#1
I'm new to posting to this but have been reading here and there throughout my life. I'm searching for opinions of other guitarists, other musicians, and other people involved in some way with being a musician, and specifically a guitarist.

I consider myself a "professional" musician. I've got a degree in music performance, but I mean Pprofessional as in I quit my day-job last year and now music-related jobs are my only source of income right now. My income avenues are primarily through music-education. I also do get paid to play out/gig... sometimes. I am either rehearsing with a band or playing out I'd say 5 out of 7 nights a week. I always like to say if my 13 year-old self could see me now, he'd be very happy. I'm accomplishing a lot of the goals I had set and have held for a long time. I'm a "permanent" member of 4 different bands (I play for 2 singer-songwriters, a rapper, and am in a cover band). I've collaborated with "famous" musicians, taught classes with a member of a famous major/indie band (i'm leaving nameless to protect their and my identity), I played SXSW this year, I've played a few of my "wish I could play there" venues in Chicago, and am booked to play a huge festival and an amazing famous landmark venue (Millennium Park) in the summer. Things are consistently improving and I seem to always be moving on professionally. I have hours to practice each day and time to work on things and manage myself pretty well. Sweet gig right?

I don't want to sound like I am bragging and that's not the point. But the above is something I feel like most aspiring guitarists (or any musician) would love to have and work really hard to have. Here is where the issue starts... I can't remember the last time I picked up the guitar and enjoyed it. I remember when I used to practice at home, I'd wake up WAY earlier than I needed to before work just so I could get a few hours of playing in. I'd sit on my porch and practice techniques, write my own stuff, and learn new tunes. Every time I would finish I would be savoring every minute of playing time before I had to go to work. It would make me feel invincible. It didn't matter that I had to go in to the mind-numbing, soul-crushing office, playing the instrument left me feeling like I could take on anything or be faced with any challenge because at the end of the day, I got to go home and play that guitar again. It was my vehicle of self expression, my stress release, and it helped me feel connected.

At the time I realistically was only in 1 band, but it was MY band where I was responsible for about 70% of the songwriting. It was my avenue and the thing I would look to for hope in my future. I knew the challenges musicians in an original band face. I knew if I wanted that group to make it I'd have to sacrifice a lot; relationships, time with friends, financial stability and all of that. We had decent gigs, had some decent press and a good team around us, even though we were still "small". It was my hope and dream and it felt great and gave me worth. When it broke up I was heartbroken and not willing to start over with another personal endeavor so readily, so I agreed to join all the other groups.

For a while, it was still great and fun. I felt fulfilled and like I was doing the right thing as a professional musician, rather than a wannabe artist. I spent/spend a lot of time working on those other groups, especially the cover band's material (learning and keeping fresh 150+ songs takes a lot of time).

The further I go, the harder it is to care. I feel pressured to learn these people's material that honestly doesn't appease my taste in music. I was working on "My Sharona" with the cover band the other night, running it down for maybe the 3rd time that evening, and I just stopped playing in the middle of it. Just quit. Turned my volume knob all the way down and let everyone else play it through. I couldn't bring my hands to run through that ****ing stupid octaves riff one more time that evening. I find I have to spend ALL the time I have to practice to learn the material or to keep it fresh or performance-worthy. If I don't, I play it poorly and that's not good for shows, I shouldn't have to explain that. Now, when I pick up the guitar, or when I know it's practice time, I'm beginning to have the same feeling of dread and anxiety I'd get before I'd have to go in to the office. When I'm sitting there learning yet another Bruno Mars tune, I'm trying to see how fast I can learn it so the task of listening and transcribing can be over as soon as possible. I usually give myself a solid 2 hours of playing time before breakfast but this week in that time I think I was holding my guitar and staring out the window with my thoughts wandering for more time than I spent learning notes. I'm happy when it's time to eat because that means I don't have to play anymore. When rehearsals with a band are cancelled, I feel elated about a free evening rather than feeling bummed about not "playing with the guys". Going to rehearsal and to my jobs feels the same as having to run off to the shitty day jobs I kept in college or after graduating. Not quite as intense, but it's getting there. I used to chart out every hit and accent for the bands I work with and transcribe every harmony note I need to sing.

