Greatest Keyboard Players of All-Time

The Top Ten
Nick Rhodes

Worked and scraped together enough money to buy his first Wasp when he was just a teenager, formed the band Duran Duran at 16 and is the only member that has remained since.

Completely self-taught himself keyboards and still making good relevant music - recent 2015 Paper Gods album hit the top 10 in charts- for almost 40 years through the eras of analog and digital keyboards, and still able to effortlessly work with both formats. Actively touring to this day.

Aside from keyboards, he's also a music producer, photographer and the creative behind many side projects from music to art & culture. Stylish and well dressed always -- a metrosexual gentleman to top it off!

No one layers soundscapes like Nick, his sounds are original and different from what you have ever heard before. He mixes his keyboards very well with guitars as well, which isn't easy. It is also one of the reasons why you can't really put Duran Duran into one category. Their sound is a bit of everything and a lot of nothing you have ever heard before. It is why I consider them to be not only my favourite band but the most under appreciated band by the music press. OK, so they were good looking and knew how to package that with the music, but that doesn't mean that they didn't have substance or talent.

The fact that he is self-taught makes him an incredible player and obvious #1 choice, without disrespecting anyone else.

Through and through, one of the masterminds of Duran Duran, Arcadia, Krush Brothers, TVMania and producer and creative force behind many other projects, groups, and products has demonstrated consistently that adapting to the times includes changes that enhance both your mission as musician, and acceptance of the innovative by an already loyal following. Nick is a genius for the longevity of his talent still creating such an effect. Well over 30 years later, his foresight and capability to remain 'fresh' and relevant, are highly commendable in this electronic infused musical age. You can listen to Planet Earth or Planet Roaring : Nick is undoubtedly killing it on the keys many other talents could only dream of.

Completely self-taught which is extremely admirable, especially in this day and age of everything being "done for you", Nick continues to create new and unusual sounds while still keeping the original Duran Duran undertones that we all recognize and love so much. As such a creative artist in many forms, Nick Rhodes is delighting old fans while engaging new, younger fans with his continued eclectic sounds. Nick is truly the epitome of class, style, talent, and sound!

Keith Emerson Keith Noel Emerson was an English keyboardist and composer. Emerson played in a number of bands before he found his first commercial success with the Nice.

Possibly the best, ever. Nothing held him back, he embraced any and all technological advances in keyboards, even acting as a 'test subject' for Moog when they were developing their first polysynth (the never-produced Constellation...Emerson uses this prototype on "Brain Salad Surgery"). But at the same time, his capacities on piano alone are equally astounding. He had no fear of fusing classical composition with the rock idiom, creating refined and brilliant work while at the same time stabbing throwing knives into his Hammond's keyboard! And using an early Moog modular live, night after night on the road, was bold as hell! Totally one-of-a-kind, likely never to be surpassed.

Without a doubt the greatest keyboard player of the modern era. What else can you say about a guy who taught himself the piano when he was 6? Taking lessons only enhanced his natural abilities. Not to mention his pioneering work with the synthesizer, along with Bob Moog. I could go on and on - and on again. These barely even scratch the surface. Anybody who has ever seen him playing live would readily agree. Many other keyboard players came very close and all deserve respect...but when Keith died this year, we lost a TRUE modern music legend, who will be sorely missed.

I have been a professional musician (keyboard session/studio) and no one comes close to Keith. I see comments about other players like he can play two keyboards at one time... My dog can play two keyboards at one time. Wakeman's left hand is no where near the dexterity or speed of Keith's in the day. Keith played contrapuntal leads, when no one else did and most couldn't. So let's start the list over with Keith at number's one and two. One for his right hand and two for his left, and then let's proceed.

Keith was "The Maestro" in every measure. No one could compete with his range of talent and perseverance. He didn't just write the thinking person's music. He also wrote music that would be played by 3 musicians that could be recreated live so spectacularly that they always sounded like a symphony was backing them up. There are many good keyboardist. Hell, there are many great keyboardist. But there was only one person who showed excellence in every piece he ever wrote and that was Keith Emerson

Rick Wakeman Richard Christopher "Rick" Wakeman is an English keyboardist, songwriter, television and radio presenter, and author.

