Tag Archives: how to play jazz guitar

Autumn Leaves – How To Use Drop 2 For An Easy Chord Melody

One of the things that I learned the most from when it comes to harmony and comping was harmonizing melodies, so making chord melody arrangements. When I was starting out I harmonized everything I could and that taught me so much about how to comp with more melody and play chords under a theme.

Often when people play chord melody arrangements then they are made to be solo guitar arrangements with bass notes under all chords (b-roll chord melody arrangement) but that is not the only way you want to harmonize a song.

In this lesson, I am going to show you an arrangement of Autumn Leaves that uses drop2 voicings and you can use this as a solo arrangement but it also works great if you are playing in a band. I am also going to add some extra tricks to give you a way to add some color to your own songs.

Chord Melody Arrangement

You probably already know that I made another chord melody arrangement of this song using the lower octave for the melody and shell-voicings. You can mix these two as well to change things up, I will link to that video in the description.

The arrangement is pretty basic, but I will show you some other things you can add in along the way as well in terms of great chords for ending a song and reharmonizing a minor II V.

You can scroll down to the end of the article to download a PDF of the entire arrangement or check it out on Patreon in this post:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/autumn-leaves-to-38986576

When To Add Chords

When you harmonize the melody then the easiest way to do so is to try to put chords under long notes that are on the heavy beat.

That is what I am doing in the first 8 bars here, the chord is on the Cm7, Bbmaj7

Notice that I play the melody on the top 3 strings because that is where you will have an easier time putting a chord under it.

Having a good overview of the fretboard and being able to move around the melody so that it is easier to add chords under it is essential for making these arrangements, but making arrangements is also a great way to really get a solid overview of the neck.

On the F7 and Ebmaj7 then there is no melody so I add those on the 4& to have a little rhythm and that also makes it easier to play the pickup

Learn the Melody and be practical

I am not really talking about the Drop2 voicings, but if you want to explore that topic more since that is something that is very useful and a very powerful tool then I will link to a playlist in the video description.

Autumn Leaves is a melody with a very strong motivic structure, in fact, it is the same motif moved through the changes. This actually makes it easier to harmonize because you can just use the logic of the melody and let that help you decide when to add chords and also which notes to harmonize. Autumn Leaves is a pretty clean example of this, but it is pretty common.

That is also how I am harmonizing the Aø D7 Gm6. Just using the same principles as in the previous section. Since the chords are not moving on the Gm then I am playing with changing between the Maj7 and the 6th

2nd A and some more chord movement

The 2nd A is really just the same as the 1st in terms of melody and you can, of course, play it the same twice, but often it is good to try to change it a bit and use that the audience already knows what is supposed to happen to surprise them a little.

In this case, I am using some secondary dominants and tritone subs for that.

The melody has a long note every other bar and you can fill that up with an extra chord that pulls towards the next one.

Here I am adding Gb7 before F7, E7 before Ebmaj7 and Eb7 before D7, so I am using a tritone substitution as an extra color in the arrangement.

As you will see, I am using some of these concepts in the B-part too, but also a few other nice ways to introduce movement. I have thought about using Autumn Leaves as a way to demonstrate reharmonizations going over 4 or 5 versions, let me know in the comments if that could be an interesting video. Later in the video, I also go over some options for different interesting changes.

B-part – Problem Solving Taking the easiest solution

In the B part, there are a few places where you need to figure out how to harmonize the melody in a nice way without making it too difficult, and actually the first chord is already getting us into trouble – Aø explain the solution

the rest is similar to the first A.

Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7 Ebmaj7 – the same as in the 2nd A but with another melody note (C) – Moving from Bbmaj7 to Ebmaj7 – D using a major triad as a chromatic approach to the Ebmaj7 while keeping the D in the melody

Chromatic passing chords – (its’ actually Free Jazz!)

You can do a lot by interpreting the chords and add new sounds using harmonization. In this lesson, I will give you some suggestions for the last part of the song.

The one that is the easiest to use, and similar to what you already found earlier in the lesson.

