6 Moog Models Compared

Here’s a link to a 21-minute video where Synthesist, Lisa Bella Donna, compares 6 Moog Synthesizer models:

  • Minimoog Model D,
  • Subsequent 37
  • Grandmother
  • Matriarch
  • DFAM,
  • and Mother-32

www.synthtopia.com/content/2019/11/09/6-moog-synthesizers-compared/

KORG-K1_labels

In the early 70s, when I was still in High School, I bought my first Synthesizer. A “Univox K1”, which was also produced as the “Mini-Korg” and “Mini-Korg 700” and a few other names.

Although I’m a Drummer, I enjoy the nearly-endless sounds that can be produced by Synthesizers. The biggest aspect of the Univox K1 was its Filer, which Korg called the “Traveller”. Whenever I swept that Filter, it produced some very rich Harmonics. This was a whole new world of sonic textures for me and I wanted more!

Minimoog

The more I immersed myself in the world of Pop Rock, Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal, Funk, etc., I kept hearing those sweeping Filter sounds as well as other textures that I just couldn’t create with the Univox K1.

Then I learned about the existence of the Synthesizer which changed Rock Music forever, the “Minimoog”. Of course, I HAD to have one!

Because I was still in High School and living at home with my Parents, I had LOTS of time to explore everything the Minimoog had to offer.

Arp 2600 & Keyboard

After a time, I found myself continually creating the same Patches (Sounds) with the Minimoog. I was getting increasingly frustrated with its limitations. Then I heard about a Synthesizer called the “ARP 2600”. When I saw photos of it in magazines, I was instantly caught in its Spell. I could see that it had unlimited potential for Sound creation.

Sylvia and I don’t really like to buy “used” equipment, for different reasons. The main reason is that we can sometimes feel the old energies which may still be attached to them. However, even though I was now in College, I still couldn’t afford the price of a “new” ARP 2600. So I bought one, used, from a nearby store. It was the Black & White one, seen above. After getting Married, for the first time, I had to sell it. However, many years later, afterMarrying Sylvia, we heard that the ARP company was going out of business. I explained to Sylvia that the ARP 2600 was the most complete and versatile Synthesizer of its time. She agreed. So we immediately phoned the ARP company. A man with a broken English voice answered the phone. My guess is that this was the “man” himself, Alan R. Pearlman. He actually took the order. Because we had read about the bankruptcy in a “magazine” (which meant this news was already old), Sylvia and I feel that the ARP 2600 we currently own is “probably” “the last” or, at least, “one” of the last ones ever sold by that company. (We bought the one with the orange “blocks” describing the functions.)

Here’s a great web page showing the many versions of this incredible Synthesizer:
www.vintagesynth.com/arp/arp.php

 

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To Patch Or Not To Patch

I’ve been noticing people’s Eurorack-Patching habits for quite some time. Some people leave the Patch Cables connected when they’re finished working with that piece of gear. Others remove the Patch Cables and “Patch Fresh” the next time they use that Synthesizer.

I guess I’m more in the 2nd camp… No matter how complex a Patch is, I’ll remove all of the Patch Cables when I’m finished using that Synth for the night. However, I will leave them in, if I need to make a “paper notation” of that Patch — which Ports were connected to which other Ports, Knob, Slider and Switch settings, etc. Once I’ve drawn this out on a Patch Chart, I’ll go ahead and remove all the Cables.

I’ve always done it this way. It probably comes from taking private Synthesizer lessons on a Modular Moog System back in the 70’s. Although I had an ARP 2600 at home, I used the University’s Studio Moog, to work out any Patch ideas I may have learned that day. However, that Moog was in a standard “Practice Room”. This means ALL of the students taking “private” or “class” lessons on Synthesizers had access to that room. There was a monthly schedule posted on the outside of that door and each student was given so many hours per week to use that room. We would simply write our name in any slot that wasn’t already taken… as long as we didn’t exceed our allotted time for that week. So all Patch Cables had to be removed from the Synthesizer and placed back onto the Patch Stand.

