Tim Sparks

Tim Sparks ( born October 31, 1954) is an American fingerstyle guitarist from Winston- Salem, North Carolina.


Sparks began as a teenager playing the guitar and worked intensively with traditional country blues and gospel, when he was a year the school was unable to attend due to an encephalitis. Through the mediation of an uncle, he enrolled at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he studied guitar at the Segovia disciple Jesus Silva. Besides his studies he worked on Doc Watson, Arthur Smith and especially Duck Baker, by which he understood the far-reaching possibilities of finger styles on the guitar. He arranged compositions by Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin and Fats Waller for the guitar.

After a tour with a rhythm-and - blues band Sparks moved to Minnesota and became active in the local music scene. He was a frequent accompanying guitarist and session participants played different styles of jazz and won numerous local awards. During this time he arranged the song " Jesus Maria" by Carla Bley for Leo Kottke.

He played in the band Rio Nido, which was formed in the 70s in Minnesota, with Tom Lieberman (vocals and guitar), Prudence Johnson ( vocals) and Tim Sparks (vocals and guitar). The group focused on classic jazz and swing of the 30s and 40s.

In 1993 he won the competition of the U.S. National Fingerstyle Championship in Winfield, Kansas, with an arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.

Influences and musical style

In addition to Doc Watson, Arthur Smith and Duck Baker Sparks Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, Lenny Breau, Ed Bickert, Pat Donohue and Dean Magraw cites as important influences.

Tim Sparks repertoire is quite diverse and innovative. Country blues, ragtime, jazz, classical or world music, all these styles he knows on the solo guitar implement. This ability and his virtuosity earned him an international reputation. His trips to Yiddish music and music of the Balkans opened to him the worlds of the 5/8 and 7/8 clock as well as other, more oriental meters and harmonies.



  • Nutcracker Suite (1993, Acoustic Music Records )
  • Guitar Bazaar (1995, Acoustic Music Records )
  • One String Leads to Another (1999, Acoustic Music Records )
  • Neshamah (1999, Tzadik - Sunny Moon )
  • Dance (2000, Tzadik - Sunny Moon )

With Rio Nido:

  • I Like to Riff (1977, Shadow Records)
  • Hi Fly ( 1985, Red House Records )
  • Voicings (1986, Projazz )


  • Masada Guitars (2003, Tzadik - Sunny Moon )
  • Jacob do Bandolim: Great Jewish Music (2004, Tzadik - Sunny Moon )


  • Where Do I Sign? (1994, Shirley Witherspoon, NBC lists)
  • Back to the Wall (1978, Peter Lang, Waterhouse Records)
  • Vocals (1987, Prudence Johnson, Red House )
  • That's What (1990, Leo Kottke Private Music - BMG), arrangement for " Jesus Maria "
  • One Night in Paradise (1995, Cookie Coleman )
  • Watercolor of Brazil (1996, Mandala, Deep Blue / IMGOD Records)
  • Mighty Real: A Tribute to Sylvester (2000, Djola Branner, Innova - American Composers Forum )


  • Guitar Bazaar: Multicultural Ideas for Fingerstyle Guitar. Instructional video. ( Acoustic Music Resource )
  • In Concert. Franco Morone
  • Fingerstyle Guitar: New Dimensions & Explorations. Concert Video (2003, Stefan Grossman 's Guitar Workshop)
  • Roots, Rags and Blues. Instructional video, 2 CDs (2007, True Fire)

Used sources