Rick Wakeman cut his teeth with David Bowie (mellotron on Space Oddity and piano on Changes), Cat Stevens (piano on Morning Has Broken), T Rex (piano on Bang A Gong) and as a member of Strawbs before gaining prominence in late 1971 as keyboardist of Yes. With his work on Roundabout, South Side Of The Sky, Heart Of The Sunrise and his solo Cans And Brahms, Rick took Yes to another level (all on Fragile). He would continue to take Yes further with his work on Close To The Edge, Awaken, The Remembering and other songs. Though Yes has had keyboardists come and go, Rick Wakeman stands out the most.

While Rick & Keith are of similar talent, Rick's catalogue of compositions seems a little deeper. Physical dexterity & speed are difficult to argue now... Both have paid a heavy price from years of playing... Keith had to have an operation on pinched nerves in his right elbow... No info getting from his brain to his 4th & 5th fingers... Not much improvement after... In performance I still see those two fingers curled under most of the time. All of us have our bodies betray us eventually. It's like fighting over Mozart vs Beethoven.

Rick is loaded with talent, and is by far the greatest keyboard player to ever live. Sorry Keith Emerson, but once gaining a bunch of attention by acting like a wild nut on stage does not compare to the true talent, and pure musicianship owned by none other than the keyboard wizard... The caped one... Mr. Rick Wakeman. Rick's compositions are very inspiring and still very popular today. Rick continues to perform at his high standard, and owns the title "Best Keyboard Player to Live."

Not only was Rick a pioneer in keyboard playing - he's still got incredible talent and can deliver top-quality music live. The same cannot be said for Keith Emerson who, while once an awesome exponent, is not longer able to match his earlier capabilities. I know this is largely due to a physical condition with nerve damage to his hand, but we have to rely on his past performances. Rick is still up there - brilliant after such a long career.

Jordan Rudess Jordan Rudess is an American keyboardist and composer best known as a member of the progressive metal/rock band Dream Theater and the progressive rock supergroup Liquid Tension Experiment.

I understand that this website is based on opinions, however, I personally feel that Jordan Rudess should at least be in the top two; this is coming from someone who almost never makes comments on lists! Not only is he so technically brilliant, but he's a teacher, he demonstrates his keyboard equipment via YouTube/DVDs and explains them significantly, he created his own 13/8 challenge, etc. His style of playing is, in essence, unrivaled as it covers complex time signatures, multiple of sounds (and often two of which are combined), rapid hand movement, marvelous collaboration between both hands, and numerous musical genres together!

In my opinion, Jordan Rudess is as good as it gets. Jordan is a superhuman musician with unparalleled technique and independence. But all the chops in the world don't mean squat if you don't have anything to say, and Jordan has shown time and time again that he has a deep and sensitive musicality (just listen to any of his solo piano records). Jordan improvises material that a lesser musician would slave over for hours to write, let alone learn to play. Jordan's attention to detail, chops, and musical maturity and spark are pretty much second to none in the world of rock.

Let's be honest here. Technical skill is something that almost EVERY keyboardist on this list possesses. However, what sets Jordan Rudess apart for me is just the true RANGE of things he does with this technique.

From orchestral to ambient, from classical to the prog metal that most know him for, this guy tries to do everything, and almost always succeeds.

Heck, he even goes as far to design new software to bring even further innovation to the keyboard scene.

It's this kind of dedication that truly marks a legend in music.

the people who didn't vote for him (or other great keyboardist), voted for a stupid the keyboardist from an stupid band like X Japan; one of the most overrated bands in TheTopTens...

by the way, ALL the members in DREAM THEATER are great: James LaBrie has a really awesome voice, John Petrucci is a real shredder who always gives a great feeling to his solos, John Myung has a great power for the bass, Mike Portnoy is one of the greatest drummers ever (to bad he left the band) and JORDAN RUDESS has made great keyboard performances...

Peter Bardens

Peter gave wonderful pathway for camel, he know how to use the keyboard for melodic construction of prog-rock.

Highly underrated. His work with Camel is brilliant.

In my opinion composer and an aranger of the best solos and hords in progressive rock history.

A kingpin of an underrrated band. With Lattimer, he devised and drove English Prog.

Jonathan Cain Jonathan Cain is an American musician, singer and songwriter best known for his work with The Babys, Journey and Bad English.

