Mixed, compatible tunings.

Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
8 years ago
243 posts

Robin, you are correct that the modal songs are almost all in G or A. Except when dulcimer players get together sans fiddle and banjo players. I have known a number of dulcimer players to play Old Joe Clark, Shady Grove, Cluck Old Hen and other tunes in D. Fiddler and banjo players cringe at this, as some of these songs are uncomfortable in the wrong key. I used Old Joe as an example simply because I have seen it played in D in a number of dulcimer jams.

Skip, your 646 chord is a C major, but the melody note for Old Joe at this point requires a C on the melody string. 646 in DAA gives you CGG, with a G on the melody note. You can play a chord backup to someone else playing the melody, but you can't get your melody unless you play the whole melody on the bass string. If you practice this, it can be done. It's an incomplete chord, missing the 3rd, E, but with only 3 notes available, we use partial chords a lot. If we intend to use one of our strings for melody, the 2 that are left end up playing partial chords pretty often. Any time the melody uses a note that isn't part of the chord we have a partial chord playing with that note.

Paul

folkfan
@folkfan
8 years ago
363 posts

The root is the first note of the scale and is usually tuned on the bass as in DAA, DAd, CGG or CGc, GDD or GDg. These tunings would be shown numerically as 1-5-5 for DAA, CGG or 1-5-8 for DAd or CGc. The middle string is then tuned to the 5th note of the scale.

However, people do use other tunings to play in certain keys as they are easier to tune with the string gauges that are on their dulcimers. Since I normally tune to the key of C Ionian or CGG/ 1-5-5, it is easier for me to tune my C bass string up one note to a D if I want to play in the key of G, instead of having to change string gauges to get GDD. I leave the middle and melody alone so I still have G drone and a D drone, but my beginning scale note is now on the open melody string. I can play 1-5-8 tab by playing the lower notes on the bass string rather than the middle. Some people play A by doing the same thing but by going from DAA to EAA.

If someone is in DAd then going down on the middle string one note to G gives them G in what is known as reverse Ionian or DGd. You'll see this tuning frequently in tab as it's becoming more popular.

Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

Thanks everyone! I reallyappreciate all of the input.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
8 years ago
1,739 posts

Modal Tuning, may be my phrase.

Historically the word Mode goes back to the Greeks and the Monochord (one string) instrument. A Mode is a scale on a single string - the Melody string. The dulcimer has two drones which accompany the Melody. Those drones are almost always in a 1-5 relationship. A Modal Tuning would be the combination of drones and melody string notes for playing in a particular Mode - DAA or CGG or GDD are all Ionian Modal tunings where the scale (in D, C or G) starts on the 3rd fret and walks up to the 10th. DAd, CGc, GDg are Mixolydian Modal tunings where the scale starts on the Open note and goes to fret 7. Thus I can write "All Ionian Modal tunings share common tabulature."

Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

Thanks Robin;

Adefinitionthat is in non-music terms clears up a lot for me. I can work out the best way for me to backup/harmonize.

'the root and/or 5th of the scale being played' is the key of the tune, or open bass string, or????

Robin Clark
Robin Clark
@robin-clark
8 years ago
253 posts

In 'dulcimer speak' we usually refer to modes just as a scale on the melody string supported by appropriate drones (drones being the root and/or 5th of the scale being played). This is not the musically correct way to define modes but it is a very useful nomelculture for noter/drone dulcimer players. This is because we have to retune not just to the key of a tune but to the modal scale within that key - and very few other instruments have to do this.

So, basically, if I/we want to backup/harmonize, or even play straight melody, using a different tuning, I/we would probably have a greater chance for success by xxx/chording, rather than xxx/droning, and rhythm.

Actually - No. It is very easy to get into the correct key and mode for most folk music playing noter drone - and play effective back-up and harmony. Chord melody can work out more complex.

Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

Could you define a 'mode tuning' for me? It looks to me, after really studying Pauls post, with dulcimer in hand, that a 'mode tuning' is having all of a modes notes available on the melody string, rather than having them available on any string. [I tuned my MD to DAA and found a C major at 6-4-6.]And, probably something about the other strings not clashing? If this is the case, it makes many of the things I've read more understandable since I look at all of the notes available, not just the ones on the melody string.

Just a note; I've spent days n days, and a lot of paper, working on the relationship of keys, modes, and fretboard, which I don't have a problem with now. It's the mode tuning , not modes on one string, that gives me heartburn.Frown.gif

So, basically, if I/we want to backup/harmonize, or even play straight melody, using a different tuning, I/we would probably have a greater chance for success by xxx/chording, rather than xxx/droning, andrhythm.

Robin Clark
Robin Clark
@robin-clark
8 years ago
253 posts

Blimey!!!!! I'm with Robin T here. I tune my dulcimer to what sounds right when playing with other folks and then work out what my tuning/mode actually is after I've finished playing 7.gif So my music 'theory' tends to be reverse engineered based on what's actually happened 106.gif

There's no problem with different instruments being in different tunings - as long as the sound all fits together.

Incidently - I've never come across a traditional Appalachiantune in the key of D mixolidian? All the mixolidian ones tend to be in the key of A. Easy for D,A,A players as we just tune to E,A,A. But I've never seen the D,A,dTAB for "Old Joe Clark" in the right key. However, not knowing any better, "Old Joe Clark" was one of the first tunes I learn't on mountain dulcimer, tuned D,A,d and played chord melody style in the key of A because that's the key everyone I knew was using(banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar etc). I just worked it out by ear from 1,0,1 as a starting point.

And I think that this is the major point about mixed compatible tunings. Don't think just in terms of playing with other dulcimers, think in terms of playing with other instruments (dulcimers included) and you'll find it is not rocket science to pretty much switch to any key or mode desired - particularly when working with the traditional Appalachian repertoire.

Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
8 years ago
243 posts

More rarely used, but all in keeping with the above, are the aeolian and dorian modes. These are two minor keys(the 3rd, Mi, is flatted.) The only difference between aeolian and dorian is, again as in ionian/mixolydian, the 6th is flatted in dorian and natural in aeolian. So similar changes occur, slightly complicated by the flat 3. With new notes in the scale, new chords are possible, and some we had before are unavailable. That's why we use modal tunings to play songs in different modes. Playing with drones we simplify this by not needing to look for chords to harmonize the melody. But our DAA or DAD chord players will clash with our DAG or DAC drone players. This is why Tabs always tell us what tuning we need with the tab. Standard sheet music is written with the idea that we have chromatic instruments. Modes are not noted anywhere in SMN. The chords, if they are written above the music, are the best indicator of the mode we need to play the song. We then need to know what chords are possible in a given mode.

Paul

Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
8 years ago
243 posts

Here's the problem: When you tune to 158, the ti flat note is at the 6th fret. But when you change that tuning to 155, the 6th note of the scale is now at the 1+ position. If you don't have the 1+ fret, you can't play mixolydian songs in the ionian tuning. You will find some mixolydian tunings that only use 5 notes of the scale, but one of those 5 notes will always be the 6th note of the scale. I challenge anyone to find an exception to this. Further, mixolydian songs, when harmonized with chords, use a curious chord built from the seventh note of the scale. In the key of D mixolydian, this odd chord is C major. Modern music theory tells us the key of D contains no C major chord. The ionian scale of D has a C#, so there is no C major there. The ionian chord in this case is C# diminished. It contains C#, E, and G. Modern music theory calls this a DISCHORD, rather than a chord. When the DAA player plays this dischord against the DAD players C major chord, the true meaning of cacophany really shows through. Put this into a true mixolydian song, such as Old Joe Clark. In DAD, we have a true C major chord to play at this point in the song, and it harmonizes perfectly. DAA players need the C natural at the 1+ or 8+ fret to make this C chord. Lacking that, most use A major, or A7. But either of these contains the offending C# note. If either of these is played against the DAD players C major, the C and C# clash. The strongest dissonance in music is to be 1/2 step away from correct. In other words, the C# is more dissonant than D would be in the same situation. And in DAA or DAD, one of the drones is D. That's why the drone doesn't clash with the C major chord. Adding a D to the C chord makes it a C suspended 2. A little jazzy, but not dissonant. The other drone is A. A added to the C suspended 2 gives us C6 susp. 2. Again, jazzy, but not truly dissonant. It doesn't clash. This is why I said yesterday that when playing chords it could cause problems. The drones are D and A in either tuning. No clash at all.