The Pros and Cons of this approach
First, the Pros… Because I was learning what each Module was designed for, I could easily Patch and adjust the most predominant Module of the Sound I wanted to move from my mind to that Synthesizer. Usually, this meant starting with the Oscillator or Filter. If I had a Rhythm idea, I would go right to the Moog’s Sequencer. From these starting points, I would have to think about what my Sound needed and which Modules could perform that function. Of course, there was a LOT of trial and error.

Now the Cons… Let’s say you’re using your own Modular Synthesizer. Removing all of those Patch Cables may make it much more difficult to achieve “all” or “part” of that great Sound you discovered the day before. Especially when you’re starting out with even a small Modular System, it can be very frustrating to spend many, many hours creating a great Sound, only to stare at a blank set of Modules the next day. Even if you leave the Knobs, Sliders and Switches in the exact same position, you may never achieve that same great Sound. Not that the Patch Cables will change anything on their own. It’s just that we might think the Sound needs just a bit more of this Knob and a little less of that one.

Unless your Modules are “digital”, containing a simple computer you adjust with its Knobs, Sliders and Switches, getting a multi-Module Patch to sound the same every time is a task for Magicians. Sometimes “modulation signals” (Control Voltages) can modify other “modulation signals”.

  • For example: Connect a slow-moving (low-frequency) Sign Wave to the “Control Voltage Input” of a Filter’s “Cutoff” and then connect another low-frequency Sign Wave to the first one. This causes the first Sign Wave to move slower and then faster and then slower, repeatedly. In turn, this produces a Filter “WOW” Sound which is irregular.

As you can see, both Sign Waves must be set to the proper speed, in order to get the same “double-wobble” the next day.

Helpful Tips
All is not lost, however. Some “digital” Modules can store their own settings. There are also “paper” Patch Charts. This is what I learned to use… and still use them. These days, you can also take a photo of all the Modules. However, if you’ve used a lot of Patch Cables, you may not clearly see every Knob, Slider and Switch setting.

Another tip is to use color-coded Patch Cables.

The image below is a Roland System 500 Eurorack System. As you can see, the black & red appearance may look really cool but this is not a Patch “I” would want to troubleshoot… or even adjust. Yes, you know where all your Oscillators and Filters are located but it’s the “interaction” between every Patched Module that makes it difficult to keep clear in your mind.

Modular with all red cables 2

Some people use specific Cable colors for specific Patch connections:

Colored Patch Cables 2

Although this is a good method, deep in mind that you may have LOTS of Modulation connections, many Pitch connections, tons of Gates, etc.

My approach is to simply grab a different color each time I reach for a Patch Cable. Yes, this could mean that you’d be looking at something like this…

Modular with colored patch cables

…but following different colored Patch Cables is much easier than working with all Cables of the “same” color.

These are just “my” thoughts on this. Of course, “your” mileage may vary.

I found the above image here:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdxbkSdzDho

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Learning What Synthesizers Can Do

I’m sure there are LOTS of “free” and “pay” websites where you can learn what “Synthesizers” are and how to use them. The following two links are websites that I recently found.

This first web page allows you to learn about Synthesizers by interacting with some of their main components. Sure, this “interaction” is simply on a computer screen and not turning Knobs, flipping Switches or moving Sliders like you would in a typical “Hardware” Synth… and it’s not the same as interacting with an on-screen “Soft Synth”. However, the confusing aspects of Synthesizers is removed, allowing you to focus on the one, two or more parameters you’re learning about.

If you’re new to Synthesizers, going through these pages can help you gain an understanding of how they create and modify various sounds. Most of what you are changing on each page is explained. However, see if you actually “understand” the difference between a “Pitch” and a “Filter” change… a Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) controlling a sound and an Envelope Generator controlling a sound, etc.

Don’t take this too seriously, though. Synthesizers are a lot of fun to experiment with.

https://learningsynths.ableton.com

This next web page builds on “what Synthesizers can do” and shows how they can be used to modify sound created with other Instruments, such as Guitar, Violin and Saxophone. The three short videos on the following page provide examples of this.

