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  1. #401

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    Week 3 Day 5(or 6). 55bpm. Modified ireal pro BBB. Dove straight in to eight notes. Immediately felt stuck and uninspired. Did 4 10 minute sessions and if anything it was getting worse. So I bumped the tempo up to 65 bpm. Boom, the stiltedness left and it started to flow again.

    I'm enjoying the process too even if the fits and starts nature of my progress can be a bit maddening at times...

    Not sure if I'm going to do a makeup day on D or move to Bb to prep for next week...

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  3. #402

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    I completed my three takes at 66 bpm tonight but was not at all disciplined—too easily distracted by the new shiny dominant subs I have started practicing, but have nowhere near under my fingers.

  4. #403
    Quote Originally Posted by guido5
    Week 3 Day 5(or 6). 55bpm. Modified ireal pro BBB. Dove straight in to eight notes. Immediately felt stuck and uninspired. Did 4 10 minute sessions and if anything it was getting worse. So I bumped the tempo up to 65 bpm. Boom, the stiltedness left and it started to flow again.

    I'm enjoying the process too even if the fits and starts nature of my progress can be a bit maddening at times...

    Not sure if I'm going to do a makeup day on D or move to Bb to prep for next week...
    Nice. There are two things going on, at least two things. Feeling it and knowing where to go (control). If you're not feeling it, you might try to find the tempo that gets you sense the beat and get swept up in it. If you're playing a great feel but you're not in control of where to go, or you're getting hit in the butt by those same old patterns, then slow it down and make a conscious effort to resist the known and easy. This is the balance. Find the tempo where you feel the flow, find the speed where you can observe and make decisions. Take it out of tempo and work out the devices you want to have in your music, get them in your hands and ears, THEN put them into your project time.
    Balance. Joy. Confidence. Solidity.

  5. #404
    Quote Originally Posted by wzpgsr
    I completed my three takes at 66 bpm tonight but was not at all disciplined—too easily distracted by the new shiny dominant subs I have started practicing, but have nowhere near under my fingers.
    Go for it. Yeah! Don't be bummed if the car skids once in a while or even if you wind up in a ditch. Amazing playing comes out of little things you love that get really good, get really comfortable and then get really boring...then you go on to the next. You build a toolbox of lots of little things you do well.
    It's like driving a car. First you learn how it works, the basic moves. Then you move ahead carefully and something takes over when things become second nature. Dominant subs! Great! This is the spice. These are the adjectives and adverbs that make stability breathe when you arrive.
    Once your normal dominants are under your fingers and in your ears, like driving, you can look further ahead and play your dominants effortlessly and arrive with precision cuz you're hearing it. Later on, you can choose among several different types of dominants and substitute approaches while controlling tension. I'll introduce options along way in later weeks. For now, be charmed. Love the sound. Make it effortless. Try different areas of the neck. Play the sound and not the notes.
    The more you love it, the less like practice it is.

  6. #405
    Howard Roberts Super Chops: study group for a tune based practice routine-screen-shot-2020-12-26-10-12-48-pm-pngHoward Roberts Super Chops: study group for a tune based practice routine-screen-shot-2020-12-26-10-13-25-pm-png
    This week we're looking at the root movements "kinda like" Baubles, like last week's lesson (Merry Christmas everyone) but our key areas are changed. Bb is our home key.
    Like last week, the root movements are progressively up by thirds, with II- chords starting each key areas and some transitional passages ending them. Get to know the flow. Like a building or house you know well, know how to get in, have some idea of what you'd like to do there, and know how you're going to exit; keep your eye/ear on the next key area and ride it through.

    Try this: Once you get into a key area (usually a two system affair in this piece), picture something that has a narrative story to it. I just saw the new Wonder Woman movie, there's a scene where she jumps of a crashing truck and flies an arc through the air and I guess she kills someone (eye roll) but anyway, that's subject matter that breaks you out of "where do I go next?" You can build a narrative arc with arpeggios, wide leaps, even a run that continues right through the bar lines, reaches a peak comes down and makes a dense statement by surrounding a target note, then you're in your exiting phrase.
    Exciting solos have all sorts of interesting figures that seem to have some intention and overreaching purpose to their design. And they do, they are there as conscious sounds that avoid cliche and predictability. This comes with practice and it comes from awareness.
    Think about it. Dip your foot in when you're ready.
    Have fun!