The chords follow the scale, and each mode is it's own scale. Only one note is changed as we go from Ionian to Mixolydian, the C# of the Ionian becomes the C natural of the Mix mode. But the common A chord from the D ionian scale is no longer available. We now have three chords we didn't have in the ionian mode: C major, instead of C# dim Am instead of A major, and F# b5 instead of F#minor. The chord harmonies of this mode use the chords available with this mix scale, though I can't recall seeing the F# b5 used in folk music. A lot of mix mode songs in the key of D use only 2 chords, invariably it is the D and C chords. More often, mix songs will use 3 chords, the D, G, and C chords. The Am is somewhat more rare. A 2 chord Ionian mode song in the key of D will use D and A or A7. 3 chord songs will use D, G, and A/A7. (I am speaking predominantly of folk music, Jazz based songs are the rattle snakes of music; they go where they want and no one tries to stop them!Grin.gif )

Paul

folkfan
@folkfan
8 years ago
363 posts

Yep, My idea is to avoid having to learn different fingering patterns for the same song in different keys but just one tuning. I have enough trouble learning a single melody line for a song as is. 9.gif But with retuning I can use what I do know but in different keys. So different strokes for different folks. All's good. 3.gif

And by staying in an Ionian tuning for songs that are in the major scale, I avoid having to skip over to the middle line for the lower notes. I do so hate trying to finger dance on the middle string. No problems using the bass line for really low notes, but I flub up on the middle constantly. Go figure?



Skip said:

Many keys, many tunings, one tab; Many keys, many tabs, one tuning.Different approaches for different goals.Smile.gif

I really don't like to retune, lazy I suppose. I have enough dulcimers to tune each to a different 1-5-8 but I only take one or two south with me.

I'm also getting to appreciate more and more the basic bass players approach,rhythmand one note chord backups.Grin.gif They do fancy stuff also but I don't know that I'll ever go there.

Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

Many keys, many tunings, one tab; Many keys, many tabs, one tuning.Different approaches for different goals.Smile.gif

I really don't like to retune, lazy I suppose. I have enough dulcimers to tune each to a different 1-5-8 but I only take one or two south with me.

I'm also getting to appreciate more and more the basic bass players approach,rhythmand one note chord backups.Grin.gif They do fancy stuff also but I don't know that I'll ever go there.

folkfan
@folkfan
8 years ago
363 posts

Skip, What I'd do (and just did) was look up Wildwood Flower at Digital Traditions as I don't have it tabbed out, or didn't have it tabbed out.

http://sniff.numachi.com/lookup.cgi?ds1=G&ds2=G&ds3=C&t...

Now with this tab, I can learn to play just one version of Wildwood Flower and yet play it in any key I can tune to. I normally play CGG, so DAA is just as easy as is AEE or GDD on my baritone. Ccc would also be possible on the dulcimer that I've got strung for Bagpipe tunings. One tab with many keys.

Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

I kind of do the same thing since I don't really read music as much as translate it to tab. I can find numbers faster than notes though not at playing speed.

I tabbed Wildflower to 4 different keys for the DAdd tuning one time and it worked out ok. It's played on different areas on the fretboard.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
8 years ago
1,739 posts

Skip - Modes are scales, plain and simple.

