One String Exercise (Guitar Lesson)

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David MacKenzie

One String Exercise

David demonstrates an excellent one-string exercise in this lesson. This exercise will improve your dexterity and knowledge of the fretboard.

Taught by David MacKenzie in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 16:48Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (12:53) One String Scale I. Importance of Horizontal Scales

Note: The following information is taken from lesson 37 of Brad Henecke's Phase 2 Classic Rock series.

In his book, The Advancing Guitarist, Mick Goodrick argues that one should first master the guitar from a horizontal standpoint rather than a vertical standpoint. This is contrary to how most beginning guitarists learn the instrument. Most beginners learn a handful of vertical scale patterns that can easily be transposed to a different key on the neck. Many of these beginners run into problems while improvising due to this approach. Many players get stuck playing in one vertical scale position. They lack the ability to move up and down the neck to access different notes and potentially, new ideas.

Mick Goodrick presents many specific arguments in his book to support this claim. "Playing on a single string helps to eliminate two potential problems: 'paralysis' (fear of movement) and 'acrophobia' (fear of higher frets), since the entire length of the fingerboard is utilized from the very beginning. Also, Mick notes that "this approach is conducive to learning note locations because you can't rely on a fingering pattern (as in position playing)."

For all of the aforementioned reasons, it is very important that you learn to play each scale across all of the six strings. Keep in mind that this process will take a very long time. It may take years before you can comfortably play all of the scales you know horizontally in all twelve keys. However, the results of this practice are well worth the wait.

II. Lesson Exercises

A. Exercise Goals

Dave has designed the exercises in this lesson to address several specific issues. These exercises will improve your technical ability. They will enhance the synchronization of the right and left hands. By playing through these exercises, you will expand your knowledge of the fretboard. Finally, the material provided in this lesson can be used as a basis for your own lead guitar licks.

B. E Natural Minor Tonality

Both of the exercises demonstrated in this lesson are played in the E natural minor tonality. Remember that E Aeolian is another name for this tonality. Within this lesson, Dave demonstrates how to play through this tonality on the high E string. You should also learn how to play this scale in a horizontal fashion across the remaining five strings. From this point forward, include horizontal scales into your weekly technical practice regimen.

Note: Tablature and notation to these scale patterns can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

C. Rhythm

Both of the exercises presented in this lesson are played in steady quarter note triplets. This rhythm can be quite difficult to master at first. There really is no practical way to count it. Listen to DMAC several times to get a feel for this rhythm. Then, practice the exercise on your own. Finally, try to play it along with DMAC to ensure that you are playing the rhythm correctly. Use all down strokes when playing quarter note triplets.

D. Exercise 1

This exercise and the subsequent exercise each feature notes from the E natural minor scale placed into groups of three. Within the first exercise, the notes in each group are played in an ascending order. The second version of this exercise features a descending pattern of this note group.

E. Beginning the Exercise

The exercise begins in twelfth position. You will play notes at the 12th, 14th, and 15th frets. These notes are E, F#, and G. Notice the fingering that Dave uses to fret these notes. Following this fingering will help you with accuracy issues. Also, this fingering is most conducive to practicing the exercise at high speeds.

Next, the pattern shifts down the fretboard. The first finger is now playing at the 10th fret. In this position, the second finger must stretch up to reach the note E at the 12th fret. Drill this stretch if it is difficult for you.

The left hand must perform larger stretches with each subsequent position shift. This feature of the exercise makes the exercise a great warm-up tool. Your fingers are gradually forced to stretch further as they become more warmed up. Towards the end of the exercise, the fingers receive a nice cool down once the open E string is reached.

The pattern is next shifted to the eighth fret. Dave chooses to play this segment with fingers 1, 3, and 4. You may find it easier to play with fingers 1, 2, and 4. Work on both fingerings to ensure that each of your fingers receive equal practice. Then, decide which fingering feels most comfortable to you within the context of the entire lick.

When the pattern shifts down to seventh position, no out of position stretches are required. This provides your left hand with a temporary rest from stretching. Be very careful when practicing any material that features wide left-hand stretches! Do not hurt yourself! Bring your thumb closer to the bottom of the neck to help with wide stretches.

Continue to shift the pattern down the fretboard until you reach open position.

