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  #1  
Old 05-07-2013, 12:54 AM
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Default When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by feel?

I just joined a cover band (my first band) so I'm trying to learn a bunch of new songs. So far, my strategy has just been to listen to the songs over and over again until I just know all the lengths of each part intuitively and can just feel when the next part is coming. But I wonder if when playing live and the nerves set in if it might be more advantageous to actually have the count of each part (how many bars per verse 1, chorus, bridge, etc) memorized.

How say you? What is your strategy? Does anyone here actually count out the number of bars as they're playing so they know when the next part is coming?
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Old 05-07-2013, 01:02 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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Originally Posted by ba dum tish View Post
I just joined a cover band (my first band) so I'm trying to learn a bunch of new songs. So far, my strategy has just been to listen to the songs over and over again until I just know all the lengths of each part intuitively and can just feel when the next part is coming. But I wonder if when playing live and the nerves set in if it might be more advantageous to actually have the count of each part (how many bars per verse 1, chorus, bridge, etc) memorized.

How say you? What is your strategy? Does anyone here actually count out the number of bars as they're playing so they know when the next part is coming?
Yes... no... all of the above. I tend to learn all of a song, not just drum parts and counts. By that I mean I know the melodies, rhythms, lyrics, and major parts of the song well enough to just know how long each goes and what follows what. I know the lyrical or melodic cues that lead into the next part, and as a band you should all be following the same dynamics which usually happen at the transitions between verses, bridges, choruses, etc.

Part of it is developing your ears. If your listening is developed sufficiently you can play along to a song first time through (as long as it follows normal songwriting tropes) and pretty much feel where each change will fall naturally, and do something appropriate for each part.

If the song involves odd times, phrasings, or little tricky parts such as the band starting and stopping and then doing cued hits in unison, then yes, I get obsessive and nitpicky about counting right down to the 16th rest.

And as you develop ears and feel and just experience, you know what four or eight or twelve or sixteen bars feels likes, sounds like, and how long it takes.
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Old 05-07-2013, 01:27 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I play by ear at first, but if I'm not hearing familiar patterns in a passage then I count until I can feel it. Counting is my fallback safety net.
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Old 05-07-2013, 01:37 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

Given it's your first band, I'd say count all the bars.

Then, as Alparrot said, once you get more experience, you'll learn when you need to count and when you can just feel you're way through it.

Quote:
Does anyone here actually count out the number of bars as they're playing so they know when the next part is coming?
I've been in several bands where there were backing tracks, and I'm playing to a click. In those cases, it's important I know exactly what bar I'm in at all times because the band is relying on me to make it all line up with the backing tracks, and play the right cue to go into the next section. So yes, I'll count.

In other situations, probably not.
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Old 05-07-2013, 01:49 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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Originally Posted by ba dum tish View Post
What is your strategy? Does anyone here actually count out the number of bars as they're playing so they know when the next part is coming?
I rarely actually count anything. Most everything I play is simple 4/4 stuff and, after decades, it is second nature. We rely on instrumental or lyrical cues from each other to give us a heads up.
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Old 05-07-2013, 02:14 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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Originally Posted by Anon La Ply View Post
I play by ear at first, but if I'm not hearing familiar patterns in a passage then I count until I can feel it. Counting is my fallback safety net.
This seems to be my approach at the moment as well. I'm also just joining my first band. I'm in the middle of trying to learn over 50 cover songs for our first gig in about 6 weeks. I think if I tried to count bars for each one I'd lose my mind. I kind of save that for the songs I'm not very familiar with. Luckily most of the songs we are doing are ones I have listened to for a long time and like so I think I at least have a sense of changes, etc.

On the other hand I do keep a notebook with each song listed in it and helpful notes for each song even if it says no more than whether it's a shuffle beat or money beat or whatever. If there's something tricky, I write it down so I can remember.