The one we all know - do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti and do again - is the Ionian Mode scale

The Mixolydian Mode scale is - do, re. mi, fa, sol, la, ti-flat, and do again.

  • If your dulcimer has the 6+ fret you have both the ti and the ti-flat note whether tuned in DAd or DAA
  • If you dulcimer does not have the 6+ fret and you're in DAA you only have the ti note.
  • If your dulcimer does not have a 6+ fret and you're in DAd you only have the ti-flat note.
folkfan
@folkfan
8 years ago
363 posts

Skip, I'm in total agreement with "the everyone would sound alike part" being a boring idea too. I understand the question you were posing now. If someone wants to use a melody that they know in a DAA format but they are tuned to DAd, it just isn't going to work. The player would have to do a subtract 3 so that the tabbed numbers would fall on the correct fret. A DAA 9th fret comes up as a 6+ fretting in DAd using subtract 3. No matter how you tune, you have to know where the scale starts.

I do my own tabbing since most of the music I play isn't a regular part of the dulcimer repertoire and I use just a fret number to indicate what note to play. I'll use SMN to get my fret numbering then I discard the SMN and use the tab. Since I know what mode I'm suppose to be playing in, I can choose the key I want to play and still use the same tab. The tab acts as an instant transposing tool as I tend to play music in lower keys than say the SMN has indicated.

Jim Fawcett
Jim Fawcett
@jim-fawcett
8 years ago
98 posts

Skip,

When Rob Lackey and Kevin Messenger, and I met and jammed for a few hours at Cooper's Rock in good old WV. I played in DAA (noter & drone) and Rob did finger dancing on the other dulcimer(DAD) and Kevin on the Dulci Banjo tuned DAD also. It sounded great, and no one complained about my drones... in fact Rob did a medley playing noter and drone. When we were jammin, it really bother me that they were in anothercompatibletuning. It blended together nicely.




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Site Moderator
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 years ago
1,036 posts

I heartily agree, Skip-- it's great to hear variety in the play of a tune! When I'm playing fiddle tunes with friends, I like to play through the tune several times, varying something here or there. Fortunately, I have musician friends who also like to play through fiddle tunes several times and they vary their play also.

Skip said:

Robin;

Watched your video's, we liked them. That is generally where I am aiming to go.

Folkfan; I agree with that. [Except for the modes part, which really doesn't mean as much to me as note availability. I leave that up to the writers/TAB producers and assume they know what they're doing.] The 'everyone would sound alike' is the part which bothers me, it's so sterile sounding [and ultimately boring] to hear everyone playing exactly the same thing. It's part of the reason for the original post.




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 years ago
1,036 posts

Oh, got ya, Skip! It was my fault for not understanding-- I'm an idiot about music! Grin.gif

Skip said:

Robin;

The question is based on Paul Certo's post about a player playing a DAA tabbed tune in DAdd. That player was 3 frets off of the SMN notes. In other words, when the tab indicated a DAA 3 {d} on the melody, the player was playing a DAdd 3 {g, s/b 0 [d]}. That's why it seems to me you should pay attention to the notes even if using TAB [Tab positions the fingers to the fretboard, not the notes].




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

Robin;

Watched your video's, we liked them. That is generally where I am aiming to go.

Folkfan; I agree with that. [Except for the modes part, which really doesn't mean as much to me as note availability. I leave that up to the writers/TAB producers and assume they know what they're doing.] The 'everyone would sound alike' is the part which bothers me, it's so sterile sounding [and ultimately boring] to hear everyone playing exactly the same thing. It's part of the reason for the original post.

folkfan
@folkfan
8 years ago
363 posts

Skip, A simple fact is that you can't play a true mixolydian mode tune which uses the flatted 7th note in DAA which gives you the scale notes needed for Ionian mode tunes. DAd is the tuning needed for mixolydian mode tunes as the 6th fret will have the flatted note of the mixolydian scale.