  7. #406

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    I’ve finished Week 1 at 60bpm. Oddly, the last couple of days were my worst sounding runs through the changes. Holiday season distraction no doubt had something to do with it, but I think the real culprit was the fact that I was starting to try to make interesting music while negotiating the changes, rather than just trying to ‘play the changes.’ The attempt to search for melodic ideas and interesting motifs and barely understood substitution concepts lead to some serious stumbles and quite a few just plain outright ‘bad’ notes. And to those who claim that there are no bad notes, you clearly haven’t heard me try to play beyond my capabilities. But of course, that is the point of this programme - to force one to stretch their capabilities.


    There have been some positives - I’ve been focussing a lot on right hand/left hand coordination to eliminate any flams and that seems to be going well enough. The changes themselves are easy enough to negotiate at the suggested tempos.


    Mostly though, this week has given me some insight into what I want to get out of this programme: primarily, I’m looking to seriously improve my technique and chops. I was also toying with the idea of trying to learn Benson picking while doing HRSC, but that seems like biting off more than I can chew. There’s that old saying that you dance with the one who brung ya - well, the picking technique I have and have had for the last 35+ years has brought me this far, so I think I’l stick with it; I really don’t need to be able to play 16th notes at 280 in order to be happy. I certainly want to be able to play faster and cleaner than I currently do, but at 53 years old, with a full-time career outside of music, I have to be realistic about my avocational goals.


    I’ve had this thought that after I’ve finished Week 20 that I’ll go back and start the whole programme again, but this time using arpeggios exclusively. I’ve always been bad at finding appropriate arpeggios on the fly - I can, of course, play most arpeggios at the drop of a hat if I start from the root note, but I’m looking to get to the point where I can link up and connect arpeggios on the fly using whatever chord-tone is closest, regardless of what string I’m on or where I am on the neck. This seems like a very challenging task, but it’s 19 weeks away, so I don’t have to worry about it too much right now. BTW - can anyone recommend any books or exercises for practicing linking and connecting arpeggios? This is a genuine request for help, so any and all advice will be greatly appreciated.


    Here’s a musical observation: in bars 11 and 12 (chords are C+11 and C13, respectively) HR recommends playing out of an F tonal center. Every time I tried doing that, however, it sounded weird and ‘off’ to my ears. Yesterday I made a mistake and accidentally played out of Db and it sounded much better to my ears. I kept doing it for the rest of the practice session and it seems to work. What’s going on with that?

  8. #407
    Quote Originally Posted by Socraticaster
    I’ve finished Week 1 at 60bpm. Oddly, the last couple of days were my worst sounding runs through the changes. Holiday season distraction no doubt had something to do with it, but I think the real culprit was the fact that I was starting to try to make interesting music while negotiating the changes, rather than just trying to ‘play the changes.’
    That's a good sign. It means that you've been playing long enough to develop a way of playing that works, but insulates you from the train wrecks of new things. Well you're on the train and it's going somewhere you haven't built tracks for. Embrace the train wreck! We're all in this together and with this degree of devotion and discipline, we're going to collectively bring each other to places unknown.
    Play the changes, it solidifies the ground you build on.
    Keep goals in mind, they'll keep you moving.
    Go for it and fail miserably, but keep a notebook of all this. You'll want to pat yourself on the back when it's so natural that you don't remember ever not being able to play that way!
    Remember, you have three 10 min segments to play every day. You can have distinct goals for each based on how good you feel previously. That's the interim rest time used wisely.
    It's a function of human nature: the only reason we stop improving is that we find reasons to give up. I believe that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Socraticaster
    Mostly though, this week has given me some insight into what I want to get out of this programme: primarily, I’m looking to seriously improve my technique and chops. I was also toying with the idea of trying to learn Benson picking while doing HRSC, but that seems like biting off more than I can chew.
    Go for it! But have realistic expectations, and we do repeat the program time each day for 6 days. You will be surprised at just how much unexpectedly happens when the wall comes down.

