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Month: February 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Songwriting Exercise – Expanding On Your Possible Song Titles

As I have mentioned in my last post Songwriting Exercise – Brainstorming Possible Song Titles, I generally brainstorm words and phrases for 30 minutes at a time most mornings, making sure that for every list I do I put the date on top so I know which list to look at first.

Now, if you were doing this exercise two to three times a week for a few weeks you’d have accumulated an extremely large list of possible song titles to glean some sort of inspiration from so now is the time to start working on some songs.

Here’s what you should do with your rather large possible song titles list:

1. Take the earliest list and look it over again a few times.
As you’re looking them over pretend you’re looking at the list of song titles on the inside sleeve of a CD cover. Say the phrases out loud taking special note of the melody and the rhythm of the words.

Is there anything on your list that shouts “I belong in your song?” If so, grab the phrase and write it on the top of a fresh page because you’re now going to start constructing your song from the title.

2. Start brainstorming ideas from the word or phrase.
Lets take the example of “Scrambled Eggs” (which was initially the working title for the Beatles hit “Yesterday”). What does the title remind you of or, what images does the title conjure up for you?

  • breakfast
  • morning
  • waking up
  • dreaming
  • family eating together
  • sun through the kitchen window
  • the weekend
  • being glad to be alive

By brainstorming words and phrases from the song title you are starting to make a list of word pictures and associations. This will be the beginnings of the skeleton structure of the song lyric itself.

3. Find the story/central theme of the song.
Is there a melodic or lyrical hook that you can use to underpin a chorus? Will the possible song title be enough of a hook for the song? Can you see a story or central idea of the song developing from your brainstorming?

From the list above I can see a first verse already.

I wake up in the morning
From a dream that left me warm
Sunlight shines through my window
As I walk into the kitchen
My family eating breakfast
Tells me it’s good to be alive

(Ok, I didn’t say it was going to be good)

Can you see how some of the words (or the inference of those words) in the list above made this verse possible?

4. Marry up the brainstorming ideas plus the central theme and start creating.
Continue with the expansion of your brainstorming but don’t be too concerned with song format as all you’re doing at the moment is fleshing out the songs lyrical skeleton.

Aim for completing three verses and a chorus by using this method. Remember, this is still a first draft with no music or melody attached to it.

5. Begin fine tuning your draft.
If, in your lyrical brainstorming you’ve come across a rhythmic motif or melody for your song, you can use as the basis of the song arrangement. If not, then you need to start from scratch.

How the musical arrangement is put to the song lyrics depends on the songwriter. There is however, much to-ing and fro-ing between the musical arrangement and the lyrical content with each element of the song making room for the other.

If you need to do more than one draft of your song to complete it, so be it, because at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to complete a song.

Let me ask you this… Do you generally write a song from a possible song title? If not, would you give it a go? Let me know what you think.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Ideas Are Infinite And Sacred

My first piece of advice that I would give to any beginning songwriter is… “Never throw anything away, EVER!”

Just think, that piece of paper that you’ve thrown in the bin with some half finished lyrics penned the night before might have contained the ideas for THE song that defines you as a performer, artist or songwriter.

All it might’ve needed was a few re-writes either by yourself or, maybe with a collaborator (or two).

As a songwriter you must keep all of your scraps of paper, nonsensical ramblings on your phone and your audio snippets on your computer because songwriting ideas are infinite and sacred all at the same time.

Just hear me out here…

First of all, songwriting ideas are infinite because they are absolutely everywhere. You just have to allow yourself to be open and perceptive to them.

One songwriter may see a falling leaf and not think twice about it while another songwriter may see that same leaf as a metaphor for freedom and write a song about it.

If you take the view that songwriting ideas are infinite then you cease being protective of the songs you have already written. You then allow your songs to truly breathe, and come into being which will then lead to those songs being listened to and performed.

It also stops yourself having the view that everything that you write has to be perfect.

Remember, if you write a song that you are not sure of, don’t throw it away, just leave it and go onto something else because you’ll always think of another songwriting idea (if you allow yourself that is).