Aø Eb7 D7 – again using Eb7

You can extend this by turning it into a complete chromatic II V example. Here I am also changing the Aø to an Am7 to get another brighter color there.

And another version that makes it an even longer parallel II V progression, quite similar to Wes’ Four on Six.

A more radical, but still beautiful harmonization is to use the bass movement of a II V, but then move in parallel using other chords. This can be a little more tricky to get to work, but when it does then it is very beautiful as shown below:

Different types of chords for the last note.

One way that I like to end the song is this below, really getting the beautiful sound of the tonic minor major sound. It does require me to change the melody.

Another option that is very common and the favorite of many bass-players is to play a C7. Essentially the C7 is just a Gm6 with a C in the bass, and also the IV in the melodic minor scale.

The Neapolitan subdominant is a great option for the final note in a song. This makes the final note (which is usually the root) the maj7th in the chord. The neapolitan is the bIImaj7, so in this case an Abmaj7.

The Jim Hall/Ron Carter solution is to end the song on a Db7, which is, in fact, turning the tonic chord into a secondary dominant to go back. This works because the first chord of the song is the IV chord: Cm7, but this is a great way to keep the form moving and take us to the next chorus. It is also a very different sound compared to the original Gm6 option.

Digging into Chord Melody

Chord Melody Survival Kit

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Beautiful Chromatic Sounds And how to add them to Jazz Chords

When you solo in Jazz you use chromatic passing notes and enclosures all the time, it is really a part of the sound, and actually this is true for Jazz chords as well. There are many ways to use chromaticism in your comping or chord melody and it is a great way to add more movement and color to what you play.

In this video, I am first going to show you one way of adding chromatic passing chords that is pretty visual and easy to use and then later I am going to start creating chromatic melodies in the chords and this is a great way to get to know your chords a lot better and also gives you a lot of great-sounding options to add to your playing.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:47 Chromatic Passing Chords – Look where you are going

01:36 You can also move down a half-step

01:46 G7= G7(13) and Cmaj7 = C6?

03:02 Chromatic Chords in Context

03:43 Beyond Shifting Chord Shapes

05:14 Analyzing the voice-leading example

05:48 The Bebop Trick

06:58 Two Types of contrary motion

08:27 Suspending notes in the chord

09:40 Passing Chords And How To Sound Amazing With Them

 

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Skills You Need To Develop – Important Jazz Exercises

You need to learn scales, arpeggios, and vocabulary to play solos and to get it to sound like Jazz, but there are other aspects of improvising a solo that you need to develop as well if you want to sound good.

This week, the focus is on some of the other essential skills you need to develop to become good at improvising Jazz. So it is not really about scales, arpeggios, and vocabulary. I take a standard and go over some of the exercises you can start to do to really learn how to become a better soloist.

The focus is on playing solos that:

  • Play real phrases
  • Make the solo one piece of music
  • Play what you hear

It takes more than just scales and arpeggios to play a great Jazz Solo

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:22 The Song

00:34 #1 – Limit Yourself – 2 or 3 notes

01:14 Choosing notes for a solo

02:47Tips for doing the exercise

03:22 Challenge your Creativity

03:50What you improve in your playing

04:52 #2 – Motivic Development

05:59 Basic practice

06:42 Motivic Development on a song

07:10 Digging into the Harmony

07:21 Melodic Voice-leading

07:47 Rhythmic Displacement = Motivic Development

08:20 What You Learn

08:58 #3 – Improvise with chord tones

09:44 Two variations

09:47 #1 Arpeggios within one octave

10:27 #2 One Position

11:06 How to play over chord changes and make sense 


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A Great New Sound In Your Jazz Solo

Arpeggios and scales are often reduced to the notes they contain against a chord, but by doing that you throw away other information that is more important for the sound of your jazz solo, and this is something you want to be aware of and not miss.

It is a way to get so much more out of scales and even pentatonic scales that you already know because you can use them in a different way.

What is the difference?

If you listen to how quartal arpeggios sound on a II V I: 

Compared to a more traditional bop line:

Of course, you can mix the two as well, but I think this makes the difference quite clear.