Journey is one of my favorite bands. I think Jonathan was a fantastic choice for a keyboard player. Wherever he goes, he'll be amazing

Best keyboard player I know of. His rhythm playing is great and nowadays how he plays the melodies to older songs the won't play anymore in his solos.

I am 12 years old and no one comes close to him. When I went to a Journey Concert, I realized that he is simply the greatest.

He wrote the parts for When You Love A Woman, Don't Stop Believin, Open Arms, and Who's Crying now. What more do you need?

Tuomas Holopainen Tuomas Lauri Johannes Holopainen (born 25 December 1976) is a Finnish songwriter, multi-instrumentalist musician (but mainly keyboardist) and record producer, best known as the founder, leader, keyboardist and songwriter of symphonic metal band Nightwish. He also studied jazz and classical styles.

Tuomas is something completely out of this world. We only get to hear snippets from his own world. He's one of the greatest composers of our time and his band should be one of Finland's national treasures. As a Finn and a fan I'm proud of him and his achievements. He gets to live his dream and shares his talent with us which we should be thankful of. Maestro Holopainen is definitely one of the most memorable rock icons in Finland and maybe world as well.

Tuomas is an absolutely incredible man. Not only is he a phenomenal composer who can create magical moments and stir emotions effortlessly with his fantastic melodies, bombastic symphonic rock tracks and rhythmic solos, his mastery of the keyboard is something to behold. Every album, every song, every moment by this man is beyond words. I see no reason why his name cannot be placed in the same breath as Hans Zimmer.

He just doesn't " pling around" to make a song get some eeery vibe, he composes all.. ALL.. from orchestral * the tubas- bugle- trumpet- parts, to choir tenors and soprano's to heavy metal drumlines, basslines, guitar parts to pointing Floor in the singing direction... making opera, classical music and heavy metal fuse into one couldron of mystical sound that makes heavy metal fans turn to operatic music and vice versa...He isn't "just a keyboard player".. this man is the next generation of John Lord..He goes where John went... A musical Mastermind

Tuomas is probably the best keyboardist of all time! He's also written plenty of outstanding songs. I first heard Nightwish's song Storytime when I was 6 and I've loved Nightwish ever since, especially the keyboards. Tuomas has inspired me to learn piano and he also inspired me to write songs. Tuomas should definitely be in the top spot.

Jon Lord Jonathan Douglas "Jon" Lord was an English composer, pianist, and Hammond organ player known for his pioneering work in fusing rock with classical or baroque forms, especially with Deep Purple, as well as Whitesnake, Paice Ashton Lord, The Artwoods, and The Flower Pot Men.

Jon Lord was one of the creators of Hard Rock. All others were either guitarists or singers so that says a lot about his contribution.
He played heavy riffs and classic peaces with equal (some would say unparalleled) virtuosity.
I am a guitarist and Deep Purple is my favorite band, but Ritchie Blackmore is not my favorite member of the band - it's Jon.
I have nothing but respect for each name on this list (especially Wakeman, Wright and Manzarek) but Jon Lord showed that the Hammond organ is a powerful Hard Rock instrument and that keyboard can growl, scream, weep or sing as good as any guitar or vocal.

Not AT ALL a keyboard fan but Jon Lord's style truly enhanced DP's songs. As a classic metal guitar player I always felt that keyboards tended to slow the tempo, muddied the phrasing and the poor slob trying to express his/her stage presence standing behind a keyboard can't be anything but pathetic (see Dio Holy Diver Live version of Rainbow in the Dark). This narrative does NOT apply to John Lord. Jon ROCKED IT.

Jordan Rudess is good, but he can't hold his own against Jon Lord's genius. Also, Yoshiki Hayashi? Really? X Japan is a pretty good band and I like them, but Yoshiki ain't no Ray Manzarek or Jon Lord.

Deep Purple will greatly miss him, as his keyboard parts were an integral part of the classic sound. The riffs sounded better thanks to him.

I had the pleasure of seeing Deep Purple in 1973, (ZZ TOP warm up band), Jon Lord was a not only a great musician but worked magic with the keyboards. He himself was worth the price of admission. Lord had to lead the group with its faster than life pace of playing. All others are second to him.