F. Exercise 2

Exercise 2 features the same three note groupings that you learned in the first exercise. However, the notes within each group are played in descending fashion. Then, the exercise proceeds to the next lower position available within the E natural minor scale. Use the same fingerings that you used in Exercise 1 when playing Exercise 2. At 8:49, Dave provides a side-by-side comparison of both exercises. Notice how descending within each group of three notes greatly impacts the sound of the exercise.

If you find one exercise to be more difficult than the other, spend extra time practicing it. Remember to practice your weaknesses, not your strengths. Typically, most people find the descending pattern more difficult. It is usually more difficult to descend any lick, scale, exercise, etc. than it is to ascend.

G. Applying the Exercises to Solos

These exercises are an excellent stepping-stone to playing improvised licks such as the lines Dave demonstrates at 09:52. These licks are derived from the E Dorian Mode. You'll learn more about modes modes in Phase 2 once you advance to Brad Henecke's Phase 2 Classic Rock series of lessons.

H. Start with the Basics

Dave takes a very practical approach to teaching improvisation. At first, limit yourself to two strings when generating lead lines. Then, continue to add a string at a time. This approach forces you to expand your creativity by limiting your options at first.
Chapter 2: (03:11) Using the Backing Track Improvisation

You can practice improvisation with the E natural minor scale by playing along with the JamTrack that is provided in this lesson. Dave provides a brief example of how to practice this process. He begins by playing the first exercise over the track. This is the exercise that ascends within each group of three notes. He follows Exercise 1 with Exercise 2. Next, he plays some harmonics that outline an E minor triad. These harmonics function as a smooth transition into the next section of the track.

The next section is played in the A natural minor tonality. Consequently, Dave shifts gears to this scale within his solo. He plays up and down the fifth position A natural minor scale in steady eighth notes. During the next repetition of the A minor section, Dave shreds some rapid triplet licks by applying some hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Get Creative!

The exercises that you learned in this lesson are just a few sample ideas of what you can play over a JamTrack. Feel free to get creative and experiment. That's the best way to explore improvising. Always let your ears guide you.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

Alexander10Alexander10 replied

I have tiny hands.Any suggestions of what i should do?

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied

Hi Alexander10! I have kind of small hands too and thought that it was really slowing my progress when I first started learning. But after a lot of practice I started to see improvement on things that I originally thought wouldn't be possible because of the size of my hands. Turns out that guitar is just hard :/ One technique that I found helpful was to select any 4 consecutive frets (8-12 are good to start with because they're closer together) and work your way through the strings from the Low E up to the High E and back down to the Low E using all four fingers (one finger per fret). After you're comfortable with frets 8-12, you can move down to the lower frets where the reach is bigger...eventually you'll be able to easily manage frets 1-4. This is an awesome exercise for dexterity and accuracy! CHEERS :)

rsmith1068rsmith1068 replied

Thanks.Great lesson. Its what I need.

gunsnroses21gunsnroses21 replied

could you make a lesson on how to play ramble on by led zepplin

tpeterssftpeterssf replied

Great lesson for the fingers AND the ears. Thanks, from an old Army SF vet.

AllTubeAmpAllTubeAmp replied sounding exercise Dave, thanks. And can tell it will pay big dividends down the line for soloing.

evilmpevilmp replied

I noticed it was pretty even and smooth but I caught myself speed cheating by using hammer ons. Damn you Alexi Laiho!!! lol

YucatanEdYucatanEd replied

Took me a while to get this one, especially walking down. I notice I am much stronger walking up. But eventually after practicing many many times, I got both up and down. Still can't do it as fast as you do using the backing track, but I've got the accuracy down. Thanks for a great exercise DMac.

coolbeanmonkeycoolbeanmonkey replied

ok i'll have a look and let ya know how it goes..thanks

coolbeanmonkeycoolbeanmonkey replied

i've looked a little at related keys so that does make it would'nt sound great then if they were'nt related? or are you pretty free to experiment?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

experimentation is essential, and also just alot of fun sometimes, as you come up with some interesting things. take a look at Emil Werstler's chomatic pentatonic lesson, as he explains some of the things i think we are talking about. listen to what he says, and let it sink in. you may not get it right of the bat, or it might make perfect sense.

coolbeanmonkeycoolbeanmonkey replied

loving the improvsation..really helping my technique i love it is ok to mix different scales...i've always been a bit confused with that..but here your using c major and A min...i kinda always thought you had to stay in the same key?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

thats a great question actually!!! if you look at the "circle of keys" involved with music theory, C major, and a minor are at the top of the circle where it starts. these 2 keys are considered "related keys" as neither contains flats or sharps in scale form. you can go further to say that a song might possibly be in the key of A minor and not C major, but you have to play thru the song to investigate it further. so it can be tricky, but that is some of the theory which i think i more stumbled thru than actually planned! lol!

tikinhokuntikinhokun replied

hahaha I'm so excited that I'll record something and show to my girlfriend, so I will get a "it's amazing" hahahahahaha, thanks, david, for this lesson!