There are a few ways to approach this, and I am going to go over both diatonic and pentatonic options using the II V I in G major: Am7 D7alt Gmaj7

The Scale and a Diatonic Arpeggio exercise

For the Am7 and Gmaj7, you can use the G major scale, and it is fairly easy to play a G major scale in diatonic quartal arpeggios:

The construction of a diatonic quartal arpeggio is really simple:

G A B C D E F# G A B C D

if you want to find the quartal arpeggio on B you just stack 4th intervals: B E A:

 

or for C: C F# B, but notice here that you get an augmented 4th between C and F#:

Using this on the Am7 chord

It is easy to make some lines using these arpeggios on Am7, especially if you avoid using the ones with the F# in there (for now anyway)

That gives us these:

Example using Quartal Arpeggios on Am7

Here I am using two quartal arpeggios on Am7, the one from B and the one from A. I actually continue with quartals on the D7 altered, but I am going to cover those a little later.  First, let’s try to come at this from a pentatonic scale instead of a major scale.

Am pentatonic scale and an important exercise

You all know the Am pentatonic scale:

And if you play this exercise in that scale:

A lot of these are quartal arpeggios (high light and explain) also the C and Am triads

Example using the Pentatonic scale

You can use this as a way to get to this sound in a lick like this

Quartal Arpeggios on an Altered Dominant

Now let’s look at how you can also use quartal harmony on an altered dominant:

Here I am using quartal harmony on all 3 chords and it is constructed so that I am moving two quartal arpeggios on each chord as a motif.

You can practice the quartal arpeggios in the Eb melodic minor

See this in use on a song:

Lady Bird – Arpeggios & Pentatonic Scales

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How To Create Beautiful Chord Progressions

Functional Harmony is almost a secret weapon when it comes to reharmonizing or creating great sounding chord progressions. In Jazz, we sometimes forget that just understanding basic harmony is a very strong tool for creating new sounds, and in this video, I will show you how you can mess around with a simple II V I and get some fantastic results.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

01:07 Diatonic Chords in major

02:14 Progression #1 – bVImaj7

02:49 Minor diatonic chords and Modal Interchange

05:00 Progression #2 – Tritone substitution

06:12 Don’t limit yourself to substitutions

07:03 Progression #3 – Ending in the Wrong Key

09:00 Understanding Modulation a Pivot Chords

09:34 Progression #4 – Another Dominant Alternative

11:20 Reharmonization with only Maj7 chords

11:34 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page.

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How To Make It Sound Like Jazz – Great Embellishments

In this lesson, I am going to show you some techniques and ways to play simple phrases that make them sound more like Jazz. There are some very common phrasing techniques in Jazz Guitar that are a huge part of the sound, and you can quite easily start adding them to your playing if you want to work on your Jazz phrasing.

I am going to go over how you might play them and also give you some good examples of how they can be added to a line.

In the lesson, I will show you how to get better sounding lines by adding them to a basic Cmaj7 arpeggio, and while I was preparing this video I was actually quite surprised about how they really give you a lot of sounds, especially some of the longer embellishments at the end of the video.

Slides (and the triplet trick)

The basic Cmaj7 arpeggio can be played as is shown below.

I am also going to play it with a leading note and then making it a triplet which is also a very bebop thing to do, which is shown in the following bar.

Adding a Slide to the top-note

One of the easiest ways to get this slightly boring arpeggio to have a little more life is to use slides, so you can slide into the top note, which serves as a sort of target for the arpeggio when you use the triplet.

Notice how I play the notes at the end of the phrases short most of the time, that is also a way to connect with the groove and make the lick sound better.

This is a big part of Wes Montgomery’s phrasing vocabulary like this from his solo on Unit 7. which is a Gm(11) arpeggio over a C7 chord

Delaying the target note

Chromatic passing notes are great for getting things to sound like Jazz, and this is a quite simple way to make that work on the Cmaj7 arpeggio. As I said before, the “target note” of the arpeggio is the B, and delaying this works really well:

Sometimes you will get told that chromatic leading notes have to be on the offbeat and resolve back on the beat. As you can hear in this example that is not true, but don’t take my word for it, ask Charlie Parker:

Above you can see how Parker uses a leading note on the beat. In bar 2, beat 4 and in bar 6, beat 3 and 4.