Tony Banks

Underrated probably because he was not as “showy” on stage but driven in the studio and a great songwriter as well . Not enough music shared by him and Hackett unfortunately would love to see them on the same stage again

Inspired by the likes of Rachmaninoff and hailed as the 'chord master' by fellow Genesis member Steve Hackett, he has a personal style and some of his traits are now quite popular, such as adding the 4th on a triad on the 3rd inversion. Has always done all the keyboard programming himself and has always had a distinctive sound as well as style which singles him out as an outstanding individual. Quite sensitive to the needs of each piece of music, the overall soundscape has been top priority and virtuosity has been just one of many devices as well as his unique method of using the cross-hand technique. Yes, other can play 'faster' but Tony's passion for his music supersedes technique for the sake of showing off technique. The music's all that matters for Tony so all in all he stands at number 1 in my chart, and always will.

I remember lending a high-school friend who knew nothing about Genesis my copy of "...And Then There Were Three..." He came up to me at school the next day and said how cool it was to hear a rock band where keyboards took over as lead guitarist (ala ELP). He loved it so much, I let him keep my original LP.

Tony Banks is a solid keyboard player and songwriter. He has an incredible sense of melody and harmony, which take you on incredible moody journeys. He is and will always be my favorite keyboard player.

There are probably more talented keyboardists when it comes to technique, but Tony Banks is the best composer I've heard. He just has a wonderful knack for song writing. He has stated that he prefers composition to actually playing. He wrote so many beautiful melodies with Genesis. So many incredible solos as well. The into to "Firth of Fifth" might be my favorite song intro of all time. Close behind that would be "Watcher of the Skies." I mean, there's no limit to his excellence.

Yoshiki Hayashi Yoshiki Hayashi is a Japanese musician, songwriter, composer and record producer. Better known by his stage name Yoshiki, he is best known as the leader and a co-founder of the heavy metal band X Japan, for which he is the drummer, pianist and main songwriter. The band achieved breakthrough success ...read more.

Note for anyone who wants to write a comment: If you have nothing nice to say about Yoshiki, just leave this side. If you just want to tell everyone how low talented he actually is, please go back to wherever you came from. Thank you. - Yuumiko

Ha ha! t his Yoshiki is a jo ke! h e hits on drums and his piano is so pathetic a 4 year old would nail him to the ground, anyway he wasn't playing anything on the X Japan albums, Tetsu Matsuda was his monkey and doing it all for him, I was producing Penicillin in the 90's and I know this Joker very well, he can't play, he is a joke, how can he be on this list?

Whose Yoshiki Hayashi? Whose X Japan? Never heard of these guys and they get up there on the Top Tens? Now this is a perfect time to use the word "overrated," even when they suck so much but people kept believin' they're so cool

The greatest keyboard player of all time!
Yoshiki Hayashi you are the best keyboardist... Yoshiki Hayashi makes look playing keyboard so easy... But in real its not an easy task... Yoshiki Hayashi you're the best

The Contenders
Richard Wright Richard William "Rick" Wright was an English musician, composer, singer and songwriter. He was the main keyboardist and a backup vocalist for the psychedelic and progressive English rock band, Pink Floyd .

He was a great musician! For example, he learned music alone and never had teacher! His main influence was Miles Davis and "A Kind of Blue". He was the soul of Pink Floyd when David Gilmour was its heart and Waters its brain! He used many new material at the time and showed many habilities into playing Hammond organ, Moog synth, Farsifa, EMS synth, mellotron, ARP and even piano! He also played on many keyboards to obtain the lush introduction of " Shine on you crazy diamond", he used a Leslie effect on "Echoes", used all the keyboards he had on "Sysyphus", wrote "The great gig in the sky" for on organ, he was an influence for many keyboardists including Gong's Tim Blake, Porcupine Tree's Richard Barbieri and even Camel's Peter Bardens! And I can tell you a thousand things about him!

Pink Floyd has the best use of keyboards I have ever heard and Richard's talent shows it's on all their albums and best songs such as 'Wish You Were Here', 'Pigs', and 'The Great Gig in the Sky'. Richard was the genius behind many of their songs and has always been the underrated one of the group. It's time to give him the respect he deserves for mastering that beautiful instrument

Syd Barret invented Pink Floyd, whereas Rich Wright was the essence, the atmosphere, the aura, the soul. You can realize that on all Floyd's masterpieces, after Barret, the structure of the music is from him. Echoes, A Saucerful of Secrets, Summer' 68, Us and Them, Welcome to the Machine, The Great Gig in the Sky... Top 3 for sure.

