Article by Mikhail Smirnov from THE BDAA NEWSLETTER, The Official Journal of the Balalaika and Domra Association of America

Balalaika Contrabass Buying Guide by Mikhail Smirnov

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This article How to buy contrabass balalaika from experience of Mikhail Smirnov, Director of Russian folk dance and music ensemble Barynya from New York City, USA was published at The BDAA newsletter, The official journal of the Balalaika and Domra Association of America.

LESSON NUMBER ONE (luck)

Balalaika Contrabass Buying Guide by Mikhail Smirnov from The BDAA newsletter, The official journal of the Balalaika and Domra Association of America Years ago I was working as a carpenter, fixing old lady's house in Forest Hills, Queens, NY. Sweet lady said that since her husband died a few years ago there has been an old Russian musical instrument sitting in the basement downstairs. She thought it was a "Bazooka" and simply wanted to get rid of it. I went downstairs and what I found was a contrabass-balalaika. It was in a pretty good condition and tuned just slightly off-key. I took it home in my small Mercury Capri convertible, wondering why people on the Brooklyn-Queens expressway (BQE) were laughing at me. It was a cold winter night of 1996, contrabass was bigger than my car and I was happy. Lesson #1 - It’s good to be a carpenter!

LESSON NUMBER TWO (friends)

At some point of my career I was in a state of denial. I sold beloved contrabass-balalaika and all the sound equipment that I had at “garage sale” prices and decided to become a computer programmer. It was a mistake because few years later in a state of musical inspiration I found myself shopping for contrabass-balalaika and sound system yet again. Someone from ensemble Barynya knew a musician who lived in upstate New York and whose father had a contrabass-balalaika for sale. After a “few thousand” phone calls and four hours of driving I found myself in a small house off Route 9. What I saw was not a contrabass; it was a colorfully painted bass balalaika in a poor condition and for the price not less than at Sotheby’s auction. Owner explained to me that balalaika belonged to V.V. Andreev himself. That balalaika is probably still there and if you are interested, I can give you a phone number. Lesson # 2 – Always trust your friends-musicians!

LESSON NUMBER THREE (Bruk)

Many people think that internet has all the answers to their questions. If you try to search GOOGLE or YAHOO for "contrabass-balalaika", you will find exactly what I did – Contrabass-balalaika player - Leonid Bruk. Hiring Leonid was the best solution, especially when you are running a Russian folk music and dance ensemble. This way you can have the instrument as a part of your show, you can touch it and see, but you do not have to pay the full price. Lesson # 3- there are not enough Bruks for everyone!

LESSON NUMBER FOUR (EBay)

I created daily search on eBay, Ubid and Craigslist for contrabass-balalaika and started "fishing". A few times I saw bass balalaika for sale, but it was always some junk for the price over 500 US $ plus shipping from Croatia or Ukraine without a hard case. More so, most sellers had bad reputation. I am still checking internet auctions daily but I lost my hope to find the instrument there. Lessons # 4 – Check your email and hope for the best!

LESSON NUMBER FIVE (Shopping in Russia)

This July I went to Russia and checked a few stores in my hometown of Moscow. The cheapest balalaika I found was in the music store on NEGLINKA Street and its price was 1500 US $. It was what Russian musicians call "SVEZHESRUBLENNAYA" (freshly cut). This balalaika was made at the furniture factory in a town of Shatura and would probably work better as a piece of interior. At another store on "KOMSOMOLSKAYA SQUARE" there were a lot of pictures of different balalaikas but no actual instruments to try. MUZPROM STORE located in scary basement was selling a good quality and nice looking contrabass-balalaika for 90000 rubles (about 3000 US $). The instrument seemed to be in a pretty good condition but came without a hard case, which had to be ordered from someplace else. I have the price list from musprom.ru and in a few weeks I am going to post it on www.barynya.com website. Lesson #5 – owning a good contrabass-balalaika is worth looking for it!

The search is still going on.
I will update you on the progress.
Mikhail Smirnov
Russian folk dance and music ensemble Barynya
New York, USA

продолжение

Олигарх из России Рустам Тамико устроил шумную презентацию новой водки Империя на острове Свободы возле Манхеттена. Все балалаечники и домристы окрестностей были наняты развлекать многочисленных гостей водочного барона. Тогда-то и произошло неприятное проишествие - Барыня осталась без басиста. Всеми любимый контрабас-балалаешник Л. Брук оказался недоступен для исполнения "Коробочки" и "Калинки" в наших нестройных рядах.

На всеобщей сходке танцоров было принято решение купить собственный инструмент и найти мускулистого человека, чтобы мог бы не только играть, но и таскать трёхструнного монстра по халтурам.

Я начал звонить, писал emails и умолял продать свою контрабас-балалайку (КБ) каждому владельцу такового в Америке и Канаде. В ход шли лесть, взятки, многоходовые обмены с участием интернетовского аукциона EBAY, обещание познакомить с танцовщицами и даже шантаж, но всё было зря. Наконец поиски увенчались успехом и в городе Ростов-на-Дону была найдена подходящая вещица за правильную цену ($750). Изготовление жесткого чехла для КБ на заказ стоит дороже самого инструмента ($770 плюс бутылка шведской водки Абсолют (30$).

