- Great Painters
- Accounting
- Fundamentals of Law
- Marketing
- Shorthand
- Concept Cars
- Videogames
- The World of Sports

- Blogs
- Free Software
- Google
- My Computer

- PHP Language and Applications
- Wikipedia
- Windows Vista

- Education
- Masterpieces of English Literature
- American English

- English Dictionaries
- The English Language

- Medical Emergencies
- The Theory of Memory
- The Beatles
- Dances
- Microphones
- Musical Notation
- Music Instruments
- Batteries
- Nanotechnology
- Cosmetics
- Diets
- Vegetarianism and Veganism
- Christmas Traditions
- Animals

- Fruits And Vegetables


  1. Accordion
  2. Acoustic bass guitar
  3. Aeolian harp
  4. Archlute
  5. Bagpipes
  6. Balalaika
  7. Bandoneon
  8. Banjo
  9. Baroque trumpet
  10. Bass drum
  11. Bassoon
  12. Bongo drums
  13. Bouzouki
  14. Brass band
  15. Brass instrument
  16. Bugle
  17. Carillon
  18. Castanet
  19. Celesta
  20. Cello
  21. Chapman Stick
  22. Chime tree
  23. Chordophone
  24. Cimbalom
  25. Clarinet
  26. Claves
  27. Clavichord
  28. Clavinet
  29. Concertina
  30. Conga
  31. Cornamuse
  32. Cornet
  33. Cornett
  34. Cowbell
  35. Crash cymbal
  36. Crotales
  37. Cymbal
  38. Digital piano
  39. Disklavier
  40. Double bass
  41. Drum
  42. Drum kit
  43. Drum machine
  44. Drum stick
  45. Electric bass
  46. Electric guitar
  47. Electric harp
  48. Electric instrument
  49. Electric piano
  50. Electric violin
  51. Electronic instrument
  52. Electronic keyboard
  53. Electronic organ
  54. English horn
  55. Euphonium
  56. Fiddle
  57. Flamenco guitar
  58. Floor tom
  59. Flugelhorn
  60. Flute
  61. Flute d'amour
  62. Glockenspiel
  63. Gong
  64. Hammered dulcimer
  65. Hammond organ
  66. Handbells
  67. Harmonica
  68. Harmonium
  69. Harp
  70. Harp guitar
  71. Harpsichord
  72. Hi-hat
  73. Horn
  74. Horn section
  75. Keyboard instrument
  76. Koto
  77. Lamellaphone
  78. Latin percussion
  79. List of string instruments
  80. Lute
  81. Lyre
  82. Mandola
  83. Mandolin
  84. Manual
  85. Maraca
  86. Marimba
  87. Marimbaphone
  88. Mellophone
  89. Melodica
  90. Metallophone
  91. Mouthpiece
  92. Music
  93. Musical bow
  94. Musical instrument
  95. Musical instrument classification
  96. Musical instrument digital interface
  97. Musical keyboard
  98. Oboe
  99. Ocarina
  100. Orchestra
  101. Organ
  102. Organology
  103. Pan flute
  104. Pedalboard
  105. Percussion instrument
  106. Piano
  107. Piccolo
  108. Pickup
  109. Pipe organ
  110. Piston valve
  111. Player piano
  112. Plectrum
  113. Psaltery
  114. Recorder
  115. Ride cymbal
  116. Sampler
  117. Saxophone
  118. Shamisen
  119. Sitar
  120. Snare drum
  121. Sound module
  122. Spinet
  123. Steel drums
  124. Steel-string acoustic guitar
  125. Stringed instrument
  126. String instrument
  127. Strings
  128. Synthesizer
  129. Tambourine
  130. Theremin
  131. Timbales
  132. Timpani
  133. Tom-tom drum
  134. Triangle
  135. Trombone
  136. Trumpet
  137. Tuba
  138. Tubular bell
  139. Tuned percussion
  140. Ukulele
  141. Vibraphone
  142. Viol
  143. Viola
  144. Viola d'amore
  145. Violin
  146. Vocal music
  147. Wind instrument
  148. Wood block
  149. Woodwind instrument
  150. Xylophone
  151. Zither


This article is from:

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: 


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the instrument. For the single by Koharu Kusumi, see Balalaika (J-pop).

The balalaika (Russian: балала́йка; IPA [bəlʌˈlajkə]) is a stringed instrument of Russian origin, with a characteristic triangular body and 3 strings (or sometimes 6, in pairs).

Structure and technique

The modern balalaika is found in six sizes:

  • piccolo (rare)
  • prima
  • secunda
  • alto
  • bass
  • contrabass (also a larger sub-contrabass)

The most common solo instrument is the prima, tuned E-E-A (the two lower strings being tuned to the same pitch). Sometimes the balalaika is tuned "guitar style" to G-B-D (resembling the thinnest three strings of the Russian guitar), making it easier to play for Russian guitar players, although balalaika purists frown on this tuning.

The piccolo, prima, and secunda balalaikas are ideally strung with gut (or, today, usually nylon) strings on the lower pegs and a wire string on the top peg.

An important part of balalaika technique is the use of the left thumb to fret notes on the bottom string, particularly on the prima, where it is used to form chords. The index finger is used to sound notes on the prima, while a plectrum is used on the larger sizes. One can play the prima with a plectrum, but it is considered rather heterodox to do so.

