The Guitar's Image Before Barrios

The instrument of guitar was once looked at as a poor man's instrument. During the era of Classical music, it lacked the image that the piano, violin, cello and other instruments had acquired. People simply did not believe the instrument of guitar was as capable as the other instruments listed earlier. Composers and performers such as Fernando Sor, Mauro Giuliani, Francisco Tárrega, Andrés Segovia, Joaquín Rodrigo and others helped bring the guitar out of bars and into concert halls. I will be discussing one guitarist/composer in particular.

Barrios' Early Life

Agustín Barrios Mangoré was born in Paraguay in 1885. At the age of seven, he learned to play the guitar. His love for music and poetry grew, and he later attended a university in Paraguay. He studied the structure of music, and also mathematics and literature.

Barrios And Segovia

During his rise to fame in the growing popularity of classical guitar music, another guitarist was rising along with Barrios. Andrés Segovia had become famous for accurately transcribing the works of some of the most remarkable and complex composers in music, such as Domenico Scarlatti, Isaac Albéniz, and most notabley, the great baroque-era composer known as Johann Sebastian Bach. Segovia's transcriptions of the composers proved that the guitar was an instrument capable of producing true classical music. Although Agustín Barrios Mangoré had an advantage over Segovia in one particular aspect of music; composing. Segovia wasn't as prolific as Barrios, and he simply was not know for his composing, rather than his famous transciptions.

At this time, Segovia was thought by many to be the greatest guitarist of all. Some people thought that Segovia had reached a point of skill in Classical guitar where improvement could not be possible. As Barrios grew more popular, his composing and extreme virtuosity of the guitar had interfered with the image people had of Segovia. A small bit of disresepect, and what some believe to be jealousy grew in Segovia towards Barrios, and he didn't want Barrios to be in the spotlight of classical guitar music.

Barrios also was known for his concert performances. He advertised himself for a period of time as "The Paganini of Guitar, from the jungles of Paraguay". The concerts were critically acclaimed, and he was known sometimes to wear very ethnic Paraguayan dress, supporting the culture of his country. Although Andrés Segovia didn't approve of this behavior of apparel.

The Composing and Music of Barrios

Agustín Barrios Mangoré's music was heavily influenced by elements of paraguayan music, folk, baroque, flamenco and 19th century romanticism. His compositions are some of the most popular in classical guitar music. They are also known for being rather difficult, with much of the pieces requiring the performer to have a high virtuosity of the instrument to play. And during the early 20th century, recording sound had become a new technology, and Barrios took advantage of it. He recorded the first ever classical guitar music to be recorded, which is still availabe to this day.

Barrios wrote over 300 works. Some of his most popular being "Las Abejas", "Vals No. 3", "Julia Florida", and "La Catedral". It is believed that Barrios was inspired to write "La Catedral" after listening to slow organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach. It is generally regarded as his greatest work. It is done in three movements, the first to being slow and soft, with the third bringing an element of speed, passion and virtuostic compositional craftsmanship. The piece even won the approval of Andrés Segovia, who had little respect for Barrios' other works.


Barrios died in 1944. After his death, he was practically forgotten, however Segovia flourished in classical guitar music for 44 more years until his death in 1988. In the '70s and '80s, Barrios' music began to gain popularity again amoung classical guitarists. The famous contemporary classical guitarist John Williams, ironically a former student of Segovia, is one of the most responsible for reviving the music of Barrios. Williams has spoken about Barrios, stating:

"Agustín Barrios and Mangoré, to give him his full name, is this great paraguayan guitarist composer, and he lived from 1885 to the early 1940s, and his music is just, it's everything! He wrote is baroque-style, he wrote in 19th century romantic style, and he wrote in his own sort of semi-folk style....and I think the greatest guitarist composer, in other words, guitarist who wrote guitar music, of all!"

"He had a real feeling for form...You never felt they were too long or too short, and melodically they sort of used to join up. They weren't just one little clever idea. His harmony's almost like a Jazz musician. I used to think, well I still do, that a lot of his phrases are like Django Reinhardt, the great Jazz Gypsy guitarist...one tune sort of takes you, without you knowing it, into another part of the tune"

In conclusion, the music of Barrios is some of the most well-respected and famous work of guitar music. He is one of the most influencial guitarists, having brought it to concert halls along with Segovia and Tárrega, and his music, with the high virtuosity, compositional craftsmanship and unique styles will always hold him as one of the greatest guitarists of all.
there's no way anyone's gonna read all of that
Godin Velocity w/ Schaller locking tuners
Ibanez RG7321 w/ Dimarzio Crunchlab & Liquifire
Seagull Coastline S6 Burst GT QI
Random Ibanez Bass

Blackstar HT-5 Head
Avatar Contemporary 212 Cab
Peavey Valveking 112
Quote by Sir Edwin CBE
Change the title if possible - Barrio is a term for a Spanish ghetto.

I would have liked to put his full name, but he is often called just "Barrios". I still would have put his full name, but if I submitted this asa column, UG acts funny sometimes towards accent characters.
Quote by stevo_92
there's no way anyone's gonna read all of that

that was actually the first post i read all the way through

Ibanez S370 (all custom)
Mesa Boogie Studio Pre
Fender Champ 25se (used to power Mesa pre)
Custom 2x12 cab w/ Eminence Texas Heats