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Tunes rule OK? Or chords?

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McGrath of Harlow 15 Aug 01 - 03:11 PM
JenEllen 15 Aug 01 - 03:30 PM
GUEST 15 Aug 01 - 03:53 PM
Amos 15 Aug 01 - 03:56 PM
MMario 15 Aug 01 - 03:59 PM
sophocleese 15 Aug 01 - 05:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Aug 01 - 06:32 PM
Mudlark 15 Aug 01 - 07:08 PM
GUEST 15 Aug 01 - 07:26 PM
Jon Freeman 15 Aug 01 - 07:27 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Aug 01 - 09:47 AM
mooman 16 Aug 01 - 10:37 AM
GUEST 16 Aug 01 - 10:44 AM
Jon Freeman 16 Aug 01 - 05:14 PM
sophocleese 16 Aug 01 - 05:26 PM
Sorcha 16 Aug 01 - 05:48 PM
Jon Freeman 16 Aug 01 - 06:41 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Aug 01 - 07:27 PM
Don Firth 16 Aug 01 - 10:27 PM
Jon Freeman 16 Aug 01 - 10:35 PM
DonMeixner 16 Aug 01 - 10:44 PM
Mary in Kentucky 16 Aug 01 - 11:17 PM
Sorcha 16 Aug 01 - 11:42 PM
JohnInKansas 17 Aug 01 - 01:36 AM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Aug 01 - 12:26 PM
sophocleese 17 Aug 01 - 12:41 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Aug 01 - 02:07 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Aug 01 - 02:12 PM
MMario 17 Aug 01 - 02:23 PM
Kaleea 17 Aug 01 - 11:44 PM
Sorcha 17 Aug 01 - 11:51 PM
toadfrog 18 Aug 01 - 12:21 AM
Don Firth 18 Aug 01 - 09:45 PM
Willie-O 19 Aug 01 - 11:07 AM
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Subject: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 03:11 PM

This thread comes out of a suggestion by Rick Fielding in this thread"A trick to find the RIGHT key from a CD "

Someone started speculating on how some people use chords as their foundation, and others use melody lines. And Rick said: I'd be interested to hear what folks think about the "chords" vis a vis "melody" thing. Can you (or anyone else who's interested) start a thread on it that might get a few more in? This title is a trifle "tuningocentric".

So that's what I'm doing here.And I suggest people go back and skim through that thread before posting here, since it's really a continuation of that aspect of the thread.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: JenEllen
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 03:30 PM

I have to go with Jeri on this one. I tend to think primarily in melody. When learning a new song, I'll listen once, then either work the melody out on piano or violin, and fill in chord structure from there.

One blessing/curse is that I rarely 'hear' a chord, I hear each note together. So when figuring out chords on the guitar I've been able to think which notes I want, find them, and voila: chord.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 03:53 PM

...depends on if the accompaniment to a vocalist is that which is being sought: chords. If it's a solo, or an instrumental piece, then melody. (For example ...was always intrigued by the melody in Bouree by Jethro Tull. Learned the melody first, then figured out the accompanying chords. Contrast that to the chords to Love Like Rain by Jonell Mosser. Chords came first.)


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Amos
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 03:56 PM

I think in progressions which are melodic but are two- or three-note figures, often. I cannot do purely melody lines without falling back into thinking about their chord structures, since I started learning with chords, rather than doing note-picking.

A.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: MMario
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 03:59 PM

I sing, I don't play any instrument - so I tend only to hear the beat of the chords rather then what they are. For me it is the melody - especially the profile of the melody. What I tend to learn is the relative intervals between the notes of the melody - and then take it from there. (While convenient for me - since I can then "transpose" up or down on the fly as I just follow the profile I've learned- it does bug other people because it means I quite frequently start songs in a random key - while they have learned it in a specific key. Therefore I perefer to let others start)


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: sophocleese
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 05:24 PM

We've had a couple of threads in the past about this aspect of songs and tunes. It is an interesting topic. I am a definite melody person. I sing and play recorder. However when I started attempting guitar I wanted to learn chords so I don't play melody on guitar, I strum chords. It makes for a different approach harmony. I have several times come up with some lovely harmonies to a melody but they don't go with the chords that are being played to the tune. I tend to see chords as coming after the tune and as being alterable, whereas others seems to see the chord structure as a solid and unchangeable foundation for the melody.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 06:32 PM

I think I think like sophocleese. I'm looking for a note, and the chord I play is a place where that note tends to live. I might play a different chord for the same note another time when I'm playing it, or when it comes up in a different place in the song. But it's the note I'm after.