Secondly, songwriting ideas are sacred because they come from you and only you.

That alone is a reason to keep everything you write because, when you think about it, throwing away a songwriting idea is throwing away a part of you.

You should always be proud of what you create whether you feel they are good, bad or indifferent.

The good songs are the ones you perform as they are a gift from yourself to yourself.

The not so good songs should be acknowledged as the stepping stones that they are and besides, you can always go back to them later. Maybe with some more life experience under your belt plus a fresher set of eyes and ears (or maybe a collaborator) a song you’ll be proud of, will come from it.

It’s okay to write a song about world peace. It’s okay to write a song about love and it’s also okay to write a song about a falling leaf.

As long as it comes from you that’s all that matters.

Besides, if you allow yourself to be truly receptive of the world around you, you’re never going to run out of songwriting ideas.

Exciting isn’t it?

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Exercise – Brainstorming Possible Song Titles

A good song title is a songwriter’s best friend because it can encapsulate the whole song in a few well chosen words. One of the best ways I’ve found to get my own songwriting process going is to brainstorm lists of possible song titles and see what comes from that.

For those who aren’t sure what “brainstorming” means, it’s the process of spontaneously coming up with ideas on a given topic, problem or task at hand.

Now in this songwriting exercise the task is not to write a complete song but to come up with at least one A4 page of possible titles for a song. Personally, I try to do this exact songwriting exercise at least twice a week and through doing this on a regular basis I now have pages and pages of songwriting ideas for me to look back on if I find myself not knowing where to go next.

Start off this exercise, by writing down the first thing that comes into your head at the top of your page and from there start writing down your possible song titles, making sure that the next phrase is either tightly or loosely derived from the first phrase.

Here’s a short example starting off with the phrase Cry Baby:

  • Cry Baby
  • Baby Don’t Cry
  • Don’t Cry For Me Baby
  • Don’t Cry
  • Why So Sad?
  • I’m So Sad
  • I’m Leaving Today

Just remember, because you are brainstorming there’s no right or wrong way of doing this exercise. You can write anything down, go off onto any tangent you like and not worry about whether you are going to use it in the future or not.

It’s also important to not think about what you are writing, just be automatic, spontaneous and most importantly, have some fun with it.

Set a target of doing this for 30 minutes, two to three times a week so you can build up a comprehensive body of possible song titles to choose from.

Once you’ve been doing this exercise for a couple of weeks of doing this, have a look at what you’ve written and start to pay close attention to the phrasing and the rhythm of the possible song titles and wait for something to jump out at you. Once this happens you have the beginnings of a brand new song.

For me, looking back on what I’ve written in the past is an interesting experience in itself. It always amazes me what I’ve written once I stop second guessing my own songwriting process.

In the meantime, give this songwriting exercise a try and see what happens. Let me know how you go with it.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

The Joys Of Rewriting Your Songs

Nile Rodgers once said that “…I know how to write and rewrite songs, and the genius is really in the rewriting.” This statement is something that I totally agree with.

I reckon, if you’re at the stage with writing your song where you need to go through it and start revisiting parts to ensure that you’re happy with it, then you’re almost at the end of the songwriting process and your song will be the better for the rewriting.

However, I didn’t always think of the rewriting part of the songwriting process in such high regard. When I was starting out on my songwriting journey, I was one of those songwriters that didn’t really like the idea of rewriting my songs.

I had heard stories of great songs that “almost wrote themselves,” and hit songs that were written in ten minutes and in one sitting and because of these stories I was under the impression that all great songs must be divinely inspired and that songs which needed to be rewritten and are hard work to complete must be doomed to failure.

I used to think that once a song is completed, that was it. To me, the concept of rewriting something that came from my heart and my soul somehow meant that I had failed in getting my message across as a songwriter.

Not so.

I was introduced to the concept of rewriting songs a while back through a writer friend of mine while having a conversation comparing the creative activities of songwriters and authors.

I told him my philosophy that once a song was completed I would just leave it and go on to the next song.

My friend then proceeded to tell me that in his world, the average word-count for a novel is between 60 and 100 thousand words. Plus, add to the mix the fact that normally he would need to complete at least three drafts of a manuscript before submitting it to a publisher.

