My name is Neal Carey and yes, I am an amateur instrument maker (a luthier) and woodworker. I dabble in instrument building and restoration as well as occasional furniture construction, repairs and restoration, and sometimes even home improvements.
You can see examples of my work on this blog, here:
The Harpsichord Project – building a 1640 Andreas Ruckers harpsichord
Pau Hana ‘Ukulele – ‘ukulele construction, mandolin restoration
and at this section on this website (now part of this blog):
Boston Balalaika Workshop (Perestroika) – detailed account of a balalaika reconstruction and other balalaika-related projects
Musical Instrument Makers Forum
Hi Neal, So glad to find your blog! We have a lot in common. We are about the same age and I am also enjoying lutherie as a retirement hobby. I have built 10 acoustic guitars, 2 solid body basses, 3 hammer dulcimers, 2 long neck fretted dulcimers, just finishing my second Venezuelan Cuatro. I have been wanting to build a Balalaika and it just moved to the front burner. Ordered Flynn’s book today and can’t wait to get started. I will keep you in mind if I get stumped.
Thanks Kevin. Glad you found me. This has been a labor of love for a long time, although I’m not putting in a lot of time on it at the moment, busy doing major house renovations! There is a page in particular that you should look at here on the blog:
You’ll find quite a few links to PDF files. I’d strongly recommend you read the Prince article:
Click to access building_a_balalaika_william_prince.pdf
and my translation of ““Manufacture and repair of stringed musical instruments”, Authors: N. A. Komarov, S. N. Fedyunin”
Click to access the_construction_and_repair_of_balalaikas.pdf
which is *far* more detailed than the info in either Flynn or Prince. Although give Flynn his due, it was seminal and it is one of the first books I got. Then I later learned, after paying someone $20 for a xerox copy of it, that is was available free as PDF from the Guild of American Luthiers. There are a number of other resources on this blog page.
Good luck with your building. Are you blogging about it? Pictures of your work? Robbie O’Brien (guitar building in Colorado, prolific publisher on YouTube) has a great number of online courses and has a great invitation only forum on instrument building (mostly guitars and ‘ukes). Check him out. “Luthier Tips Du Jour” is the easiest way to find him.
Thanks for pointing me to a lot of good information. I am a bit overwhelmed right now but I still think it is a great challenge and a worthwhile project. I have read through the Prince article a couple times. It is a little confusing in that the pages seem to be a bit jumbled up and the figures referenced aren’t always there but I have learned a lot from it. The translated work is, indeed, a lot of information. I haven’t made it all they way through that one yet. Unfortunately, they Flynn book doesn’t seem to be available online for free anymore. But I found one on Amazon for $9.99 so I am OK with that. I just have to wait a few days.
I am familiar with Robbie O’Brien, I have watched many of his videos and saw him speak at the GAL convention this year. Any chance you were there?
I do have a blog but currently it only addresses my interest in genealogy. Perhaps I should start another one about my shop projects.
Kevin, the Flynn book is still available on the GAL site as a .pdf :
Click to access Flynn_Balalaika-GAL.pdf
It has been nearly three months since I started looking into building a balalika and you directed me to some great resources. The project has been very challenging, but I have made enough progress that I am finally willing to post some pictures at kevinharding.blog.
Kevin, enjoyed looking through your blog. Your balalaika is coming along great. Keep at it. I’ll send you a private email with some other info.
My son is interested in balalaika lessons – he’s 16. Any idea where we could find someone in the Boston area who could teach him?
I don’t know any teachers personally in the Boston area. But, Barynya (a NY-based group Russian musical group) lists Elina Karokhina (from Boston – see her Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elina_Karokhina ). For contact I think you need to go through http://www.barynya.com/RussianMusic/boston.htm, and contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (201) 981-2497.
Alex Siniavski (of Barynya) has a DVD (in English) which is worth checking out http://www.barynya.com/balalaika/index.stm
What I’d also strongly suggest is that your son check out any links on the BDAA website (http://www.bdaa.com/ – which sometimes is down or just takes a long time to reach, but they also have a FB page which is more reliable https://www.facebook.com/BalalaikaDomra/ where he could “Like” and post questions about teachers in the Boston area. It is *the* national group in the U.S. for all things Russian-music.
Lastly, there are some terrific resources available on YouTube now.
Bibs Ekkel (quite a famous non-Russian player – http://www.bibsekkel.com/ ) has a channel with basic lessons (in English): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH9JSGeXPV72WpkswJFDmMw/feed
Mel Bay’s Complete Balalaika Book with Compact Disc by Bibs Ekkel is the best (IMHO) English language book for self-tutoring. I would search for an older edition that has the CD rather than the new one with online audio, but that’s up to you. Alternative to Bibs’ book is the old classical Soviet-era standard book by Alexander Dorozhkin – https://www.amazon.com/Elementary-Method-Balalaika-Alexander-Dorozhkin/dp/076926283X
If you decide to start with a self-tutor, avoid “Best Balalaika Method Yet” – it is AWFUL and a waste of money: See https://www.amazon.com/Best-Balalaika-Method-Yet/dp/0825653665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1537868329&sr=1-1&keywords=best+balalaika+method
Sergey Vorontsov has a *great* channel on YouTube (all in Russian, but a lot can be gleaned from it even if you/he do not know Russian). I don’t know if he speaks English but : https://www.youtube.com/user/KukovoTV/featured
And one more channel I found recently (also in Russian, but very good) a channel where Georgy Nefedov has a series of basic lessons. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCent0PI5vaEEM-5A4Z4hCrw
Thank you so much!!