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Thread: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

  1. #1

    Default Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    Last year I was given a balalaika. It was not an expensive instrument. Probably Russian made. Now that I have started playing and composing for it I would like to investigate buying a better quality instrument. I can't seem to find any on line or in stores. Where are they sold? How much should I expect to pay for something of quality. Not hand made quality necessarily but with good tone and intonation?

  2. #2
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    There's a wide range of prices, some of the things to look for in a "better" balalaika would be an extended fingerboard as most of the lower-grade models do not have one.

    Typical low-end balalaikas:



    Better instruments:



    Me with a bass balalaika! didn't have the pick around

  3. #3

    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    Ok thanks for that tip.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    It seems that some that seem higher quality also have a sort of dark wooden plate over the top. On less expensive ones that is just painted on?

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven C. Antonelli View Post
    It seems that some that seem higher quality also have a sort of dark wooden plate over the top. On less expensive ones that is just painted on?
    Often that pickguard is raised a bit on the better ones, but on some including cheaper ones it's inlaid, some painted.

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    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    Being Russian myself I can probably give you some comments on this matter.
    It's quite difficult to find a decent balalaika in Russia now, as they are not really popular. Usually they are produced at quite low value which results not even in tone but in how long the instrument would last.
    I can probably recommend you to contact the guys from this site: http://doffguitar.com/ It is a web page of a Russian manufacturer that produces guitars and Russian folk instruments like balalaika and domra. You'd better send them an e-mail, as the page is not really up to date. I have their guitar which is a small elegant parlor and I can give you full recommendations.
    As far as I know, they produce both low-end and high-end instruments, so if they adventure for international shipment you can get a really decent stick. And, by the way, due to our really crazy currency exchange rate, the instrument is going to be dirt cheap for you.

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  10. #7

    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    Curious about your playing....are you just playing for yourself or in a group? What kind of music? I fell in love with the sound and have a bass domra that I played in an ensemble at Balkan Camp, but haven't been able to find others to play balalaika/domra music here in Ohio. There is an ensemble near Canton, but that's over 2 hours from where I am, so not very practical.
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life--music and cats" Albert Schweitzer

  11. #8
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    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    Just a thought: At least one of the major vintage shops, such as Gruhn, Elderly, Gryphon, Mandolin Bros. (before they go), etc., is likely to have a clue or know who does, and most are very receptive to phone calls. Heck, try all of the Café sponsors; at worst, they'll be flattered that you thought of them.
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  13. #9

    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    I am the Director of the New York Mandolin Ensemble. After being given the balalaika I wrote a piece on it based upon my own experimenting with it. There used to be several balalaika groups in NYC but none at present as far as I know. You can find a live video of the piece I composed "Cassandra's Balalaika" on our facebook page. New York Mandolin Ensemble

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    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    Here's one at Bernunzio Uptown Music in Rochester, NY.
    I have no idea as to its quality, etc. (NFI)
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob View Post
    Here's one at Bernunzio Uptown Music in Rochester, NY.
    I have no idea as to its quality, etc. (NFI)
    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	141382Click image for larger version. 

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    I'd pass on that one, it does not have enough frets!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    Steven: I would think you would know some of the Russians associated with the NY Mandolin Orchestra. I am sure that they can direct you to someone who knows. Tamara or the fellow who was playing contrabass when I was last with them?

    That one at Bernunzio looks pretty good to me. Might be better than the tourist models above for sure.
    Jim

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  21. #13
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where do you find quality balalaikas?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post

    That one at Bernunzio looks pretty good to me. Might be better than the tourist models above for sure.
    You may be right, but I think your suggestion to make contact with some Russians may be the best bet! But unless you are playing the most basic balalaika music, you do need some more frets. 19 is a basic minimum:

    http://ibalalaika.com/Media/Balalaik...oard_Chart.pdf

    http://www.bostonbalalaika.com/docum...iam_Prince.pdf

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