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Guitar Services Interview John LeVan
By Doak Turner
(more articles from this author)
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John LeVan grew up all over the state as a Military Brat., so I grew up all over the states. The closest things to home are Plano, Texas, and Rocklin, California. John moved with his wife to Nashville in 1996 to raise a family and open up a guitar shop.

John began studying guitar repair since 1985 when he was in high school. From there, he had the great fortune to study under Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars and several other builders and repairman. He has done many apprenticeships over the past 20 years. In his own way, John is continuing the tradition by teaching guitar setup and repair classes. He has been involved in teaching guitar repair for about 12 years now, and he thoroughly enjoys it.

Some of John’s clients include Steve Cropper, Mark Slaughter, Suzy Boggus, Lonestar, Terry Clark, Jars of Clay, Steve Azar, The Wallflowers, Anthony Smith, Wolf Hoffman, Chris Rodriguez (Kenny Loggins, Michael Mac Donald, Keith Urban).

John is also the author of four books, the FAQ series, that are in their second printing and are distributed by Mel Bay, which we’ll discuss in my interview with John LeVan.

[Doak Turner] What kind of work do you do?

John LeVan Primarily vintage guitar restoration and I also work on fine, modern instruments. I repair acoustic, bass, classical, electric, and mandolins. No banjos, in fact, I don't even allow them in my store!

[Doak Turner] Where did you learn your trade?

John LeVan I started my studies in high school back in 1985 from Brad Shreve at Larry’s Music Center in Wooster, Ohio. From there I was given the privilege to learn from a great list of west coast luthiers and repairman. I studied under Bob Taylor from Taylor Guitars, and an amazing group of builders in the Sacramento Valley Luthier’s Guild. I recommend joining a Guild, it was a great source of study. Later in the 1996 I spent some time with Tom Anderson, Buzz Fieten and Greg Back in Los Angeles. I still seek new techniques and systems of restoration and repair to learn. There is always something new to learn.

[Doak Turner] How long have you been in business?

John LeVan Officially for about 15 years. I opened my first shop in 1990 in Auburn, California. Then in 1996 I moved to Nashville Tennessee and opened LeVan's Guitar Services, a retail/services shop, on legendary Music Row.

[Doak Turner] Do you teach?

John LeVan Yes, I love to teach. I have a series of hands-on workshops that I teach on Guitar Setups & Repair, Wiring and Fretwork. These workshops give my students a real-world view of the trade. I include an amazing tool kit that contains over 50 tools. It has been very successful, and I plan to continue them for many years. {Read John LeVan's article, "How’s Your Setup? Keeping The Components Of Your Guitar Playing In Balance")

[Doak Turner] Who has attended your workshops?

John LeVan I have had doctors, lawyers, rodies, guitar builders, administrators, music store employees and a lot of musicians. You never know who is going to sign up for the class.

[Doak Turner] Tell me about the FAQ Book Series you wrote for Mel Bay Publishing.

John LeVan The FAQ series has been a very exciting project. They are a collection of four guitar Care and Setup Manuals, each specific to a different type of guitar. There is one for Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Classical Guitar and Electric Guitar. Each book is full of photographs and diagrams as well as an easy to read format.

I cover all of the basics of guitar care, maintenance, setups (neck, bridge, nut and intonation adjustments), troubleshooting, training and tool resources and how to carve a string nut and bridge saddle. They make a great gift for any guitarist, guitar tech or builder.

[Doak Turner] What’s next for John LeVan?

John LeVan Wow, I'm glad you asked me that. I am going to continue to write new repair manuals and lutherie books that cover more advanced and complicated procedures. I also plan to continue teaching repair workshops.

[Doak Turner] How can someone get in contact with you regarding your classes and your shop in Nashville?

John LeVan (615) 251-8884.

[Doak Turner] John, I’ll let you go back to work as I see you have several guitars in your shop to work on today.

John LeVan Thanks Doak, I look forward to talking with you about more exciting news in the near future!

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.

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