Good luck!
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Old 05-07-2013, 08:45 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

Fifty songs?? Ouch! Still, by the time you finish with them, you'll have one hell of a good learning strategy!
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Old 05-07-2013, 12:03 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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Originally Posted by alparrott View Post
I tend to learn all of a song, not just drum parts and counts. By that I mean I know the melodies, rhythms, lyrics, and major parts of the song well enough to just know how long each goes and what follows what. I know the lyrical or melodic cues that lead into the next part, and as a band you should all be following the same dynamics which usually happen at the transitions between verses, bridges, choruses, etc..
Amen to this. I will also add chord changes. I've been in situations where the monitors were crap, and all I could hear was either the bass line or rhythm guitar/keyboards. Knowing the chord changes helped me stay with everyone else.

There are, of course, times when people are not playing together. In cases like that it was up to me to provide cues for where the band should be in the song. But I could only do that if I memorized all the other elements.
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Old 05-07-2013, 12:11 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

Like most others in here, I learn the song and take cues from the guitar parts etc. That said, for specific songs, and usuaklly before I have played them enough to gain muscle memory (or even just comfort) I will count bars. The outro of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which we started playing quite recently is 4 groups of 6 bars with a staccato ending that needs to be counted to be accurate.
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Old 05-07-2013, 02:37 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I take cues from other instruments, not only from the vocalist.

Usually when learning a song I'll break into parts of the song like Intro, Verse, Chorus etc. I remember the basic patter(groove) for each part to be played for X amount of times before I move to another part of the song.

Hope this helps.
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Old 05-07-2013, 03:17 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I make mental cliff notes like Verse, Chorus, (do that triple fill) Verse, Bridge, Solo (16 bars), Chorus, end after 2, start 6/8 song. Some notes get put on the song list itself, but for the most part it's feel. In fact, our 6/8 song is instrumental so it wouldn't be a bad idea for me to chart it out because I tend to play it different every time.
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Old 05-07-2013, 05:54 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I honestly don't know how anyone can play and count bars. I listen to the chord progression. I listen to the rhythm guitar or the bass or the keys. I do write out the arrangement like this:

I-V-V-B-C-L-V-V-B-C-E.

I = intro
V = verse
B = bridge
C = chorus
L = lead, which usually follows the same chord progressions as the verse and/or bridge and chorus
E = ending, which a lot of times is the same as the intro.

Then there's stops, breakdowns and other parts that you make up names for as needed.

Listening to where am in the chord progressions of the various parts is how I do it. It should be something you don't have to think about, you should instinctively know where you are by your ears, and you should know what's coming up next because you memorized the arrangement that you wrote out.
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Old 05-07-2013, 06:00 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I feel that you should be able to count anything and everything. I can tell the bassist to watch out for the 16 th note anticipation at the end of bar 8 and we both get it.

Saves a lot of time.

I don't rely on cues from anyone. You should be able to play your songs with no accompaniment.

Yes, it's a lot of work but the working pros do it.
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Old 05-07-2013, 08:59 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

i only tend to lean my own works anymore...but when i used to play others works I would jot out the structure in standard notation for myself....though the structures of most songs are usually simple enough to allow winging it.
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Old 05-07-2013, 09:21 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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Originally Posted by Jeff Almeyda View Post
I feel that you should be able to count anything and everything. I can tell the bassist to watch out for the 16 th note anticipation at the end of bar 8 and we both get it.

Saves a lot of time.

I don't rely on cues from anyone. You should be able to play your songs with no accompaniment.

Yes, it's a lot of work but the working pros do it.
Just to provide a counterpoint to Jeff.