Compared to what I did as a songwriter, there was a lot of work involved in creating the end result and I was resisting the concept of rewriting a four minute song.

What I got from the conversation was that there should be an extra step in my songwriting process. The editing/rewriting stage.

He then continued to make the point that songwriters, like authors, should look at their creations as a series of drafts. Some songs will need less editing and some will need more.

This started to make a lot of sense to me.

That conversation was a few years ago now but since then, I’ve pulled out all of my old songbooks and unreleased demo recordings I’ve made and started to go through every song I’ve ever (half) written, looking for ways in which these songs can be improved upon.

Through doing this exercise I’ve discovered that:

1. There’s always one or two lines of a song that can be strengthened. When I read through an old song and notice myself cringing at a line, that’s the time to change it for something better.

2. Older songs that I’ve written where my musical knowledge was much more limited benefit greatly with the musical knowledge I have now

3. Some of my songs were crying out for a bridge or a pre-chorus that I had not even considered before.

4. Some of my songs needed to be simplified and in doing so other songs were written from that.

When you think about it, your songbook is the aural version of a photographers portfolio. It’s always good songwriting practise to look over your completed songs from time to time with a new set of ears and edit and adjust as necessary.

It’s done wonders for my songs.

This exercise is still something that I continue to do to this day. When I’m feeling a little stuck on something I go through my old stuff to find new inspiration.

So, what do you think is the purpose of a songwriting process? Is it a competition to write a song in the shortest space of time and on the first attempt?

Or, does it exist to facilitate the creation of the best song possible at the time with all of the information and tools at your disposal? Let me know what you think.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

My Take On Rewriting Older Songs

Lately I’ve been looking over my old songbooks, half finished songwriting ideas and my recording archives to see if there are any thing that I can rewrite, reboot, update or restore in any way. Sometimes I get inspired by this exercise but for most of the time I don’t.

For me, it very much depends on what is currently going on in my life and how I’m feeling at the time because this exercise requires me to listen to these old songs with a fresh pair of ears.

This is a challenge as I inadvertently put my old songs and ideas into concrete and this makes it very hard to rewrite them in any other way. In fact, any rewriting of old songs is considered a little victory for me.

So, when it comes to the difficulty in rewriting old songs it’s nice to know that I keep in good company.

I came across an article by songwriter Tony Conniff titled “Revisiting Earlier Songs… As A More Experienced Writer” and he discusses how the more experience he gains as a songwriter, the more opportunities he has to improve on his earlier songwriting attempts.

On this topic, he says…

It’s a bit of a paradox – my rush forward to write more songs, to gain experience, to get better, has perhaps left holes in some of my past songs (or maybe the holes are there simply because I didn’t know how to plug them at the time…?). But that rush forward to write more songs has also given me the experience to improve things that I thought were settled (but don’t have to be).

Reading Tony’s article has definitely made me feel better about my struggles with revisiting older songs.

What I get from the article is that the more songs that I write, the more experience I gain in honing my craft, and with that knowledge and experience under my belt, the more I can look and hear my older songs with a fresh pair of eyes and ears.

At the very least that is yet another reason never to throw any of your old songs and songwriting ideas away. You never what you can do with them in the future.

Do you have a whole bunch of old song that need revisiting? Maybe reading Tony Conniff’s article will inspire you to take another look. Let me know how you go.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Writing Songs – Pen And Paper VS Keyboard And Computer

Call me old fashioned but I still prefer writing songs with a pen to paper rather than to use a computer.

There have been many times where I’ve attempted to use a word processor instead of pen and paper to jot down my songwriting ideas and I’ve found that the special feeling of continuity I get between head, heart and computer screen is not as intense as the organic scrawling of a really good quality pen onto paper.

It’s like the act of putting pen to paper somehow allows me to become an integral part of what I’m writing whereas I feel an uncomfortable distance from my songwriting ideas if I just type it out.

Yes, I know that for this very post to exist I would’ve had to have typed the words into my laptop via my blogging platform of choice, WordPress however, this particular post was written on paper first.

