TEDxUCLA 2018: Waves

A six-string orchestra: the craft of classical guitar


About Juan

Juan Rivera received his MFA in classical guitar from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where he was also a Gluck Fellow.


The piece that I just played, entitled “Capricho Arabe,” was written by 19th-century Spanish Romantic composer and guitarist Francisco Tarrega. A man who devoted his entire life to the guitar, his desire was to bring the art of guitar-playing to the masses. So it’s a special treat that I am able to perform today at Royce Hall.

When I first began playing the guitar, the very first piece that I actually listened to, very first, was “Capricho Arabe.” I remember listening to it by a recording of Segovia. For those of you don’t know, Segovia was another very influential guitarist. So it’s a very, very special treat.

It’s also not only good to be a good player but to have a good instrument. What you just heard, this guitar here on the left, is a very special guitar. It was made in 1878 by the most influential guitar maker, Antonio de Torres. Just like Tarrega, his desire was not only just to make really good music available to the audiences, but also to make the best instrument possible that could easily project as close as the first row all the way to the very back. I’m talking to all of you over there.

And so when I’m choosing to play guitar, it was very simple. I fell in love with the sonority, the charm, the timbres available to this very special instrument. I don’t just think of it as pieces of wood or strings, I think of it as an orchestra. Each string is a different instrument depending on what I need. So if I need a bass player, I’ll hit really low on the bass strings. If I need a flute player, I’ll play those very high shimmering little melodies.

Does anybody want to hear another piece? Yeah?

So just like Tarrega and Torres, the next piece and guitar, two different guitars, are by composer Leo Brouwer and this guitar was made by Eddie Blochinger, still based on the design of Torres. Hope you enjoy it.