There are always things as a guitarist I wanted learn and do to improve. I want to pull off those amazing rasguedo triplets from the lady in Rodrigo y Gabriella, I want to get better at jazz improvisation, I want my own repertoire of solo pieces (I have a personal style in the vein of Kaki King and Tommy Emmanuel) and a variety of other musical goals I'd love to accomplish but I just have no time for.

On top of all that I'll probably have to get another shitty day job again. Without a music education degree I can't get a full-time teaching job at a school. I don't enjoy teaching all that much anyway. Teaching privately is very unreliable. Students reschedule and cancel constantly. The cover band is new, so it will take some time to pull in a profit from. The other artists I play for don't pay. I think I've gotten $20 total for the last 10 gigs I've played with any 3 of my regulars. It sucks because they are my friends mostly, and those projects are labors of love so I know the leaders are getting very little so money themselves from the gigs and would pay me if they could afford it.

I am at a crossroads. Part of me just wants to tell all my bands to suck it and quit them all. Part of me wants to say "You need to pay me at least $50 per gig" to play in them, but again, they are my personal friends and that is very hard to ask, especially knowing they are all broke as well. I have seen a lot of musicians who have been at it for a while and are much more talented than I and they all have similar problems with income. One of the best musicians I grew up knowing still works at Radioshack... He and his band was just on Letterman... He's 50 or so and has a family, but his wife brings in the sustainable income.

I know in me I love playing guitar and making music but I just don't feel the same way anymore. I don't have time to play it for the love. It feels like a job that you get just to pay the bills. Except, it doesn't pay the bills. I'm still fairly young (25), and as I look at my future I'm beginning to consider where music will take me. I know I'll still have great opportunities that are fun and these great gigs, but there are many things I can see that I'd like to do and I just don't know if music can provide for them. Is this just a part of cutting your teeth as a pro? Am I in the wrong field? Am I just being whiny and need to buck up and work harder? I would love thoughts and opinions. And thank you to anyone who made it all the way through.
#2
Maybe you just need to find more time to play the music you want to play. You said you have hours a day to practice? Maybe take one of those hours every day and work on writing an album yourself. Make it a long-term project if you have to. Anything to validate what you do as a musician.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
#3
It sounds to me that you need to find a specific niche that you enjoy more than anything else...like producing or mixing or maybe cut down the bands...i know each one is an invaluable source of money but sanity counts. Maybe find a hobby to balance yourself
#4
You seem to be playing and performing a lot. Maybe stop the ones that don't pay, or don't fulfill you musically. Its always difficult when your passion and hobbies become your job, because they stop being your passion and hobbies, and become your job. if its not the kind of music you feel passionate about, and you are not getting paid, ask yourself why you are doing it. Try doing something you want to do instead, make it yeur labour of love, not follow along supporting theirs.
what are you expecting to feel if you're working all day playing my sharona?
Last edited by innovine at Apr 3, 2013,
#5
this my sharona business isnt going to cut it man.

music should be a journey where you go forwards, sideways, diagonally, but never backward. every second you should be improving or you'll never get where you want to go.

when music becomes a skill which makes you money but not happiness, its the same as any other shitty day job...except you start to hate music. why ruin something you are so lucky to have?
in other words, join musical endeavors that bring you primarily happiness and achievement, and secondarily money.
keep teaching, i think you enjoy it since you were blaming the students and not the job. but ditch my sharona man, its not a worthy investment of your time and effort.

sure people may argue making money out of music is gruelling, you cant always stick your head up your arse and expect everything to be happy...but then you have to ask yourself what are you getting out of this? no fun, no improvement at all playing my sharona 600 times, less money and you're slowly losing a passion that defined you and was with you for so long.

go back to the day job, at least you keep your music alive and you get more money.
ditch the day job only when you find a musical endeavor that you feel will reward you well for your effort, both in terms of improving yourself, having a memorable and worthwhile experience and a decent paycheck.
#6
Playing unpaid/low pay gigs with music you greatly dislike?

That's the problem right there.

