Interview: Kelly Valleau

13 Apr


Originally known for playing spanish guitar, Kelly Valleau recently switched to steel-string for his new album “Vol. 2.” I asked Kelly about the switch as well as his teaching site String Training.

Tell us about you new album. What led you to play steel-string guitar this time around?

I moved over to steel-string because the nylon string guitar wasn’t motivating me. I couldn’t seem to finish any compositions and a change was needed to spark interest again. So the move to steel really helped out creatively, but unfortunately almost everything I’d written on the nylon string got abandoned. The only tracks that remain on the new CD from the old set of tunes would be the bed track for Cthulhu and my arrangement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.

How long have you been playing fingerstyle? What training have you had?

I hung up my electric about ten years ago and started devoting much of my time to traditional classical guitar studies. Not really fingerstyle in the modern sense (alternate tunings, percussive techniques), more traditional classical/spanish techniques. Then in 2006 I attended the Canadian Guitar Festival and the performances by Don Ross and others grabbed my attention. Yet my first release in 2008 “Musica para la Guitarra” was still very classical/spanish with only a few modern techniques on the covers Another Brick in the Wall and We Will Rock You. My new release “Vol.2″ comes a little closer to today’s fingerstyle sounds. I still haven’t ventured into the unknown (alternate tunings) yet.

Most of my training comes from teaching. For example, the percussive kick/snare technique was developed during lessons with students.


You’ve amassed quite a collection of arrangements. How do you go about arranging a song and how long does it usually take? Are there any that have been particularly challenging?

The arrangements come from teaching as well. I get REALLY bored teaching a three chord song. So I start adding in melodies, etc. to keep myself mentally involved. Time varies considerably from song to song, it could take about a couple days or a week, depending on how well I know the tune. Many arrangements have been very challenging, eg Star Wars andThe Simpsons….. Beethoven’s 5th Symphony took me forever. These days I stick with songs that just “work” and avoid the songs that take work.

I moved over to steel-string because the nylon string guitar wasn’t motivating me. 

I think your String Training site is a great example of an independent musician finding different ways to make a living. How long have you been running the site and how has it worked out for you?

String Training started a few years ago as a personal archive for my arrangements. Basically, I needed a place to keep things due to my failing memory. The collection grew and people came looking to learn the arrangements themselves. I then added some lessons and tabs and gave it all away for free. But soon the lessons, arranging, video filming/editing, tabbing/notation, site maintenance etc, started taking more and more of my time each week, so a small fee was added.. It’s worked out OK and motivates me to keep arranging songs.

What guitars are you using and how do you have them set up (pickups, strings, etc…)?

For the my most recent recording for Candyrat I used an Andrew White Model E, no pickup, with D’Addario Silk & Steel strings. My primary teaching guitar is a Yamaha GCX31C nylon string with stock piezo and goose neck microphone with D’Addario EJ31′s. I sometimes record videos for String Training with a Boucher steel string.


And finally, can you tell me three of your favorite classical guitar pieces?

1 – Agustín Mangoré Barrios – Choro Da Saudade

2 – Joaquin Malats – Serenata Espanyola

3 – Roland Dyens – Tango en Skai

Thanks to Kelly for doing the interview. Be sure to check out his site as well as his new album.

One Response to “Interview: Kelly Valleau”

  1. Nakamura Michiko March 28, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    what a wonderful interview. he really inspires me.

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