Turns

The names for embellishments like this are a little open, so sometimes what I am calling turns here are also called trills and slurs. It’s like chord symbols, just try to figure out what is meant and don’t worry about it.

For this video, a turn is more or less a short faster phrase with notes close to a target note. The examples will make it easier to understand what I mean.

There are a few ways you can add turns to this arpeggio.

Turn #1 – 16th note pull-off

The first variation is shown here below:

The easiest way to work on this is probably to play the scale with the turn on one string like this:

Turn #2 – 16th triplet – Mid Phrase

The 16th note triplet is also a good way to get into this. It should be executed with a quick hammer-on/pull-off and is a very common and very effective way to break things up.

Turn #3 – 16th triplet – Begin Phrase

Another way you can use this embellishment is at the beginning of a phrase.

That is what I am doing in the example below, think of it as a way of sending off the arpeggio. The line continues with a slide to the high B.

Joe Pass using “Double Turns”

To give you an example of how this is used by jazz artists, here is a lick from Joe Pass on a II V I in D major.

Pass uses the turns in the 2nd half of the A7 bar, and the last turn is used to introduce a b13 and create a little tension before resolving to Dmaj7.

Take It To a Song and Into Your Playing!

Take The A Train – Bebop Embellishments

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Add Beautiful Colors And Fills To Your Comping

When you are comping Jazz songs then it is good to also change the textures you play, not always full chords but also fills and small polyphonic ideas. In this lesson, I am going to show you how to use intervals and counterpoint as a way of comping and as a way to add a new sound to the way you play chords. It will help you when you are comping but will also be great in a solo or in a chord melody arrangement.

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Content

00:00 Intro 

00:50 From Real Jazz Comping to Improvised Chords 

01:25 Reducing the Voicings – Example #1 

02:12 Reducing the Voicings – Example #2 

03:03 Intervals for fills and Block Harmony 

05:05 How to practice and explore the neck for this type of playing 

07:29 6th intervals and a Pentatonic trick 

09:14 Harmonized Arpeggios and more Pentatonic Chord Patterns 

10:44 Polyphonic Call-Response 

11:20 3-Note Voicings 

11:38 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

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The Most Important Solo Tools For a Half Diminished Chord

I think many consider the half-diminished or m7b5 the most difficult chord to improvise over, but it is a very common sound in Jazz Standards so you do need to figure it out. I often people try to choose another scale and run up and down that without making any sense r really having anything to say, which isn’t really a solution either.

In this video, I am going to go over some solid solutions for this chord that can help you play better solos and have an easier time improvising over m7b5 chords and minor II V I’s in general, and they are surprisingly simple.

The m7b5 chord – Construction

Let’s first construct a m7b5 chord and look at how it fits in a minor II V I cadence. Then I will cover some of the things you can use when improvising including 7th chord arpeggios, triads, quartals and pentatonic scales. You can never have too many options when it comes to material to improvise with. I will also talk about why you don’t want to always use the locrian nat 2 scale.

Arpeggios and Scales I will cover:

  • 7th Chord Arpeggios
  • Triads
  • Quartal Arpeggios
  • Pentatonic Scales

This is pretty simple: Here is a Em7 chord: E G B D and the half-diminished or Em7b5 chord will then be: E G Bb D.

The chord symbol we use is either m7b5 or you use the symbol for diminished but then put a line through it to note that it is not a full diminished chord but a half-diminished chord.

This is one of the few places where my Danish heritage is extremely useful  for learning Jazz harmony since the letter ø is a part of the Danish alphabet and on my keyboard, so for once I have an unfair disadvantage!