Receiving no enjoyment from teaching doesn't help either.
Last edited by Vlasco at Apr 3, 2013,
#7
I'm not "pro" yet, but the way I see, if you want to make a career of anything you have to do it like it's your job. That means paying your dues early on for sake of experience and making opportunities for yourself. Sometimes it's more about getting something done than finding personal enjoyment.

What kind of satisfaction and opportunities were available in your first full time day job? Probably none. But that's where you are with music right now - your first full time job. Now it's time to work up the ladder.
#8
Maybe you should get a job and play in the bands partime. You sound uninspired and tired of it all, this is probably due to having too much of a good thing, have a break from it, itl do you good
#9
You've only made $30 off your last 10 gigs with your originals bands, your covers band is new so don't pay, your private teaching business is still growing and you don't like teaching anyway.

Why did you quit your day job again?

Im not a professional musician - my main income comes from an office job that I like. That said my last 10 gigs paid me between $1500-$2000, thats for doing the sound as well (I own a pretty decent PA). So either you are exaggerating, or you are doing this wrong.

A professional is defined by one thing - they are paid to do what they do. It doesn't sound like you are. I don't get why you joined a new cover band rather than joining an established one (or waiting for the opportunty to join), starting a cover band from scratch is extremely time consuming and it can take easily more than a year or two gigging before you land some proper high paying jobs. The "professional musicians" that I know do not have the time for such things - they need money to live.

I would not demand that your buddies pay you $50 to play - Id just leave for bands that already do.

And enough with the Sharona bashing dudes -its a cool song and becomes a whole heap cooler when 300 people are singing it along with the band.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#10
Perhaps find better paying gigs for the cover band. Yes, its a pain in the ass playing songs you hate, but there is no harm in doing it to put food on the table and maintain gear, etc. I'm only starting in the cover band thing now after years of saying no. But I made my mind up to cater for a specific group of people - bikers... lots of rallies and day parties, etc as well as tattoo expo's. Lots of hard rock, blues and glam... woohoo!!!! And for when there aren't any rallies for a while, there will be coffee shops/tea gardens to pull off some acoustic ramblings/versions.

You play 5 days a week - play 5 paying gigs. As you find a new avenue to go down, cancel one of the other freeloader gigs with the explanation of needing cash... if you're going to want to explain it in the first place that is. You seem to have a few big gigs coming up, keep them. The more you play, the more you get noticed. If you're professional enough, maybe you'll be appraoched by someone who really does pay.

The Kaki King/Tommy style works well in chill places. Scout some places out in your area that would allow you to do just that. The only way you're going to get paid is by doing something that pays. I think a busker might make more than you (gig wise). Play some subways and corners and parks.

Yes, teaching is unreliable at times. Its a pain when they dont do their homework but its an absolute pleasure when they do more than what was required. Understand your students for who they are. If lazy, they don't need a heavy lesson. If intrigued, load em up. I finished a two hour lesson just now which was only supposed to be half an hour. I just enjoy teaching this kid and I always get thanked profusely for the lesson, etc. As in all other parts of life, you take the good with the bad and build a horse apple filtering system.

Is $50 a gig (per member) a good wage? Put a value to your time! The venues are not just paying for a night of live performance radio, they're also paying for your years of string breakages, equipment, lessons you had to take and pay for, a few thousand hours of practice, thousands of hours building your ear, most importantly your petrol, rent, food, a maid to wash your sheets so groupies can feel at home (until booted out after two hours or in the morning), clean your cups/glasses so that groupies can do their duty and make coffee or pour beer or whatever they need to do.

Do you really have to rehearse often? Can't those members get it right on their own? I just send out the list, arrange a rehearsal or two to gel and iron out some kinks and away we go. If you know 150+ songs, it means you can do more than 3 sets. If your band has a high energy level and the crowd is on the floor by the second or third song - that venue owner is going to want another set or two. Learn to charge as you will have the material to cover the extra two sets as he is making money at the bar at your expense, so why not? And you charge per set. You say professional... then be professional. The more money the owner makes at the bar, the more contracts he'll grant you as time goes on. And he is only one venue... there are 4 other days to cater for.