    Quote Originally Posted by Socraticaster
    I’ve had this thought that after I’ve finished Week 20 that I’ll go back and start the whole programme again, but this time using arpeggios exclusively. I’ve always been bad at finding appropriate arpeggios on the fly - I can, of course, play most arpeggios at the drop of a hat if I start from the root note, but I’m looking to get to the point where I can link up and connect arpeggios on the fly using whatever chord-tone is closest, regardless of what string I’m on or where I am on the neck.
    Ha ha, I've already been thinking about what I want to do when I'm where I want to be at week 20. Last time I launched into a year long study of standards, one a week.
    Second run is a great idea. But keep this in mind: The ability to smoothly negotiate arpeggios is only partly in your fingers. Much of it is in developing your ear. We're going to do a lot of that here in the next 18 weeks. You may surprise yourself with a newfound ability meet those goals in this run. It's very possible. I'll try to keep your goal in mind as I address some regular suggestions and exercises.

  9. #408

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    One other thing I've been doing while I go through the three different segments is to focus on playing in different neck locations for each run through. For session 1 I'll pick a 6 fret range and try as hard as I can not to deviate from it. For session 2, I'll pick a different 6 fret range and do the same thing. And the same for session 3.

    The other thing I do is try to stay within 3 string groupings for 8 or so bars before switching to a different set of consecutive strings. I haven't focussed too much on intentional string skipping yet, but that comes next.

  10. #409

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    Quote Originally Posted by Socraticaster
    Here’s a musical observation: in bars 11 and 12 (chords are C+11 and C13, respectively) HR recommends playing out of an F tonal center. Every time I tried doing that, however, it sounded weird and ‘off’ to my ears. Yesterday I made a mistake and accidentally played out of Db and it sounded much better to my ears. I kept doing it for the rest of the practice session and it seems to work. What’s going on with that?
    This is partly why I have been so focused on exploring options for the dominant function in recent days. I think HR intends for the diatonic key centers to be the most basic of guideposts—I suppose if you only played the triads for each harmonized key center's major scale, you could pull it off, but as soon as you start playing random diatonic extensions over those altered dominants it's gonna get weird. I say "random" because as I've been listening to the sounds of the V and its tritone, as well as the V of the relative minor and its tritone, I have started to notice that there are all sorts of notes that "shouldn't" work, yet these are common subs. You get sounds like blue notes resolving to chord tones, "oh look, a major seven over a dominant chord", etc. Lots of work / listening / practice to make it sound good and INTENTIONAL.

  11. #410
    Quote Originally Posted by Socraticaster
    I’ve finished Week 1 at 60bpm.
    I might suggest something at this point. The pieces in the projects are somewhat nicely planned to cover a broad spectrum of forms and devices. Each week I'll give what I think is enough overall commentary so we can jump in with somewhat of an even playing field.
    These pieces are not necessarily progressive, meaning you don't need last week's changes to do this week's project.
    Why don't you join us with Project 2A at whatever speed you can feel solid. Our conversations on changes, forms, devices, frustrations and revelations can then be shared. And don't worry about the song forms we've already covered, hint: we're coming back to them.
    I think our work in Bb would work nicely and you won't feel at all left behind.
    Think about it. You get the benefit of only the second song form we've worked on and the speed is still up to you. I think you'll benefit from sharing with us tackling the same project together.
    Just a thought-

  12. #411

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy blue note
    I might suggest something at this point... Why don't you join us with Project 2A at whatever speed you can feel solid. Our conversations on changes, forms, devices, frustrations and revelations can then be shared... Think about it. You get the benefit of only the second song form we've worked on and the speed is still up to you. I think you'll benefit from sharing with us tackling the same project together.
    Just a thought-
    I like that plan. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll start on 2A tomorrow and suss out what speed I'm comfortable at.