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2019/07/31/using-a-eurorack-modular-synthesizer-as-an-effects-processor/

 

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A Music Technique Of Alessandro Cortini

On the following web page, there is a very short article and a 10-minute video. The information presented is from Keyboardist for Nine Inch Nails, Alessandro Cortini. He explains a music production technique he sometimes uses, which involves an old, 4-Track Cassette Recorder.

In an Age where the goal, sometimes, is for Manufacturers to create the most pure-sounding Musical Instruments… and even adopt Digital technologies to accomplish this, it’s refreshing to see someone “think outside the box” — even if this means using old, not-so-perfect gadgets to accomplish this.

Partially dirtying, or even destroying, a sound (a Musical “Voice”) CAN work in an entire Song. Most of the time, however, this can be used as a “Spice”, here and there, throughout a Song, to give the Listener added surprises.

https://www.musicradar.com/news/heres-how-nine-inch-nails-alessandro-cortini-uses-a-4-track-portastudio-as-a-performance-instrument

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A Tiny Overview Of Synthesizer History

This first link will take you to a very short article titled: “The Women Who Pioneered Electronic Music“.

https://blog.zzounds.com/2019/07/01/the-women-who-pioneered-electronic-music/?utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=zzounds_newsletterzZounds%20NWAY%5B2%5D%20Active&utm_campaign=C2450900%20070719%20zZounds%20Best%20of%20the%20Week&_wcsid=BDC223BAB069FA152B64F236AE790454BB54BB9037BCE7C6

This second link is to a 1-hour video which contains a couple of interviews of Electronic Music Pioneers. One of them is Walter Carlos. This was recorded before the above article, which interview the same person, this time going by the name “Walter” Carlos.

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2019/08/09/a-vintage-look-at-the-moog-synthesizer-switched-on-bach-with-glenn-gould/

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Some Thoughts On Electronic Drums

Around 2006, Sylvia bought me a “Roland TD-6” Electronic Drumset for my Birthday. It came with all “rubber” Pads. Later, we bought a “Roland PD-85” 2-zone, Drum Pad. So I could have at least one “Mesh” Pad and use it for my Snare Drum. This setup has been very durable and the more than 1,400 sounds in the Drum Module are interesting to explore. Other than “Pitch”, “Stereo Field Placement” (Panning) and one or two other options, this Module doesn’t offer any real drum-sound modifications.

In the last several months, I’ve been thinking about buying a “Yamaha 700-series” Electronic Drumset and merging it into what I current have. While slowly saving-up money for this, I thought Yamaha would have released a newer series. Maybe an “800” series. (Yes, Yamaha does have a “900 series” but it contains technology which is even older than their “700” series… and seems to be even more difficult to use.)

The white Yamaha Pads ARE “rubber” but they have created a unique, firm “foam-type” of rubber which seems to have a bit more rebound when playing them and seem a bit quieter than standard “rubber” Pads.

While waiting for Yamaha to do “something” new in the world of Electronic Drums, a few other companies have released more advanced products…

About 24-months ago, Pearl Drums (hardware) partnered with Steven Slate Drums (software) and released a $2,200 “Mimic Pro” Drum Module, with a 7-inch touch screen.

There’s also a new Electronic Drum company that’s about to release its products for the first time. The company is called: “Gewa Music”. They’re based in Germany. (I think the company name is pronounced: GAY-vuh)

Their Drum Module is called: “G9” and has a 10-inch, touch screen! This Module does not use a “Cable Snake”. Instead, it uses 1/4” (quarter-inch) jacks to connect the Drum Pads.

  • Although a “Cable Snake” can keep the many cables under better control, than several individual wires, it also means you’ll be limited on exactly “where” you can place all of your Drum Pads.

For the Shells of their Drums, they have partnered with DW (Drum Workshop). So the Drum Shells, Hardware and Electronics should be high-quality.

With that said, I’m one of those Drummers who would rather have shallower Drum Shells, so I can place more of them in my Drumset. This will also make the Drums take up less space when they’re being transported. Plus, Acoustic Drum Shells are easier to scratch, when storing and transporting, than Electronic Drum Pads.