Diminished vs Half-diminished

The difference between a diminished chord and a half-diminished chord is that the diminished chord has a diminished 7th which is enharmonic to a 6th, the half-diminished has a

So an E diminished would be E G Bb Db

where the half-diminished is E G Bb D

In this lesson, the m7b5 chord is the II chord in a minor II V I like this:


The m7b5 arpeggio

There is nothing wrong with the m7b5 arpeggio, you already know it and you are already using it. It can be a great idea to expand your options so you have a basic arpeggio melody like this:

But  an arpeggio is a bunch of notes that you can play in many ways, and this is certainly something you want to explore. Here is an example  with a little octave displacement like this:

Triad from the 3rd

If you look at an Eø and the notes in there Eø: E G Bb D then you could choose to not use the root and make some lines focusing on the top 3 notes: G Bb D which is a Gm triad.

For your comping the Gm triad might also prove a useful voicing to explore.


Maj7 from b5

On a m7b5 the arpeggio from the b5 is a great option to get the b5 and the 11th in a line. This arpeggio does contain the b9 which is considered an avoid note, but in this case it is hidden inside the arpeggio so you don’t naturally emphasize that note.

 

Magic Arpeggio

The Magic Arpeggio is a an altered version of the previous example, but now the b9 is changed in to the root so that you don’t have that problem.

Normal Bbmaj7: Bb D F A -> Bb D E A – Bb Magic Arpeggio

In the end it is more important that this arpeggio just sounds great I guess:

 

It’s funny how the magic arpeggio is not allowed to be called maj7b5, on my other video on half-diminished chords I had one guy ranting over the term “half-diminished” Which is weird to me because it is a pretty logical name if you know the theory.

Why not always Locrian #2?

Of course, it makes more sense to choose arpeggios and structures so that they don’t contain notes that don’t really sound good with the chord. At the same time, I think that with the m7b5 chords it has become a trend to use Locrian nat 2 because it does not have any avoid notes. There are a few problems with that:

1. You are better off worrying about what to play and find things that sound good, and not spend time on what you shouldn’t play
2. You should choose the scale so that it contains what you think sounds better in the context if that 9th is important then play that, but chances are that is not what you hear in the music.
3. It is not a good strategy to choose a scale so that it has no avoid-notes and you can run up and down it at random. That is not how you make music.

Quartals

If you are coming up short when looking for things to play over a chord then going over the quartal arpeggios in the scale is almost always a great idea.

The quartal arpeggios in the scale would be this on the middle string-set:

 

In this example I am using thequartal arpeggios from

Bb: Bb E A and A: A D G

 

 

Locrian Pentatonic

Another great resource to explore for a chord is finding some pentatonic scales that work. There a few that could work, and especially this one which is essentially a minor pentatonic with a b5:

Em pentatonic: E G A B D E
E Locrian pentatonic: E G A Bb D E

You could play that like this:

 

A line using this scale could be something like this:

 

What you want to notice is that I play the scale using 2 notes per string and then try to exploit that when I search for melodies. In a way that is using the strength of pentatonic scales.

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This Is Why You Should Study Bebop

You have probably heard people say that you have to check out and learn Bebop in order to learn Jazz Guitar. That in itself can cause some discussion and I am not going to go into that too much in this Bebop lesson.

I think the point I want to make is more than studying bebop is a really efficient way to add what most of us consider Jazz sound to our playing. And there are some things that are just so great in Bebop that you really want to check out, so in this video, I am going to explore some amazing sounding lines that are so pure in that style and you want to know them as well.

I am also throwing in an unwelcome truth or two along the way.  

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Content:

Content:

00:00 Intro 

00:44 Lick #1 – Bebop Voice-leading and How my solo sucked

3:03 Variation on Lick #1

3:56 What is the point of studying this

4:22 Do you have to become a Bebop monk? 

5:14 Lick #2 from Parker: Playing the arpeggio But not just running the changes 

5:50 Bebop scales – Creative vs Systematic?

7:02 Basic Arpeggios but very melodic!

7:44 Several voices in one melody

8:51 What should you practice? Maybe do what Barry Harris does!

