Since 1919 Barrios starts studying very seriously the music of the great composers from the previous centuries. Soon he transcribes for the guitar works from Beethoven, Chopin and Schumann.
This discovery of the European repertoire becomes a strong influence on some of his compositions such as Romanza en Imitació al Violoncello, Estudio de Concierto, Mazurka Apasionata and Allegro Sinfónico.
The affinity Barrios felt with the nineteenth-century masters no doubt served as inspiration for some of his music as is the case of his six minuets. Early in his career Barrios transcribed the well known Minuet in D by Beethoven (whom he admired to a great extent), and it is known that he also performed minuets by Fernando Sor.
Imitating the compositional style and techniques of the Baroque period (of Bach’s work, to be more precise) was another side to his craftsmanship. La Catedral may be viewed as Barrios' imitation of Bach. It is believed that this guitar master piece was inspired by a religious experience that Barrios once had which hence deserves to be categorized under religion as well.
Barrios discovered the music of the great Spanish guitarist and composer Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) around 1917, and grew to admire him very greatly.
Recognizing the importance of the Spanish master’s work in the development of the guitar, Barrios declared: “Without Tárrega, we would not be”. Thereafter he began composing some of his best works.
In 1939 in Guatemala, Barrios composed Variations on a Theme of Tárrega which consists of a set of six variations on Tárrega’s ever popular "student" work Lágrima, creating a sophisticated virtuoso display of the theme, using arpeggios, appoggiaturas, tremolo, melodic harmonics, and other devices. This piece is one of his most mature compositions, reflecting a lifetime of devotion to and a thorough mastery of the instrument he loved.
This were just some examples on the use of imitation in Barrios' music.