Due to the gigantic size of the contrabass's strings, it is not uncommon for the plectrum to be made of a leather shoe or boot heel. The contrabass balalaika rests on the ground on a wooden or metal pin drilled into one of its corners.


The origins of the balalaïka are not precisely known.

Early representations of the balalaika show it with anywhere from two to six strings, which resembles certain Central Asian instruments. Similarly, frets on earlier balalaikas were made of animal gut and tied to the neck so that they could be moved around by the player at will (as is the case with the modern saz, which allows for the microtonal playing distinctive to Turkish and Central Asian music).

Eventually, the balalaika evolved into a triangular instrument with a neck substantially shorter than its Asian counterparts. It was popular as a village instrument for centuries, particularly with the skomorokhs, sort of free-lance musical jesters whose tunes ridiculed the Tsar, the Russian Orthodox Church, and Russian society in general. The first written reference to a balalaika was on an arrest slip for two serfs in 1688, accused of being drunk and disorderly outside the Kremlin in Moscow, playing the balalaika.

A popular notion is that the three sides and strings of the balalaika are supposed to represent the Holy Trinity. This idea, while whimsical, is quite difficult to reconcile when one is confronted with the fact that at various times in Russian history, the playing of the balalaika was banned because of its use by the skomorokhi, who were generally highly irritating to both Church and State. Musical instruments are not allowed in Russian Orthodox liturgy. A likelier reason for the triangular shape is given by the writer and historian Nikolai Gogol in his unfinished novel Dead Souls. He states that a balalaika was made by peasants out of a pumpkin. If you quarter a pumpkin, you are left with a balalaika shape. Another theory is: Before Tsar Peter The Great, instruments were not allowed in Russia. When Peter allowed them, only the boat builders knew how to work with wood. The balalaika looks a little like the front of a boat, if held horizontally.

In the late 19th century, a Russian nobleman, Vassily Vassilievich Andreyev, embarked on a project to standardize the balalaika for orchestral use. Andreyev, with the assistance of luthiers, and furniture maker Nalimov, developed the multiple balalaika sizes and tunings in use today. He arranged many traditional Russian folk songs and melodies for the orchestra and also composed many tunes of his own.

Andreyev simultaneously revived two other long-lost Russian instruments:

  • the domra, a three-stringed long-necked melody instrument with a melon-shaped body, which he developed in prima, alto, tenor, and bass sizes;
  • the gusli, an autoharp chorded with piano-type keys.

Rise of the balalaika orchestra

Another Balalaika
Another Balalaika

The end result of Andreyev's labours was the development of a strong orchestral tradition in Tsarist Russia, and, later, the Soviet Union. The balalaika orchestra in its full form -- balalaikas, domras, gusli, bayan, kugikles, Vladimir Shepherd's Horns, garmoshkas and several types of percussion instruments -- has a distinctive sound: strangely familiar to the ear, yet decidedly not entirely Western.

Not surprisingly, the concept of the balalaika orchestra was adopted wholeheartedly by the Soviet government as something distinctively Soviet (that is, Russian). Enormous amounts of energy and time were devoted by the Soviet government to foster conservatory study of the balalaika, from which highly skilled ensemble groups such as the Osipov State Balalaika Orchestra emerged. Balalaika virtuosi such as Boris Feoktistov and Pavel Necheporenko became stars both inside and outside the Soviet Union. The world-famous Red Army Choir used a normal orchestra, except that the violins, violas and violoncellos were replaced with various sizes of balalaika and domra.

Regrettably de-emphasized in the Soviet-encouraged rise of the professional orchestra was the vibrant folk tradition from whence the balalaika stemmed. However, a cabaret style of playing remained, and the balalaika was also played by some Russian Gypsies. The cabaret/gypsy tradition was brought over to the United States by Russian immigrants in the early 20th Century. One notable U.S. cabaret-style player was New York's Sasha Polinoff.

A balalaika was prominently featured as a plot device in David Lean's film of Doctor Zhivago (1965), a device not present in the original book. The film's famous soundtrack by Maurice Jarre made use of the balalaika in numerous tracks.

On a peculiar note, the 1968 self-titled album by the Beatles, commonly referred to as the "White Album", contains the song Back in the USSR, which includes the following lyrics:

Take me to your daddy’s farm
Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm.
I’m back in the USSR.

The tongue-in-cheek song gives mention to the instrument and undoubtedly showcased it to the world.

In addition, some Russian Orthodox churches in larger U.S. cities sponsored smaller balalaika orchestras where village-style and Andreyev-style playing coexisted side by side.

The Balalaika received mention by the German band Scorpions in the 1990s song Wind of Change, which celebrated the changes in Eastern Europe during the post Cold War period. The lyrics of the song referring to the balalaika:

The wind of change
Blows straight into the face of time
Like a stormwind that will ring the freedom bell
For peace of mind --
Let your balalaika sing
What my guitar wants to say...

Also, The Red Elvises, an indie rock group, uses the balalaika.


Eduard Tubin's Balalaika Concerto has been recorded by Emanuil Sheynkman, with Neeme Järvi conducting the Swedish National Radio Symphony Orchestra on a BIS CD that also includes Tubin's Symphony No. 1 and Music for Strings.

External links

  • Balalaika and Domra Association of America
  • University of Pennsylvania: Balalaika Sheet Music
  • History of balalaika, events, mp3 and more...
  • Balalaika Luthier - Andreas Gerth
  • Online school
  • [1] [2]
Retrieved from ""