  13. #412

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    I started 2A this morning at 60 bpm. I probably could have played it a bit faster, but I just finished Week 1 at 60 bpm, so I thought it best not to make too large an increase in tempo and instead continue focussing on clear and clean notes and left/right hand coordination. I like the changes on this one more than Week 1, but we'll see how I feel by Saturday.

  14. #413
    Day 1. I'm working at about 80 and I'm also listening a lot to recordings by sax players Michael Brecker and Kenny Garrett.
    Working with playing at slow speeds is a huge challenge. But the more I find my footing at this speed, the more I hear, and the more I can feel the music of other performances, not just as really exciting solos, but as steady and distinct progressions of individual thoughts connected by a common thread. I can hear more as I can play more.
    I listen to a solo beginning with a single note, then expanded into a two note idea, and sometimes it stands alone, or is repeated, or is built upon. But each idea has a start, a distinctive character and an end. Even if two ideas (phrases) are joined without a break in rhythm, if I'm listening, they're clearly distinct.

    So I'm asking myself this week: What is this phrase I'm bringing into sound. Is is going to be short? Is it going to be long? What does it do to what I just played? How and where can an interesting phrase be played next?

    The key to playing fast is not to see each note followed by another note, but to build up facility to play entire phrases as a whole. Thinking phrases takes practice. But it's the way statements are made and stories are told and it's the way someone listening gets swept up in what you have to say.

    Something to think about.

  15. #414

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    Week 4 day 1. 60 bpm. Using the modified BBB ireal pro background. Had one of those strange and charmed practice sessions tonight. Long day feeling really mentally drained. But I picked up the guitar and that all just fell away. The ideas just flowed. When it seemed I'd backed myself into a corner, suddenly a solution just appeared under my fingers. We're not talking miracles here, I have the same set of limitations I have been working on. But it just felt like I could easily express quite a bit even with the limited tool set. I think I just made a real jump in connecting to the instrument in a way I had been struggling with for a long time.

    This having been said, tomorrow it might just as well evaporate. But tonight felt really good.

    Thank you JBN for your inspiration and encouragement!

  16. #415

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    Quote Originally Posted by guido5
    Week 4 day 1. 60 bpm. Using the modified BBB ireal pro background. Had one of those strange and charmed practice sessions tonight. Long day feeling really mentally drained. But I picked up the guitar and that all just fell away. The ideas just flowed. When it seemed I'd backed myself into a corner, suddenly a solution just appeared under my fingers. We're not talking miracles here, I have the same set of limitations I have been working on. But it just felt like I could easily express quite a bit even with the limited tool set. I think I just made a real jump in connecting to the instrument in a way I had been struggling with for a long time.

    This having been said, tomorrow it might just as well evaporate. But tonight felt really good.

    Thank you JBN for your inspiration and encouragement!
    Excellent! Inspirational post. Thank you!

  17. #416

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    Week 4. Day 1 of BBB in Bb at 65 bpm. I'm not working as much this week which allowed for more guitar time today. I tackled the 3 sets of 10 minutes three times today and this evening. Felt good to familiarize myself with this new key. The same slightly idiosyncratic sticking points from the prior week continue to need attention, although this time in a different key. I'll often take a stab at the changes for the first 10 minutes, then take a few moments to strategize different ways to negotiate the #11 chords, descending minor 7ths, etc. As I've often said, I continue to enjoy the process. I feel like I'm making thoughtful musical statements, which inspires me to spend more time on the Super Chops course. And I do believe the work we're putting in here is beginning to seep into my playing outside the course. I'm more mindful when playing over changes on other tunes. Thank you, JBN for all your great insights and especially your positive, encouraging motivation! I know we all appreciate it.