So, as long as the Gewa G9 Module is sold separately, and is not outrageously expensive, this is what I’m currently thinking of doing (which could change, of course):

  • Purchase the “Gewa G9” Module. (Price unknown as of this writing because it hasn’t been released yet.)
  • Purchase the “ATV EXS-3” Electronic Drumset ($1,799) and “maybe” sell the included “ATV D3” Drum Module. (I’ve heard that the “ATV” company was formed by former “Roland” employees. So they “should” have some knowledge in this area.)

Here’s the link to the Gewa website:
www.gewaelectronics.com

Here’s the link to the ATV website:
http://www.atvcorporation.com/en/products/drums/exs-5_3/

Here’s the link to the “ATV EXS-3” Drumset on the Kraft Music website:
https://www.kraftmusic.com/atv-adrums-exs-3-electronic-drum-set-drum-essentials-bundle.html

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A Different Type Of Sound Generator?

At SuperBooth 2019, there was a company called: “E-RM”, showing off a new type of Sound Generator called the “Polygogo”. The company refers to this technology as a “polygonal synthesis method”.

Although the graphics generated on its small screen are nice to watch, for us Musicians, it’s all about the “Sound”. In the beginning of that video, and throughout it, the Inventor of the Polygogo plays some really different sounds. Yes, most of them can be generated with a “Complete Voice” Synthesizer or several Modules from a Modular Synth but they would take a lot of tweaking. The Polygogo, on the other hand, generates these types of sounds effortlessly.

Is it a revolutionary device? Probably not. Is this a “must have” component of your music gear setup? Maybe.

I’m simply presenting this information here, to let others know about this.

As of this writing, I could not find a price or release date for this product.

Here’s the link to some information and a 40-minute video which explains this new sound generator:

https://www.gearnews.com/superbooth-2019-e-rm-polygogo-polygonal-synthesis-module/

Here’s the link to the Polygogo product page:

https://e-rm.de/2019/05/03/polygogo/

 

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Today’s Music & Two Alternative Controllers

I recently watched a “Talk” by an “Alternative Controller” pioneer, Roger Linn. Maker of the “Linnstrument”.

Here’s the link to the “Linnstrument” product page:

http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/linnstrument.html

Here’s the link to the Talk:

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2019/06/13/roger-linn-on-the-importance-of-expressive-touch-control/

Lippold Haken, another Alternative Controller pioneer, was in the audience and contributes some very helpful insights into today’s music, the world of electronic music controllers, etc.

One facet that I hadn’t notice before was something stated by Roger Linn. Basically, he’s noticed that today’s music, especially “Electronic Music”, has “ignored” or “remove” the “Instrumental” — the Soloing Instrument from those Songs.

There are two videos on the above web page and I found both to be interesting. These were held at “ContinuuCon 2019”, which took place at the end of May 2019, at Asheville, North Carolina.

The following 45-minute Talk is by Lippold Haken and is also from ContinuuCon 2019 (I haven’t watched this one yet but it promises to be very insightful):

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2019/06/12/continuucon-2019-lippold-haken-on-the-evolution-of-the-continuum-fingerboard/

Even if you’re not into “Alternative Controllers”, it can be helpful to keep your mind open to what exists within today’s music world. Then, if you’re working on a Modular System, or even a Complete Voice Synthesizer, if you can’t get the “expressiveness” out of your mind and into your Instrument, you may remember these Controllers and how they bridge the worlds of “mind” and “machine”… and this may help you approach that sound a bit differently.

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John Bonham’s “Ramble On”

Yesterday, I was practicing my Drums with some Streaming music. At one point, Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”  started playing. Being a “child of the 70s”, I’ve been a big fan of Led Zeppelin’s music since their first album.

Although I’ve always wondered what that light “tapping” sound is, on the beginning of “Ramble On”, I never through to explore it… until yesterday.

To “me”, John Bonham was obviously playing a “Remo Practice Pad” but, when I did some research online, to verify this, I found a LOT of conflicting information. On this Forum Thread, there are comments of him playing:

  • His Drum Throne,
  • A Guitar Case,
  • A Microphone,
  • An Acoustic Guitar, etc.