I got the idea for this post from automatically and randomly writing on pieces of paper as a means of clearing my mind of the stuff that has collected in it over time. A bit of mental cleaning as it were and some indication that automatic writing works.

I’m a big fan of technology but at the same time I’d hate to see the art of writing a song with a pen and paper disappear for good.

What do you think? Which medium do you prefer to write songs with? Pen and paper or keyboard and computer? Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Using Poetry To Transform Your Lyric Writing

There have been a few instances where lines of poetry have inspired a song or two inside me and with that in mind, I came a cross an article written by songwriter Anna Dagmar called “Transforming Your Lyrics From Poetry To Personal Truth.”

She mentions at the beginning of the article after discovering that her lyrics had changed stylistically from her first album in 2001 to her latest album in 2012:

… when I began writing songs at about age twenty, I had a lot of emotions that wanted to come out somehow, but I was very shy about revealing myself too much. So, I turned to poetry. I turned to the world around me and looked for symbols or metaphors to describe the way I felt.

What grabbed me about the article were two things:

1. The eloquent way she deconstructs some of her lyrics to illustrate some of the points she makes

2. Her “Handful Of Tricks For Expanding Your Lyric Writing Process” list that she mentions halfway through the article

She ends the article with yet another piece of great advice, saying that lyricists should:

… read and write as often as possible. Be true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to share detail, whether about yourself or another person. Try to dig deeply to find ways of describing the world more eloquently than we do in daily conversation.

What I’ve found through my online research into all things songwriting, is that a lot of information is out there about the music, arrangement, collaboration and the business side of songwriting but not necessarily enough about the things lyricists have to go through to make themselves heard.

I hope that you find this information as helpful for you as it was for me. You can find the full article “Transforming Your Lyrics From Poetry To Personal Truth” here.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

How To Finish That Song That You’ve Been Working On Forever

I must say that I’m one of those songwriters that is an expert at starting off songwriting ideas but really ordinary at finishing them off into completed songs. It’s one of those things that I personally need help with in my own songwriting process.

Here is an article by well known producer, author and songwriter Cliff Goldmacher outlining five different approaches that you can take to finish off those songs that you’ve been working on forever.

It certainly gave me some food for thought…


How To Finish That Song You’ve Been Working On Forever
By Cliff Goldmacher

Sometimes songs come easy. You sit down and the whole thing pours out of you almost as if you’re simply transcribing it as it’s handed down to you from the heavens. Those songs are great but I’ve learned you can’t always count on it working that way.

The other side of the coin is when songwriting more closely resembles the extraction of a particularly reluctant wisdom tooth, without an anaesthetic. This article is about how to deal with those songs. I’m going to offer five different approaches to get you un-stuck and get your song finished one way or the other.

1. Make a Rough Recording of Your Song

Sometimes all you need is a little perspective. Often when we’re writing a song, we’ll go around and around singing it to ourselves sometimes playing an instrument as we do it. This is a necessary and essential part of the writing process and although it’s helpful while we’re writing, it doesn’t provide us with the listener’s perspective.

Whether it’s a song you’ve just been working on or one you’ve played live hundreds of times, if you’re not sure it’s finished, then do a rough recording.

By a rough recording, I mean simply sing (and play if you’re also an instrumentalist) the song into your computer, hand-held recorder or even your cell phone and listen to the playback of the recording without playing your instrument or singing along.

This simple act of putting yourself in the audience, so to speak, will give you perspective on what is and isn’t working in a way that is impossible while you’re actually singing the song yourself. I’d also suggest printing out a lyric sheet and keeping it in front of you to make notes on as you get ideas from listening to the rough.

Finally, I’d recommend the process of making a rough recording, tweaking the song and then making a new rough recording, until you end up with a version of the song that you feel good about.

This final rough recording can then do double duty as the version of the song you’ll provide the session musicians and singers so that they can learn your song for the demo session.