  18. #417
    Quote Originally Posted by D'Aquisto Fan
    The same slightly idiosyncratic sticking points from the prior week continue to need attention, although this time in a different key.
    When I'd worked with a sax player as a duo, sometimes we'd discuss certain passages in a tune that wouldn't feel convincing. Like you observed, they eluded the ear; prevented playing a decisive integrated solo. Well I'd take a passage, maybe like the surrounding changes with a turnaround connecting that loop and play it as a loop. We'd work on that for sometimes 10 or 20 minutes until there was total facility, and something emerged by paring away the notes that didn't do anything for the phrase. It's like sculpting an elegant line or finding where the true shape is, and removing all excess material.
    Easy enough to do with a phone recorder these days. Lay down the Dmin (or Bb), Gmin, Fmin, Emin (and you can put in an A7 to make a loop) and treat that Dmin as a III chord.
    Live with this and play it until you can twist it, shape it, really get around on it and when you can hear it, you'll play it.
    Let us know if it works.

  19. #418
    Quote Originally Posted by Socraticaster
    I’ve always been bad at finding appropriate arpeggios on the fly - I can, of course, play most arpeggios at the drop of a hat if I start from the root note, but I’m looking to get to the point where I can link up and connect arpeggios on the fly using whatever chord-tone is closest, regardless of what string I’m on or where I am on the neck.
    Let's make this an ongoing project here. Arpeggios are a craft in themselves. They describe the shape of the key, and the flavour of the chord in a small concise space. They move you through range and key character with a small amount of notage. This is something that's done with many wide leap intervals, not just the thirds that make up arpeggios, but they're the most common.
    Let me start by asking you: How good is your ear at identifying intervals? Good solid ear training is the basis of interesting and fearless line construction.
    I'd be happy to talk about why and how, but I'll start with "How well can you identify intervals wider than a 3rd?". To effortlessly negotiate arpeggio playing, you have to be able to hear a sweep in all its parts and range right from the moment you start your line. No room for surprises.
    Many ways to accomplish this but that's at the heart of a lot of obstacles. Inability to hear tonality in wider intervals, no less play them.

    Hey let me remind you guys that in the Howard Roberts book (you can find the link in one of the posts) HR always includes a written out example of how HE might negotiate these changes. Well worth checking out. He's written nice combinations of applied devices and melodic tools for you to look at for inspiration, so any time you're feeling stuck, look to the book. Howard himself might have a helping hand. Great tools for analysis too!
    Here's a tiny slice of last week's "example"
    Howard Roberts Super Chops: study group for a tune based practice routine-screen-shot-2020-12-29-3-35-38-am-png
    Look up the PDF of the book. It's actually filled with useful information that will make you a better soloist.

  20. #419

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    Week 4 day 2. 60BPM. Used the modified BB&B in ireal pro as backing. Another long busy day. No blinding revelations. But the ease remained. It was pleasant to chop the wood and carry the water.

  21. #420

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    Struggling with these changes in Bb. Rather than making it "easier", the re-appearance of D and Gb major key centers is throwing me for a loop and I keep getting lost in the form. Something sounded horrendous in my comping last night and I discovered I had played DM7 Gm7 Dm7 Db7 instead of BbM7 Gm7 Dm7 Db7. Ick. Also starting to notice that I am doing the same stuff over and over again, and I soon as I try to expand, I am no longer in the "mistake free" zone that HR wants us to be practicing in. I think I am going to dial back the tempo from today's 66 bpm and hopefully get a better handle on these changes before end of week.

  22. #421

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    Captain's Log. Week 4. Day 2 of BBB at 70 bpm. For some reason today was a low energy day all around. I did the exercises earlier in the day without much inspiration or spark. I just finished them a second time this evening. It went better tonight. Perhaps my busy mind calmed down. I felt more in the pocket and inspired. I took your advice JBN and looped one particular passage: The C passage: Abm7-Db13-Bbm7 leading into the sometimes pesky Ebm7-Dbm7-Cm11-B7#11-Bbmaj9. I find the less I do over the Ebm7-Dbm7 the better. Sure I can outline the chords, treat them as the ii, etc., but I'm always trying to make musical statements when tackling these exercises. Oh, one other other thing. Sometimes I can't help myself and I stop the steady 8th notes for some syncopation or rest a beat to make a statement. I try to avoid this since much of the purpose of what we're doing is playing steady 8ths. Just felt the need to confess. I'm certain I've done this on the recordings I've posted here.

