kitten would never put their personal music up for critique. Those are the musicians who are too scared to develop and I'm not talking about those or the OP of this thread.

Did you read the bold part of your own writing?

Do you read what I type or do you just like the sound of your keyboard?
Do you read what I type or do you just like insulting people?
So, your subjective experience means that your subjective opinions are fact.

Extrapolating far too much here. It's incorrect that you thought I even said that.

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No, only when it's proven that I am.

No one's. It's not an opinion.

That you can enjoy it yourself and indefinitely not get critiqued for not being good. Because it's certainly correct that you can believe, subjectively, that you are good, but in reality are NOT good. Surely you can see that...

Completely misconstrued, again. It's not "my" opinion because it's not AN opinion. This type of person wouldn't KNOW to give a "hoot".

Did you read the bold part of your own writing?

Do you read what I type or do you just like insulting people?

Extrapolating far too much here. It's incorrect that you thought I even said that.

Agreed to disagree. Cheers.

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see timaeus, why not just go with what sounds good today? you're right, it might sound like garbage to you in 5 years. it might also sound like a hidden gem in 10. who cares? i mean, who can extend care to something one cannot predict?

(rhetorical question. most everyone can, and does so maniac-like)

observation in the end is a subjective experience. continued observation results in exploration. your explorations may become a seemingly objective deal as soon as they begin to influence the explorations of others, or vice versa.

you have to submit to the subjective experience of what sounds good now. even what you think might sound good in 5 years is actually just what sounds good now. there's nothing else.

what you're talking about is more about meeting your highest expectations, i think.

regarding that, i think the natural thing to happen when you're learning is a constant shift in your ego, related to the question "how good am i at this". your possibilities expand, you feel able and good about it, but then the new possibilities teach you about many things you really have no clue about. so you feel unable and lacking, and wanna expand. it's about that next horizon, and stuff.

it's also natural to look at stuff you've done forever at some point and say, hey, that sucks.

it may also begin to sound really cool at a later point, for another reason.

so what we're talking about, that objectivity thing, only exists conceptually. not experientially. or maybe it does, but if so we haven't found it yet.

this is also what socrates is talking about, btw (you keep citing him :D)

not knowing means having the most intimate contact with present reality, and that actually enables you to find the most creative choices.

planning ahead too much (what am i gonna deem ok when i do my epitaph) is going to take you away from that state.

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Going back to the original question: I believe that if you lack in music theory, then you should get better at it. Finding ways to avoid the problem could help on a short term basis, but if you want to make music your whole life then you should be able to read sheet music. I'd also recommend playing around with a piano, keyboard or guitar and get used to harmonies, rhythm, flow and other things you actually only realise when you're actively making music. And when you've got that down, then you'll see that things like composing, arranging and transcribing will go a lot easier.

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see timaeus, why not just go with what sounds good today? you're right, it might sound like garbage to you in 5 years. it might also sound like a hidden gem in 10. who cares? i mean, who can extend care to something one cannot predict?

(rhetorical question. most everyone can, and does so maniac-like)

[...]

what you're talking about is more about meeting your highest expectations, i think.

regarding that, i think the natural thing to happen when you're learning is a constant shift in your ego, related to the question "how good am i at this". your possibilities expand, you feel able and good about it, but then the new possibilities teach you about many things you really have no clue about. so you feel unable and lacking, and wanna expand. it's about that next horizon, and stuff.

it's also natural to look at stuff you've done forever at some point and say, hey, that sucks.

it may also begin to sound really cool at a later point, for another reason.

so what we're talking about, that objectivity thing, only exists conceptually. not experientially. or maybe it does, but if so we haven't found it yet.

this is also what socrates is talking about, btw (you keep citing him :D)

not knowing means having the most intimate contact with present reality, and that actually enables you to find the most creative choices.

planning ahead too much (what am i gonna deem ok when i do my epitaph) is going to take you away from that state.