If you feel that you can't leave the original acts because "just now they make it and if I'm not there I'm fk'd" then thats up to you. Just don't continue to whine about it as time goes on. Carl Verheyen seems to balance out his studio sessions, original recordings and performance and sessioning for some other big bands. Take a leaf out of that perhaps.

But good luck with whatever you choose to do. Apologies for a lengthy reply

*edit* right, so the cover band is new. I seemed to miss that. But the advice is still good I believe. Use it, don't use it... I don't care, I'm going to bed
Last edited by evolucian at Apr 3, 2013,
#11
^^^ I think this is good advice, with one important change. The venue isn't there to pay for your expenses. They are making a wager that paying you will make them more money than putting on a CD, which is free.

This is particularly important when negotiating fees with venues. They don't give a toss if your guitar cost $200 or $2000. They only care if they are going to make money from you being there. So you tell them either what your draw is (originals) or how your setlist keeps people partying (covers), and work from there.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#12
I agree bud, they don't care... but we don't play for free either They are taking the risk/wager and when an extra set is required, they'll need to pay. Here we can't make cash from originals unless you're in a few bands or get signed and leave the country. But covers do pay and quite well, especially in the corporate side.

So I reckon what I meant to say is don't undervalue yourself or how much it cost you to get where you are now (and there being 3 or more people involved, those costs of experience get higher). If you know you rock... after the first few songs or first set the owner himself will know too. And if he thinks you do, then its a done deal and contract gets signed for 3 months or however long it is elsewhere. Sometimes they do a month by month/6/12.

But again, I agree they don't give a shit. If you're good, they give a shit about you at the end of the night.
#13
another small thing to add here , do professional musicians really need to "rehearse" my sharona so much that you start to get sick of it?

professional musicians play jazz/blues standards the first time they meet each other. they go to huge gigs with zero prior rehearsal and just sight read their way out of very complicated numbers. this is truefacts.

maybe theres another reason here why your gigs arent getting you any money.

or that your tolerance for my sharona is really really low.
Last edited by pushkar000 at Apr 3, 2013,
#14
Quote by pushkar000

professional musicians play jazz/blues standards the first time they meet each other. they go to huge gigs with zero prior rehearsal and just sight read their way out of very complicated numbers. this is truefacts.


I totally get the "tolerance for my sharona" wearing thin.

But the above point needs a bit of refining: You can sit down with a jazz band and bring your charts and people are often cool with that. You can sit down with a blues band and mostly just improvise your way through a standard and people are cool with that.

But playing in a cover band, where your job is to get people partying and dancing.... you can't be up there reading or improvising. You've got to know the song, and you have to know the arrangement that the band is going to be using. That takes some rehearsal.

To the thread-starter:

I think you're just in the difficult part of getting started. Yeah, it's hard to call yourself a pro musician when you're not making any money. But if you have a degree in music performance, the potential has to be there. That, and you seem to have no delusions on what being a pro musician is about. That's good too.

You didn't set a goal for yourself to be a pro musician as defined by making $50/week playing in four different cover bands that don't draw big audiences. Or whatever. That's hard, but it's where you start.

You need to establish yourself. It sounds like you're on the road to doing that. Keep hooking up with whatever you can and being part of the scene. Before long, you'll be part of yet another band that will pay you more than the others, and then you'll have the perfect excuse for not being able to continue with those friends whose projects don't bring any money - you're too busy playing with so-and-so.

A great example of what I think you want to do is a guy I know named Sean Kelly. He played a whole bunch of different things - he had a degree in classical guitar, but played bass in a lot of cover bands and local original bands. He also sang and played guitar in an original band that played his own music. Then he hooked up with Helix when they lost a guitarist. He toured with them for a while. While on tour with Helix, he met some people who hooked him up with some other people, and he got called to go on tour with Nelly Furtado, including a performance on the Tonight Show. Right after that wound down, Gilby Clarke called him up to play guitar with him on his tour. You know how he found out about Sean? From his touring with Helix and with Nelly Furtado! All the while, he was working on a solo album that he released about six months ago on iTunes that he's going to tour... when he gets a chance.