  23. #422

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    Quote Originally Posted by wzpgsr
    Struggling with these changes in Bb. Rather than making it "easier", the re-appearance of D and Gb major key centers is throwing me for a loop and I keep getting lost in the form. Something sounded horrendous in my comping last night and I discovered I had played DM7 Gm7 Dm7 Db7 instead of BbM7 Gm7 Dm7 Db7. Ick. Also starting to notice that I am doing the same stuff over and over again, and I soon as I try to expand, I am no longer in the "mistake free" zone that HR wants us to be practicing in. I think I am going to dial back the tempo from today's 66 bpm and hopefully get a better handle on these changes before end of week.
    I hear you about being repetitive. It's hard not to play similar ideas when we've been playing these changes multiple times a day for a couple weeks. I try to make intervalic leaps, think of chord extensions, etc. to avoid repetition, but sometimes that feels forced and not musical. In those moments I'm torn. As I said in this evening's post, it seems like a good idea to always be trying to say something musical.

  24. #423
    Quote Originally Posted by D'Aquisto Fan
    I hear you about being repetitive. It's hard not to play similar ideas when we've been playing these changes multiple times a day for a couple weeks.... it seems like a good idea to always be trying to say something musical.
    Just curious. What's your warmup routine? The purpose of a warmup routine is mental as well as physical. I do chromatics alternating notes on adjacent strings, scales in thirds, in fourths, in fifths...(wider jumps are TOUGH but if you do them daily and your fingers get to the point where you say 'meh' over them, you tend to use them more convincingly). I also tailor a portion of my warmup to address something I'm going to work on that day, approach tone, change in direction, groups of three notes over 4...etc.
    It gets my fingers flowing and it's meditative. You might try this.
    But yeah, some days you just have Blah days. Everyone operates in cycles. You have your good days and your bad ones. Play through it and you've joined the club of those on the road to success. Every single day, you're moving forward.

  25. #424

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    I carved out some time tonight to loop over the A section to try and solidify a bit of what I have been working for re: the dominant subs and those pesky chromatic transitions and turnarounds. I basically just played—sometimes straight 8ths, sometimes freely—with a real drum track behind the chords, etc. Felt really good, and I feel a lot more solid about how to handle the Dm - Dbm turnaround. In a nutshell, instead of thinking static Dbm, I treated the Dbm as the ii of Cb and played the Barry Harris-inspired dominant stuff I have been working on. Low and behold, it sounds rather good resolving Gb7 to Cm. One thing that was hanging me up on this a section I discovered is that I was playing F13 F#11, but something just sounded off there—too big of a leap from the 13 to the #11. I double-checked the chart and HR actually wrote +5, not -5, and the voice leading of +5 is much nicer to work with. I re-recorded with the +5 and just played over it, listening for connections when using Ab7, D7, and B7 dominant stuff over the F13. Work in progress, but getting there! Great ear training—even at 66 bpm I think you're much better off "pre-hearing" the resolutions rather than trying to memorize which intervals of which sub resolve best.

    Here's a snippet of what I am talking about:


  26. #425

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    My warmup routine typically is playing sixteenth notes on one string with a metronome only hitting on beat 2 and set at 25 bpm. I do 4 beats for a while, then 5 beats, then 6 beats. At 7 beats I start to fall apart. Then I'll do sixteenth notes to the Bebop dominant scale with the metronome only hitting beat 2 through the circle of 4ths. When the metronome gets into the mid 40s I have difficulty keeping up. As you can tell, right hand chops and speed are not my forte. That's one reason I'm doing the Super Chops course. Although reading about your warmup routine, JBN, I realize I would benefit from adding more intervalic jumps like thirds, fourths, etc.