Definitely should be number one. He mastered keyboards with samplers in the Floyd's early days, (Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Meddle, etc.. Etc..) and then explored new territory with the Synthi A on what are considered their masterpieces: "The Dark Side of the Moon", "Wish you Were Here", and "Animals". On top of that he had his own successful solo career. I am saying this not just as a Pink Floyd fan, but as a keyboard player myself, with many other influences, (Billy Preston, Miles Davis, Brian Wilson). As was mentioned in other comments, his modesty is the other half, of what makes him a legend.

P.S. this seems a bit too much, but I'm just a really big fan.

Eddie Van Halen Edward Lodewijk "Eddie" Van Halen (January 26, 1955 – October 6, 2020) was a Dutch-American musician, songwriter, producer, and inventor. He was best known as the lead guitarist, occasional keyboardist and co-founder of the hard rock band Van Halen.

He should be no. 1. Van Halen 4 Life baby!

What? He’s a fantastic guitar player but not so much keyboard.

Freddie Mercury Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara, 5th September 1946 - 24th November 1991) was a Zanzibari-born British singer of Indian descent, songwriter and record producer, known as the lead vocalist and songwriter of the British rock band Queen. He also became known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave ...read more.

Freddie should be higher on this list! Take me to The Seven Seas of Rhye!

2 words: Bohemian Rhapsody.

Ray Manzarek Raymond Daniel Manczarek, Jr., better known as Ray Manzarek, was an American musician, singer, producer, film director, and author.

They had no bass player. He was the bassist with his left hand while ripping chords and solos with his right. He Keith Emerson and Jon Lord are the three best keyboardist EVER! Would have given anything to see all three of them on stage at the same time. RIP to the great ones!

Ray is the most underrated member of the doors considering he probably the most work (organ, bass, backing vocals). I love his classical Bach-Influenced organ solos and rhodes-basslines that no ordinary bassist could have a hope of playing! And I envy his sideburns!

I've always held that the Doors was more Ray's band than Jim's, an opinion which has put me in disfavor with some purists. I saw them once as a trio after Morrison had passed and I was astounded at the quality of the music.

Ray Manzarek is a god of music. There is something spiritual about the Doors, and it wouldn't be that way without Ray. In my opinion, the Doors would be nothing without him. Songs like "The End" or "Riders on the Storm" would not set the same chilling atmosphere without his work on the keys. Again, there is something very spiritual about them, and I will always remain his student.💜

Geoff Downes

His New Dance Orchestra album from 1986 is a tour de force.

His record speaks for itself. Listen to Asia!

My favorite Yes keyboardist!

A true master of the boards

Nick Oosterhuis

Throughout his multi-faceted career, Nick Oosterhuis has been regarded as a gifted performer, a musical virtuoso and an inspired songwriter. After finishing Philhelmon's first solo project in 1985 he moved to Germany. Through this venture Nick has been fortunate to participate in countless records (performing and/or writing) for many major artists. He collaborate with Philhelmon again in 2012 and in 2018 on the new album 'Perpetual Immobile" Nick currently resides and works near Hamburg - Germany, as a musician, engineer, producer and songwriter. (Philhelmon)

Long time no see. Seventies I guess. We both lived in Holland; He had bad luck with his neighbors. They played a record "Blame It On The Bossa Nova" as loud as possible every time Nick wanted to make music. It was him that finally gave in; he build a studio in the backyard. But the war was not over then. I stop now; I only wanted to say how much I admired him then and now.

Higly underrated guy, also a excellent singer/songwriter. I am following his career since 1982 and I am always astounished to see his next project which is mostly very different from the previous one. Hardrock, Jazz, Ambient, Pop, Blues, Soul, you name it, he is always spot on.