9:54 Making A Similar Lick for Rhythm Changes 

10:45 Octave Displacement = INSTANT JAZZ!

11:01 Example 4 

11:59 Example 5 

12:26 Bebop is not about Scales 

13:09 Example 6 

14:21 Improve your phrasing and solos 

14:31 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page.

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How To Make Music From Exercises And Practice Effectively

Getting from just practicing a scale or an arpeggio to the point where you can actually use it in music is quite difficult, and something that a lot of people struggle with. You want to set up your jazz guitar practice in a way that will actually help you get your exercises into your playing as something that makes your solos and improvisations better. That is what this video will teach you! In this video, I am going to go over a 3 step plan to show you how you can approach this and make sure that what you practice also makes it into your playing, and I am also going to discuss what types of exercises I think are practical and what you might better not waste your time on.

 

The Most Important Scale Exercise in Jazz

Let’s start with an exercise that you always want to work on anyway: Diatonic 7th chords. In the Key of C major, that would be this exercise: This is a great exercise that will help you connect chords to a scale and technique to the chords of a song. I have another video going into this exercise in detail which I will link to in the description so I won’t really dig into it here. There are a few practical things to get right if you are practicing something because you want to use it in your solos.

  • Don’t make the exercise too long or complicated
  • Make sure that it is something that you have a place to use
  • Don’t make it so difficult that you have to spend a year learning to play it.

#1 Don’t make the exercise too long or complicated

If you practice Triad pairs with chromatic enclosures on each triad then that is something you can only use on a piece with one chord for a really long time, and you have to think about whether that is really efficient for you.

#2 Make sure that it is something that you have a place to use

Practicing Quartal arpeggios in Melodic minor is not useful if you don’t play over chords using that sound.

#3 Don’t make it so difficult that you have to spend a year learning to play it.

If you have never practice arpeggios then don’t start with playing them with leading notes and as 8th note triplets, just start with playing arpeggios which are probably anyway more flexible.

Taking the exercise to a song or chord progression

I always find it surprising how few people play exercises on songs. It is such a great way to just get your scales or arpeggios into the context where you need them, and also to check if you have everything covered for the song you want to use it on. For this video, I am not going to use an entire song, I am just going to use  a basic turnaround in C Cut in – In the video I am using a very short chord progression, but it is really useful to have songs that you know really well to explore things on, and if you check then that is also something that a lot of players do. They have standards that they return to when practicing things to become comfortable and experiment with new material. Cmaj7 A7(b9) Dm7 G7(b9) In this progression, I am using the C major scale for Cmaj7 and Dm7, and I am using D harmonic minor and C harmonic minor for A7 and G7. And to add something new to our vocabulary then I am going to use the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord. This is just to flex the music theory and fretboard knowledge a little. The Arpeggios we need: Em7 C#dim Fmaj7 Bdim   Played through the progression in a very basic way:   And to find some more material you can do the lower octave as well, even if that is not really there  for the Fmaj7 arpeggio: And of course, you can also combine the two and make an exercise that fills up the bar: For an exercise like this to be useful, you need to be able to play it easily and think about the next thing you have to play. It has to be in time and you can’t get away with stopping to think. At the same time, it doesn’t have to be super fast, a medium or slow medium tempo will work as long as it feels easy to play. Sometimes I hear students say that it is difficult to learn on a whole song, but if you want to use it in your solos then this is actually a fairly easy thing to learn.

Making music

Now we can play it on the progression and also hear how it sounds on the song, the next step is to start improvising and start to make melodies. The first thing to do is probably just to spend some time improvising with just the arpeggios. Then you can start to add the other things you use in your solos and really make the arpeggios a part of your material. In some cases, it may be useful to first compose or improvise in rubato to get the user to making melodies that mix arpeggios and use chromatic leading notes. Doing exercises like this is may seem like something you do when you want to learn arpeggios, but actually it is a great way to explore new vocabulary and really challenge your fretboard overview, things that you really want to keep developing in your playing all the time.

Take this to Jazz Standards and use it in Music

Jazz Standards – Easy Solo Boost

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