Here’s that link:

https://www.drumchat.com/showthread.php/24009-What-is-Bonham-hitting-in-Ramble-on

I’ve never “owned” a Remo Practice Pad but I still remember what they sound like. Especially when they’ve aged and are a bit worn. So I searched for a video that had the same sound that is in my head. Here is the link to the closest “Remo Practice Pad” sound that I could find:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=28&v=aD8Oo1hbljs

He plays it best from the “0” to the “8-second” mark. So it’s not much… but if you listen to the actual Song (link below) and then compare that to the tapping in this video, to “me” THIS is what John Bonham is playing on “Ramble On”.

Here’s the link to the Song “Ramble On”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h9MxNn8P7w

To “me”, this also makes sense because John would have “probably” had a Remo Practice Pad with him when they recorded this Song.

If John Bonham is, instead, playing his “Drum Throne”, then he’d have to have an extra one because he quickly goes back-and-forth between “that tapping sound” and playing his entire Drumset. This would have been very awkward to do in the Studio and, especially on Stage, when playing this Song live.

So listen to the different items I’ve presented above and make-up your own mind. Remember, although I’m a “Synthesist”, “Drums” are my main instrument. I think it was my “Synthesist’s ear” that made me question this sound in the first place. So for those of you who are Synthesists (“Sound Designers”), put your own ear to the test. The downside, of course, is… it seems that no one knows “for sure” WHAT John Bonham actually played on that Song.

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Helpful Articles On Learning About Synthesizers

I just wanted to pass along a few more resources which provide helpful information on “what” Synthesizers are and “how” the various components can be used.

Before I do that, I want to mention something I haven’t heard anyone talk about… “Patch Cables” and, specifically, “how many” Patch Cables should you buy?

There is no mathematical formula to this question. However, the rule-of-thumb would be “more is better”. My very loose guideline for “how many” to buy would be:

  • 5-Cables for your first Module
  • Then 2 Cables for each Module you purchase after that.

Again, this is not a locked-in-stone way of approaching this.

Yes, you can count the “Patch Points” (Cable-connection “holes” / “sockets”) on each Module, and buy THAT MANY Cables, but that doesn’t really work. In most cases, buying that many Cables would simply give you a LOT more Cables than your Synthesizer would ever be able to use.

  • For example, Sylvia and I have the “A-143-2 Quad ADSR” by Doeper. It contains 24-Patch Points (jacks) — 8 “Input” Points and 16 “Output” Points. If you purchased 24-Patch Cables you’d have way more Cables than this Module can possibly use. (Remember, a “Patch Cable” contains 2-Jacks [connectors] — one on each end.) With 24-Patch Cables, you’d have 48-Jacks. If you only purchased “8” Cables, to cover the number of “Inputs”, there may be times when you’d want 4 or more Cables to create a more complex Patch.
  • Here’s the link for more information about this Doepfer Module:
  • www.modulargrid.net/e/doepfer-a-143-2

Right now, we have 61-Patch Cables… BUT, combined, our 3 Synthesizers (ARP 2600, Behringer Neutron and a partially completed Eurorack Synth) contain 280-Patch Points. So, of course, we still have “Patch Cables” on our “buy more Eurorack items” list.

  • We’ve been buying the “LMNTL” brand Cables.
  • Here’s the link:
  • www.perfectcircuit.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=lmntl%20cables
  • (Sylvia and I aren’t associated with “Perfect Circuit” or “LMNTL” in any way. I’ve only linked to the Perfect Circuit website because that’s the only place we’ve been able to find these Cables.)

Patch Cable Length
In a previous Post, I included a link to a “helpful tips” video by Robin Vincent.
Here’s that link:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7LFURMEs8Q

One of the things he learned, when performing Live with his Eurorack Synthesizer, is that he used short Cables whenever possible. The downside to this, he discovered, was that these Cables not only blocked the Modules they crossed (which they always do) but their tightness made it difficult for him to easily get his fingers through to the Knobs and Switches.