2. Play It For Your Songwriting Group

Still stuck? Sometimes it takes another set of experienced ears to hear the things you’ve been missing. Songwriting groups can be great for this but if you don’t have a songwriting group, not to worry, most cities have songwriting organizations, open mics and even local coffee houses with live music where you can meet other songwriters.

Once you’ve found a few other songwriters whose work you respect, you might suggest getting together once every week or two and showing each other what you’ve been working on. This is a great way to get suggestions on how to refine your material.

I’d recommend making a pact to stay constructive. There’s never a point in being unduly negative. You’re all trusting each other with songs that are still in their vulnerable early and unfinished stages. Mean-spirited comments or unnecessarily harsh criticism can cause a potentially superb song to be abandoned on the spot.

It’s important to remember that songwriting is still a subjective process and not every suggestion you get will feel right to you. That’s fine. If you get a single suggestion that makes your song better, then the process is working.

By the way, if you’re looking for a songwriting organization in your area, the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) has chapters all over the country and even overseas.

3. Submit Your Rough Recording to a Critiquing Service

Songwriting organizations like the Nashville Songwriters Association, The Songwriters Guild of America and Taxi.com offer song critiques to their members.

This can be a safe, entry-level way to try out new material on experienced industry ears without risking poisoning the well if the song comes back with a less than glowing set of comments.

These same organizations also offer “Play for Publisher” or “Play for A&R” song screenings. I’d highly recommend waiting to submit to these events until you have a song (and, just as importantly, a recording) you feel confident is completely polished.

You only have one chance to make a first impression with a publisher or record executive so I’d suggest taking your time, making sure your song is finished and that you have a totally professional demo before you head down that road.

While a pro critique can yield some terrific insights, it’s important to remember that songwriting is a subjective process. In other words, take all comments (good and bad) with a grain of salt.

4. Bring in a Co-Writer

If you feel you’ve got an exceptional idea but truly can’t seem to figure out how to finish it, then maybe it’s time to bring in a co-writer. Many co-writes begin from scratch which is a great way to share the effort of creating a new song but, sometimes, co-writes happen when one writer brings a partially finished idea to another.

For example, if it’s the melody that’s got you stuck, then I’d recommend working with a co-writer who has a melodic gift. If it’s the lyric, look for a strong lyricist.

The key to co-writing is to find someone who’s strong where you aren’t (and vice versa) so, together, you can come up with something better than either one of you could have created on your own.

5. Put It Away (maybe forever)

If you’ve tried everything and your song still just kind of lies there, then it’s time to put it away, maybe even forever.

The key to staying productive as a songwriter is not getting too bogged down on any one song. Sometimes songs are meant to be started simply to get you to the next song. Don’t be afraid to leave a song behind and start on something new.

Sometimes you’ll come back to it months or even years later and sometimes you won’t. The more songs you write the easier this will become. Promise. While songwriting can certainly be a challenge at times, it shouldn’t have to hurt. It’s up to you to decide whether a song needs one more good effort or an express trip to the circular file.

I’ll leave you with a final random thought. Often the days you’re dreading working on a song are the days when you make the biggest gains. Always give yourself the benefit of the doubt and sit down and try. If it isn’t happening pretty quickly, then let it go, but if it is, you’ll be doubly glad you made the effort.

Good luck!


About The Author

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter/engineer/producer/author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” is available as a free download from his site at http://www.cliffgoldmacher.com/ebook

Cliff is also the owner/founder of http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, a website that provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.


One of the things that struck me about Cliff’s article is how he mentions playing your half finished song to a songwriting group and putting up your work in progress to a song critiquing service.

These are things that I’m interested in setting up on this site in the very near future and maybe then I’ll be able to finish off my own (ever growing) list of incomplete song ideas.

In the meantime, how do you finish off your songs? Let me know as I’d love to hear how you guys do it.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

Songwriting Tip – Never Be Afraid To Ask Questions

Someone once told me that the only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask.

Knowledge is gained through experience and by asking lots of questions. I would love to have a go at answering whatever question you may have about songwriting.

Go on, just ask me 🙂

The music industry is built on networks and networking with others is one of the most important skills (outside of writing good songs) that a songwriter needs to acquire.