Мы долго спорили, кто поедет забирать покупку. Кандидатуру певца Саши Меньшикова пришлось отклонить, так как в прошлый раз, когда его послали в Москву за танцевальными сапогами, он не только не привез никаких сапог, но и сам не возвращался больше года.

В России КБ считается культурным наследием наравне с иконами Рублёва и книгами Ленина. Для вывоза за пределы страны необходимо получить разрешение специального комитета при Министерстве Культуры РФ. Я решил, что двух недель будет вполне достаточно для оформления бумаг и взял билет до Москвы (880$).

ПОНЕДЕЛЬНИК, 12 ИЮНЯ, МОСКВА

По адресу, который я нашел в интернете, "Оценочной Комиссии" не оказалось. Толстый охранник с ухватками популярного певца дал мне адресок конторы на Арбате, которая была закрыта на обед, когда я туда приехал. (Все учреждения в России обычно закрыты на обед, когда Вы туда приходите в первый раз). Я простоял в очереди три часа, но до закрытия не успел.

ВТОРНИК, 13 ИЮНЯ, МОСКВА

В душной комнате пожилая женщина с интересом посмотрела на фотоснимки контрабаса и рассказала про своих родственников в Бруклине, которые почему-то давно не звонят. В конце нашей длинной беседы она направила меня в Музей Имени ГЛИНКИ, где сидят специалисты по оценке музыкальных инструментов. Я взял такси и поехал в Государственный музей музыкальной культуры имени Глинки. Оказалось, что отдел оценки инструментов не работает по вторникам и четвергам.

СРЕДА, 14 ИЮНЯ, МОСКВА

Утром, простояв пару часов в очереди в тесном коридоре, я узнал, что по средам музей не принимает частных лиц.

ЧЕТВЕРГ, 15 ИЮНЯ, МОСКВА

Взял билеты на поезд до Ростова-на-Дону на фирменный поезд "ТИХИЙ ДОН". В обратную сторону билетов на этот поезд не было и пришлось купить место в обычном поезде Адлер-Москва. Все вместе стоило ровно 4000 рублей "без обслуживания" включая сборы.

ПЯТНИЦА, 16 ИЮНЯ, МОСКВА

Мрачный специалист из Музея Глинки посмотрел на фотографии контрабаса, спросил, нельзя ли передать посылочку родственникам в Бруклине, и оценил инструмент в 19,500 рублей (примерно 750$ долларов). Объяснил, что нужно будет принести ему балалайку, чтобы шлепнуть на неё печать.

The Balalaika Tutorial online

Famous Russian balalaika virtuoso Alex Siniavski have released an online version of his best selling The Balalaika Tutorial DVD. You can get it at his website www.iBalalaika.com. Below you can see two samples - short intro into the course, and lesson 6 - tremolo.

Balalaika Lessons Tutorial DVD Intro

Watch this video on YouTube

Balalaika Lesson 6 - Tremolo

Watch this video on YouTube

The full list of Balalaika Lessons

1. Introduction 2. Tuning 3. Strumming 4. Thumb Pizzicato 5. Pizzicato Vibrato 6. Double Pizzicato 7. Single Pizzicato 8. Tremolo 9. The Rolls 10. Left Hand Position 11. Learning a Song 12. Scales 13. Basic Chords 14. The Folk Balalaika

Free sample from The Balalaika Tutorial online

Peddlers "Коробейники"

Watch this video on YouTube

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Balalaika lesson 2 - Tuning
Balalaika lesson 3 - Strumming
Balalaika lesson 6 - Double Pizzicato
Balalaika lesson 8 - Tremolo

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Father Frost and Snow Maiden are the most important characters of the New Year's celebration in Russia. Father Frost (Ded Moroz, Russian: Дед Мороз) plays a role similar to that of Santa Claus. The literal translation of the name would be "Grandfather Frost". However, English-speakers traditionally translate "DED MOROZ" as the alliterative "FATHER FROST". Ded Moroz is always accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka - Snow Maiden (Russian: Снегурочка).

New York based ensemble Barynya created a special Russian New Year's program with traditional Russian winter songs, dances and music: "In the forest a fir-tree was born" (V Lesu Rodilas' Yolochka), "Small Fir Tree is Freezing during the Winter" (Malen'koi Yolochke Kholdno Zimoy), "The snowstorm is blowing along the street" (Metelitsa), "Father Frost" (Moroz-Moroz), "Five minutes" (Pyat' Minut).

Ded Moroz and Snegurochka are available for hire in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania (within 100 miles driving distance from New York City). For a fast price quote contact Mikhail Smirnov

Ensemble Barynya Father Frosts and Snegurochkas
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For fast price quote contact Mikhail Smirnov at Barynya Entertainment

 
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Barynya
Barynya
is the best Russian dance and music ensemble outside of Russia (New York, USA). Russian, Gypsy, Cossack, Ukrasinian dances, songs and music with live accompaniment of balalaika, domra, garmoshka, Gypsy guitar, bayan and contrabass balalaika

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