Masters of the Nylon String Guitar: Andres Segovia

In this series I will be covering some of the most influential figures of the nylon string guitar. This will include the fields of classical, Latin Jazz, Flamenco and world music.

Andres Segovia

Segovia was a hugely influential figure of the classical guitar.  He was born in 1893 in Linares, Jaén. Interestingly he did not have a formal music education and was predominantly self taught though he did have some lesson with a flamenco guitarist named Agustinillo.

Segovia was planning to study with the Francisco Tarrega but this didn’t eventuate though Tarrega was present at his first public recital in 1909 when he was 16. From this point on Segovia began a performance career that lasted over 60 years.

Segovia did not just play concerts, aside from his concert activities he looked to expand the guitar repertoire by transcribing works from other instruments. His transcriptions include works by Albeniz, Bach, and Granados.

Segovia developed a mission to popularise the classical guitar which had lost presence in the concert halls since the mid 1800s.  Segovia also liaised with music aficionados and esteemed composers. He commissioned works from from composers such as Villa-Lobos, Castlenuov0-tedesco, Tansman, Torroba,  and Ponce.

Segovia taught in masterclass settings – often at summer courses like the Academia Chigiana in Italy and  Musica Compostella in Spain. There have been many well known classical guitarists that were mentored by Segovia, these include Alirio Diaz, John Williams, Christopher Parking and Oscar Ghiglia to name a few.

Segovia’s success was a kind of perfect storm. Here was a young guitarist who loved the guitar and wanted international renown. His ambition was also helped by rises in innovation in recording and TV, and also in guitar construction. All of these factors helped Segovia’s rise in popularity.  Segovia had drive and vision and enjoyed associating in the upper circles of society. All of this contributed towards his impact and fame.

There have been criticisms about Segovia’s approach. For example, he was known to be quite single minded about the way classical guitar should be played, and expected students to follow his way. Also he ignored a lot of guitar repertoire that had been written in the 1800s by guitar composers. Also he was quite heavy handed in his editing of guitar music and transcriptions. 

Aside from the criticisms people may have, Segovia made an undisputable impact on the classical and nylon guitar string works in the 20th Century and inspired generations of guitarists to learn the guitar and join the guitar fraternity. 

His playing was full of character and imagination, and his legacy will Continue for many years to come.

What do you think of Segovia’s impact? Do you know a story about Segovia, let me know in the comments.



    I saw Andres Segovia at Lincoln Center in the early 80s. I had just taken up the guitar and really didn’t know what to expect. What stood out for me was how clean his playing was. At times, I thought there were two guitars playing. Such a technical mastery of his instrument. Terrific night of music.

  • Sergio

    Thanks for sharing your Segovia experience! I sadly didn’t get a chance to see him in concert.