One of the main reasons I created All About Songwriting was to share my knowledge and skills from over 30 years of being a performing songwriter.

I want everyone to benefit from all of the mistakes I’ve made in the past with my own songwriting.

I truly believe that we are all in this songwriting thing together and that there is plenty of room for everybody so, instead of looking at this business as a competition, lets offer our hands to each other and lift up as many of us as we possibly can.

Whatever question you have on songwriting, the creative process, the music industry, any article suggestions or anything else that you want to know, just let me know.

If I don’t know the answer I will personally find out the answer for you.

These posts that I write and the quality articles that I curate are only really scraping the tip of the iceberg of all the knowledge that can be gained by pursuing some sort of mastery of the craft of songwriting.

Yes, songwriting is a craft, a craft that needs to be constantly practised, utilised and improved upon each and every day.

We are all apprentices of this craft no matter how successful we are. I am certain that even songwriters like Diane Warren would say that she still has a lot to learn about her chosen craft.

All of us are works in progress so don’t be scared, ask questions and lots of them. You can never, ever stop learning. It’s how we grow as songwriters

There are many, many songwriting resources and organisations out there either online or in the real world, with dedicated people in them wanting to help you.

We, as songwriters owe it to ourselves and the music industry to write the best songs we can, so get out of the stands and get onto the field and start playing the game.

Just remember, we are all in this songwriting thing together so let’s help each other out. Let me know what you want to know

Until next time, keep on writing

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

8 Ways To Improve Your Songwriting Ability

Here are some ideas I’ve picked up along my own songwriting journey on how you can improve your overall songwriting ability because it always amazes me how making the smallest changes to your songwriting process can make the biggest difference.


Listen To Music

It sounds simple enough but by immersing yourself in the music of others you are allowing that music to flow through you and the elements of that music that you really like will unconsciously come out in your own songwriting later on.

Don’t Listen To Music

The other side of the coin… There will be times where silence, not music, is needed to soothe the soul and when these moments happen, immerse yourself in the silence.

This is a great opportunity for your subconscious to process information or for you to just meditate. Either way, immersing yourself in the silence is sometimes a great way to invite the muse into your world.

Keep A Digital Recorder With You

Whether this be your smartphone or something purpose-built, always get into the habit of being ready to record anything that pops into your head while you go about your daily business because you never know where your next song writing idea will come from.

Watch A Movie/TV With The Sound Off

It’s amazing what you pick up when your senses are less distracted. Watching a movie or the TV with the sound off plus a notepad at the ready, allows your imagination to fill in the gaps.

Personally, I also use this activity as an opportunity to practice some guitar at the same time. I know that this multitasking can muck around with your brain a little bit but persist with it and you’ll find that the results are well worth the effort.

Jam With Other Songwriters/Musicians

Always look for an opportunity to get together with other people and just jam for jamming sake. You don’t necessarily have to have a formal agenda attach to it.

Jamming with others allows you to be exposed to other influences plus it keeps your improvisation skills in check and who knows, you might stumble onto a songwriting idea worth exploring.

Find Some Songwriting/Musical Allies

Having some songwriting or musical allies in your corner will go a long way to sustaining your motivation.

No matter where your allies come from (friends, family or mentors) the most important thing is that they are able to provide you constructive feedback without being either to patronising or fake in their praise.

Read Books, Poems And Stories

It stands to reason that if listening to music infuses musical ideas into your songwriting then reading books would infuse lyrical ideas in the same way.

By reading the words of others and utilising your imagination filtered through your own experiences, you’ll be putting a new spin on what you read and who knows, a song might come from that.

Challenge Yourself To Write Something Every Day

This point is all about creating discipline in your song writing practice.

I’m not saying that you necessarily write a song every day but to really get your songwriting process flowing, you need to write at least something everyday.

This could be a list of possible song titles, a verse, a chorus, a blog post, a poem or maybe even some free writing.

Even if it’s just a few lines anything will do.


Do you have some favourite activities YOU like to do to keep those songwriting fires burning? If you do, please let me know. I would love to hear what those activities are.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

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