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Tim May's L.A. Scene

A Day in the Life of a Studio Player


Tim May's Bio

This month I would like to share with you a particularly eclectic week in the life of a professional guitar player. The week started on Monday morning with a 10:00 A. M. session at 20th Century Fox for the T.V. show King of the Hill. I knew L.A. traffic would be horrible, so I left my home at 8:30. I knew I might be WAY early, but I also knew that anything could happen and I didn't want to be late and in a panic to get to the studio on time. After traffic and parking I walked into the studio at 9:30, and had plenty of time to relax and have a cup of coffee. As I've said before, no matter how great someone may play, you cannot get a reputation for being late or unreliable. That would mean death in this business.

My friend and great guitar player John Goux was also on the date, and since he had been working with the composer for some time, I took the "second" guitar book. (See last month's article on studio etiquette regarding parts.) John's playing the first part proved to be an added benefit for me; the first book contained electric and acoustic guitar parts only, but the second book featured electric, acoustic, gut string, and baritone guitar parts. More doubles means more money!

The first cue we played was a bossa nova with two identical bossa-style rhythm parts for both guitars. After we ran it down, I suggested to the composer that I play a "shaker-like" eighth note rhythm part on a steel-string guitar to compliment the rest of the rhythm section. He agreed, and loved the idea. That's always a good thing. However, if he had not liked the idea, and said go back to the gut string part, I would have said "sure" and given him what he asked for, even if I didn't agree.

The rest of the music consisted of several acoustic-style pieces, some strummed and some in a specific fingerpicking style. For these I used my old Martin D-18, and various combinations of flatpick, fingerpick, and thumbpick and finger combinations. For the electric stuff I used my old Telecaster which worked great for that county-rock, King of the Hill sound.

On Tuesday evening I played a jazz gig with my group at a popular L.A. club called Spazio's. John Pisano hosts a "guitar night" on Tuesdays and invited me to perform with my band. This turned out to be a great musical experience! I got to perform with some of my favorite players- Mike Lang on piano, Dave Carpenter on bass, and Bob Zimmitti on drums. It was kind of a release party for my new CD called TRIO, which features Abe Laboriel on bass, and Bob Zimmitti on drums. We had a great crowd and played mostly my original tunes along with a few standards. That band is all about improvisation and interplay-we never play any given piece the same way twice. Playing for the moment like that is one of my favorite ways to perform! For that gig I played a recently acquired 1979 Gibson ES 175 with a Charlie Christian pickup- a great jazz guitar!

On Thursday and Friday I worked on double sessions (10:00-5:00) to record music for the animated show Family Guy. This was mostly big band swing music, and I used my Guild "Artist Award" acoustic archtop for that "Freddie Green" sound. Some of the tunes called for electric guitar but in the same style, so I used the DeArmond pickup on the Guild. It provided a very clean acoustic-electric sound.

Thursday and Friday evenings I put on another hat and subbed for my good friend Paul Viapiano, playing guitar, banjo, and ukulele for the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. This show was completely different from any of the other jobs that week. The key to playing a show like this is to be able to read music accurately the first time, and follow the conductor. With constant tempo changes and stops and starts, it is imperative that you keep an eye on the conductor and play with the rest of the band, especially when playing an instrument like the banjo! You can't hide, and I certainly didn't want to play any unwanted banjo solos in the middle of a singer's performance! The primary function of the guitar/banjo book in this show is as a rhythm instrument, with a few solo electric passages. Nothing especially difficult to play, but you really have to pay attention to the tempo and key changes.

By the end of the week I was ready for a nice rest over the weekend, only to start it all again on Monday! This was an exceptionally eclectic week, but variety has always been one of my favorite things about being a session player! As I've said before- every session is different!

I also want to let everyone know my two CDs- One Piece of the Big Picture (1999) and Trio (2004) are available through my website - TimMayGuitar.com. They feature some great players- including Abe Laboriel, Harvey Mason, Ernie Watts, and Mike Lang among others.

'til next time,
Tim May





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