And in singing I think in terms of moving alongside each other, with the singers sometimes coming together, and sometimes singing different notrs thta sound good together. Never consciously aiming for chords.

Actually increasingly I tend to prefer the sound of diads, with just 1st and the 5th, (A + E, D + A, G + D, that sort of thing) rather than full chords. Not pinned down into major or minor and so forth.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Mudlark
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 07:08 PM

I am totally untaught, am not even sure of the notes of the strings on my guitar and play mainly to accompany myself singing. So melody comes first, then I hope to hell I can find the chords ... SOMEwhere...in my fingers, to match the tune. On the other hand, WRITING music (i.e., making up a song) I tend to start with a chord structure and then fit the tune/words that are looking for a way out to that structure.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 07:26 PM

Hi all you mudcatters!

Some of you told of "standard chord progressions" in this and in this thread :http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=37638&messages=22#reply (sorry I'm not able to post a link) can someone tell me this standard chord progressions including the minor chors and the 7th chords? What I'm thinking for is for example: C-Major: C,G,F,a,e I'm not quiete sure if the minor chords are am and em but i think so. I'm not familiar with music theory so please don't tell me to count half tones or so. Just can play guitar a little bit and need the chords when the key changes!

Thanks, Marian


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 07:27 PM

I'm not very good with chords, e.g. I can never find those really lovely special ones that others find.

Given a guitar and a tune I don't know, I generally try to predict the melody and that prediction gives me an idea of which chord to try. I'm afraid it's hit and miss with me but given a simple melody of a type I am familiar with accompanying, I probably win more than I lose but even with those I can blunder badly. From their on, my approach is to try to analyse my mistakes.

If I know a tune, the prediction element goes and I stand more chance of success, at least to the extent where I would suggest I would find suitable chords for "Wild Rover", "Black Velvet Band", "Sam Hall", etc. first time round.

I do fail dismally on some songs though - even with work I fail to find a suitable chord.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 09:47 AM

Marian, sounds to me what you want isn't "standard chord progressions" because that's just a way of saying that there are some sequences of chords that are quite common, and turn up time and time again, not that they are usable in all songs, or hat it's necessary to learn them as sequences.

What you want is a way of working out what the equivalent to a particular chord in a song would be if you were playing the song in another key.

The theory involved in working it out isn't difficult, essentially it's just knowing when the jump from one note to the next in a particular scale is one fret up, and when it's two frets up.

But a chord chart means you don't have to do that. There are lots of them on the net, and most of them are needlessly complicated and make it all look difficult.

Here is a straightforward one I found - the equivalent chords for the different keys are in equivalent places.

Have fun, and come on back to the Mudcat because you can find out anything here.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: mooman
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 10:37 AM

Bit of both with me.

When playing a melody instrument, e.g. a mandolin, I always start from the melody point of view when, for example, composing a new tune.

On the other hand, when composing on the guitar, I tend to work from chord progressions, usually in open tunings, from which a decent melody may later emerge if I'm lucky.

mooman


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 10:44 AM

Rhythm rules.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 05:14 PM

Drifting a little here but I must admit I agree with GUEST, at least thats how I see it with most of the stuff I play on banjo, say rythym 60% of the tune, melody 40%.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: sophocleese
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 05:26 PM

For me Melody 40%, Words 40%, Rhythm 20%, but hell I'm a singer first and foremost, I exist to screw up time signatures.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Sorcha
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 05:48 PM

As a fiddler, chords mean very little. Virtually no sense can be made of the tune by chording a fiddle.....and fiddles play tunes--guess what my answer is? (grin) Words do sometimes help. Even if I don't sing them I hear them in my head. Less than 20% is words though.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 06:41 PM

I must admit when I was reffering to the stuff I play on the banjo, I was meaning dance music so there are no words to consider.

I guess with songs, matters can vary a lot more. How about a shanty? I'd still rate rythm as more important than melody or words. Maybe, in that order, 50, 40, 10. Then how about a ballad? I think words matter the most and a strict rythm could kill the song...

Jon


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 07:27 PM

Rhythm is maybe more important in the sense that a tune with bum notes can be better than a tune with the notes right and the rhythm all over the place. You can tap out a tune often on a drum or a table top, and it can be recognisable.

But that does not mean that all songs ought to be sung with a steady mechanical beat. Nor tunes either. That's especially true of course of things like slow airs and the equivalent in songs. I agree with Jon that in songs often what matters most is the narrative or lyrical structure, which may require a very irregular approach. Still rhythm, but free and flexible rhythm.

It's the same with spoken verse - for example, in a spoken monologue, the narrator will slow down, speed up, pause and look around...


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 10:27 PM

Words and melody first, methinks. Musically, that's the line that you hang the chords on.