Most people now who are using a DAd tuning aren't really playing mixolydian tunes which are actually fairly rare compared to Ionian mode tunes. With the addition of the 6+ fret a player can get the Ionian scale to start at the open position tuned DAd. Traditionally the Ionian scale started at the 3rd fret on a completely diatonic (no extra frets) instrument.

So my brother will play "Brother John" in DAd as 0120, 0120, 234,234, etc. while I play the same song in DAA as 3453,3453,567,567. The notes are exactly the same, DEF#D, DEF#D, F#GA, F#GA tuned DAd or DAA.

And it doesn't matter if you play noter/drone or chord the melody notes remain the same. The only thing that changes is where you find them on the fret board. So chord finger patterns change but a D chord is a D chord. There isn't even a change in the drones as the DA drones in DAd or DAA remain at the same tuning.

Some people though when playing chords or finger picking can find the drones irritating. I was actually told to my face by someone that she didn't like the drones. She was the type that wanted the group to only play chord/melody so that everyone would sound alike.

Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

Robin;

The question is based on Paul Certo's post about a player playing a DAA tabbed tune in DAdd. That player was 3 frets off of the SMN notes. In other words, when the tab indicated a DAA 3 {d} on the melody, the player was playing a DAdd 3 {g, s/b 0 [d]}. That's why it seems to me you should pay attention to the notes even if using TAB [Tab positions the fingers to the fretboard, not the notes].

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 years ago
1,036 posts

PS-Skip, I point you to a couple videos my husband and I did and they can be found on My Page here at FOTMD. You're under no obligation to watch.Smile.gif If you'd like to see someone playing simple harmonies/back-up, look for "I'm Troubled" and "Down the Road". I apologize for the examples being my own play yet that's all I know, really.




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 years ago
1,036 posts

Skip,

I don't have a good grasp of modes; my ear is my guide. I only play noter/drone and, occasionally, get to jam with dulcimer friends who are chord/melody players and we blend fine.

I'm not sure I understand your last paragraph. (. . . can't you play a mixo tune in DAA [tuned DAdd] as long as you play the notes, not the fret numbers [TAB], and all of the notes are available? Am I forgetting the effect of the drones? )

I'll take a stab, though. As long as you have the notes available, I don't see why not. Give it a try and let your ear be your guide, bearing in mind the drone effect . Modern ears aren't used to the drone effect . Smile.gif

Skip said:

Won't some of this depend on the style of the player, xxx/chord vs xxx/drone? Most of the folks I play with chord or fingerpick the melody, a few fingerdance. A couple of them can do harmonies, in DAdd.

I don't think many of them, maybe a couple, even know what a mode is. I know, technically, what they are, but don't really understand them. Probably because I play the separate notes as shown in SMN [or TAB].

I suppose the only way I can find out for sure, with my group, is to try it.

I'm probably wrong, but can't you play a mixo tune in DAA [tuned DAdd] as long as you play the notes, not the fret numbers [TAB], and all of the notes are available? Am I forgetting the effect of the drones?




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

Won't some of this depend on the style of the player, xxx/chord vs xxx/drone? Most of the folks I play with chord or fingerpick the melody, a few fingerdance. A couple of them can do harmonies, in DAdd.

I don't think many of them, maybe a couple, even know what a mode is. I know, technically, what they are, but don't really understand them. Probably because I play the separate notes as shown in SMN [or TAB].

I suppose the only way I can find out for sure, with my group, is to try it.

I'm probably wrong, but can't you play a mixo tune in DAA [tuned DAdd] as long as you play the notes, not the fret numbers [TAB], and all of the notes are available? Am I forgetting the effect of the drones?

Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
8 years ago
243 posts

It can work, but it can have pitfalls for players who don't understand modes. I have seen players use DAD tuning while playing from DAA tabs. This doesn't work at all. The melody is in G, while the drones or chords are in D. The harmony clashes even when no other instruments are present. Add a chord playing guitarist, mandolin,etc, and it really sounds terrible. This is partly due to the mistaken idea that a few extra frets will make the dulcimer do anything without ever using a different tuning. It will do a lot, if the correct arrangement is used, and the correct extra frets are installed to make the notes available. But a 6+ fret won't make DAA play a mixolydian melody in D.