Instead, it may sometimes be a good idea to use longer Cables and have them droop down and away from most of the Modules you’ll be using in that Patch.

Patch Cable Colors
When I took Synthesizer Lessons in the 70s, Patch Cables were only available in “gray”. (That’s all “I” saw, anyway.) Today, there are LOTS of colors to choose from and there are 2 types of Synthesists, regarding which colors to buy:

  • Some people use only 1-color, because it looks good when you’re Patching, or
  • Use multiple colors because it’s much easier to trace the signal-flow in your Patch.

This really comes down to “personal preference”. For “us”, even though Sylvia loves “Purple”, we do our best to select as many different colors for each Patch as we can.

When using a single color for an entire Patch, it can be continually frustrating, when you have to keep following and re-finding where each Cable goes, just to tweak something “quickly”.

  • Our “partial” Eurorack Synthesizer currently contains 10-Modules. Even so, any Patch we create could easily use 10-to 20 or more Patch Cables… and if we connect that Patch to an external Synth, like our ARP 2600 or Behringer Neutron, we’ll use several MORE Cables.

It’s “sometimes” possible to use one color for “Modulation” (Envelopes, LFOs, etc.) and another color for “Audio”. Let’s say “Red” for Modulation and “Green” for Audio. However, there are 2 problems with this approach:

  • Even with “2” colors of Patch Cables, it’s still going to be VERY difficult to “quickly” locate the Module, and the “Knob” on that Module, that you’ll need to turn in order to change the sound the way you want. (For example: Should you be changing an “LFO” or the “Envelope”?)
  • Let’s say you’ve connect a Red “Modulation” Cable from an LFO to a Multiple — so it can be split to more than 1 destination. You then connect another Red Cable to an Oscillator, in order to Modulate its Frequency — giving it a moving “wow” affect. Then you change your mind and decide to use another Oscillator’s audio output to Modulate that 1st Oscillator — now giving it a distorted sound. Under your “Red-Green guidelines”, you’ll have to remove those Red Cables and replace them with Green ones, when you could have simply moved 1-end of 1-Cable to the Oscillator’s audio output.

Synthesizer Resources
Here are a few articles and videos where you can find a lot of helpful information on understanding Synthesizers (in no particular order):

​This article is titled: “What are CV, Gate and Triggers, and how do they relate to semi-modular synthesis?
www.musicradar.com/how-to/what-are-cv-gate-and-triggers-and-how-do-they-relate-to-semi-modular-synthesis

The following article is titled: “Synth Terminology And Basics for Beginners“. It covers:

  • Subtractive Synthesis
  • The “Oscillator”
  • Analog versus Digital versus Hybrids
  • Filters and Cutoff
  • Envelopes
  • Modulation
  • FM Synthesis

​Here’s the link to that article:
ask.audio/articles/synth-terminology-and-basics-for-beginners

Here’s the link to a Robin Vincent video titled: “Molten Modular 15 – Discovering oscillators with the Make Noise STO“.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUrtCf5i7ng

Here’s another good video by Robin Vincent. This one’s titled: “Molten Modular 24 – Discovering Envelopes featuring TINRS Edgecutter“.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KOP1HqNbtY

Here’s Robin Vincent’s main YouTube Channel:
www.youtube.com/user/MoltenMusicTech/videos

Modular Grid: The best place to go for “all things Eurorack related”.
www.modulargrid.net/e/modules/browser?SearchName=&SearchVendor=&SearchFunction=&SearchSecondaryfunction=&SearchTe=&SearchTemethod=max&SearchBuildtype=&SearchLifecycle=&SearchSet=&SearchMarketplace=&SearchIsmodeled=0&SearchShowothers=0&SearchShow1u=0&order=newest&direction=asc

Of course there are LOTS of other sources of information online. Even with all the information and links I’ve provided here, there are still a few facets of Synthesizers which were not mentioned in the above articles and videos, such as:

  • Granular Synthesis,
  • Wavetables,
  • Formants,
  • Karplus Strong,
  • Sequencers,
  • Logic Modules, etc.

I simply listed them, in case you’d like to explore these subjects further on your own.

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