But it's all about being in the machine. You've got to be the person that people know about - the person whose reputation speaks for itself. The busy person keeps busy. The basement dweller stays cold and pale.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#15
Quote by pushkar000
another small thing to add here , do professional musicians really need to "rehearse" my sharona so much that you start to get sick of it?

professional musicians play jazz/blues standards the first time they meet each other. they go to huge gigs with zero prior rehearsal and just sight read their way out of very complicated numbers. this is truefacts.


Just to add to my man axemanchris' comment above (which is completely true);

When you work, sometimes you have to do jobs you don't want to do. If you refuse to do a job because you don't like it, you won't get the job and they'll find someone who can. The case is no different in the music industry, except that it is extremely competitive, and if you do not do a job simply because you don't like it, you'll most likely score no references, and you'll get less work.

Of course this doesn't ring true in every case, but especially in the case of cover bands, which are a decent source of income in the music scene, you are going to play songs that you don't like. This is also a "truefact" if you will. My personal pet peeves are Joker and the Thief - Wolfmother and Vertigo - U2. I have played these songs in bands beyond count, I can play them note for note as I sat down with the songs initially and went through them, slowly (where needed).

If you don't like a song, you have to derive your enjoyment from elsewhere. I get it from playing with other people, or from the audience, who loves those songs.

I find it pretty astounding that many musicians let their personal preferences guide their choice of jobs from the very start. You would not find many industries where this is allowed. As a lawyer you want to be partner of a commercial firm, well you were offered a job as a paper pusher in a criminal firm. Are you going to take it? Of course you should. You do not have a rep. You do not have the skills (I'm talking about on-the-job skills, not university knowledge).

You do not have the money, and that's the main thing. You cannot live, and if you turn the job down you starve, because you thought you were above it. But many musicians seem to take this path and 10 years down the track they finally give up when they are kicked out of their parents house.

As for the whole "bring some charts and play" type thing, that's ok and common place for your background jazz/blues quartet thing. However when it comes down to proper tight arrangements of songs it'll come down to one thing, you either know a song, or you don't. If you need pieces of paper to remember the song, you don't know it.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#16
Just a little background on myself -

I teach guitar professionally, I don't gig. So take the gigging advice with a pinch of salt.

Teaching is a great way to make a steady income. If your students are unreliable then lay down the law. Missing lessons for legit reasons, or taking a lesson off with a weeks notice is no problem, but last minute or no notice? You paid for my time and you wasted it, sorry.

Charge a decent rate - with your skills I would suggest you can probably add a few bucks on to the average guitar teacher wage where you live. You should probably be looking towards 30/hr, let me know if that's way off but don't undersell yourself. If you double your prices and lose the shittier half off your students then you're going to have a better time and have more space for students that deserve and value your lessons.


On the gigging front, it sounds like you're not getting paid - that's shit. The guys I know playing covers gigs are taking home around 100 a gig, 300+ for weddings and some other functions. What you need to evaluate is how you're going to get those gigs rather than the ones you have -

Are you current bands trying to establish residencies and are they hunting down paying gigs?

Are you starting to build a following with your originals groups? If not, what can you do to make that happen?


If you had one of your projects actually earning real money then you could ditch a few and have free time for relaxing and your own music. Not to mention you get better at the whole learning and memorizing thing over time, I've seen a guy memorize (and sometimes transpose) 30 tunes for a nights gigging in about 3 hours.
#17
Holy crap, I type a lot of stuff when overtired and on auto pilot. Also forgot about the wedding gigs that Freepower suggested. Those things really PAY!!! And it gets better when you are talked about because then you become fully booked.

Quote by Alan
If you don't like a song, you have to derive your enjoyment from elsewhere. I get it from playing with other people, or from the audience, who loves those songs.
I especially like this one... a very important lesson in this.

With all these valuable posts in one thread, you have a lot to think about. Good luck with whatever you choose to do
#18
Quote by AlanHB
Just to add to my man axemanchris' comment above (which is completely true);

When you work, sometimes you have to do jobs you don't want to do. If you refuse to do a job because you don't like it, you won't get the job and they'll find someone who can. The case is no different in the music industry, except that it is extremely competitive, and if you do not do a job simply because you don't like it, you'll most likely score no references, and you'll get less work.

