The Spanish Modern Classical Guitar

The Spanish Modern Classical Guitar

Antonio de Torres Jurado

Antonio de Torres Jurado

Antonio de Torres Jurado (born Almería, Andalucía 13 June 1817 – died Almería 19 November 1892) is considered to be the father of the modern classical guitar.  He not only played the instrument, but also out of his roots as a young apprentice carpenter, designed many guitar types that have become the basis of the modern classical guitar, as we know it.  Many of the acoustic guitars today owe their existence to his design. The skillful art of handmade guitars is still alive and well in Spain today. This is why at Hispanic Globe (; we’re always focused upon celebrating the great contributions of Hispanic artists to our culture and our world.

I remember when I got my first guitar. I was sixteen and I bought a real “el cheapo,” made mostly of balsa wood and metal strings. I got a book of popular songs with the cord formations over the lyrics and started practicing. My fingers practically bled until I formed those first calluses at the tips of my fingers that all guitar players develop.

After that, playing became painless, fun and I concentrated on learning the basic chord formations to play the songs I liked. However, I never had the ambition, drive, or discipline to master the instrument.

One of the first university courses I completed was “music appreciation.” Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. An easy “filler” course, right?   Well, yes and no. The particular professor I had was a tough grader, and she actually expected her students to do field research. That is, you had to make an effort to go out and listen to music of all kinds, particularly classical music.

So, there I found myself at Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis.   That is where I heard Andrés Segovia Torres for the first time.  I was greatly impressed all around.  The passion and skill of his playing, the reverence for the master, the size of the hall, and the great number people there who appreciated music all came together in a symphony of experience.

Yes, I was in the “cheap seats”, but you could hear a pin drop when Andrés Segovia sat down and placed the guitar in his lap with the entire orchestra accompanying him.  This master made classical guitar a “respectable profession,” because at one point in classical music history the guitar was simply considered a “folk” instrument. The master Segovia elevated the bar for everyone who followed.

Andrés Segovia (born February 21, 1893, Linares, Spain and died June 2, 1987, Madrid) was also a teacher. Here is a video of one of his classes. You’ll notice in the video that one of his students is the Italian, Oscar Ghiglia, who has gone on to distinguish himself as a master classical guitarist and has also taught in various places around the world, holding a professorship in Basel, Switzerland. He has now established his own international guitar competition in Gargnano, Italy. The master Segovia mentored several very fine classical guitarists that still perform today.

Another favorite guitarist of mine is John Williams, also a student of Segovia. Here he is playing a piece composed by the Paraguayan composer, Augustín Barrios, whom curiously enough Segovia dismissed as too “folksy.” You can be the judge.

Since Segovia’s time has now past, but his legacy of making the classical guitar a “respectable” profession is on solid ground and many artists from around the world continue to compose and perform wonderful music. I wonder what Antonio de Torres would think of his work now?

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