I have a friend who is a fairly accomplished poet. Some published work, many poetry readings. His theory, based on considerable knowledge and research, is that the words are of primary importance. Not surprising, coming from a poet. But he has a point. The Story. After all, ballads are narratives — and songs, even though they might not tell a story straight-out, usually imply a story. My poet friend maintains that way back in the mists of antiquity, history was cast in the form of long narrative poems which were sometimes chanted — Homer's Iliad, and many epics and sagas (e.g., Beowulf). Rhyme, meter or rhythm, and melody functioned as mnemonic devices. An accompanying instrument, such as a lyre or harp, acted to enhance the melody and punctuate or accent certain parts of the narrative. Interesting, I thought. Bards were the historians, and vice versa.

Thought experiment: consider all the songs that you have memorized and ask yourself how well you could recite them. Not sing them, recite them. No melody, no accompaniment, no music. How do you think you would do? I know that I wouldn't do all that well.

I usually start out learning the words and melody together, getting to the point where I can sing the song without accompaniment (I also pay particular attention to enunciating the words clearly). By then, my voice has decided what key I'm going to do it in. My voice is fairly deep, so I can't sing most songs in the same keys they're in on a CD or in a songbook (except for Gordon Bok. Great stuff!). Being able to sing your songs without accompaniment has the advantage that your songs are always with you, and don't depend on where your guitar, banjo, autoharp, or whatever happens to be.

Once I have the song learned, I pick up the guitar and figure out an accompaniment. Simplest possible first. How few chords can I get away with and still have it sound good? Once I have the basic chords, I begin to experiment, substituting chords ("Okay, the melody note here is C, so which chord sounds best, C or F?"), seeing if relative minor (or major) chords fit ("How about an Am there?"), sometimes trying some really odd-ball chords from other keys just to see ("Cm? Nope. Ab? Ouch! Didn't think so."). As long as you're by yourself, if you hit a real clanker, nobody will know but you. And sometimes you do find the magical chord. Once I have the chords down, at least tentatively, I play around with right-hand patterns, bass runs, countermelodies and such. Some accompaniments have to stay fairly simple, otherwise they detract from the song. Other songs can support some pretty flashy instrumental work. I like to think of it as being like a frame around a painting. A simple molding is all you need around some paintings; an ornate, rococo frame would overwhelm it. But an ornate frame might look pretty good around some other painting. You have to use your own judgment.

Words and melody. Then the chords. At least that's the way I do it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 10:35 PM

I'd forgotton about slow airs, mainly as I've never got into them and can't play them but yes,I agree they are free rythm pieces - I think very different to the dance music.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 10:44 PM

I guess I'm of a diferent mind on this discussion. I don't believe you can be one or the other. I am neither tuneocentric or chordocentric. You almost have to be equally aware of both as you determine how to play a song.

At a certain level of experience you feel the chord that is needed based upon how the melody travels as you sing.

If you are playing melody only and are at a certain level of experience the same thing happens. Either you sing aloud the melody you are playing and then add chords to round out the performce.

Just as The Guest stated when talking about Ian Anderson's rendition of the J.S. Bach Bouree from Jethro Tull's "Benefit" album. Get the melody and fill in with the chord.

I don't think it matters if you are sing a melody and then finding the chords, or playing the melody and filling in the chords. I think we as musicians does this unconciously at some levels and are unaware to what extent we rely upon the equal balance of melody and chord to complete a piece of music.

Don


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 11:17 PM

I learned piano first and always thought of songs in terms of melody. After learning to play guitar (very little), I thought of songs as chord progressions. For me it's easier to write a melody (or harmony or descant) when singing along with a guitar and hearing the chord progressions than just trying to pick notes out of mid-air with no underlying structure.

Several months ago I was in a singing workshop led by a blind couple...let me see if I can explain what they said...

They were trying to convey (in layman's terms) how to sing harmony. It seemed to me that they were talking "chords"...but they emphasized that sometimes the first note of a song is not the root (bottom note in triad form) of the chord that harmonizes it on the guitar. (Also it's not always the first note of the tonic scale, they said doh, re, mi) Anyway, they would play the chords to a song, find the melody note (which may or may not be in the same position in the chords they played), then they would sing other notes from the chord in order to harmonize. I think that when someone is very familiar with hearing guitar chords they can find the harmonizing parts easier.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Sorcha
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 11:42 PM

Yes, Don but I forgot that ballads and songs are different from Dance Tunes, just as Jon says. And I guess Malcolm is right---if the rythym isn't right all the "tune" in the world won't make it sound right.

