From the end of 1890, de Falla studied piano at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid in Madrid under José Tragó and Felipe Pedrell. Under their influence, he got interested into the native Spanish music, especially the flamenco music of Andalusia and more specifically the cante jondo, of which he publiced a manuscript called El cante jondo. Influences of this can be found throughout his body of works. His first major work was an opera (zarzuela) in one act from 1905 La vida breve, which did not premier until 1913.
From 1907 to 1914 De Falla stayed in Paris, where he got inspired by composers such Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Paul Dukas. During this time, he wrote little music. Much of his much most famous works were composed upon arrival in Madrid at the start of the First World War, such as his Noches en los jardines de España, El amor brujo and El corregidor y la molinera, which after an adaption is now know as El sombrero de tres picos.
From 1921 to 1939, he lived in Granada where composed his El retablo de maese Pedro. The harpsichord part was specifically written for Wanda Landowska. Slowly, the Spanish folk music influences decreased and he adopted a more neo-classicistic style.
In 1939 De Falla moved to Argentina, where he died in 1946.