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

hahaha, thanks man, keep at it you will, and she will say "its amazing"!! lol!!!

tikinhokuntikinhokun replied

wow, after learning the (boring) scales this is just awesome! I've never improvised anymething before... this rythm makes you feel like to play, even I'm still playing awfuly, I'm having lots of fun :D

pyroagpyroag replied

Im slightly cofused is this a riff based off a scale or is it a scale played on one strin, if it is a scale how did you figure out what to play so how would u play the c major scale (c,d,e,f,g,a,b,c) on one string? thanx for the lesson though.

screaminglordscreaminglord replied

i think it's hard to understate how crucial this lesson has been to improving my playing ability, awesome lesson d'mac =)

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

awesome glad to know it helped you!!!

martin.baylymartin.bayly replied

lol - you rock man!

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

aw shucks! thanks!!!

duayneduayne replied

Loved the lesson and the solo at the end, I am starting to see how scales and chords come together to make musicv sound cool. Thanks Dave, Peace and Jam :~)

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

you are most welcome!

pmarzitellipmarzitelli replied

Dave, I spent almost 2 hours straight going up and down the neck and you were right, I'm a lot better going up than down. But even after practicing, I could feel my speed and precision increase. I even went up pass the 12th fret. Thanks. Were in the 101st?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

amazing what practising those does for your speed huh? very cool, glad you got something out of it. rock on!!!

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

i am only assuming you were asking was i in the 101st. no i was'nt. my son was.

crosscross replied

Awesome lesson, I'm actually looking forward on practicing lol

pinoyboy2829pinoyboy2829 replied

amazing lesson Dave, this is a very fun excercise, actually it doesnt even sound like an excercise, when i play this i feel like im playing an actual song =). Love the backtrack too.

bullet2323bullet2323 replied

awsome solol at the end it inspires!!

adris8adris8 replied

This lesson was pretty good however im having a lot of difficulty in keeping in beat with the jamtrack and the speed which is required to do so. My hands also ache a lot from repeating this exercise. Any tips?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

hang in there! the tempo is moving fairly fast. if you want, you dont have to repeat the lick/rif as many times as i do. do it half as much. its okay to have some fatique after playing this. it is designed to build coordination, strength, and dexterity in your fretting hand. if it get too painful back off of it for a week, then try again. only take on as much as you can. good job for tackling this lesson though!!!

caseharr33caseharr33 replied

Great lesson, and I can tell this is going to make for a fun challenge and learning experience, can't wait to show this to my step long till the school bus gets here....better get to practicing.

franrfranr replied

You continue to amaze me with more fun and useful exercises! Those backtracks make such a huge difference in learning. Great stuff.

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

sweet! glad you like it! i need this kind of feedback thanks!

godstwingodstwin replied

esp guitars are so underrated

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

you got that right! i would love to endorse them, but highly doubt that'll ever happen. i am not a big star! lol! i do love my esp though!!

jasgp78jasgp78 replied

First time that I realize that this section was here! lol... As said by the other guys, awsome lesson, just as the rest of the lot. Had a great time stabbin' muses with the back track. :D Hope I'll get better. ;) Thank you.

alshyalshy replied

been at this for a two weeks nightly slowly speeding up good tempo great exercise, going back down tough but getting there great stuff Dave, backing track excellent keeping time just!!!! been looking for stuff like this for long time keep going D-Mac

kpw19kpw19 replied

This lesson is so fun and inspiring, even a guy with 5 thumbs like me can have a good time with it! Thanks Dave!