Of course this doesn't ring true in every case, but especially in the case of cover bands, which are a decent source of income in the music scene, you are going to play songs that you don't like. This is also a "truefact" if you will. My personal pet peeves are Joker and the Thief - Wolfmother and Vertigo - U2. I have played these songs in bands beyond count, I can play them note for note as I sat down with the songs initially and went through them, slowly (where needed).

If you don't like a song, you have to derive your enjoyment from elsewhere. I get it from playing with other people, or from the audience, who loves those songs.

I find it pretty astounding that many musicians let their personal preferences guide their choice of jobs from the very start. You would not find many industries where this is allowed. As a lawyer you want to be partner of a commercial firm, well you were offered a job as a paper pusher in a criminal firm. Are you going to take it? Of course you should. You do not have a rep. You do not have the skills (I'm talking about on-the-job skills, not university knowledge).

You do not have the money, and that's the main thing. You cannot live, and if you turn the job down you starve, because you thought you were above it. But many musicians seem to take this path and 10 years down the track they finally give up when they are kicked out of their parents house.

As for the whole "bring some charts and play" type thing, that's ok and common place for your background jazz/blues quartet thing. However when it comes down to proper tight arrangements of songs it'll come down to one thing, you either know a song, or you don't. If you need pieces of paper to remember the song, you don't know it.


Please dont read my argument as simply one of "what I want to do" over "what keeps me alive"

I understand that you can't be picky and choosy about your job. You have to know which side of your bread is buttered. That's obvious. But look at the original post. He's at a point where he can't even professionally rehearse. Who has ever heard of sitting down mid rehearsal and turning the volume knob, when other people are spending time, effort and money into an endeavor and you just go "**** it, I'm done with this song." That's hardly professional either, is it? I don't see him getting good references if he does that.
I'm sure that you do not just go for a cigarette break every time your band rehearses "Joker and the Thief" cause you're "sick of the song".

Of course you can't have everything the way you want it, and part of being a professional is to understand that sometimes to eke out a living, you just have to deal with it. But you can't pigeonhole yourself into the kind of situation the original poster is in right now.

Unlike you, the original poster doesn't derive enjoyment from the audience or the experience of playing with other people. Its stated that a free night is celebrated. Also he is beginning to detest his instrument.

I am not saying that people are "above" cover bands. But cover bands(like everything else) are only worth it provided they give you something worthwhile for your time and effort. I dont see the case here, the man is at the point where he sits down mid rehearsal, and thats even before the cover band has started to make money.

That's why my two-fold point : either he isnt cut out for the job, or he's doing it wrong, and to change tracks.

The argument that "dont be immature, just shut up and deal with it for the money" is of course completely valid. But blinding yourself and shutting out other options under that argument is hardly reasonable either. You have to get what you put in. As I see it, this man is gaining nothing from his current endeavors, and probably won't for a while if he continues to #****ityolo his rehearsals. He isn't improving, he isnt making money, its sickening him, and therefore there are better roads to walk down. so i conclude that he should stick to a day job until he finds a musical endeavor that is well worth his time and effort.

I see that of course I could be(probably must be) wrong, many of you seem to have many years of industry experience, and I am still a child in this field. But that is the way I see his problem. Also forgive me for my views, I have studied economics, I equate many things in terms of cost benifit analysis. Also I recently moved from Japan, where the work ethic is very harsh - sitting down mid rehearsal(reasons irrelevant) shows incompetence in a team based endeavor. I take that somewhat seriously and also I assume that it is not the only instance of such a thing.
Last edited by pushkar000 at Apr 4, 2013,
#19
^^^ Well admittedly my rant was a little off topic, generally aimed at the Sharona bashing happening. The bashing is occuring by people who don't even play it on a regular basis, leading me to make a statement addressing why this attitude wont get you far. The "do it for the money" argument doesn't apply to TS because he isn't getting any money.

But the comment that walking away during practice is unprofessional - absolutely. That would score a first/last warning, possible kicking from one of my bands. Hey perhaps it was one of those ridiculously long 4 hour practices that plague amateur bands too.

In all likeliness, TS is simply burnt out. He works hard and gets no cash. This is because he's picked his musical projects unwisely.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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