Paul

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 years ago
1,036 posts

I think I meant something like that, Skip. I'm a by-ear player so anytime I go talking about what I'm doing things get dicey.Smile.gif

Skip said:

Robin;

I've been learning how bass players do their thing, so what you posted makes perfect sense to me. I'm assuming when you said 't he note that matches the key of the tune', you meant the root note of the key or indicated chord; D, G, or A in the key of D for example.




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

Robin;

I've been learning how bass players do their thing, so what you posted makes perfect sense to me. I'm assuming when you said 'the note that matches the key of the tune', you meant the root note of the key or indicated chord; D, G, or A in the key of D for example.

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 years ago
1,036 posts

Skip, if what I wrote makes no sense, feel free to ask me questions. I'm not good at explaining things.




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

Thanks y'all.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
8 years ago
1,739 posts

All D tunings work together

DAA, DAd, Ddd, ddd, DAC, DAG just to name the most common. Try Ddd - you won't have to change any strings and you get the Galax sound with an extra deep bass note.

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 years ago
1,036 posts

I've jammed with mountain dulcimer friends who use DAd as their home base tuning. (My home base tuning is DAA.) To me, the different voicings sound better than if everyone's tuned the same. Out of DAA, I'll re-tune to DGG, EAA; the keys of D, G, and A cover a lot of fiddle tunes. A Ddd or ddd tuning is really handy for covering 2 keys without re-tuning.

I love playing harmonies! When playing harmonies, remember that if a note doesn't sound right to your ear, you're only a fret away from a good-sounding note most of the time. To begin to learn to play harmonies, just play solid rhythm on the note that matches the key of the tune. More importantly, whether playing melody or harmony, it's the rhythm that holds things together-- it's not the notes. To practice good rhythms, put on any pre-recorded music you like, mute your dulcimer's strings, and strum with the music. Vary rhythms, skip beats, let your hand do whatever feels right-- it's more felt than thought. Kinda like playing air guitar. It's fun!




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Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

I should install a set of ddd and try that with some friends [if I can remember to do it]. Are there other tunings that may work with DAdd, other than DAA? My friends seem to enjoy the challenges and are willing to try new things even though they usually stick with a pretty standard set of tunes, with a some new tunes, every season.

I also need to figure out how to do harmonies. Any suggestions for someone not a 'good player', or to pass on to others?

Ken, did you finger pick in DAG?

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
8 years ago
1,739 posts

Using different tunings works just fine as long as everyone is in the same key.

I've done such wacky things to prove this to some groups as playing in DAG when everyone else was in DAd. In such 'stuck' groups dedicated to one tuning, I almost invariably play in DAA, as it's my 'go to' tuning. A great many stuck DAd players don't even know that the majority of songs they are playing are not in Mixolydian Mode and don't need to be played in DAd. As Rob said, a good player in a different tuning can create harmonies and other parts around a bunch of folks playing with a one track mind.

Rob N Lackey
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
8 years ago
445 posts

Skip, I went to the spring gathering of the Mountaineer Dulcimer Club here in north central West Virginia this year. These folks all play in DAA, almost exclusively. I re-tuned for the teaching part, but for the jamming I tuned back up to DAd. I found I could play harmonies quite easily with them. They had never had anyone do that before nor heard anything like it, but they seemed to enjoy it and invited me back any time!

Rob

Skip
Skip
@skip
8 years ago
251 posts

Have you participated in a MD group that the players were using different, compatible tunings, for example DAdd, DAA, and ddd [everyone playing each tune, the different tunings being usedsimultaneously]? I was just curious since it happens all the time with groups using mixed instruments, guitars, dulcimers, fiddles, double bass, etc. If so, how do you think it worked out?


updated by @skip: 06/11/15 07:31:29AM