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

your most welcome!

mouzermouzer replied

I love the tone in this lesson. Can you tell me what equipment you were using and something about the settings?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

lets see, i was using my vox da 5 amp. little 5 watter. with a fair amount of distortion i think on the higain 1 or 2 setting. with a smidge of reverb. thats about it except for the kick butt esp guitar tone! hope that helps.

ronin808ronin808 replied

I'm always looking for exercises like this, much thanks!! I can't wait for the scales to be up for us to play with. Hey D-Mac, will your band ever be in jersey? I would like to see you play as well as meet you. You are an inspiration!

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

lo! well i would love tour to jersey and play for ya, but unfortunately we all have day jobs, so not anytime soon i know of? i am humbled by your kind words though, and hopefully i can get jeff and crew out to film the band so we can put it up on the site. thanks, and there is more stuff like this to come!!!

Basic Electric Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In his Phase 1 series, David MacKenzie will walk you through the basics of rock guitar.

About the GuitarLesson 1

About the Guitar

David discusses the parts of the guitar. He also gives you some basic techniques to get you started.

Length: 31:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Power ChordsLesson 2

Power Chords

In this lesson, David introduces basic power chords. Great fun for beginners!

Length: 10:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Basic Chord ProgressionsLesson 3

Basic Chord Progressions

David introduces some basic chords and chord progressions.

Length: 14:15 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Notes, Chords and ArpeggiosLesson 4

Notes, Chords and Arpeggios

David provides a brief explanation of what notes, chords, power chords, and arpeggios are.

Length: 8:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Speed and CoordinationLesson 5

Speed and Coordination

This lesson is all about increasing your speed and coordination. David demonstrates basic picking exercises.

Length: 14:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Chord ExercisesLesson 6

Chord Exercises

David MacKenzie presents a mysterious sounding chord exercise. This exerices is designed to improve right hand technique.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Practice and DisciplineLesson 7

Practice and Discipline

In this short lesson David talks about practice, discipline, and how you should apply yourself when learning and mastering the guitar.

Length: 6:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Double StopsLesson 8

Double Stops

Double stops can bring new life to your rhythm and lead playing. David provides a short tutorial on what double stops are and how they can be used.

Length: 7:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Major ChordsLesson 9

The Major Chords

David covers the basic major chord shapes. Every guitarist must learn these basic chords.

Length: 18:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Minor ChordsLesson 10

The Minor Chords

David MacKenzie walks you through the basic minor chords. Expand your knowledge of chords with this fun-filled lesson.

Length: 8:15 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Major ScalesLesson 11

Major Scales

Major scales are an essential component of all styles of music. They can also be used as a great way to orient yourself with the fretboard.

Length: 32:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Major Scale JamLesson 12

Major Scale Jam

David MacKenzie explains how to practice the major scales along with a fun backing track.

Length: 11:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
The Minor ScalesLesson 13

The Minor Scales

David MacKenzie proceeds to an in-depth discussion of the minor scales.

Length: 15:36 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Minor Scale JamLesson 14

Minor Scale Jam

David MacKenzie shows you how to play the natural minor scale over a rockin' JamTrack.

Length: 6:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
One String ExerciseLesson 15

One String Exercise

David demonstrates an excellent one-string exercise in this lesson. This exercise will improve your dexterity and knowledge of the fretboard.

Length: 16:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Hammer-Ons and Pull-OffsLesson 16

Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are techniques that enable you to play with a smooth, legato feel.

Length: 8:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Basic BendsLesson 17

Basic Bends

David MacKenzie gives a crash course on bending in this lesson. Bends can add a lot of soul to your playing.

Length: 16:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Cool Rock LicksLesson 18

Cool Rock Licks

David MacKenzie teaches two rock licks inspired by Yngwie Malmsteen and Kirk Hammett of Metallica.

Length: 12:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Hammer-On ExerciseLesson 19

Hammer-On Exercise

David returns to the world of hammer-ons with a fun new exercise. This lesson includes a JamTrack.

Length: 13:56 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Return to Pull-OffsLesson 20

Return to Pull-Offs

David returns to the world of pull-offs with a new exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 12:50 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Practicing BendsLesson 21

Practicing Bends

David MacKenzie returns to bending technique in this lesson. This lesson features a backing track that is designed for bending practice.

Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Basic VibratoLesson 22

Basic Vibrato

Integrating vibrato into your guitar playing is a great way to add emotion and soul. David MacKenzie explains the basics of vibrato in this lesson.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Pentatonic ScaleLesson 23

Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the pentatonic scale.

Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Minor Pentatonic ScaleLesson 24

Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the minor pentatonic scale in this lesson.

Length: 4:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Full Major ScaleLesson 25

Full Major Scale

David MacKenzie explains a two octave pattern of the major scale.

Length: 11:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Full Minor ScaleLesson 26

Full Minor Scale

David MacKenzie introduces a two octave natural minor scale pattern.

Length: 12:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Full Major Pentatonic ScaleLesson 27

Full Major Pentatonic Scale

David teaches a two octave pattern of the major pentatonic scale.

Length: 6:30 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Full Minor Pentatonic ScaleLesson 28

Full Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie teaches a two octave version of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Cool LickLesson 29

Cool Lick

David MacKenzie teaches several licks based on common arpeggio patterns. This lesson also includes a backing track to jam with.

Length: 20:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Rhythm BasicsLesson 30

Rhythm Basics

David MacKenzie introduces some important rhythm basics in this lesson. This lesson also includes a backing track exercise.

Length: 14:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Power Chord VariationsLesson 31

Power Chord Variations

David MacKenzie explains various power chord voicings. By simply moving a finger or two, new power chords can be formed.

Length: 18:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Cool Lick ExerciseLesson 32

Cool Lick Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces some new amazing licks.

Length: 29:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Tapping ExerciseLesson 33

Tapping Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces the tapping technique and teaches a fun exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 22:44 Difficulty: 2.5 FREE
Tapping Exercise #2Lesson 34

Tapping Exercise #2

David MacKenzie teaches another amazing tapping exercise.

Length: 13:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Tapping #3:  Adding Open StringsLesson 35

Tapping #3: Adding Open Strings

The third tapping lesson elaborates on the previous lesson by adding open strings.

Length: 12:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Tapping #4:  Diminished Lick Lesson 36

Tapping #4: Diminished Lick

The fourth lesson in Dave's tapping series deals with a monster diminished lick.

Length: 11:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Tapping #5Lesson 37

Tapping #5

In lesson five of his tapping mini-series, DMac provides backing tracks that you can tap over.

Length: 8:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Tremolo TechniqueLesson 38

Tremolo Technique

In lesson 38, DMac demonstrates some tremolo techniques to add to your repertoire.

Length: 13:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Tapping #6Lesson 39

Tapping #6

DMac returns to his tapping instruction with more advanced techniques.

Length: 19:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Chord StructuresLesson 40

Chord Structures

In lesson 40, DMac teaches you how to play various D chords all the way up the neck.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
OctavesLesson 41


In lesson 41, David discusses the octave and its uses while playing.

Length: 17:09 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
David MacKenzie

About David MacKenzie View Full Biography Dave MacKenzie has been playing guitar for 30 of his 45 years on this earth. Starting back when he was 14 years old, Dave picked up the guitar and started to learn from his oldest brother, who had played some guitar as well. Dave was hooked, and couldn't learn fast enough! Everything from the Beatles, Chicago, Ted Nugent, The Eagles, you name it, Dave was trying to play it.

Then as with a lot of players out there, Eddie Van Halen came along and changed the way guitar was played! Dave has been influenced by anyone he has heard play guitar, literally! Always keeping an open mind and a humbleness about him has helped him to keep learning new things on, and about the guitar.

Dave has mostly played in top 40 rock, country, and pop bands. He is most recently playing guitar and keyboards in a 80's metal band called Open Fire. They have opened for Warrant, Firehouse, Winger, and LA Guns within the 3 and a half years they have been together, and are now jumping into original music.

Dave believes you should have internal motivation, and passion to play guitar, and most definitely, it should be fun!

As with his playing, Dave will find new ways to show you how to get the most out of your time learning guitar!

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Mike H.

"I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar!"

I am 66 years young and I still got it! I would have never known this if it had not been for Jamplay! I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar! Ha! I cannot express enough how great you're website is! It is for beginners and advanced pickers! I am an advanced picker and thought I had lost it but thanks to you all, I found it again! Even though I only play by ear, I have been a member a whopping whole two weeks now and have already got Brent's country shuffle and country blues down and of course with embellishments. Thank you all for your wonderful program!

Greg J.

"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


"I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students."

I am commenting here to tell you and everyone at JamPlay that I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students. I truly enjoy learning to play the guitar on Yes, I said the words, ""enjoy learning."" It is by far the best deal for the money.

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