Balalaika | Balalaika Music, Balalaika for Sale, & How to Play
About the Balalaika
Balalaikas used today:
The Balalaika is a very unique looking stringed instrument that comes from Russia. It is well-known as having a triangular body and just 3 strings. There are various different sizes of this instrument that someone could choose from. These varieties are the Prima Balalaika, Piccolo Balalaika, Alto Balalaika, Secunda Balalaika, Contrabass Balalaika, and the Bass Balalaika.
List of Balalaikas used today:
- Prima Balalaika
- Piccolo Balalaika
- Alto Balalaika
- Secunda Balalaika
- Contrabass Balalaika
- Bass Balalaika
The most common type of this instrument is the Prima Balalaika while the Piccolo variety is the rarest type of this instrument. There are some obsolete varieties of this instrument: Tenor Balalaikas and Descant Balalaika. All of these types of the Balalaika have three-sided bodies along with fir, spruce, or evergreen tops, and the back is made from anywhere between 3 and 9 wooden sections. For the most part, these instruments only have 3 strings and they have fretted necks.
List of Obsolete Balalaikas:
- Tenor Balalaika
- Descant Balalaika
Table with all Balalaika Types:
|Balalaika Name||Balalaika Size||Balalaika Tuning|
|Prima Balalaika||26-27 in (66-69 cm)||E4-E4-A4|
|Piccolo Balalaika||24 in (61 cm)||B4-E5-A5|
|Alto Balalaika||32 in (81 cm)||E3-E3-A3|
|Secunda Balalaika||27-29 in (68-74 cm)||A3-A3-D4|
|Contrabass Balalaika||51-65 in (130-165 cm)||E1-A1-D2|
|Bass Balalaika||41 in (104 cm)||E2-A2-D3|
|Tenor Balalaika||36-38 in (91-97 cm)||E3-A3-E3|
|Descant Balalaika||18 in. (46 cm)||E5-E5-A5|
Origins & History of the Balalaika
No one is really sure about the exact origins of this instrument but it is long considered that it came from the domra, which is an instrument from Russia’s Caucasus region. There are also noted similarities to the Kazakh variety of the domra, an instrument with 2 strings, and the topshur from Mongolia.
During the earlier days of this instrument, the Balalaika was represented to have between 2 and 6 strings just like a lot of the instruments from Central Asia. These early frets on the Balalaika were made from animal guts and they were tied to the necks, which allowed the performer to move it around easier.
In modern days, this instrument drew the interest from countries outside of Russia. These have popped up in pop culture in recent years including in recent movies.
For the most part, the Balalaika is known for use in folk music. These are instruments that are still used in Russian music, used by both solo artists and orchestras in the country. There are Balalaika orchestras that became popular during the Andreyev period in Russian folk music but still exist today. This includes ensembles like Osipov State Balalaika Orchestra and the Red Army Choir. One of the most well-known solo artists that use this instrument is Alexey Arkhipovsky, who performed at the opening ceremony for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009.
How to Play the Balalaika
Most of the types of Balalaika are played using a pick or their fingers, though some varieties like the contrabass and bass are played with leather plectra while using extension legs on the floor. When you are playing this instrument, it is important that you use the left thumb in order to fret notes on the lower strings. This is especially important when you are playing on the prima. This is how you form chords on this type of Balalaika. The side of your right hand’s index finger to sound notes and a plectrum is used on the larger ones.
How to Buy a Balalaika
The Balalaika is an instrument that can be quite hard to get a hold of. There aren’t a great number of shops that sell, nor are there websites. However, there are a couple of website that do sell it and some of them are listed below (This is not sponsored in any way):
Another popular website to purchase Balalaikas and Balalaikas accessories is Amazon. There aren’t many Balalaikas for sale on Amazon, but the ones that are, are often of great quality. Down below you will find some Balalaikas from Amazon, increasing in price from left to right.
(Keep in mind that the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase via those, the website gets a small portion of the sale, which will help greatly in keeping it running).