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Tim May's L.A. Scene

My Little Bag of Tricks


Tim May's Bio

This month I'm going to talk about my little bag of tricks! I mean literally, a bag of stuff I have with me on every session I do. Besides my assortment of electric guitars, amps and processors, acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjos, Dobros®, ukuleles, sitars, bass guitars, bouzoukis, balalaikas, etc. - a very important piece of gear is my little green bag! It's just a little canvas bag with a broken zipper (my cartage grunts replaced the zipper with a paperclip-like fastener long ago) but it is invaluable to me.

Here's what's inside:

First, I keep a large assortment of picks. Mostly, I use the small teardrop-shaped Fender extra heavy pick. This produces a nice fat sound, and feels very comfortable to me. I've found it useful to experiment with different shapes and thicknesses from time to time. I'm always open to finding something better! I also have on hand some picks of a different weights and materials in both plastic and nylon. When strumming acoustic guitars particularly, sometimes I'll use a thinner pick to get a more percussive sound.

I also have an assortment of thumbpicks. I really like the Herco heavy thumbpick that is shaped like a flat pick. Sometimes though, I'll use a medium or light gauge one if I'm also doing some strumming in a piece. If the pick is too stiff, it becomes a little difficult to strum lightly. I also have on hand an assortment of metal finger picks. I use these along with a thumb pick for playing banjo, Dobro® or lap steel.

Next, I have my spare strings and string winder. There is no good time to break a string but it happens, and I want to be able to fix it quickly. I also have a pair of wire cutters to cut off the ball ends of the string for my Floyd Rose-equipped Strat. I keep a universal guitar tool with an assortment of Allen wrenches and screw drivers.

A guitar tuner always comes in handy, as well as a suction type contact mike for tuning acoustic instruments in a noisy room. I keep a few back-up 9-volt batteries on hand.

I also have an assortment of capos. I like the Schubb brand, and I have models for steel strings, classical guitars, Dobros®, and banjos. It's important to have a couple of bottleneck slides, as well as a Stevens slide for Dobro® and lap steel.

Other items I have in my green bag include a fingernail clipper, and a nail file. A chip in a nail can really hang up a guitar player, and it needs to be fixed immediately! I also keep a little bottle of "New-Skin" liquid band-aid, because a little split in the skin can be really painful when rubbed up and down a guitar string!

Finally, I keep a clean cloth to wipe down the strings and neck of the guitar. Perspiration and grit can make the neck very sticky, and a little attention with the cloth helps keep the friction down.

So that's my bag-o tricks!

One funny story that comes to mind concerns a jingle session I was doing for Don Piestrup, one of the greatest and busiest jingle composers. He did all the HUGE accounts like McDonalds, Honda- all the big brands. I had come from another session. My cartage guys delivered my rack and two trunks of instruments; the advertising people were amazed at all the stuff and how I had everything anyone would need for any situation. Well, my little green pick bag got lost in my cases somewhere and, trying to be inconspicuous, I had to go to the receptionist at the studio, who I knew was an amateur guitar player, and ask her if she had a pick I could borrow! She did, and saved my behind!





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