Blow Your Own Horn

Russian culture is difficult to imagine without a soundtrack -- whether it be lively folk dances, solemn Orthodox hymns or rousing Soviet anthems. Not surprisingly, Russia takes its music -- and the instruments that make it -- very seriously.

"Music has always played a very important role in Russian culture," said Sergei Speransky, director of the Akkord music salon. "Even though our country has a very long history, music and art have preserved our culture until the present time."

Visitors who set foot inside Akkord, near Savyolovskaya metro station, get an immediate understanding of its appreciation of music. The way the instruments are displayed -- in gold-framed glass cases on soft beds of burgundy cloth -- is reminiscent of a jewelry box.

Employees, as well versed as they are well dressed, stand ready to assist customers. Chandeliers bathe the instruments in light, and a sign announces the store's 40th anniversary.

"There are no other enterprises that have worked in the field as long as we have," Speransky said. "Therefore, we have a great deal of experience with musical instruments."

Fans of more modern instruments and atmosphere may also step around the corner to Muztorg.

The atmosphere of Muztorg is much less formal, with staff in khaki pants and black T-shirts. The store's interior is sparse and metallic, allowing brightly colored guitars that cover the walls to provide decoration. Larger-than-life portraits of such greats as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton stand nearby.

"We have a guitar theme here," said Ilya Mashinsky, deputy director of Muztorg. "But we have everything: drums, keyboards, instruments from many worldwide manufacturers."

Another store dealing primarily in contemporary musical instruments is Maestro, located in the Kuznetsky Most shopping district. At first glance, Maestro is little more than a deceptively small foyer. However, descending the staircase will lead visitors to a seemingly endless expanse of rooms packed with electric and acoustic guitars, drum sets, and keyboards.

Konstantin Zotov, director of Maestro, pointed to a plaque on the wall of the foyer emblazoned with the words "Golden Ring of Moscow."

"This is for outstanding service to tourists and foreign visitors from 2005 to 2007," Zotov said.

Igor Tabakov / MT
Mir Muzyki, with two stores in central Moscow locations, is a popular choice for a wide variety of musical instruments.
Mir Muzyki, another popular choice for a wide variety of instruments, has two locations on Sadovaya-Triumfalnaya Ulitsa and Kuznetsky Most.

Akkord's electric guitars range from about 6,500 to 20,000 rubles ($250-$770), and include brand names such as Epiphones and Fernandes. Muztorg has a selection of Fender, Ibanez and Jackson electric guitars ranging from 4,000 to 239,000 rubles. At Mir Muzyki, browse through the collection of B.C. Rich, Fender, and Washburn guitars that run from 3,000 to 115,445 rubles. Maestro also offers guitars ranging from 5,600 to the store's Gibson Jimmy Page Signature Series, costing 392,000 rubles.

Acoustic guitars at Akkord start at 1,600 for a Crafter, and run from 17,500 to 70,000 rubles for its selection of fine handmade guitars. Muztorg's acoustic guitars range from 2,000 to 108,000 rubles, and include brands such as Takamine and Fender. Mir Muzyki's selection of Martins, Washburns, and Yamahas ranges from 1,200 to 215,500 rubles. At Maestro, expect to pay around 3,000 for a beginner guitar, and up to 137,500 for a high-level Gibson.

At Akkord, electronic keyboards can cost from 9,000 to 144,000 rubles. Muztorg's selection, including Casio, Roland and Korg, ranges from 2,000 to 120,000 rubles. At Mir Muzyki, one can expect to pay several hundred rubles for a small Casio or Yamaha, or up to 357,000for a Yamaha with a natural wood finish. Maestro offers Casio keyboards from 9,500 to 67,000 rubles.

Akkord sells upright pianos for around 190,000 rubles, and grand pianos for about 600,000 rubles. Mir Muzyki's upright pianos range from about 126,000 to 280,000 rubles, and its grand pianos can cost anywhere from 198,000 to 670,000 rubles.

Also available are folk instruments. At Akkord, handmade balalaikas range from 12,000 to 37,500 rubles. Accordions cost from 13,000 to 210,000 rubles. Rondo, located just across the street from Maestro, has a small selection of inexpensive guitars and balalaikas for 3,000 to 15,000 rubles. Its accordions range from 11,000 to 77,000 rubles.

Several of these stores deal in wind instruments, including trumpets, flutes, saxophones, and clarinets.


Akkord, 6 Ul. Nizhnaya Maslovka, 685-3731, M. Savyolovskaya,

Maestro, 6 Neglinnaya Ul., 621-2555, M. Kuznetsky Most,

Mir Muzyki, 16 Sadovaya-Triumfalnaya Ul., 933-5333, M. Mayakovskaya; 9/10 Kuznetsky Most, 933-5333, M. Kuznetsky Most,

Muztorg, 3 Krasnokholmskaya Nab., 741-0000, M. Taganskaya; 1 Vyatskaya Ul., 741-0014, M. Savyolovskaya,

Rondo, 8/10 Neglinnaya Ul., 625-26-38, M. Kuznetsky Most.