Some "dance tunes" do have words---but it is the slow aires and ballads that the words help me to remember the melody. Chords just don't have any meaning at all for me.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 01:36 AM

I'm pretty sure it was Tchaikovsky - although it may have been one of those other old guys - who was fond of saying:

"You can't play with feeling if you don't know the words."

I think, considering the kind of music played by those old 'uns, that he was referring to playing the melody with feeling.

With some experience in playing in a dance band, when people actually danced together instead of this "solo thrash and jerk" stuff that seems popular now, I would venture that good dance music has to "sound like" it's at a constant beat, but if you don't play it with tempo variations that fit the music, people fall down.

John


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 12:26 PM

When I'm learning a song I'll often speak it until the words come naturally and without thinking about them before I start singing. And that helps work out the narrative rhythms that are fitting.

And I do find myself picking up the guitar to try to help me shape the tune and get it into my head, if it's one I'm making up. But that's just laziness on my part, or maybe impatience. I know I shouldn't do that. It risks putting the tune into a corset, before it's grown into the shape it's supposed to be.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: sophocleese
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 12:41 PM

Don, that's how I learn songs mostly as well. I prefer to be able to sing the song without accompianment and then add it. The only time I change the order is when I need to learn it quickly. At that time I learn the simplest chords fast and then hang the melody from them. Often when I do things this way when I have time later I alter the chords here and there for effect and mood.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 02:07 PM

Basic rule is, if I can't sing a song without an accompaniment, I don't know that song well enough to sing it with an accompaniment.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 02:12 PM

And even if I do know a song well enoiugh to sing without an acccompaniment, that doesn't mean I know it well enough to sing with an accompaniment.Especially someone else's accompaniment.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: MMario
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 02:23 PM

amen.


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Kaleea
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 11:44 PM

A song is sung, a tune is not. Chords are a part of an accompianiment for either of the above. A melody outlines some of the chords in the accompaniment. Basic progressions . . . hmmm. Different genres of music have different kinds of chord progressions. Polka music has chords popping up in places where some of us think they do not belong. Traditional Irish music usually has much a simpler chord structure than Americans prefer, therefore Americans will often add chords which do not belong. If you want to learn "basic progressions" get a good old Mel Bay beginner guitar book & train your ear--this will be "basic" to popular American music ! Learn the concept of I IV V V7. Good luck


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Sorcha
Date: 17 Aug 01 - 11:51 PM

Another aside---for Irish tunes/songs, just throw in some kind of minor chord whenever you want to.........and it will work. (small grin)


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: toadfrog
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 12:21 AM

I don't know about all folk music, but in Western or European folk music tune governs and the chords are at best an afterthought. The older tradition in the United States involved only straight melody or a counterpoint between voice and one or more instruments, or at least I can't think of any exceptions off the top of my head. Chords, strictly speaking come in with guitars in the early 20th Century. In particular, the Carter family played the old songs in barbershop quartet style, which made chords much more important, but hardly as important as the tune.

On the other hand, blues is definitely based on simple chord progressions, and in jazz tunes are commonly improvized over a chord progression, so there you can say the chords govern. Maybe that is an African import; I don't know African music well enough to say


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Aug 01 - 09:45 PM

Good points, toadfrog.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tunes rule OK? Or chords?
From: Willie-O
Date: 19 Aug 01 - 11:07 AM

The melody is informed by the chords, and vice versa.

Don's point is well taken--you can't really have one without the other, in the styles of music we are discussing anyway.

But just because there are right chords and wrong chords to any given song, that doesn't mean there's only one "right" set of chords. The optional nature of the use of relative minors, or sevenths, for example. It also depends on what particular variant of the melody you are using, of course--and what the folks around you are playing!

Also, the chord scale figures heavily in my playing--you can squeeze in lots of chords and make something interesting, as long as they are passing chords (strummed once or twice, as part of a progression) and you know where you are going with them. If you end such a progression on the right chord at the right time, everything else sounds right in retrospect--if you fumble it and go to something else by mistake, you sound like a clown.

'Example: chording for the tune "The Banshee", playing in G, you can play the beginning of the B part like this: (version 1) Am 2 - 3 - 4 - Em. Sounds perfectly fine.

Or you can play (version 2) Am - Bm - C - D - Em. (one beat only on the first 4 chords)

which has considerably more je ne sais quoi...but a good arrangement would be to use the simpler first approach once or twice through and then switch to the second, the chord scale variant, to up the dynamic ante when the listener has been lulled into expecting the version 1 chords.

A song is a bit like a road rally--there are certain checkpoints at which you must arrive, at more or less the exact right time and place. In between the checkpoints there is considerable latitude, but you have to keep the checkpoints in mind.

W-O


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