I was asked a week ago to do a short interview with this guy who is taking a journalism course. He found me on the internet searching Google, he likes guitars, and thought “why not call Maurice and see if I can interview him for this class project I have due next week.” I agreed and we set a date and time for him to come to the shop.
He showed up, notebook in hand, and while I was working on a guitar setup he asked a bunch of questions about me, guitar repair, and guitars in general. It was fun so I wanted to post the article that he submitted for his class, with his permission of course. Here it is in its entirety.
PASADENA, Calif.–“Sometimes I like to go buy a cheap old guitar from a yard sale and just smash it with a hammer to see what repairs I can make,” says Maurice Adams from his garage-turned-workshop.
Adams, 42, created Adams Music Instrument Repair in 2003 out of his Pasadena home, where it’s been a one-man business from the start.
His workspace is woodshop meets Woodstock, toolboxes and tie-dye, and a shrine to hard work and hard rock. Adams appears to fall somewhere between handyman and hippie, with short black hair, and clad in jeans and a blue Memphis Tigers t-shirt on this day.
Adams grew up in a musical household where his “dad was a good clarinet player” he recalls. He began playing the guitar at 14, and the six-string has been his instrument of choice ever since, performing in both original and cover bands starting in his late-teenage years.
He dabbled in basic guitar repair while in college at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where he received a degree in mechanical engineering. It wasn’t until Adams attended Summit School of Building and Repair in Vancouver in 2003 that he was ready to open his own repair shop. “It was really important for me to have that formal training, and learn from someone more experienced,” Adams says, while fixing the action (the height of the strings above the fret board) on a customer’s acoustic guitar. “There is plenty of lesson-learning material out there, with Internet sites and videos. That’s fine if I’m only fixing my guitars, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable fixing other people’s guitars with just that basic knowledge.”
The guitar repairman, whose full-time gig is selling industrial products, does the repairs as a side job. “I don’t have set hours. Some days I might only work for an hour doing setup work (neck, string height, fret wear) for an acoustic. Some days I might have to put in new pickups (for an electric guitar), which can take five or six hours.”
There is really no such thing as a typical day at Adams Music Instrument Repair, as evidenced by one particular repair request out of left field. “One customer had a car horn button on the body of the guitar to stop the sound. He needed that replaced, so I found something at an auto parts store,” he says.
He doesn’t provide a set price list to his customers and admits that he probably could charge more for his services. “I’m thinking of making $30 the benchmark. Once the guitar comes out of the case, that’s automatically 30, and it can go up from there,” he affirms as he places a $20 invoice on the case of the guitar he’s been working on during the interview.
Adams also admits he needs to advertise his business a bit more. “I’ve started a blog, but I know I need to update it more often. I would like to get the word out even more.” Even without a full-on advertising campaign, Adams Music Instrument Repair comes up first in a Google search for “guitar repair Pasadena.” This is no small feat when competing for business in a city of more than 150,000 people.
For now, Adams is content with the steady flow of business. He enjoys each unique challenge that guitar repair brings, from resetting a vintage Martin acoustic guitar to fixing a broken headstock on a Fender Stratocaster.
And if it’s a slow workday, he can always take a hammer to one of his own guitars.