Nick is a very talented musician, and above that, he is a very nice person, and fun to work with. I suggest to anyone who needs a great musician who will work well with the whole band, choose Nick... (Bobby Kimball)

Jurgen Fritz

Incredible players, with an unique flare and ability to gracefully dance whis fingers around his gear, Fritz has been quite often critiziced for his love for Keith Emerson. Regardless, there are also differences, emotions that only belong to him. From a purely technical aspect, Jürgen always used string emsembles and Mellotrons as part of his rig, instruments which Keith never embraced. Jewels like Spartacus and Pompeii are a must.

Keyboard player from German band Triumvirate. If he was born in England instead of Germany, he'd be on everyone's top 10 list.

Billy Joel William Martin Joel is an American singer-songwriter, composer and pianist. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man", he has been making music since the 1960s, releasing popular albums throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s.

Top 2...Billy and Rick Wakeman. Different styles so I'd call it a tie but if I had to pick, it's Billy. Once you see him in concert and experience the range, clarity and accuracy you'll never be the same and you'll never miss any of his shows. He embodies and is The Piano Man.

How is Billy Joel not top 5?

Come on this is crazy

To many hits to list jon cain #2 give me a break
Strangest key board list of all time

Scenes From An Italian Restaurant and Angry Young Man as well as hits like Moving Out, Allentown and My Life. Any.more reasons why he's great?

But he's not a keyboardist, he's the piano man

Geddy Lee Gary Lee Weinrib, known professionally as Geddy Lee, is a Canadian musician, singer and songwriter best known as the lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for the Canadian rock group Rush.

He's actually not that bad on keyboards sometimes

Come on! Why is Geddy missing on this list?

Hey he also plays bass!

He can have more vote!

Patrick Morez

People have mentioned Yes, Refugee and solo but what about the Moody Blues? You can't forget his keyboard playing in that iconic band. He was also in a band called Mainhorse. He only played on one Yes album but what an album it was. I also recommend people checking out his collaborative album with Bill Bruford called "music for piano and drums" as well as "long distance voyager" by the Moody Blues.

Moraz is best known for his work with Yes, but in Refugee, with Lee Jackson and Brian Davison of the Nice, he was incredible.

Look at his work in YES. In my opinion he's Definitely top Ten

You should spell is name correctly!
Moraz
And definitely in the top 10!

Sincerely.
Pascal

Chris Martin Christopher Anthony John "Chris" Martin is an English singer, songwriter and musician. He is best known as the lead singer of rock band Coldplay.

Greatest pianist of all time. How could there be another choice...

Chris Martin is a master at keyboards and makes beutiful music with them

John Paul Jones John Baldwin, better known by his stage name John Paul Jones, is an English multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, arranger and record producer. He is best known as the bassist for the English rock band Led Zeppelin. ...read more.

His is a very talented musician and deserves to be higher on this list.

A top ten keyboardist for a top two band. Very underrated.

He can really play the organ in Since I Been Loving You

.This man is awesome. Just listen to No Quarter.

Vince Clarke

Vince Clarke has created the soundtrack to my life for near 40 years. He has been innovative and original through it all. The album Chorus may be the best synth music ever.

Icon and legend. Master vince was the elemental piece of DM in their origin after that yazoo and how can I forget erasure. Vince, genius, creative... if it would depend on me I set you on top 5

I would love to simply speak of his genius in three words, but recognize that there's so much more. Those three words, "Upstairs At Eric's." (Drops mic.)

Damn how do I take my vote back and vote for Vince?

Dennis DeYoung

Should be in the top 10, along with Geddy Lee.

Is there any doubt

My vote is my voice.

Fooling Yourself solo

Light intro

Roboto technique

Grand Illusion pomp

Kerry Minnear

Highly creative player who could both do elaborate and complex solos that are truyly amazing and relatively simple ones that just make me happy and stick in my head.

While he may not play as fast as Wakeman or Emerson, Kerry Minnear played with such finesse, while composing so much intricate music for the band Gentle Giant. Even though he played other instruments - in the studio but especially on stage - he stands above enough of his contemporaries to be considered a top ten keyboardist.

Other may have amazed us with their performances, but Kerry Minnear amazed me with his MUSIC. More contrapuntal, more harmonically complex, more rhythmically textured, more modern, more innovative, and more FUNKY than any other progrock keyboardist of his time. My personal favorite.

Kerry is fantastic at composing complex contrapuntal pieces and when he plays it looks like his fingers hardly move. And I have seen it up close. My favorite of all time!

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