I agree that you should be able to do it on your own without anybody else. That doesn't mean you don't listen, though! I've found before that the feel of certain parts of the songs can vary depending on the other members of the band and being able to effectively provide for that within a song is vital. So whilst the notes remain the same, the manner in which you play them varies.
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Old 05-07-2013, 09:33 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

it depends on the song, if we play a song thats on the simple side, we just learn it by memory and dont use or need any cues from each other. if the song is a bit more arranged and complicated, during rehersals we may talk about how many bars a certain verse goes before modulatng or whatever. then just play to that live ( still using visual cues time to time but not really needing them, i guess its a comfort thing).
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Old 05-07-2013, 09:34 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I think it also depends on the level of yourself and the musicians you're playing with and what you're going for: complete accurate covers 100% of the time?

I played in a classic rock cover band for a couple of years. We all took it pretty serious but it was meant as a fun hobby, so not always the same amount of time to put into it.
It could happen someone made a mistake and we all had to adjust to make it sound like it was intended that way to the audience. Just counting bars and playing our studied parts rigidly would have caused audible problems.

IMO, knowing the song structure - verses, choruses, etc - and feeling what has to come next is more important.
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Old 05-07-2013, 10:09 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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Originally Posted by Jeff Almeyda View Post

I don't rely on cues from anyone. You should be able to play your songs with no accompaniment.
Totally agree, the whole song should be in your head...better yet in your body even.
Know the song first.
Relying on others for cues can lead to misadventure in cover music, like buddy guitarist forgets the ending outro is 6 bars of something and not 4, and so he screws you up...and so on.

Even though what I just stated above suggests the contrary, I am almost never 'counting' while playing anything. Maybe thats a bad habit pedagogically but all I can do intuitively is feel the music, the parts in verse, chorus instrumental...so on.. So I am feeling that the outro of that song goes for 6 bars and not just 4.
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Old 05-07-2013, 10:13 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I tend to hum or sing along. If I don't know the song well, I try to feel it out and watch the other musicians for body language.

Only time I count anything is if I'm learning something. I'll count things out to make sure I'm putting stuff in the right place, or if I'm having trouble with a passage, I'll play it slow and count or chick my hats on the quarters.
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Old 05-08-2013, 12:00 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

Feel. 100%. Probably not the best, but that's how I play.
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Old 05-08-2013, 03:09 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

Count? Hell no. For me, it's feel. Counting while playing is counter intuitive where feel is concerned. Again, for me. What Larry said about knowing where you are: verse, chorus, bridge etc... is what I do to understand where I am in a song.
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Old 05-08-2013, 04:41 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

Some guys need to count, others prefer to count, others don't need to count, whatever de-shells your nuts. I can't do the count because that's conscious thought and conscious thought gets in my way.
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Old 05-08-2013, 04:45 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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Some guys need to count, others prefer to count, others don't need to count, whatever de-shells your nuts. I can't do the count because that's conscious thought and conscious thought gets in my way.
Oh my, I hope I can get to this point one day.
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Old 05-08-2013, 05:29 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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Oh my, I hope I can get to this point one day.
You might be there and not realize it. It's just knowing where you are in the song form, at all times.

We do a song, "Lay Down Sally". During the guitar lead, the bass layer is following the same note progression as a verse into a chorus. He goes through that whole progression two entire times for the guitar lead. I can subconsciously sing a verse and a chorus exactly two times during the entire lead. So the lead is the verse/chorus, that's the only 2 parts to that song. Simple. I don't think the bassist is counting, he knows when to change. His big problem is changing to the right note lol. I know when he get's lost. It's just memorizing the chord progression, which happens automatically when I learn a song. So the song, from the bass players POV, is verse chorus verse chorus etc until the end. It helps to think like a bass player and knowing when the chords are supposed to change. Count it, feel it, memorize it, just as long as you know the tune without relying on anyone, that's the goal.
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Old 05-08-2013, 06:11 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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Originally Posted by Jeff Almeyda View Post
I feel that you should be able to count anything and everything. I can tell the bassist to watch out for the 16 th note anticipation at the end of bar 8 and we both get it.

Saves a lot of time.

I don't rely on cues from anyone. You should be able to play your songs with no accompaniment.