Well, yeah, when you don't know, you might as well leave it alone and see what happens later so it isn't a case of being ignorant, sure, but when you've experienced it before, you no longer don't know, and that was what I was working off of. You CAN predict, when you've experienced it enough times before that you have a good idea of what the outcome might be. It's good to leave an air of uncertainty, though. Also, if you can't take all criticism into consideration by even a little bit (which was one of the debates earlier), it shows a slight ego, almost, and inhibits your growth, which Socrates wouldn't want.

I think objectivity does exist conceptually, but I also think it can be grasped, in chunks or intuitively without a reason-able explanation, at least. Maritain talks about Art in general (so including music) having a divine interpretation---and thus an objectivity in a sense---during its conception and a human interpretation---since we're able to make mistakes---during its production, like matter and spirit meeting to collaborate (paraphrased). There's a subjectivity-->objectivity spectrum I previously had some idea about that I learned in ethics class last semester, and I'm towards the side of believing in partially grasping objectivity with some subjectivity on the side. For example, two of the ethical positions on the spectrum are nihilism and subjective relativism (yeah, it's morality-based, but a similar analogy applies here). :smile:

What I mean by considering what sounds good to you is that you only have a good idea if you're good when you get good (Plato). It's almost like the Paradox of Learning (more Plato); you don't know what to learn unless you know to learn it, or someone teaches you, so you go around somewhat blindly, taking criticism and getting 'taught', until you start to feel like you understand enough to start learning on your own. :wink: Now as to when you might really "get"/have a good idea of your distance from objectivity, that's the unknown part, and that's the part where I think the ignorance comes in as a good thing to facilitate your improvement for as long as you live. That way, you'll keep wanting to improve, and as a result you'll keep improving, no matter how slowly.

For me, I WOULD go with what sounds good today, but I wouldn't say that if it sounds good today, it'll sound good a few years later necessarily, even if it might actually be the case. BUT, unlike four years ago, for example, where I would take maybe a year before I would realize there are major flaws in my old, old music, I would know the next day if there's something off in my music, despite it being my own music, and if it's substantial enough for me to need to fix. Heck, zircon polishes his music until it's pretty much perfect, beyond what most people could criticize, and he knows fairly well what he wants in his head, and works until he gets it. So those types of people exist.

So yeah, I think we're both in agreement (or we could reach one) about what Socrates would want. :-P

Edited by timaeus222

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i agree there's probably some objectivity to be found, but yknow, buddhists call those moments satori (or if prolonged, enlightenment). it's a rare occasion mostly. but yes, the initial spark of something can be of "divine objectivity", to get grandiose about it. even there though, it's unclear really. it's not clear if a single consciousness can see reality beyond any individual coloring. i sure don't know, i'm just led to believe it, by lore and by some vague pointers in my own experience.

i think ultimately, improvisation comes closest to the spark, and it helps if your music writing has some improvisational elements too.

put miles davis next to soc, yknow, "there are no mistakes". in the context of goin with what feels right, maybe you'll feel bad about a very intuitively and naively written tune, but it may also be a stepping stone to something really great. the intuitive mistake has a potential to get you on the next level. this may be true for single songs, but it may also apply to a whole series of tunes and the learning path you take with them.

Edited by Nase

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i think ultimately, improvisation comes closest to the spark, and it helps if your music writing has some improvisational elements too.

put miles davis next to soc, yknow, "there are no mistakes". in the context of goin with what feels right, maybe you'll feel bad about a very intuitively and naively written tune, but it may also be a stepping stone to something really great. the intuitive mistake has a potential to get you on the next level. this may be true for single songs, but it may also apply to a whole series of tunes and the learning path you take with them.

Yeah, I agree. Maritain also said that Art is an intuitive intellectual virtue, rather than a rational one. Whenever I'm not sure what I want to write, I still write SOMETHING through some improvisation with some chords maybe, and then revise it until it turns out how I want it. If I doubt what I might write, then I might not actually write it and I won't get anywhere. As long as I have some context, I can figure something out on what to write next.

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