Segovia's first public performance was in Granada at the age of 16 in 1909. A few years later he played his first professional concert in Madrid, which included works by Francisco Tárrega and his own guitar transcriptions of J.S. Bach. Despite the discouragement of his family, who wanted him to become a lawyer, and criticism by some of Tárrega's pupils for his idiosyncratic technique, he continued to pursue his studies of the guitar diligently.
He played again in Madrid in 1912, at the Paris Conservatory in 1915, in Barcelona in 1916, and made a successful tour of South America in 1919. Segovia's arrival on the international stage coincided with a time when the guitar's fortunes as a concert instrument were being revived, largely through the efforts of Miguel Llobet. It was in this changing milieu that Segovia, thanks to his strength of personality and artistry, coupled with developments in recording and broadcasting, succeeded in making the guitar more popular again.
In 1921 in Paris, Segovia met Alexandre Tansman, who later wrote a number of guitar works for Segovia, among them Cavatina, which won a prize at the Siena International Composition contest in 1952.
At Granada in 1922 he became associated with the Concurso de Cante Jondo promoted by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. The aim of the "classicizing" Concurso was to preserve flamenco in its purity from being distorted by modern popular music. Segovia had already developed as a fine tocador of flamenco guitar, yet his direction was now classical. Invited to open the Concurso held at the Alhambra, he played Homenaje a Debussy by Falla.