Yes, it's a lot of work but the working pros do it.
I tend to agree this is the goal. Although I also agree in a cover band with a large repertoire it's not always possible to get there out of the gate, but it's still the goal. And of course, listening is always a key.

The problem with relying on others for cues is they can, and will, make a mistake.
And really, the rest of the band is often relying on the drummer for the cues.

The drums are the foundation of a good band. If the foundation is waiting for a cue, things can get shaky quick.

I've observed that drummers who are in high demand are the ones who can lead the band on stage.
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Old 05-08-2013, 06:41 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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Originally Posted by Anon La Ply View Post
I play by ear at first, but if I'm not hearing familiar patterns in a passage then I count until I can feel it. Counting is my fallback safety net.
Same here...

I play most by feel, and I tend to have a pretty good memory, so once the song is learned, I usually don't need to count, there might be an intricate part of a song or arrangement which I would count for safety measure, cues are important too, many pros uses cues on stage while performing, and I probably gives as much cues in a song as I'm watching cues from the others too, interactions an communications between band members is as crucial as counting, not every music is set on stone and sometimes it's improvised by a good measure, that's were cues are important, rely on both if you need to and/or write a little simple chart for each song as Larry suggested.
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Old 05-09-2013, 08:55 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I go by the lyrical cues to know when the song progresses.

Which means I've encountered some difficulties with the departure of the vocalist in our band, I've resorted to learning most of the lyrics and singing along in my head...
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Old 05-10-2013, 10:40 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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I go by the lyrical cues to know when the song progresses.

...
The problem with that approach is the old joke "How do you know there is a singer at your door? They don't know when to come in..."

In my old band, we often ran the set without the vocals in rehearsal just to focus on our timing and playing, while giving the singers vocal chords a break. I simply had to know the counts.
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Old 05-10-2013, 10:53 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

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I go by the lyrical cues to know when the song progresses.

Which means I've encountered some difficulties with the departure of the vocalist in our band, I've resorted to learning most of the lyrics and singing along in my head...
Nothing wrong with singing along in your head. It works.

I've played in a variety of situations - Big Band, Metal quartet, Rock five-piece, flute-led Jazz quartet (that was fun) amongst others. I think the ability to follow any instrument is useful; if not vital. I'm happiest following a vocalist but can follow flute, saxophone, bass, guitars or (in situations where this is no monitoring) visual cues from either a conductor or another musician.

At some point or another - even at my deeply amateur level - being able to follow a variety of instruments has become very useful. Sometimes you'll have an instrument drop out due to technical issues (a guitar string breaking, channel goes out on the desk) or another musician forgets a cue and in those instances, being able to switch between instruments at will is useful. I still get things wrong mind you but I feel much more comfortable being able to follow others.
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Old 05-11-2013, 05:10 PM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I count in the beginning and the rest is all about feel thru out the entire song or songs we play ....
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Old 05-12-2013, 12:43 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I first feel the leghth of 4 bars and from there the the length of 16 bars. That way I just know how long they are so when a section is 64 bars long, I really only have to count to 4. Of couse some songs don't always fit into bars of 4 or 16 but many do. From there you could make a cheat cheet until all the songs are memorized.
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Old 05-12-2013, 12:48 AM
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Default Re: When learning songs, do you actually memorize the number of bars in each part, or do you go by f

I was in a similar situation where I joined a cover band and had to learn roughly 80 songs. Took me a few months to be honest but here's the system I developed:

- Open a document editor
- Copy/paste the song lyrics into two columns
- Listen to the song, and notate at the top the feel of the beat
- As you listen, mark what beat you want each section to be - find your own shorthand (e.g. 2/4 beat, surf rock, disco, etc).
- Also be sure to notate where you fill, and transitional phrases from part to part (e.g. 8 bar transition, 12 bar breakdown).

I have the lyrics in black and then my personal notation in bright blue so I can differentiate the two. Hope that helps!
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